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Corruption allegations against Jeremiah Koung as the senator becomes UP Vice-Presidential aspirant

By. S.Karweaye

Despite allegations of massive budget fraud hanging on his neck,  the political leader of the Movement for Democratic Reconstruction (MDR), Senator  Jeremiah Koung was on April 28, 2023, selected by Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the former ruling Unity Party (UP) as his running mate in the pending 2023 presidential election. MDR is one of Liberia’s many political parties and was founded by former warlord and current Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County. Johnson is named in Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Report as having committed atrocities during the country’s first civil war.

According to Transparency International’s local chapter,  the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) 2021 State of Corruption Report, several members of the National Legislature were involved in high-level corruption. The two years of an investigation by the CENTAL linked then Nimba County Representative Jeremiah Koung, Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph and District #6 Representative Samuel Enders, and others to massive corruption. 

The CENTAL report said between 2012 to 2021 Nimba County Representative Jeremiah Koung received nearly one million United States Dollars to run his privately owned hospital, the Esther and Geraldine Hospital in Nimba County. According to the report.  the African Dream Academy; a private school owned by Representative Samuel Enders was entirely funded from the national budget. The report also said Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph, in 2020, as Chairman of the Senate health committee annually allocates US$ 141,000.00, to his company for ambulance services.

It is no longer a secret that Senator Jeremiah Koung has emerged as a powerful symbol of the rotten sweetness of democratized corruption in Liberia. The Legislature of which Koung is part is among the most dangerously corrupt institution in Liberian history. How did Joseph Nyymah Boakai, a man that wants to replace President Weah, select such a character?  How can Liberia’s former Vice President, Joseph Nyumah Boakai who is on record during the 2017 presidential debate admitting the Johnson-Sirleaf/Boakai administration failed by saying, “we squandered opportunities”  select someone the CENTAL report said was involved in the high level of corruption at the National Legislature? Did the former Vice President squander another opportunity? 

On the surface, you will be tempted to believe that our democracy is finally working – checks and balances. Illusions! The reality is that we are witnessing the smooth operation of the smartest and pathologically corrupt political operatives in post-conflict Liberia (I have not forgotten the gibberish of “innocent” until proven guilty). To say  Senator Koung along with his political godfather, Senator Prince Yomie Johnson are the most potent political operatives is not an overstatement. Even before Koung rose to power, he was highly connected by virtue of his political godfather, ex-warlord, and current senator Prince Yormie Johnson– the strong man of Nimba politics. Senator Johnson has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged corruption. The sanctions against Johnson come under the Global Magnitsky Act.

To demonstrate that he is untouchable, Jeremiah Koung ignored the CENTAL two years investigation report which linked him and his colleagues to corruption and ran for the senate seat in Nimba, and with his political godfather, Senator Prince  Yomie Johnson, and the ruling CDC backing, he won the senatorial seat at the same time, Joseph Nyuman Boakai’s backed CPP senatorial candidate, Edith Gongloe lose her senatorial bid.

The newest scandal is the appropriation of US$3.6 in the 2020/2021 budget that Jeremiah Koung and his colleagues at the Legislature awarded themselves in the name of legislative engagement and public accessibility fund with each legislator taking US$30,000. In the 2022 budget, Senator Koung and his colleagues at the Legislature awarded themselves an additional US$3.6 with each legislator taking US$30,000 in the name of legislative engagement and public accessibility funds while public institutions including hospitals, and schools are hugely underfunded. Sadly Senator Koung and his colleagues are diverting funds through budget paddling and redirecting those funds among themselves. 

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One of the primary reasons corruption has thrived in Liberia is the legislators are also involved in malice at all levels and have been clever enough to fool our people.  Koung is a career legislator, having served two terms as a representative before being elected as a senator. But he has never been very vocal on national issues and hardly chided the Unity Party administration as a representative on any shortcomings or as Senator in the current CDC administration on any weaknesses.

Is Joseph Nyumah Boakai complicit in encouraging the democratization of corruption in Liberia by choosing Jeremiah Koung as his running mate? Is it a  major, general mistake for Mr. Boakai to be romancing corrupt individuals while pretending to be a rescuer? I see the ongoing caricature as simply a case of democratization of corruption; a case of birds of the same feathers flock together, literally.

Senator Jeremiah Koung and his political godfather, Senator Prince Yomie Johnson are smooth political operators that belong to the MDR. The MDR as previously stated was founded by Senator Prince Yomie Johnson who supported Mr. George Weah of the Coalition of Democratic Change in the 2017 presidential election. In 2010, Johnson founded the National Union for Democratic Progress Party (NUDP) and ran as a presidential candidate in the 2011 presidential election. He placed third, with 11.6% of the vote, and supported the Unity Party’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who won the election as the incumbent president.

On December 9,  2021, Prince Yomie Johnson was placed under sanctions by the US Treasury under the Global Magnitsky Act. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), “as a Senator, Johnson has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment. As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the Government of Liberia (GOL), the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for the return to the involved participants. The pay-for-play funding scheme involves millions of U.S. dollars. Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money.”

Recently, Prince Yomie Johnson recently broke ties with the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change government headed by President George Weah, alleging that the Weah-led government refused to incorporate its members of his MDR into key government positions, thereby, reconfirming the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctions on him (pay-for-play ).  After publicly falling out with President Weah and his CDC, Senator Johnson, the founder of MDR, gave his blessing to Senator  Jeremiah Koung to assume the position of Standard Bearer of the MDR and lead the Party’s operations in preparation for the 2023 General and Presidential Elections as Prince Johnson battle for his senatorial seat in the 2023 elections. The MDR leader, Jeremiah Koung became the vice standard bearer of the Unity Party overnight after he and his political godfather outsmarted Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of the split Liberty Party (LP), Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) and others that stood with Joseph Boakai during the heyday of the Collaboration Political Parties (CPP). The cabals behind Boakai are now courting Koung’s political godfather, Prince Johnson for fear of giving Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe an edge in repositioning the electoral map in vote-rich Nimba County in the 2023 pend presidential election.

Joseph Boakai has limited the anti-corruption fight with his collaborations with the likes of Jeremiah Koung, Prince Johnson, etc. Until the cabals around him can summon the courage to point a real surgical anti-corruption knife at the crocodiles at the National Legislature including Jeremiah Koung, Prince Johnson, and others, and stay far away from these unscrupulous individuals that are involved in multi-million dollar corruption schemes involving fraud, misappropriation, and abuse of authority, Joseph Nyumah Boakai will Never be seen as a Rescuer for Liberia. We are watching

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