Govt. discuss with Liberians in Ghana

The Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, with support from the Liberia Embassy in Ghana through Ambassador Genevieve A. Kennedy ends two-day Diaspora Consultative Meeting with 271 Liberians at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Accra, Ghana, including 42 Liberian business entrepreneurs at the Liberia Embassy in Accra.

The consultations were held under the theme: “Promoting a Participatory Development Planning Process.” According to a press release, the Diaspora Consultations are aimed at promoting citizens’ participation in the crafting of the next five-year medium-term National Development Plan to succeed the former Agenda for Transformation, which expired in 2017.

Speaking during the consultations, Ambassador Genevieve A. Kennedy said President George Weah’s number one priority is the poor people and to eradicate poverty here, adding: “now we have agenda that looks at poverty in our nation, we are going to be members of the defending group that will look at the problem and find solution to those problems that give rise to poverty in Liberia.”

Ambassador Kennedy indicates that the consultations were intended to obtain views of Liberians in Accra on the development agenda, as well as their concerns and thoughts on how to move the pro-poor agenda by addressing the four pillars of the President’s.

She described the occasion as an opportunity for Liberians to voice out their concerns on the issues and challenges, and make recommendations to advance the pro-poor agenda.

The Assistant Director for Monitoring and Evaluation in the Division of Development Planning, Mr. James Afif Jaber, described the National Development Planning Diaspora Consultations in Ghana as inclusive and participatory, which provided Liberians in that country an opportunity to actively contribute to formulating a development plan for the next five years.

Mr. Jaber said findings from the consultations will form part of formulation of pro-poor policies leading to the development of Liberia’s next five-year medium- term development plan, that will directly impact and lift the lives of citizens out of poverty and help reduce disparities or inequalities among Liberians in terms of employment and income.

He noted that pillar one include education and training, health and sanitation, gender equality, youth reorientation and empowerment, physically challenged and senior citizens.

Pillar two will deal with sustained economic growth, agriculture and forestry, and infrastructure and development (roads, energy and transportation) while pillar three will focus on justice and human rights, reconciliation, security and national defense and veterans; and pillar four covers decentralization of institutions and systems, accountability and anti-corruption, foreign policy and diplomatic relations.

Mr. Jaber called on the Government of Liberia to consider recommendations by Liberians in Buduburam, and the Liberian business entrepreneurs, all of which are very crucial for encouraging investment and improving the country.

Liberians in Ghana want the Weah-led administration to connect county capitals with paved roads, strengthen the education system, provide adequate training for teachers, improve technical vocational education as well as provide instructional materials for all public schools in order to enhance learning environment.

Liberian entrepreneurs and investors in Ghana stressed friendly business environment that is conducive for investment, timely clearing of goods or containers from the Freeport of Monrovia as priorities that are critical to the generation of additional revenues.

They also called for reduction in tariffs imposed for the clearing of goods at the Freeport of Monrovia, renewed commitment to the fight against corruption at the highest level, and eradication of bribery at border crossings. Press Release

LIPO educates students on IP activities

The Liberia Intellectual Property Office or LIPO, has held a one-day seminar for over 100 students in Monrovia to enhance their understanding of intellectual property and foster creativity among them.

The seminar was held at the Paynesville Community Public School over the weekend, bringing together 11 schools.LIPO Acting Director General, Theresa S. Thomas explains that such seminar is critical to the agency’s goal of making Liberia a knowledge-based country.

Thomas stresses that educating students about intellectual property is significant because it enables them to understand how ideas are recognized and protected which motivate them to explore their creativity.

“Students understanding of IP-related issue is key to the development of Liberia in this fast-growing knowledge base. Research has shown that the better the students’ understanding of IP, the greater the chances for them to participate in a global economy that is increasingly driven by intellectual property”, she says.

She notes that in today’s digitized world, which depends on inventiveness and creativity, it is important that Liberian students are equipped with the knowledge they need to make Liberia a knowledge-based country to bring about huge economic growth to take the country out of poverty.

Mrs. Thomas maintains that in the absence of IP knowledge, they would not be able to reap benefits from their creations, which could discourage them from going forward in exploring their creativity.

“We cannot compete in this 21st century, the age of intellectual creation if our students and teachers lack the basic knowledge about IP. Also, this seminar is intended to educate them about piracy, its effects and to encourage them to stop purchasing or downloading illegal products,” she notes.

She says the seminar is the beginning of a nationwide students engagement programs which focus on three thematic topics: Piracy, copyrights and related rights and industrial property.

“One of the greatest benefits of this nationwide seminar is that it encourages students to support legitimate work and stop engaging in any forms of piracy because they are feature creators too.”

One of the students, Surprise S. Yuan from Effort Baptist Church School describes the seminar as a good initiative that would motivate students to explore their potentials.

“As an aspiring author, this seminar has taught us lot of lessons and enhanced our understanding of IP. Now with this knowledge, we’re going to become goodwill ambassadors to educate the general public about IP, benefits and the negative effect of piracy,” Surprise vows.

LIPO is a corporate semi-autonomous agency of government responsible to formulate policies that would promote generation, protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property materials in Liberia.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

These loans should benefit Liberians

Last week, lawmakers on Capitol Hill ratified two separate Loans Financing Agreements, totaling nearly US$1 Billion to construct roads across Liberia. President George Manneh Weah and his ministers negotiated the loans, one in Asia and another in Africa.

A private foreign company, Eton Finance PTE Limited and the Government of Liberia signed a US$536 Million Loan Financing Agreement for construction of roads in southeast Liberia. The government also signed another US$420,810,000.00 Loan Financing Agreement with a private firm in Burkina Faso, West Africa, EBOMAF SA to pave 2.56.2km roads that would connect Somalia Drive to Kesselly Boulevard to Sinkor and Northwestern Liberia (Tappita, Zwedru, Toe Town to La Cote D’Ivoire and Zwedru to Greenville) respectively. The construction is for a period of 36 months.

The government secured these loans with good intentions, but many Liberians are apprehensive or doubtful whether the authorities, from the President to his cabinet ministers have enough political will to have those projects executed in line with standard designs.

This has been the fundamental problem faced by most African leaders and governments: Programs and policies are impressively designed on papers, but when projected funds are disbursed, it is totally something else. In fact, most projects never see the light of day, and allotted funds are diverted or misappropriated.

Politicians being very crafty, always come up with so-called developmental programs to squander borrowed funds. They make small attempts in implementing projects earmarked. But suddenly, they abandon those projects with excuses of funds exhausted.

Records from Capitol Hill, including audit reports are replete with stories of abandoned projects due to exhaustion of funds before end of execution. These are the disappointing realities in all 15 counties, particularly with County Development Funds.

We saw in the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf how money allotted for various projects under the CDF were wickedly misappropriated after citizens were deceived in believing development were going to their communities.

We hope these loans being secured would not end up in the same way without our citizens benefiting from debts they and their children unborn would have to pay back to the creditors with interests. About US$1 Billion has been credited by the current administration in less than six months after taking office.

The intentions for borrowing the money are good, but the will to deliver the development as being promised is another thing. The Weah-led government should not disappoint citizens in the various counties, towns and villages who placed their trust in his leadership ability thru their votes in 2017.

We demand transparency and accountability at the highest level in the disbursement and execution of these loans so that the citizens would see tangibles on the ground rather than unfinished projects, poor quality works or no projects at all.


Lawyer wants colleague arrested

The Probate Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia turned a dramatic scene Monday, 11 June when Cllr. Edwin K. Martin pleaded with Judge J. Vinton Holder to order the arrest of a land administrator called Stephen F. Seeboe for allegedly presenting himself as a lawyer in court.

Cllr. Martin and Mr. Seeboe were battling in a property case at the Probate Court Monday when he (Cllr. Martin) informed the Court that from the inspection of the case file, Mr. Seeboe who made representation and submission in the case was not a lawyer.

When Judge Holder inquired from Mr. Seeboe that his colleague [Cllr. Martin] was contending that he [Mr. Seeboe] signed as Attorney - At - Law, Mr. Seeboe responded that it was an harmless error by the Clerk of Court and asked the court that such precept should be ignored.

The accused, Mr. Seeboe says he is the administrator of the Intestate Estate of the late Wiahs Jah.

But according to Cllr. Martin, all precepts that were furnished the court indicate and show Mr. Seeboe as a mere administrator and not a legal counsel who is authorized by the position supra to practice law within this jurisdiction.

Cllr. Martin claims that all of Mr. Seeboe’s precepts were done on the basis of deception and lies before Judge Holder and the Court, thus requesting the Court to strike all submissions made by Mr. Seeboe on grounds that he is not a lawyer.

Cllr. Martin further pleads with the Court to hold Mr. Seeboe in contempt for allegedly showing himself as a lawyer when in fact he is not a lawyer.

In verbal arguments in court following submissions by both parties, Cllr. Martin claimed that people always argue that the Judiciary is rotten, saying Mr. Seeboe is one of the elements that damage the image of the Judiciary.

But Mr. Seeboe who says he is the administrator of the Intestate Estate of the late Wiahs Jah counter argues that he relies on the rules of the Probate Court Section 5.1.

According to him, the rule reads that in representation before a court, a party who is an individual may represent himself or herself without any attorney or counselor at law, except as provided in Section 5.2 where that individual is incompetent or an infant.

Meanwhile Mr. Seeboe asks the Court to hold Cllr. Martin in contempt on grounds that the counsel is a mere stranger from Simah Law Firm and is not on records, and further requests the court to hold Atty. David N. Katiah in contempt over claims that his action is tantamount to one year suspension.

Mr. Seeboe rather asked that the Court strike Cllr. Martin’s petition and grant him all and any relief. Judge Holder has reserved ruling in the argument pending assignment.

By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

Namibian president lauds former Pres. Sirleaf

Namibian President Hage Geingob has rained praises on former president Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf when she paid him a courtesy visit at that country’s State House over the weekend.

Mr. geingob says he was honored to host the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mrs. Sirleaf. According to a Namibian website, President Geingob expressed great respect for Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf particularly for being the first female African president and for peacefully vacating office after her term lapsed earlier this year.

"It is a great honor for me to welcome you to Namibia... the first democratically elected female president, after successfully completing your two six year terms,” Mr. Geingob is quoted as saying.

He also recalls how Mrs. Sirleaf left office and was recognized by the Mo Ibrahim Prize, further lauding her for the role she played when the Ebola epidemic rocked her country.

"You never left the country during that time," said Geingob, adding that Liberia and Ethiopia were the first countries that took Namibia's case for independence to the International Court of Justice.

"I am just trying to connect the relationship and long support we were getting during those days from the people of Liberia," he said. For her part, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf expressed honor to be in Namibia, with the visit being her second to the country following the first, two years ago.

She expressed excitement that Geingob would be awarded the African Excellence Award on Gender 2017 last week on behalf of Namibia by the gender is my agenda campaign (GIMAC) network.

"Today, I am here to commend you for all that you've done and all that your government has done for the promotion and the empowerment of women in society," the former Liberian President noted.

Geingob will be rewarded for his efforts in establishing a legal and policy framework for the promotion and protection of women's rights in Namibia.He joins presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, both in 2005, Paul Kagame of Rwanda in 2007, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique in 2009 and Johnson-Sirleaf in 2011 as recipients of the award.

She added that Namibia's empowerment of women in executive positions and in parliament has not gone unnoticed. Mrs. Sirleaf acknowledged that most southern and West African countries have made significant progress regarding women empowerment and that the same, however, cannot be said about East and North Africa.


VP Taylor meets with Cuban Charge’ D’Affairs

Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor has received in audience the Charge’ D’Affairs of the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba Carmen Maury Toledo.

The meeting which was held Monday, June 11, 2018 at the Office of the Vice President, centered on strengthening bilateral relations between Liberia and Cuba in the areas of Education and Health.

The Charge’ D’Affairs recounted that Liberia and Cuba has established bilateral relations since 1974, and over the last 20 years, Cuba has offered more than 30 scholarships to Liberia for medical students.

Mr. Toledo According to a release from the VP’s office, indicated that Cuba has provided annual scholarships to five (5) Liberians in the Medical field, which is being reduced to two (2) due to financial difficulties experienced by the Cuban government.

The Charge’ D’Affairs further revealed that Cuba currently has 6,000 doctors in 29 African Countries providing trainings and health care delivery assistance. He intimated that the Cuban government has a draft agreement with the previous government to provide employment for 16 Cuban doctors at the JFK Medical Center and other medical facilities across the country including the rural areas.

The Agreement has been forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pending discussions and signing.Mr. Toledo also disclosed that Cuba has a private arrangement with the Island Clinic in Liberia to provide eight (8) medical doctors who will arrive in Liberia anytime soon.

‘On the Educational front, Mr. Toledo also expressed the Cuban government’s willingness to support Liberia’s literacy program. This initiative has been implemented in 26 Countries and has impacted more than 9 million people. The Literacy program seeks to provide reading and writing skills to youth and Adults who are disadvantaged or live in rural communities where there is no access to formal education. These teachings can also be done in local vernaculars’’ the Charge’ D’Affairs averred.

Speaking earlier, the Vice President expressed delight about the role Cuba has played and continues to play in the Health and Educational sectors of Liberia. Madam Howard-Taylor explained the Government of Liberia’s Pro-Poor Agenda and how Cuba can be a major partner in the actualization of the Agenda.

She committed herself to follow-up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the draft agreement and the possibility of formalizing it, which will bring in Cuban Doctors to help Liberia’s Health sector through training and provision of services.

The Vice President on behalf of President George Weah extended profound gratitude to the Government and people of Cuba for their continuous support to Liberia.-Press release

All Men’s Confab underway in Bong County

A three-day ‘All Men’s Conference’ under the theme: ‘Gender equality: A call for men’s action NOW—Repair the past and push women forward' has kicked off in Gbarnga, Bong County.

The national conference is being convened under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection with support from the Government of Sweden through the United Nations in Liberia at the Gbarnga Administration Building.

The conference which is ongoing covers discussions on all forms of violence against women and how men can get involved, using legal instructions as well as common sense that women are partners to men in every sphere of life or livelihoods.

This year’s conference will further address issues affecting women and girls with male participants as champions to ending violence against women and girls in the country.

The conference is predicated upon the assumption that gender equality is necessary not just for the growth of females as participants within our society, but also in addressing poverty reduction and human development challenges among both populations making society.

The conference is exploring challenges to achieving gender equality and push for increased women’s representation at all levels of governance and also provide the space and opportunity on information sharing and formulate strategies to get men involved in the advocacy campaign, while reaffirming their commitments to gender equality and zero tolerance to gender violence.

This year’s conference which runs from June 11-13, 2018, is targeted at increasing men’s involvement in this advocacy and other activities to address key issues affecting women and girls as well as increasing their access to information about women issues among other things.

Last year, the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection held the 1st All Men’s Conference bringing together stakeholders and actors with the understanding that without men’s involvement, gender equality cannot be achieved.

As a result of this first conference, a communiqué was signed but outcomes could not be followed-up due to the 2017 Presidential and Representative Elections. However, over the period, issues affecting women and girls are still being reported and is said to be increasing on a rapid basis.

Some of the topics for this year’s All Men’s Conference are; The Role of Men to End Violence against women; The importance of girls’ education in national development; Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights; Property rights ( e.g. Land rights); Equal work Equal pay ( Employment ) and Women’s political participation in local governance.

Even though there are commitments, there are still high prevalence of gender based violence and inequality amongst women and girls as recent statistics from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection shows that in 2017, a total of 1,685 GBV cases were recorded, with 97% of the survivors being women and girls.

Meanwhile, over 300 all male participants including: media practitioners, CSOs heads, NGOs heads, Legislators, Traditional Leaders, Religious Leaders, Ministers and Director Generals, Judges, Youth groups, Student Council leadership, Motorcyclists Union, Money Changers, Political Parties, Transport Union, Marketing Association, Tailor Union, Wheel Barrow Union and the Liberia Musical Union are participating.


ECONEC wants structured engagement in Guinea

In continuation of its electoral mid-term follow-up Mission to Guinea, the Prof Mahmood Yakubu-led ECONEC delegation met on Monday 11 June with the ECOWAS Special Representative in the country, Ambassador Liliane Alapini, and representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and development partners.

At the talks with the interlocutors including representatives of the EU, USAID, US, German and Japanese embassies, the American National Democratic Institute (NDI), Guinea's Independent Electoral Commission, CENI, and three CSOs, Cellule Balai Citoyen, PCUD and CNOSCG, Prof Yakubu, ECONEC governing board President and Chair of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), called for sustained political dialogue, effective communication and structured engagements between CENI and Guinea’s other political stakeholders including the development partners.

Ambassador Alapini commended ECONEC for working hand in hand with the ECOWAS Commission towards deepening democracy in the region by supporting credible and peaceful polls.

On the agenda of the consultations were issues from the disputed results of Guinea’s last February's municipal elections and areas of further support by ECOWAS, ECONEC, and the development partners.

Also discussed was the implementation of recommendations of ECOWAS Observation Mission (EOM) to Guinea's 2015 presidential poll and those in the October 2016 Political Accord, including the restructuring of CENI and other legal and political reforms ahead of the country’s 2019 parliamentary vote and the 2020 presidential election.

Prof Yakubu said that structured engagements would enable the articulation of needs, political inclusivity and focused support for the entrenchment of best practices in the electoral process that will contribute to sustained credible elections and consolidation of democracy in the country.

The development partners and CSO representatives had harped on the need for the implementation of the recommendations of the ECOWAS EOM’s in the aftermath of the 2015 presidential vote and those contained in the 2016 Political Accord signed by the ruling and opposition parties with ECOWAS, UN, EU, Francophonie organisation, and the US and French envoys as observers.

Some of the recommendations include reform of CENI to make it more technical and professional, as well as legal and political reforms for a level playing field and socio-political climate.

Prof. Yakubu pledged that the Mission will reflect in its report to the relevant authorities, areas of support to address the identified needs and strengthen the capacity of CENI Guinea in line with ECONEC’s mandate to empower its members to deliver credible and peaceful elections and contribute to the consolidation of democracy in the ECOWAS region.

Local group against granting too many rice import permits

The National Progressive Movement of Liberia (NPM), a local civil society organization says its attention has been drawn to the growing numbers of business people expressing interest in the importation of rice, who are requesting government’s authorization and permission.

The group says while it cherishes competition for the importation of basic commodities on the Liberian market, it is important to note that government must take due care in granting permission.

The organization is calling on the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce to properly assess the financial potential of those desiring to import rice in Liberia.

Knowing that rice is a political commodity and do have a national security implication, the group warns that it would be risky for the government to gamble by just granting anybody the right to import rice.

It admonishes that the Ministry of Commerce needs to ensure that business people who are given import permits for rice have the financial capability and are
able to maintain a constant supply of rice on the market.

The NPM explains that the move of persons posing to engage in rice importation might cause the current importers to drop the quantity of rice being imported.

NPM furthers that if current importers drop in their importation and those that government want to import rice fail, it might worsen the current economic condition of the country.

NPM cautions that given that this government is new and it is in its formative stage, it is calling on the government to rethink its decision and cease granting permission to people for the importation of rice into Liberia.

The group says it is in no way trying to stop business people from venturing into the importation of rice, but argues that if care is not taken, Liberia might resort to the late 70s.

NPM says it wants government to cancel all permissions that may have been granted to individuals for the importation of rice on the Liberian Market. It claims that the current importers over the past 12 years have proven that they can regularly supply the Liberian market and are doing everything to support the President’s Pro-Poor agenda.

NPM warns that opening a floodgate for people to import rice without properly evaluating their financial standing will have a serious impact on government’s revenue generation.

It concludes that if President George Weah does not timely address this situation, it foresee shortage of rice on the market, thus leaving those potential business people to divert their course of business to different Sector. --Press release

“I did not insult former Pres. Sirleaf”

In what seems like a disclaimer on Sunday June 10, President George Weah told the people of Bong County that at no time he rained insults at former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf during days his days in opposition to the former ruling Unity Party.

“My days as member of the opposition [were] not like what I am seeing today. I never insulted the former President like the way people are all over here insulting me. If I [were] here insulting the President, I would not have been given a Peace Ambassador title,” President Weah said Sunday, 10 June in Gbarnga, Bong County.

The president’s disclaimer comes amidst the recent spite of criticisms and insults against the Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC government, something that has caught his prompting him to issue said disclaimer.

Speaking to a cross section of citizens in Gbarnga, President Weah said opposition political parties in Liberia do not critically engage issues that affect Liberians. Instead, he accuses opposition political parties of throwing insults at those in leadership, telling them that it is not the best way to seek good governance in a democratic country like Liberia.

According to him, during the leadership of ex- President Sirleaf, he used to speak to issues of importance but not to waste his time on things that will not benefit the local citizens.

President Weah states that every government should expect constructive criticisms to move on, but warns that negative criticism destroys the work of every government.

However, the president called on opposition political parties to join his team in ensuring the success of his government. He says even those from the opposition doubted that he would ever become President of Liberia, it is now time that they all come to work together because their plans have failed.

Mr. Weah vows to work for the Liberian people by continuing from where the past government stopped. He says his government will not be wasteful by destroying projects the past government initiated, but promises to continue from where they ended, saying it is it is the best thing a leader should do.

He promises to ensure road connectivity across the country, noting that when roads are built in Liberia, the common people, especially marketers will not suffer.

By Joseph Titus yekeryan in Bong--Edited by Winston W. Parley

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