Politics

Weah dodges debate second time

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Presidential hopeful and standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah has for the second time conspicuously evaded crucial national debate here with rival candidates on issues affecting Liberians as the country goes to elections on October 10th .


Organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition or DDC, a conglomeration of five Liberian media organizations, including the Press Union of Liberia, the debate is sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA.

The issues centered around six thematic areas: economy, youth empowerment, peace and reconciliation, rule of law and security, corruption, education and health.

The first debate was held on Thursday, 17 August among the first six top candidates in the race at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia. All but two of the six candidates were present.

Candidates in attendance were the standard bearer of the governing Unity Party(UP), Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP), businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) and corporate executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).

Candidates George Weah of the CDC and Dr. Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment were conspicuously absent at the debate. Senator Weah is reportedly visiting the Ivory Coast, while Dr. Jones is said to have gone on a campaign spree in Western Liberia.

But the organizer says all candidates were formally written and informed about the debate. “All of them were invited and they all committed to come”, says Malcom Jospeh, a member of the DDC.

The DDC stresses that the exercise provides an opportunity for Liberians to question and evaluate those vying to become their next leaders what they say they would do and how they intend to achieve those.

In 2005, the CDC presidential candidate Weah similarly dodged a debate among candidates for the presidency both at the Centennial Pavilion and the Monrovia City Hall. Weah has always avoided sitting with rival candidates to publicly debate the issues that confront Liberia’s governing process. Even at the Liberian Senate, where he was elected in 2014, he has been publicly rated for poor performance when it comes to debating issues brought on the floor.

Analysts say, Weah would have to live with this weakness for long in his public service career unless he musters enough courage to be able to articulate clearly his dreams and aspiration for the people and country that he wants to lead now or in the future.

-Story by Jonathan Browne

We lack fiscal discipline

Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is vying for the presidency comes October, attributes consisting budget deficit in government in the past several years to lack of fiscal discipline, stressing, “We need to spend our money wisely.”


Vice President Boakai is on record for his public admission that most of the opportunities that came to the country during the nearly 12 years tenure of the Sirleaf administration in which he serves, were squandered.

Participating in a national presidential debate at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia on Thursday, 17 August organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition or DCC with support from Open Society Initiative for West African or OSIWA, he says raising taxes is not solution to the country’s fiscal challenges, but operating a balanced budget.

He is asking Liberians to elect him in October as the next President of Liberia, with an analogy that a racing car that is packed in the garage would have to be tested in order to determine its strength.

But Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party disagrees, countering that the Vice President cannot receive salaries and incentives for the past 12 years and yet claims he has not been tested for leadership.

Brumskine vows to reduce his own salary and salaries of top government officials, including members of the Liberian Legislature if elected President, in order to redirect those funds to improving salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and other apparatus.

The debate was attended by four of the six top candidates that were formally invited, including the governing Unity Party standard bearer, Vice President Boakai, Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, corporate executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP).

For the second time since 2005, George Weah, senator and standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was conspicuously absent at the debate hall. Dr. Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) also did not attend.

But on the question of the economy, ANC standard bearer Cummings believes the prescription is to grow the national budget from US$5.6 million to 2 billion, emphasizing the need to create middle class Liberians as opposed to President Sirleaf’s poverty reduction strategy.


For his part, ALP standard bearer Benoni Urey stresses adequate planning and wants the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs recreated to properly plan the country’s development agenda.

Urey continues that budget deficit persists because the government appears to be business unfriendly, adding that “We will continue to have deficit unless we plan properly.” He points out that 80 percent of the budget is on recurrent expenditure, particularly salaries and other benefits, while the remaining 20 percent which is very insufficient, is directed at development.

Candidates square on security

Four of Liberia’s presidential candidates including Charles Brumskine, Alexander Cummings Joseph Boakai and Benoni Urey have each suggested strategies that they believe could work in strengthening national security here, if they were elected Liberia’s next president this October.


The first in a live presidential debate on Thursday, 17 August featured opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC’s) Cummings, opposition All Liberian Party (ALP’s) Urey, ruling Unity Party (UP’s) Boakai and opposition Liberty Party (LP’s) Brumskine.

Two opposition presidential candidates who had also been earmarked for the debate including Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE’s) Dr. Mills Jones and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC’s) Sen. George Weah did not appear.

In response to what could be done to strengthen security and rule of law here, the ruling UP’s Joseph Nyumah Boakai says the issue about Liberia’s security is not external, but internal.

Mr. Boakai agrees that Liberia has done well in training its soldiers [and other security personnel], but he suggests that if crimes are committed, the criminal must be brought to bear and the rules must be enforced without seeking to protect certain people.

Mr. Boakai believes that the law works in a way that “nobody should be protected” from its enforcement, regardless of who they are. “You can’t have rules for certain people,” he says, arguing that to be able to protect society, one must be able to protect everybody.

He notes that there are crimes and there are criminals everywhere in the world, but he believes that if the quality of education and lives of the people are improved, it would make headlines in terms of [improving security].

But opposition ANC’s Alexander Cummings believes that Liberia’s biggest security risk is the number of unemployed youth in the country. He has strongly argued that the police force and the army need to be strengthened, trained and paid more in addressing security issues here.

“But again I say to you unless we grow this economy … unless we give jobs to our people, we will not solve the national security problem,” Mr. Cummings says. He maintains that unless Liberia addresses the underlying causes of the insecurity, fixes the economy and provides jobs for the young people, those who may see themselves as having nothing to lose or to protect, may be very vulnerable to doing things that destabilize the society.

He agrees with Mr. Boakai that there has to be consequences against people who misbehave, but he also argues that there cannot be consequences for just the petty criminals.

He wants government to extend punitive measures against government officials who steal because he believes that a rogue is a rogue, no matter who the rouge is. Giving his perspective on the question, Cllr. Brumskine says his government will ensure [neutrality] regarding security and law enforcement, claiming that as president, there would be no influence if for instance, he heard that Liberty Party chairperson had been arrested.

He promises to work with the judiciary, the chief justice and lawyers to make sure that some of the problems in the justice system are solved. Cllr. Brumskine agrees with Cummings that the underlying thing is the economy, but notes that the LP has specific plans from which it will move the Liberian economy forward.

He criticizes the Sirleaf - Boakai administration for relying on the Tubman policy over the years and exporting unprocessed raw materials. Instead, Cllr. Brumskine says his government wants to diversify the economy and not rely on natural resources as major source of revenues.

In his promise to create more jobs for Liberians, Cllr. Brumskine says small business institutes will be created to help Liberians get loans and finance their business operations.

For his part, Mr. Urey says the issue of security and the justice system are not a challenge only for the president and vice president of Liberia, but a challenge for every Liberian.

“Our security sector needs a lot of improvement,” he says, suggesting the need to tap on the resources of experienced security personnel. Mr. Urey is suggesting the need to scrap some powers from the hands of the president by establishing a “Ministry of National Security” that would work as umbrella institution for Liberia’s security apparatus where experts would review security reports and come up with decisions.

He wants experts to be brought in the country to play advisory role in his proposed “Ministry of National Security” to avoid the president being too involved in the security matters. Mr. Urey does not favor the idea that the National Security Agency here, the police and immigration are all reporting to the president.

Instead, he believes that if a national security ministry is established, all the security apparatus would be under one umbrella where experts will be able to examine security reports.

Today, he claims that a lot of information the president gets are not correct, claiming that they just fool and lie to the president and she in turn takes action. Though he admits that at times “we” get angry with the president, Mr. Urey notes that they are getting to realize that it is due to the alleged misinformation given her.

He therefore suggests that a trained security expert is needed to evaluate these security reports and come up with a decision.

“This is what we need in this country, to ensure that these security people don’t go around lying [about] people. They use these things to generate money…,” Mr. Urey claims.

Mr. Urey notes that it is inhumane to give the average man on the street, the police and teacher low income, on grounds that one official makes $75,000 a year when others cannot earn $10,000 in a year.

But in reaction to Urey, Mr. Boakai credits the Sirleaf government for allowing the public to know how much people make today, unlike the way it was in the past.

--By Winston W. Parley, editing by Othello B. Garblah

We lack fiscal discipline

Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is vying for the presidency comes October, attributes consisting budget deficit in government in the past several years to lack of fiscal discipline, stressing, “We need to spend our money wisely.”


Vice President Boakai is on record for his public admission that most of the opportunities that came to the country during the nearly 12 years tenure of the Sirleaf administration in which he serves, were squandered.

Participating in a national presidential debate at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia on Thursday, 17 August organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition or DCC with support from Open Society Initiative for West African or OSIWA, he says raising taxes is not solution to the country’s fiscal challenges, but operating a balanced budget.

He is asking Liberians to elect him in October as the next President of Liberia, with an analogy that a racing car that is packed in the garage would have to be tested in order to determine its strength.

But Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party disagrees, countering that the Vice President cannot receive salaries and incentives for the past 12 years and yet claims he has not been tested for leadership.

Brumskine vows to reduce his own salary and salaries of top government officials, including members of the Liberian Legislature if elected President, in order to redirect those funds to improving salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and other apparatus.

The debate was attended by four of the six top candidates that were formally invited, including the governing Unity Party standard bearer, Vice President Boakai, Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, corporate executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP).

For the second time since 2005, George Weah, senator and standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was conspicuously absent at the debate hall. Dr. Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) also did not attend.

But on the question of the economy, ANC standard bearer Cummings believes the prescription is to grow the national budget from US$5.6 million to 2 billion, emphasizing the need to create middle class Liberians as opposed to President Sirleaf’s poverty reduction strategy.


For his part, ALP standard bearer Benoni Urey stresses adequate planning and wants the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs recreated to properly plan the country’s development agenda.

Urey continues that budget deficit persists because the government appears to be business unfriendly, adding that “We will continue to have deficit unless we plan properly.” He points out that 80 percent of the budget is on recurrent expenditure, particularly salaries and other benefits, while the remaining 20 percent which is very insufficient, is directed at development.

Party leader on run

Proposed Party of Hope political leader Mr. Roland W. Jacobs is said to be on the run, allegedly indebted to a printing press here in the tune of US$160.00. The Lawmax Printing Press situated in Logan Town, suburb of Monrovia says it has plans to file legal action against Mr. Jacobs, whom the printing press claims has absconded to the U.S.


Document in the possession of this paper, dated 11 May and signed Lawmax Printing Press General Manager Lawrence Andrews, alleges that the Party of Hope (PoP) contracted the printing press to print two sign boards of the party at the cost of US$320.00.

Having taken the contract, the printing press alleges that the party made an initial payment of US$160.00, leaving the balance of US$160.00 to be settled after the completion of the entire job.

According to the document, the printing press implemented the contract to print the party’s logo on the wall of PoP’s Headquarters in Logan Town and a steel signboard. But following alleged completion of the job, the printing press claims that the PoP refused to pay the balance money.

The action of the party has allegedly compelled Mr. Lawrence Andrews to pursue a legal action against Mr. Jacobs for refusing to clear his debt. When the General Manager of Lawmax Printing Press Mr. Lawrence Andrews was contacted by this paper on 17 August on the document, he confirmed the information.

He says he has confiscated one of PoP’s signboards, pending the settlement of his debt by Mr. Jacobs.When our reporter also contacted an official of the PoP Rev. Emmanuel Arthur, he denied claims that the PoP political leader Mr. Jacobs had left the country for the United States.

But when this paper visited Mr. Jacobs’s residence around the Logan Town Rice Store, it was established that PoP political leader has been in the United States for over two months now. The PoP political leader is said to be a former American serviceman, but returned home to contest the presidential elections through the formation of the proposed PoP.

Dozens of founding executives of the party are said to have abandoned it due to the alleged inability of Mr. Jacobs to ensure the party becomes qualified by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as a duly registered political institution.

By Emmanuel Mondaye--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Ellen flies to Sierra Leone

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf has flown to neighbouring Sierra Leone in a show of solidarity with the government and people of the West African state terribly hit by a devastating mudslide, killing hundreds near the capital Freetown.


After leading cabinet members to the Sierra Leonean Embassy near Monrovia to sign a Book of Condolence, Mrs. Sirleaf later took off Thursday afternoon, 17 August via the James Spriggs Payne Airport in Sinkor, suburb of Monrovia.

She had been received at the Sierra Leonean Embassy by Charge d’Affaires Dr. Roseline Turay and embassy staff, following which the President and her officials sign the Book of Condolence.

Following the signing ceremony, Liberia’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe told journalists outside the Embassy that instruction had already been given for Liberia to deploy military personnel to give assistance to the sisterly country.

“Instruction has been given already so that our military, whatever support they can give they will give. It is mine understanding that some of our troops will be going to Sierra Leone today,” Minister Nagbe says.

He sees the situation in Sierra Leone as a sad for the whole world, taking note of a saying that when your brother’s house is on fire, you got to worry about yours. “We as Liberians should take all the precautions that we have to take …, we have to remember that this was a natural disaster and that sometimes it is an act of God that is difficult to prevent,” he notes.

He says “we are all very sad” and the president and her cabinet had signed the Book of Condolence opened by the Embassy to pay sympathy to the people of Sierra Leone. In addition to deploying personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia to provide assistance to Sierra Leone, Mr. Nagbe says Liberia remains engaged with the affected country as it always does through Manor River Union, ECOWAS and UN, committing whatever help Liberia can give.

He says President Sirleaf has spoken with the Sierra Leonean President Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, assuring him that mountains will be removed if required. At the Signing were Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamaram, Justice Minister Frederick D. Cherue, Finance Minister Boima Kamara, Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Henrique F. Tokpah and Information Minister Eugene Nagbe.

Others were Commerce Minister Axel Addy, the Director of the Cabinet Jordan Sulunteh, Minister of Post and Telecommunications Dr. Frederick Norkeh and Transport Minister Samuel A. Wulue, among others.

--By Winston W. Parley

NEC, UNDP train key civil and voters’ educators

Ahead of the 10 October 2017 general elections, the National Elections Commission or NEC and UNDP have Thursday completed training of civil society organisations that will act as key civic and voter education partners over the coming months.


The campaign will increase awareness across the country of voters’ rights and responsibilities. Working together with the National Elections Commission these organisations will work nationwide to coordinate their activities engaging communities in a wide variety of activities to increase participation in, and awareness of, the forthcoming elections. There is a strong emphasis on women in the campaign with a stress on how important it is that women have an equal role to play in public life. Equally, the rights of persons with disabilities will be highlighted in the campaign, to encourage full participation.

Activities will continue over the next months and overall the campaign in cooperation with other initiatives aims to reach 90 percent of Liberian voters using traditional market place gatherings, palava hut meetings, theatre performances and radio.

European Union, Sweden, the United Nations Development Programme, Canada and Ireland support the National Elections Commission and other agencies to strengthen the electoral system in Liberia with a fund of USD16 million. –press release

Ellen flies to Sierra Leone

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf has flown to neighbouring Sierra Leone in a show of solidarity with the government and people of the West African state terribly hit by a devastating mudslide, killing hundreds near the capital Freetown.


After leading cabinet members to the Sierra Leonean Embassy near Monrovia to sign a Book of Condolence, Mrs. Sirleaf later took off Thursday afternoon, 17 August via the James Spriggs Payne Airport in Sinkor, suburb of Monrovia.

She had been received at the Sierra Leonean Embassy by Charge d’Affaires Dr. Roseline Turay and embassy staff, following which the President and her officials sign the Book of Condolence.

Following the signing ceremony, Liberia’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe told journalists outside the Embassy that instruction had already been given for Liberia to deploy military personnel to give assistance to the sisterly country.

“Instruction has been given already so that our military, whatever support they can give they will give. It is mine understanding that some of our troops will be going to Sierra Leone today,” Minister Nagbe says.

He sees the situation in Sierra Leone as a sad for the whole world, taking note of a saying that when your brother’s house is on fire, you got to worry about yours. “We as Liberians should take all the precautions that we have to take …, we have to remember that this was a natural disaster and that sometimes it is an act of God that is difficult to prevent,” he notes.

He says “we are all very sad” and the president and her cabinet had signed the Book of Condolence opened by the Embassy to pay sympathy to the people of Sierra Leone. In addition to deploying personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia to provide assistance to Sierra Leone, Mr. Nagbe says Liberia remains engaged with the affected country as it always does through Manor River Union, ECOWAS and UN, committing whatever help Liberia can give.

He says President Sirleaf has spoken with the Sierra Leonean President Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, assuring him that mountains will be removed if required. At the Signing were Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamaram, Justice Minister Frederick D. Cherue, Finance Minister Boima Kamara, Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Henrique F. Tokpah and Information Minister Eugene Nagbe.

Others were Commerce Minister Axel Addy, the Director of the Cabinet Jordan Sulunteh, Minister of Post and Telecommunications Dr. Frederick Norkeh and Transport Minister Samuel A. Wulue, among others.

--By Winston W. Parley

Alpha Phi Fraternity donates to Group of 77

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity incorporated Liberia Chapter has donated US$200, 30 pieces of crouches, 2 walkers, 1 oxygen mars and 1 wheelchair to the group of 77 located on Newport Street in Monrovia.


The organization identified with the disable group at the headquarters of the group of 77 here in Monrovia on Thursday, 17 August. Speaking during the donation, the President and Chief Dean of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity T. Nelson Williams noted that his institution has been in the constant habit of identifying with disable groups, orphanages and other destitute kids to keep their hopes alive.

“We want to work with the Group of 77 in offering scholarship to those that will meet the grade points, because we were founded on a university campus so we’re proud ourselves on leadership and that while we focus on education, we always look for those that have the talents to help them achieve their goals,” he says.

Mr. Williams says Alpha Fraternity has students at eight universities and also gives scholarship to the Liberia Educational Trust, causing over US$50,000. This month, he says the fraternity focuses on the disabled and orphanages, and announced plans that they will on Sunday move to My Brother’s Keeper Orphanage.

Mr. Williams notes that the fraternity is collaborating with its international organization in Maryland, USA in carrying out the donation. Receiving the donation, the program officer of the Group of 77 Mrs. Constance T. Kennedy expressed delight over the gesture and promised to distribute them to members of the disabled.

She expressed appreciation to group for identifying with the Group of 77, noting that it is not a strange thing to them. She says they are facing challenge in getting some of those that are promoted to 12th grade enrolled in college.

“We want to disabuse the minds that once you get a fish today, and cannot get it tomorrow it is not a good fish, so we are calling on you guys to see reason to offer some scholarship. This is where we place strong emphasis, because it is the mind-set that makes the difference,” she says.

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

Remember the peace

River Gee Senator Conmany B. Wesseh is urging Liberians to remember the peace as they observe the 13th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on August 18, 2003 in Accra, Ghana.


He recalls that on August 18, 2003, leaders of Liberian political parties, civil society, warring factions and other relevant bodies signed the comprehensive peace agreement to end fourteen years of civil war that was ignited on December 24, 1989.

Speaking in an interview with reporters on Thursday, 17 August at his Capitol Building office, Senator Wesseh stresses the importance of remembering the day, noting that it was on that day that Liberian leaders made a strong pledge to end the armed violence, which for 14 years led to the death of about 250,000 people, displaced more than 1million internally and externally, devastated families and communities, destroyed the economic and other infrastructure, and reduced Liberia to a failed state.

He says on the day of the CPA, Liberians made a promise, never to go to war with themselves anymore, but to rebuild, reform and create governing institutions such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary that would maintain enduring peace in the country.

He continues that the various parties also vowed to restore hope to the children and youth of Liberia that there is a future to live for, while promising to fully commit themselves to peace, social economic progress, democracy, integrity and above all, love for country.

By Bridgett Milton

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