Politics

The heart stopper

All eyes and ears await the decision of the Supreme Court into the long running electoral dispute here this week, with uncertainty as to whether there will be a run-off or a re-run of the October 10 polls as being sought by the opposition Liberty Party supported by the ruling Unity Party.


The LP is seeking a re-run of the 10 October presidential and representatives' elections citing fraud and irregularities. UP and the Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC were due for a run-off on November 7, but the Supreme Court placed a preemptory prohibition until the LP case before the National Elections Commission or NEC is disposed of.

NEC has ruled dismissing the fraud and irregularity claims by the LP and UP, but the LP took an appeal before the Supreme Court on November 28, 2017.

The superior court heard arguments from both parties on Friday reserving ruling this week.

LP says it wants a rerun of the entire polls, but UP emphasizes during arguments at the Supreme Court that if the Final Registration Roll (FRR) is corrupted, the entire exercise is corrupted, thus telling the Court that it wants the FRR to be sanitized.

The case has drawn public interest, with eager voters overcrowding the court over the weekend while others who could not make their way early into the jam - parked Supreme Court for the final debate between the protesting parties and the NEC waited outside.

In its appeal before the Supreme court, the LP claims that there were absence of queue controllers, voters whose names were not on final registration roll allowed to vote, no serial numbers on the ballots, a presiding officer was caught attempting to stuff pre-marked ballots in the ballot box in Nimba County and that opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) obtained 1109 votes at a polling place that was supposed to have a maximum of 550 ballots.

But the NEC replies that its witness Lamin Lighe refuted allegations that some polling places were changed without notice, further claiming that no new names were added to the Voters' Roll after it was produced, published and given to political parties.

The NEC says its witness Lighe produced unused ballot papers for both presidential and representatives in the 10 October elections which confirmed that there is a serial number on the stub of each of the ballot papers.

NEC says the Presiding Officer in Nimba District #3 who was caught attempting to stuff pre - marked ballots, "it was merely an attempt which was immediately detected" and the culprit, Josephus Cooper arrested.

"Witness Lighe further testified that the votes at that Polling Place, namely Polling Place Number One (1), were quarantined and a re-run conducted," the NEC says, and further notes that the ballot papers discovered in an outside bathroom in Grand County County District #2 were "Know Your Candidates" educational posters.

As to claims of excess votes obtained by CDC in Bong County Polling Place Number One of 1,109 ballots, the NEC notes that the presiding officer allegedly mistakenly wrote 109 instead of 110, but allegedly cancelled the "nine" with a red ink later as required by NEC's counting manual and then wrote number one before the number 10.

The runoff was due to be held on 7 November before a Supreme Court order halted the process in order to allow the NEC conduct investigation into claims made by the parties. The NEC's Hearing Officer and the Board of Commissioners refused LP and UP's request, thus prompting the bill of exception before the Supreme Court which has already been argued and awaiting a final ruling.

By Winston W. Parley

UP clarifies Ellen's expulsion rumors

Ruling Unity Party (UP) has strongly condemned rumors circulating in the public that senior members of the party are planning to expel the standard bearer - emeritus, President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf from the party, clarifying that the party's leadership does not want any form of disunity among members, partisans and Mrs. Sirleaf.


Addressing a news conference over the weekend at the party national headquarters at Oldest Congo Town, UP Montserrado County Youth Wing Chair Mr. Lansana P. Fofana said the decision taken by some aggrieved partisans of the party on 23 November, calling on the National Executive Committee to expel the standard bearer emeritus Mrs. Sirleaf is self - decision, but not a decision of the youth wing.

“We the Unity Party Montserrado Youth Congress condemn, and distance [ourselves] from the protest action that occurred on the 23 of November by some of our disenchanted partisans at the national headquarters,” Mr. Fofana says.

He says the party' youth wing is of the strongest conviction that these protest actions in these crucial times are ... no remedy to solving dissatisfaction or misunderstanding within the party, cognizant of the fact that the UP is at a critical juncture.

The party further clarifies that the protest action at the party headquarters was never carried out by the youth wing of the party, opposed to what is being reported in some local media institutions here.

Meanwhile the UP Montserrado Youth Congress Chair has condemned alleged attacks on two UP senior members, including Senator Commany Wesseh and Rep. Worlea Saywah Dunah, saying the party believes these two Executive Committee members have their right to individual opinions and they should not be demeaned.
“We believe that the UP Standard Bearer Amb. Joseph N. Boakai is an embodiment of peace and unity, as such his bid for the presidency must not be bewildered with conflict and disunity among members of the Unity Party,” the youth leader says.

He adds that as long President Sirleaf remains a member of the Unity Party, she will continue to enjoy the confidence of the Montserrado Youth Congress, saying the UP Youth Congress will not be a party to any act that shows disrespect to the president because she remains a big weigh of the party.

"We condemn all attacks against our President and the two lawmakers who have all brought electoral glory to the party. The fact is the party is a ruling party, and poised to participate in a runoff all because of the progressive developmental leadership of President Sirleaf," he concludes.

By Lewis S. Teh--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Dr. Jones, party official fight for generator

Defeated opposition Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) presidential candidate Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, nicknamed "Poverty Doctor" by supporters is alleged to have entered into a serious standoff with a junior party official Jones James Roberts over a generator that allegedly resulted into fight between the latter and Dr. Jones' securities.


The standoff involving Dr. Joseph Mills Jones and his MOVEE party Assistant National Secretary Jones James Roberts for party property is alleged to have ensued at MOVEE headquarters in Congo Town over the weekend.

The alleged fight over generator at MOVEE party headquarters is reported to have occurred when Dr. Jones ordered his guards to collect a generator from the party headquarters after alleged majority of partisans had pledged to support opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in the runoff.

According to Roberts, he had called MOVEE Vice Chairman Dan Sayeh to inform him about the situation at party headquarters, and Sayeh allegedly gave instruction that he (Roberts) should not allow anyone to take anything from the party headquarters.

Roberts told journalists that his action to prevent the generator from leaving the compound triggered an attack on him by Dr. Jones' securities.

According to the MOVEE official, Dr. Jones allegedly ordered his security to burst the generator house and take possession of a generator that powers the party headquarters, thus prompting the standoff between him and the first partisan.

“He came in with his security guards to collect the generator but I refused to allow them enter the power house. But while Dr. Jones and [I] were talking, the other security guard used rock to burst the lock on the generator house and he brought out the generator and attempted putting it in Dr. Jones' car,” Roberts alleges.

He says he stood and prevented Dr. Jones' securities from putting the generator in the car. In the process, Roberts alleges that he got wounded on his leg by the guards while tussling over the generator. He claims to have sustained pains in his back during the tussle over the generator with Dr. Jones and his securities.

Roberts says his decision to have prevented the security from taking away the machine was also based on instruction from the party's Chair, Dee-Maxwell Kemaya. He notes that the generator does not belong to Dr. Jones, saying it was the party chairman Dee Maxwell Kemayan and his wife that bought and donated the machine to the party.

“He was not the one that bought the generator for the party, it was the party chairman and his wife that bought the machine and donated it to the party,” he claims.

Dr. Jones has refused to respond to the allegation levied against him by the party when he was contacted by this paper via mobile phone. he says he has better things to think about and he needs not to be bothered. Making official statement on behalf of the party, MOVEE Vice Chairman for Press and Propaganda, Mr. Robert Sammie says he is surprised to hear that Dr. Jones had gone to the party headquarters to collect the party’s property.

“There are procedures in getting things out of the party compound and there are people responsible for that, so it is disappointing to hear that Dr. Jones has gone to burglarize the headquarters of the party and take generator out,” he says.

There are claims of alleged internal wrangling between officials of MOVEE and their political leader Dr. Jones for a decision taken to pledge support to the CDC in the runoff election.

But Sammie denies that there is any internal wrangling within the party, saying if Dr. Jones had problem with the decision of party's majority members, he would have made a public announcement expressing his disappointment.

“Everyone in the party was not pleased with the decision taken to go to the CDC, but we had no option because majority carry the day and we are in democratic era where decisions are made by majority,” he says. MOVEE obtained over 12-Thousand votes accounting for 0.8% of the total votes cast in the 10 October presidential polls.

By Ethel A. Tweh--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Students laud re-opening of Bong Technical College

Students of the Bong County Technical College in Gbarnga, Bong County are commending President Ellen Johnson Sirelaf for appointing Dr. Charles K. Mulbah as acting President of the College, which has led to its timely re- opening.


In her appointment letter dated October 8, 2017, President Sirleaf requested Dr. Mulbah to work with the Board of Directors of the college and the Bong County Legislative Caucus to reopen the institution.

“As you are aware, we have appointed a search committee for the recruitment of the president for the college on a permanent basis,” the letter reads and adds, “However, as the college is at a critical stage in its development, we cannot afford to leave the position vacant for an extended period.”

In an interview with this paper on the college's main campus in Gboveh Hill Community, Gbarnga, the acting President of the student government of the college Thomas Brucenell Kertor describes the appointment of Dr. Mulbah by the Liberian leader as a serious boost not only to the administration, but students as well.

Ketor recalls that since he took over, Dr. Mulbah continues to work with others in administration as well as members of the faculty and stakeholders, a situation he notes is responsible for rapid improvement on campus.

He narrates that Dr. Mulbah has been at the college for less than fifty days, but has been able to initiate several reforms to the astonishment of the students. He cites as an example, reduction of fees for credit hours from six to five United States Dollars, while registration has also been drastically reduced from the initial US$150.00 to US$75.00.

" I think Dr. Mulbah really means well as far as making the Bong County Technical College accessible and encouraging us( students) to take advantage; this could not have been possible had it not been for the decision of President Sirleaf to appoint Dr. Mulbah, Ketor”, Ketor continues.

He explains that Dr. Mulbah has also mandated that all scholarship students indebted to the college should receive their grade sheets, while administration works with donors to ensure those fees are paid.

Kertor told this paper that the office of the Dean for Student Services has issued a memo, giving go ahead to all students to establish campus based organizations, and all is being done to ensure election for a leadership of the student government.

Cecelia Kerkulah, a student of the college told says although much was done in the past, but the first time a scrutinized course guide has been prepared for students to know where to go and what to do to graduate.

The library on campus is fully functioning, while laboratory is gradually nearing completion, says student Jutomue Taylor.This paper gathers that Dr. Mulbah-led administration is working assiduously with other institutions, including the Cuttington University to build a relationship aimed at strengthening the learning environment at the college.

The Bong County Technical College is a four-year degree awarding institution in the disciplines of Agriculture, Mining and Civil engineering, Computer Science as well as Education, and Health and Allied Sciences. President Sirleaf shut down the college in June this year, following series of protests by students in demand of a president.

Prior to his appointment as Interim President, Dr. Mulbah served as dean of the College of Agriculture and Sustainable Development at the Cuttington University. -Editing by Jonathan Browne

World Bank cites poor management over failed projects

World Bank Country Manager Mrs. Larisa Leshchenko says many governmental projects here in Liberia and the world have failed due to poor management.


“Many Government projects in Liberia and throughout the world have failed to deliver on their goals of economic stimulus and job creation because they are not sustainable or are not implemented in a transparent way,” Madam Leshchenko said recently at the Monrovia City Hall during the official launch of the post Ebola- reconstruction projects for Small, Medium and Large businesses across the country.
The World Bank Country Manager says these projects direct credit in a non-transparent manner and in ways that undercut market forces, citing as an example, selecting unqualified businesses or distorting markets by mandating interest rate caps.

In these types of projects, she observes that funds are disbursed but the projects quickly fail due to lack of oversight and non-repayment of loans as beneficiaries deem them to be “government handouts.” According to the World Bank official, the result is that little is achieved in terms of economic stimulus and job creation.

She notes that the aim of the project and the event in general could not be more important and relevant for Liberia, saying small businesses are the lifeblood of the Liberian economy, generating much needed jobs and income.

Madam Leshchenko acknowledges that access to finance is consistently cited as a critical constraint to MSMEs, saying the project promises to make important contributions in the area.
She says the project financed by the World Bank State and Peacebuilding fund for US$4.8 million, aims to increase access to finance for MSMEs in a sustainable manner.

She says it is known that the Liberian economy has faced tremendous challenges in recent years, ranging from the Ebola crisis, declined in commodity prices to the drawdown of the UN Mission in Liberia.

As a result, she notes that the rate of economic growth has fallen from high levels preceding the Ebola crisis to negative growth in 2016. But she says the good news is that there are signs that the worse is behind "us" and the medium-term outlook is positive.
Mrs. Leshchenko adds that economic activity in Liberia is picking up and growth is expected to reach close to 7 percent over the medium term led by mining, with support from agriculture, services and manufacturing.

She stresses that now it is important to ensure that this growth is shared by everyone, and the Government’s efforts to support MSMEs, including through this project, are important contributions to this critical objective.

She announces that beneficiary financial institutions have been selected based on compliance with strict eligibility criteria on financial performance. The financial institutions will bear the credit risk for the funds received and accordingly, they will have to base their lending decisions on a strict credit assessment of the interested small businesses.

Monitoring mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that the funds reach their intended beneficiaries, the small businesses that are starved of capital. In this manner, she says the project can have a lasting impact on alleviating the credit constraint faced by Liberian businesses.

Meanwhile, the World Bank official clarifies that the project alone cannot solve the access to credit problem faced by Liberian small businesses. Like many countries in the world - both developed and developing, she says small businesses struggle to obtain credit because banks perceive them as too risky and unprofitable.

As such, she observes that financial institutions prefer giving loans to larger, more established and less risky businesses. She notes that the World Bank is working with the Central Bank of Liberia and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) in a broad-based program to increase financial inclusion.

By Lewis S. The--Edited by Winston W. Parley

UN lauds Liberians for peaceful election

The United Nations Mission in West Africa has lauded Liberians for a peaceful conduct of election on October 10 2017. Speaking Friday at the 31st High Level Meeting of Heads of UN Mission in West Africa, the SRSG of United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas noted that the compliance with the rule of law and due process is essential for strengthening Liberia's nascent democracy.


The head of missions expresses hope that the electoral process would be concluded expeditiously, stressing those legal challenges should be legitimate and in good faith. He also emphasizes that the will of the Liberian people must be respected.

Dr. Chambas notes the importance of complying with the constitutionally mandated date for the inauguration of the new government in January 2018, underscoring the need for all parties and stakeholders to exercise restraint, uphold the rule of law, and conduct all activities with civility and in a nonviolent manner, including in their public discourse.

He further underlines that peaceful, free, fair and transparent election is a prerequisite for peace consolidation and sustainable development in Liberia. Dr. Chambas makes it clear that the destiny of Liberia remains the responsibility of all Liberians, emphasizing that the international community needs to continue assisting Liberia's development beyond the conclusion of the electoral process and UNMIL withdrawal.

The head of missions expresses hope that the upcoming elections in West Africa will consolidate democratic progress and bring about an increase in women participation in politics.

By Bridgett Milton--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Nat Barnes on Libyan migrant crisis

Liberia’s former Ambassador to the United States, Amb. Milton Nathaniel Barnes has frowned on the inhumane treatment of migrants in the North African state of Libya, calling on the Liberian Government to take on a pivotal role in addressing the issue.


He expressed fears that Liberians residing in that country could be at risk with such barbaric behavior, hence he urged the “Government to take immediate and drastic action to bring this barbaric behavior in a sister country of the African Union to a halt”.

“I hope and pray that Liberia will take a leadership position in addressing this matter given the poignant role that slavery has played in our history and given the original purpose for which Liberia was established,” he added.

Amb. Barnes appeal follows disturbing graphic images of inhumane treatment of black migrants in Libya on global news networks and social media. The images also showed the sale of migrants at auctions, something he said is reminiscent of the 19 Century Transatlantic Slave Trade.

“I take this moment to appeal firstly to all Liberians to remember our suffering brothers and sisters in our prayers. Secondly, in this public manner, I appeal to the Government of Liberia to take immediate and drastic action to bring this barbaric behavior in a sister country of the African Union to a halt,” Amb. Barnes said.

On Liberians residing in Libya, he said “We pray for their safety and the provision of some means to have them returned to the security and protection of their home”.

Amb. Barnes, a former Presidential candidate in the 2005 special elections also reminded Liberian that the ongoing election disputes should not claim the nation’s attention from the international community saying, “…there is a world out there that needs our attention as a part of our common humanity”.

 

UNDP Liberia Holds CPD Design Engagement

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has commenced engagement and consultations with national partners on the preparation and design of a New Country Programme Document (CPD) 2019-2023 for Liberia.


The two-day exercise held in Monrovia 30, November-01 December, brought together over 25 Representatives from line Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs) facilitated by UNDP Experts from its Regional Bureau in Addis Ababa.

The five- year Country Programme Document which is linked to a UNDP Strategic Plan outlines major development areas where UNDP has comparative advantage (example. governance, peace, justice, security, sustainable development etc).It is also aligned with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and the National Development Agenda of the Country.

Speaking during the consultation, UNDP Country Director Pa Lamin Beyai stressed that Liberia has a lot of development challenges which need “all hands-on deck” to resolve. Dr. Beyai said UNDP usually operates by soliciting the views of in- country experts for national ownership.

“As you know our support is usually catalytic and is based on government’s priority and the best people who can articulate the priorities of government of Liberia will be these capacities we have around this table,” the UNDP Boss stated.

Also making remarks, Acting Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf thanked UNDP for the collaboration thus far in the implementation of the current CPD which the Ministry of Internal Affairs is playing a key role.

Minister Sirleaf said under the current CPD, the Ministry is implementing the de-concentration phase of the Decentralization Programme, with the establishment of Country Service Centers in eleven of Liberia’s fifteen counties.

For his part, Acting Assistant Minister for Sectoral Planning at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning Sidiki Quisia said the implementation of the current CPD is moving smoothly.

He said Ebola left a toll on the country’s governance and other systems, including a one-year break in the implementation of the 2013-2017 CPD. Acting Minister Quisia stated that as the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) comes to an end in December this year, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has begun the design of a successor framework as a baseline for the Country’s national development agenda.

The two-day event highlights key messages of a new Strategic Plan (2018-2021) endorsed by the Executive Board of UNDP on Tuesday 28, November. It also takes into consideration the emerging global, regional and national planning landscape, alignment challenges, overview of national priorities and transition imperatives.

UNDP’s current Program Document 2013-2017 was expected to come to an end in 2017. But implementation of the Plan was interrupted as a result of the Ebola crisis. Thus, it has been extended to 2018.-Press release

 

NEC replies Liberty Party

The National Elections Commission (NEC) has filed its response before the Supreme Court of Liberia against claims made in an appeal filed by opposition Liberty Party (LP), saying LP and ruling Unity Party (UP's) 23 witnesses' testimonies "woefully failed to sustain the burden of proof" during hearing at the NEC.


It is not established yet whether the UP has filed any appeal with the Supreme Court after the NEC ruled against it and LP in alleged election fraud and irregularities case in challenge to the outcome of the 10 October polls, but the LP says NEC's Board of Commissioners committed reversible error when it failed to take into consideration witness testimony that NEC staff were overwhelmed and challenged on elections day.

LP claims that there were absence of queue controllers, voters whose names were not on final registration roll allowed to vote, no serial numbers on the ballots, a presiding officer was caught attempting to stuff pre-marked ballots in the ballot box in Nimba County and that opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) obtained 1109 votes at a polling place that was supposed to have a maximum of 550 ballots.

But the NEC replies that its witness Lamin Lighe refuted allegations that some polling places were changed without notice, further claiming that no new names were added to the Voters' Roll after it was produced, published and given to political parties.

Concerning LP's claims that there were no serial numbers on the ballots, the NEC says its witness Lighe produced unused ballot papers for both presidential and representatives in the 10 October elections which allegedly confirmed that there is a serial number on the stub of each of the ballot papers.

NEC says the Presiding Officer in Nimba District #3 who was caught attempting to stuff pre - marked ballots, "it was merely an attempt which was immediately detected" and the culprit, Josephus Cooper arrested.

"Witness Lighe further testified that the votes at that Polling Place, namely Polling Place Number One (1), were quarantined and a re-run conducted," the NEC says, and further notes that the ballot papers discovered in an outside bathroom in Grand County County District #2 were "Know Your Candidates" educational posters.

As to claims of excess votes obtained by CDC in Bong County Polling Place Number One of 1,109 ballots, the NEC notes that the presiding officer allegedly mistakenly wrote 109 instead of 110, but allegedly cancelled the "nine" with a red ink later as required by NEC's counting manual and then wrote number one before the number 10.

The appealing party and the NEC are expected to appear before the Supreme Court today, Friday, 1 December at 10am for the hearing of the case. The LP came third in the first round of the polls and is not designated for a runoff, but it began a process that challenges the conduct of the a runoff due between the UP which came second in the pools and is designated alongside opposition CDC to contest the runoff.

The UP is backing the alleged elections fraud and irregularities case, but it is not yet clear if it is appealing against the NEC's ruling. The runoff was due to be held on 7 November before a Supreme Court order halted the process in order to allow the NEC conduct investigation into claims made by the parties. The NEC's Hearing Officer and the Board of Commissioners refused LP and UP's request, thus prompting the bill of exception before the Supreme Court.

By Winston W. Parley

Senate summons agencies over economy

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate has summoned key government agencies to give full report on the status of the state’s economy as the economy here remains static and suffers a downturn.


Following intense deliberation by senators on Thursday, 30 November, the lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to summon Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara, Commerce and Industry Minister Addy Axel, Liberia Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Madam Elfrieda Stewart Tamba, and Executive Governor Milton Weeks to provide updates on the country’s economy.

The Plenary's decision on Thursday came as a result of a communication from Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan Kaipee who had written the Senate, seeking the intervention of the upper house of the Liberian Legislature.

The communication dated November 20, 2017 calls Senators to attention to the pending political transition expected in January 2018, noting that knowledge about the present state of the economy prior to the anticipated transition is extremely necessary.

"I therefore have the honor to request that both the Minister of Finance and Development Planning and Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority be invited to appear before Plenary and provide information on the current state of the country’s economy," the communication says.

It requests that the information to be provided by the agencies summoned must specially include update on the second quarter of the 2017 National Budget on which the government is currently operating, and the revenue generated during the quarter under review, according to LRA’s revenue projection.

Based on the content, the Senators in Plenary included the Central Bank of Liberia Executive Governor to join the process of providing the detailed information to the public through the state. Meanwhile, officials of those government institutions are expected in the Chambers of the Senate on 5 December.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor--Edited by Winston W. Parley

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