Hundreds of Liberians protesting the alleged disappearance of newly printed Liberian banknotes that one official account put at 16 Billion LRD petition the Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States Embassy here, calling on the international community to intervene in retrieving the missing billions, which authorities here confirmed transpired on March 31, 2018.
.The protesters under the banner, Coalition of Citizens United to Bring Back Our Money or COCUBOM on Monday, 24 September also petition the international community to withhold funding to the Liberian government until the alleged missing billions are accounted for.
Liberia’s Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe recently told the Voice of America that nearly 16 Billion Liberian dollars went missing from the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport in Harbel, Margibi County, respectively. But the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah disputs Nagbe’s account; instead, putting the amount at 1.5 billion.
President George Weah has called for calm while the investigations are ongoing to get to the bottom of the crime and bring those responsible to justice.Monday’s peaceful protest was organized by several civil society organizations, including the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), People Action Network (PAN) and Traditional Justice of Liberia, among others was meant to draw the Government of Liberia and other international partners’ attention to the alleged disappearance of the huge amount of Liberian banknotes.
The leader of COCUBOM, Martin Kollie, says the peaceful protest before the U.S. Embassy, the European Union, the French Embassy, the ECOWAS Office, and the United Nations Office in Monrovia is to tell the world the missing banknotes is leading to economic hardship in the country.
He says the campaign is also meant to bring the country’s money back, and not to destabilize Liberia, as other politicians had interpreted.“We are going to be peaceful, and the reason is to hold the government feet to the fire to provide explanation on the missing banknotes”, he explains.
The peaceful protesters, who engaged the streets here as early as 8:30 A.M. Monday marched through the principal streets of the capital, beginning from the U.S. Embassy to the EU Office before reaching Monrovia’s most busiest Broad Street, singing and carrying placards with inscriptions “Bring Back Our Money; We Say No To Corruption, among others.
Petitioning the U.S. Embassy, they said the campaign is to expose corruption under the George Weah-led government.“We want the international community to see what is unfolding here in our country, with just six months in power, 16 Billions have fled with no trace, while peaceful citizens here go to bed with empty stomach; this is what has promoted our protest here today”, Martin explains.
The protesters include former officials of government and leaders of opposition political parties, including Abraham Daruis Dillon of the opposition Liberty Party, former NIC Executive Director George Wisner, former Chief of Protocol Rufus Neufville, former Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Internal Affairs Amos Tweh, among others.
Speaking with reporters, Mr. Tweh says they will continue the protest in various ways and manners until the Liberian government can provide tangible information about the missing 16 Billion dollars.
“What is unfolding in this country is worrisome, and we cannot sit; this is why we’re here, calling on the President to prosecute all those in connection with the missing funds.”
In response to the protesters’ petition, the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia says it has received a petition from a number of civil society groups concerning the printing of additional Liberian banknotes.The U.S. Embassy also confirms that last week, it received a request from the Government of Liberia for assistance in ongoing investigation of the incident that has brought the country’s integrity into questioning.
The U.S. Embassy continues that the request has been transmitted to relevant U.S, Governmental agencies in Washington for further review.“This request for assistance was transmitted to the relevant U.S government agencies in Washington for further review.”
In its request, the Government of Liberia says the investigation is for the purpose of adequately accounting for all flows of money printed and brought into the country between 2016 and 2018.”The findings of the investigation will be critical to the formulation and implementation of a credible and robust monetary and microeconomic policy in the years ahead”, a statement from Liberia’s Justice Minister Musa Dean reads.
By Lewis S. Teh & Ben P. Wesee -Editing by Jonathan Browne