UK-Liberia relations “very important”

The United Kingdom (UK) Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, has described bilateral relations with Liberia as “very important.”

As the first foreign secretary to visit Liberia in a very long time, Mr. Johnson said his visit here was a big opportunity to intensify the friendship and partnership, noting that Britain was the first country to recognize Liberia’s independence in 1848. “Those are the foundations of a relationship that we want to grow from strength to strength,” he said.

A Foreign Ministry release said, the UK foreign secretary made the assertion when he stopped over at the Roberts International Airport and held bilateral discussions with a number of Liberian government officials including Foreign Minister MarjonKamara, Public Works Minister Gyude Moore, Commerce and Industry Minister Axel Addy and the head of the President’s Delivery Unit, Clarence Moniba on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

Mr. Johnson, who was making his first trip to Africa as the UK’s foreign secretary, stopped over en route to the UK following visits to Sierra Leone and the Gambia. He said his stopover was to see the transformation taking place here, meet with government authorities to see how the UK can be supportive of the country’s continued development efforts specifically infrastructure, power generation and moving Liberia higher up the value chain. He also highlighted how his government can be supportive to the upcoming presidential and legislative elections later this year.

Touching on his discussions with Liberian government officials, the UK foreign secretary termed the discussions as “very valuable” understanding the country’s huge potential. “This is a country which has been through a terrible civil war in recent memory but is firmly out of that and is bouncing back like Liberian rubber,” he joked.

For her part, Foreign Minister MarjonKamara described Mr. Johnson’s visit as a “very good” one. She said though his visit here was quite short and unexpected, his time in Liberia was spent constructively where officials discussed with him government’s priorities and the opportunities for UK partnership and investment in key priority areas including infrastructure, energy, road construction, among others.

“We hope to see an increase in their (UK) interest,” she said, noting that Mr. Johnson confirmed that the UK Government through the Department for International Development (DFID) is already committed to contributing to Liberia’s reconstruction fund. “We look forward to quick decisions on those issues that are already before the UK Government,” foreign minister Kamara indicated.

She noted that the UK foreign minister’s visit was significant in further strengthening bilateral relations with a positive impact considering an opportunity to personally meet each other and confer. “It should help them reach decision points on many of the issues,” foreign minister Kamara emphasized.
During his stopover, UK foreign secretary Johnson also visited the Firestone Natural Rubber Company (Firestone Liberia) near the Roberts International Airport.

ANC backs off on Speaker’s district

The Alternative National Congress or ANC has announced that it would not field a candidate in Margibi County electoral district#5 for the October 10th polls. 

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Debate over amending GW indictment

Prosecutors and defense counsels representing former House Speaker Alex Tyler, who is facing bribery and economic sabotage claims levied by Global Witness, are expected to enter argument at the Criminal Court“C” today, Thursday, 16 February over government’s request to amend two separate indictments in the case.

One of defense counsels’ contentions is that without consolidating the two indictments that were drawn in May 2016 term of court and November 2016 term of court, respectively they cannot be jointly amended in one motion on grounds that the May 2016 in dictees have rights to separate trial.

Having previously secured indictments at separate times against several officials in 2016, prosecutors recently file damotion to amend certain counts in the indictments. At the time of their indictment last year, the defendants were accused by Global Witness of receiving bribes in the tune of US$950,000 from a U.K. - based company Sable Mining, to influence officials’ decision to have a concession at Wologisi Mountain in Lofa County declared non-bidding in favor of the alleged bribe giver.

Though not all of the accused were jointly indicted, high profile officials named in the scandal include former speaker Tyler, who lost the top job in the heat of the allegations; former ruling Unity Party chair Sen. H. Varney G. Sherman, Nigerian national Chris On anuga,former Lands and Mines Minister Dr. Eugene Shannon and former Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs, Senator Morris Saytumah, among others.

But following the filing of prosecution’s motion to amend the indictments recently, the defense representing Mr. Tyler on Wednesday,15 February filed a resistance with the court, arguing that there were two separate indictments drawn against the indictees by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County in two separate terms of court last year.
In its resistance, the defense has said that the defendants that wereindicted by the Grand Jury in the May 2016 Term of Court were separate from those that were indicted in the November Term of Court.
They argued that in the November Term of Court, the Grand Jury indicted defendants Richard Tolbert, Andrew Groves, Klaus Piprek,Eugene Shannon, Morris Saytumah and Willie Belleh “for the same andidentical crimes that were alleged in the May 2016 Term of Court indictment”.
But the defense is saying that the defendants named in the November Term of Court indictment were not the same defendants named in the May Term of Court indictment.

“Therefore, amendment of the two and separate indictments withdifferent defendants is not applicable under our law withoutconsolidating the two indictments irrespective of the crimes allegedare the same”, lawyers representing Mr. Tyler have argued.

By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Amb.Sulunteh negotiates with university in U.S.

Liberia’s former Ambassador to the United States, Canada and Mexico, JeremiahSulunteh, says he has concluded negotiations for the establishment ofstudents and faculty exchange programs between Cuttington Universityand the Mississippi State University in the U.S.

Amb.Sulunteh told the NewDawn’s Bong County correspondent recently inSuakoko District that the negotiation was part of efforts to exploringforeign opportunities for Liberian students.

The former Liberian Envoy noted that the negotiation started sometimeslast year when he honored the Mississippi State University forenrolling a son of Bong County, Mr. Victor Flomo into their PhDprogram.

Victor is one of four Liberian students studying in the United Stateson the expense of the former Liberian diploma, Sulunteh. Mr. Sulunteh added that the two universities have welcomed thecollaboration and acquaintances between the two presidents are due totake place very soon.

Amb.Sulunteh further said his support to the education of youngLiberians remains unbending, cautioning those that will benefit fromthe outcome of such negotiation to make maximum use of theopportunity.

By Papa Morris in Bong County-Editing by Winston W. Parley

Rep. Younquoi seeks funding for Africa Parliamentary Forum

Nimba County district #8 Larry Younquoi has requested his colleaguesat the Lower House to make appropriate budgetary allotment in the2017/2018 Fiscal Budget and subsequent fiscal budgets to aid the smooth running of Africa Parliamentary Forum on Population andDevelopment.

On Tuesday, 14 February the Nimba County Lawmaker, who represents theLiberian Legislature as interim leader at the Africa ParliamentaryForum recommended that theHouse carries out relevant institutional reform by formalizing theexistence of the Forum.

He suggested that there be anamendment of the House’s rule by making it mandatory for chairpersonsof the Committees of Health, Gender, Children and Social Protection;Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning; and Youth and otherrelated committees to automatically form an integral part of theForum.
Rep. Younquoisaid since he took over the interim leadership of the Forum,Liberia has made tremendous strides such as adequately representingthe country, though he noted the committee lacks funds to workwith.

He had complained of lack of funds to augment travel expenses of Forummembers, a situation that he says has significantly contributed to theslow pace of work. He suggested that the committee needs to have regular meetings withrelevant committee heads in both the House of Representative and theSenate to have them form part of the Forum. Rep. Younquoi says hewants the committee heads to effectively play their roles inmobilizing other lawmakers to the cause of the Forum.

By Bridgett Milton-Editing by Winston W. Parley

Bong lawmaker challenges opponents

Bong electoral District #1 Representative Tokpa John Mulbah says hestill enjoys the confidence of his people, boasting that he is notbothered by the increasing names of aspirants wanting to contestagainst him in October.

The former deputy speaker of the 52nd Legislature, Mr. Mulbah hasvowed that he will continue to attract developments in the District. In an outline of his work done in the district recently, Rep. Mulbahcited the construction and renovation of schools and provision of safedrinking water, among others.

He told reporters that since his election in 2011, he hasreconditioned several farm - to - market roads in the District and hasprovided tuition assistance for less fortunate students of theDistrict.

Rep. Mulbah additionally cited the construction of several clinics forhis people, boasting of touching all segments of the District since2006. Having outlined his achievements in the district, Rep. Mulbahsaid the chance of anyone replacing him was ambiguous.

By Papa Morris in Bong County-Editing by Winston W. Parley

Investigator backs Taylor

A War Crimes Investigator Allen Von says jailed former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor is entitled to make several telephone calls to those he wishes to speak with, but that these calls must be closely monitored or screened by authorities of the International Criminal Court based in The Hague.

Mr. Von, who extensively investigated Taylor’s involvement in the Sierra Leonean civil war, argued that even though the ex-Liberian president was convicted and sentenced for aiding and abetting RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, the ICC should know who Mr. Taylor wants to talk to, where the person resides and when such calls should be made.
The War Crimes Investigator’s comments come in the wake of continuous media reports that Taylor was directly meddling in Liberian politics thru frequent contacts here with influential political leaders, including his own National Patriotic Party or NPP, giving instructions and advancing strategies.

Mr. Von made these assertions on Tuesday, 14th Februarywhen he spoke to a local radio station in Monrovia via phone call from outside Liberia. He emphasized that despite his conviction, Mr. Taylor is permitted to make several telephone calls, adding that in accordance with international norms, prisoners such as Taylor is privileged to establish contacts with his lawyers, family members, and the media, among others, but clarified that such telephone calls must closely be monitored.

The comments followed an “African Confidential” reports quoted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently in which it was said that the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, now a Residual Court, which tried and convicted Taylor, says it is urgently following up with the Government of Great Britain over recent call he made to Liberia, advising his followers on tactics, while urging others to return to base.

But Mr. Von believes the War Crimes Court was monitoring Taylor’s conversations outside, adding that authorities of the Court must increase their monitoring role at the prison to ensure that what Mr. Taylor saysin Liberia doesn’t affect the current political process here.

He maintained that all telephone calls made by the former Liberian President is provided by international laws and can in no way be denied by the court. He said besides the Residual Court, civic society organizations and the Government of Liberia (GOL) should also be concerned about calls made by Mr. Taylor because they directly represent the interest of the Liberian people.

The War Crimes Investigator said if the Court deemed it necessary to restrain Mr. Taylor, it has the right to do so, provided that such doesn’t not entirely prevent the leader of the disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia or NPFL rebels from freely making contacts with those he wishes to talk with.
Many political pundits watching the Taylor’s phone calls saga, are of the conviction that recent calls he made to Liberia led to the merger of his National Patriotic Party (NPP), Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Liberian People Democratic Party (LPDP) of former Speaker Alex Tyler.

Others believe Mr. Taylor’s involvement in Liberian politics, while serving his sentence in Britain has a propensity to plunge the country’s current political process into serious predicament.
They also expressed apprehension over alleged failure of the Special Court to monitor what Mr. Taylor says or do while in prison, wondering whether there were individuals closely coordinating Mr. Taylor’s calls to Liberia based on dates and times that such telephone calls were made.
They also believe Taylor’s calls to Liberia could possibly dictate what happens in the October 10th elections, which are very crucial to the country and its people especially, at the time Liberians were gearing up to democratically elect a new president.

By Emmanuel Mondaye-Editing by Jonathan Browne

politicians defraud Liberia

The international environmental watch group, Global Witness, has disclosed that powerful Liberian politicians, who own logging companies here, are hiding their identities and profiting from contracts that cover huge swathes of forest.

A Global Witness document dated 14 February describes how all of Liberia’s large logging contracts are fundamentally illegal, having violated multiple laws, including a ban on politicians owning companies with logging contracts.

The report disclosed that some of those violations date back to nearly a decade when the contracts were issued. It urged Liberians to hold politicians and loggers, who are exploiting the country’s forest accountable for their action.

The document quotes GW boss Jonathan Gant as saying, logging companies operated by Liberian politicians, had not only lied and cheated, but also stolen from the people of Liberia and as such, must be made to account for their deeds.

GW revealed that during the Ebola epidemic here, so-called and unscrupulous politicians generated huge financial benefits from their operations, but reportedly failed to pay taxes.
The document added that in an effort to root out their corrupt deals, the Government of Liberia requires logging companies to declare their real or “beneficial” owners.
However, it noted that in 2015 when the government demanded this information, those companies allegedly involved, which are behind half of Liberia’s logging contracts, ignored the demand.

Global Witness maintained that five of the logging companies failed to provide the government with any information, while one filed incorrect data, hiding its actual owner, who is a powerful Liberian politician.
The report indicated that the logging companies have also failed to pay taxes and currently owe an immense US$25 million to the cash-strapped Liberian government, stressing that if said amount were paid, it would amount to nearly five percent of Liberia’s entire budget.
GW added that logging companies have manipulated their data on a massive scale, concealing data on how many trees are actually being fell, revealing that evidence shows that five large community forest licenses have been awarded illegally to logging companies even though the Government of Liberia permits are designed to help rural people manage their forests with companies encouraging people, who do not represent communities, to obtain licenses for large forests without first doing necessary mapping and socio-economic surveys.
Liberia is home to 40 percent of West Africa’s best remaining forest, the Upper Guinean Rainforest. During the civil war here, which ended in 2003, logging companies propped up the regime of ex-president Charles Taylor as well as trafficking arms.
Following the war, the country and its partners, including the European Union (EU), Norway, the United States, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative worked to reform the sector, which has resulted to better laws and increased government capacity in new logging licenses covering ten percent of the country.
“Liberia’s forest reform programs have been good for the country and should be supported,” said Gant. “But the Liberian government and international donors must also face up to the fact that big logging companies are corrupting Liberia in a way which threatens to unravel progress on the country’s hard-fought gains.”
Meanwhile, GW has recommended that for the country’s partners to confront illegal logging companies, the government must ensure that the European Union, which signed a treaty with Liberia, promoting trade in legal timber called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement should make it clear that it will not allow timber from Liberia’s current large contracts into Europe.
The report observes that Norway, which also signed a US$ 150 million deal with Liberia, promoting community forestry and conservation, should ensure the country investigates and cancels illegal contracts as promised in the deal.
The Liberian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which requires natural resource companies to declare their real, or “beneficial,” owners, should penalize companies that have failed to report or reported incorrect ownership information, the document urges.
GW says the Government of Liberia has denied that companies have manipulated data, though investigations conducted by the company tracking Liberian timber–SGS concluded that loggers were doing so. Editing by Jonathan Browne

GVL, Butaw smoke peace pipe

Following more than four years of discussions, Golden Veroleum Liberia and the  people of Butaw District in Sinoe County have signed a Memorandum of Understanding or MoU this month, incorporating social agreement. A GVL press release says the signing brought together more than 400 citizens from Butaw and Monrovia including youth, women leaders, elders, traditional  leaders, paramount chiefs and clan chiefs, among others.


According to the agreement, Golden Veroleum Liberia has agreed to construct an annex of eight classrooms for the Butaw Elementary and Junior High School, an  auditorium for Grgsby Farm School, an eight - room teachers’ quarters in Butaw,  a 2.25 kilometer road linking Tugbeh Village to Ceedor Township, and a 13.23
kilometer road linking Plouh community to Ceekloh, Butaw Seaside, respectively.

Additionally, the agreement says two palaver huts to host community meetings  will be constructed in Butaw District, while to promote healthy water supply and
better sanitation, it also seeks to construct seven hand pumps and two sets of pit latrines with in the district.  The Superintendent of Sinoe County Prosper Browne, and Senators Joseph  Nagbe and Milton Teahjay, reportedly thanked the people of Butaw and GVL for  the agreement.

Superintendent Browne promised to work with the people of Butaw and GVL to  make sure the MoU is fully implemented according to expectations. Benedict Manewah, Chairman of the Butaw A-Bloteh Committee praised GVL for  the level of cooperation received and for the MOU signed. Mr. Manewah  believes, with GVL, the benefits of development for the district are now much clearer.

The GVL Assistant Manager for Community Affairs and Social Sustainability in  Butaw Dixon Patten, said GVL is committed to implementing the MOU. Mr. Patten said it is important to GVL to maintain excellent community relations as it will be working with the community for a long time.

He said Relations between the people of Butaw and GVL have improved and “we  will continue to keep it this way.” According to GVL Communications Coordinator, Leroy Kanmoh, the company has a strengthened communications strategy with communities and other  stakeholders in Liberia.

Mr. Kanmoh said that, in 2012, the people of Butaw complained to the governing  body for responsible oil palm companies, the Round table on Sustainable Palm
Oil (RSPO). Golden Veroleum Liberia is a Liberia registered long term business initiated  Company which seeks to work with Liberians to bring real industries and
factories to Liberia especially in rural communities.

GVL currently employs approximately 3,800 Liberians heavily based in Sinoe and  Grand Kru counties.n GVL donates annually to the Government of Liberia through
the Ministry of Agriculture a scholarship grant of US$100,000 for deserving  Liberian students studying agriculture and engineering. Up to date, US$700,000 has been donated to the Ministry of Agriculture. The  company has deposited into six community accounts at least US$92,000 dollars  in community development fund across Sinoe and Grand Kru counties. The construction of three bed rooms Butaw Clinic staff quarter is the first  community development fund project by GVL. - Press Release


Say no to rent

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says it is about time that Liberians stopthe paying of rents in their various communities by making maximum use of newly dedicated housing units constructed by the National Housing Authority or NHA in Brewerville City.

President Sirleaf dedicated 70 new housing units intended for low income earners at the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation or NASSCORP  Village in Brewerville, Montserrado County on Tuesday, 14 February.

“There is nothing to help somebody than to know you have a safe place to lay your head at the end of the day; that you don’t have to be looking around as to your children will sleep in some safety. And that’s what these projects are all about”, President Sirleaf said.

During the dedicatory ceremony, President Sirleaf recalled how Some 35 years back, government supported public housing, particularly referencing the Tolbert Administration.

She said the late President William R. Tolbert’s government did construct few housing facilities including the Cabra and Stephen Tolbert Estates that attracted her attention.

Having stepped in to get housing units constructed in her government, President  Sirleaf said Liberians can now make choices regarding owning homes. She said
NASSCORP and NHA have done their work and it was now up to citizens to keep and maintain the housing units.

For those who were getting mortgages to secure their units, President Sirleaf hope that they had understood when they assume ownership of their units for years but fail to meet the mortgage, they would stand the risk of having the units taken from them.

“I want to commend the same board that was able few years ago to complete  the ownership of those houses to those who have paid rent in many years; so today those people have the full ownership, the title to those houses and they can now afford no more to pay rent”, she said.

Ms. Sirleaf commended the NHA and NASSCORP for carrying out “a good job”.  She said the institutions were embarking upon the next phase of the project that they started in Marshall, Margibi County and had completed certain units.

She acknowledged that NHA could not have carried out the work without  NASSCORP that has been giving support to ensure that the welfare of the  Liberian people are met.

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

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