Liberia: Taylor Agenda Back on Table? Weah Elevates Charles Bright to Cabinet-Level Post
Monrovia – The Charles Taylor baggage dogged George Weah for most of his run to the Liberian presidency partly due to his decision to tip the former President’s First Lady Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
“I George Manneh Weah, Sr. President of the Republic of Liberia by virtue of the power in me vested do hereby acknowledge that Hon. Charles R. G. Bright, my advisor for Economic Affairs, has the status of a Cabinet Minister, with full courtesies and benefits appertaining thereto and commission him as follows – President George Manneh Weah
Jewel, from vote-rich Bong County played a major role in the Coalition for Democratic Change’s victory but the scars and association to her former husband is still causing headaches for the Weah presidency.
The US embassy held on to her passport for days with aides telling FrontPageAfrica, that the vice President was undergoing background check by the embassy.
When the passport finally arrived, FPA would later gather, it was stamped with a restricted visa, meaning the VP could travel to America for a UN summit but would not be allowed to leave 25 meters outside the conference perimeter.
Now comes report that President Weah has elevated General Charles R. G. Bright, one of the prominent figures of the civil war to a Cabinet-level position.
Bright, who served as Finance Minister in the Taylor government and has been President Weah’s economic advisor, was General John T. Richardson’s principal deputy, remembered for taking over the Housing Bank in Monrovia in military uniform when Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia.
FrontPageAfrica has obtained copy of a letter from President Weah announcing Mr. Bright’s elevation to a cabinet-level post.
‘Status of a Cabinet Minister’
In his letter appointing Mr. Bright, the President said:
“I George Manneh Weah, Sr. President of the Republic of Liberia by virtue of the power in me vested, do hereby acknowledge that Hon. Charles R. G. Bright, my advisor for Economic Affairs, has the status of a Cabinet Minister, with full courtesies and benefits appertaining thereto and commission him as follows:
To visit all Ministries and Autonomies Agencies, Government Commissions, Public Corporations and State-owned enterprises(wholly and or partially-owned) to obtain information and advise me on current policies, practices as it relates to the operations of the Entity in General, and its personnel in particular;
To be an Ex-Officio participant in all meetings at said Entities, Board or otherwise, regarding matters with an economic impact on revenue, expenditure, personnel and other assets;
To ensure, as practical as possible that personnel actions, employment salaries, other benefits, dismissals, retirement and work schedule are in keeping with approved government guidelines;
To Monitor, Generally, all activities of appointed officials and with written approval of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, utilize the expertise of other Liberians as resource personnel.
In accomplishment of the above responsibilities, all head of autonomous agencies of government, public corporations and state-owned enterprises are mandated to fully cooperate with my above-named advisor and provide him with any and all information, documents and support requested.
Dillon: Bright ‘New Prime Minister’
Amid the controversy, many are raising eyebrows as to whether the President has the authority to elevate anyone to a cabinet-level position.
Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon of the opposition Liberty Party told FrontPageAfrica that the President has no right to do so.
“Every board has a set number to attend meetings. A President has no authority to elevate any position to Cabinet-level that was not enacted to law, except it is a kitchen cabinet.”
Mr. Dillon also quipped that General Bright’s appointment suggests that the Minister of State, Mr. Nathaniel McGill may not be up to the task.
“Bright is effectively the new Prime Minister.”
One legal observer said Thursday that the President could have made General Bright a Minister of State without Portfolio as he has the right to appoint as many as possible.
“The President can have as many Minister of State Without Portfolios as he wants but no one should have a role as a shadow minister of every ministry.”
The Taylor controversy emerged in March 2017, when Mr. Weah acknowledged speaking with the former President who is serving a lengthy prison sentence in a UK prison.
Said Mr. Weah at the time: “…You [are] asking me if I spoke with him, definitely I spoke with Charles Taylor during one of our meetings…I think someone related to Charles Taylor was on the line with Mr. Taylor and said that Sen. Weah, President Taylor is on the line and will like to say hi to you; and I can tell you, I picked up the phone and say (said), Mr. President how are you…,” Senator Weah disclosed.
Lots of NPFL Figures Resurfacing
A recent FrontPageAfrica investigative report highlighted the resurgence of several former fighters of Mr. Taylor’s NPFL in the security sectors including the Executive Protective Service (EPS), the National Security Agency (NSA) and other areas.
Prominent among them is Logan Davies, recently appointed Director of the Liberia Seaport Police at the National Port Authority. Davies was a prominent figure in the September 18, 1998 Camp Johnson Road Massacre of over 1,000 defenseless Krahns and other tribes seeking refuge in the St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
Davies recently completed a five-year prison sentence at the Monrovia Central Prison due to his role in the stabbing death of the late Fred Zelee on Perry Street.
The fight between Roosevelt Johnson’s forces and the Taylor’s forces, resulted into the killing of Madison Wion in the U.S Embassy Compound, fired from Government forces.
Today, international war and crimes Investigators are very of concerned about the resurgence of several former NPFL figures in the Weah-led government, with General Bright, being the latest to be elevated to a senior Cabinet-level role. For years, General Bright was listed on the United Nations Travel and assets freeze ban as an Associate of former Liberian President Charles Taylor with ongoing ties to him.
Taylor Detailed Ties with General Bright
During an open session hearing of his trial on February 15, 2010, former President Taylor highlighted the important role Mr. Bright played in his war to rid Liberia of Samuel Doe.
Asked specifically about his relationship with Mr. Bright, Mr. Taylor said General Bright served as Finance Minister in his government.
“In fact, the last Finance Minister before I left office.”
Asked how he first met Mr. Bright, the former President said: “I first met Charles Bright I would say about 1991 going into ’92 in Gbarnga.
The former President went on to explain that Mr. Bright was a part of the INPFL, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia that was headed by Prince Johnson.
“At some point in ’91 there were attempts on my part to mend fence with the INPFL and bring the combatants back together.”
“Charles Bright was one of the representatives sent by the INPFL to Gbarnga for the negotiations and he was selected to come up for those negotiations.”
Asked about General Bright’s background, the former President said Bright had an MBA from a top United States university.
“I don’t know which one of them. The Bright family, like I say, is about the wealthiest family in Liberia, so I’m sure he went to a very good school. He has an MBA.
His business background, he ran – in fact the Bright family had the largest chicken farm in the Republic of Liberia and so he was involved in business, commerce and with his family business.
Asked whether he maintained a relationship with Bright following his initial meeting, the former President answered in the affirmative.
“Well, yes, in a way. It’s good to note that I got to find out in fact when he came, my wife at the time, Agnes, happened to have been a first cousin of Charles. So when I got to find out that we were all in the same family, we did maintain contact after he left.”
Taylor: ‘I Persuaded Bright’
The former President was then asked: “When you moved to Monrovia in ’95 to take part in the interim government, did he come with you? To which he answered: “Yes”.
President Taylor said during the hearing that he persuaded General Bright to join the NPFL after his forces arrived in Monrovia.
Asked what Mr. Bright did for the NPP, Mr. Taylor responded:
“The same organizational work that Urey was doing. Basically at that particular time all the best minds sat and started putting together a programme for the NPP and a strategy to win the election.”
Asked whether he considered Bright a friend, Mr. Taylor replied: “I would say Charles – well, you can call it a friend. We got – yes, I will call it that way. We were both, we found out – I found out Charles was born in 1948 like myself so we used call ourselves the ’48 Boys. So we became close. I would call him – I would say he was a friend.
It may be recalled that the former chief of investigator of the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, Dr. Allan W. White, said in a Voice of America (VOA) interview that former President Taylor had been in discussion with Sen. Weah, which culminated into Senator Jewel Howard Taylor (Mr. Taylor’s former wife) becoming vice standard bearer to Sen. Weah in a three-party coalition pact that includes Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP).
Dr. White in that interview disclosed that Mr. Taylor was interfering with the elections in Liberia, by trying to ensure that there would never be a war crimes court established in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
White also alleged that when he [Taylor] left, there were millions of dollars that were buried and left behind with the hope that whoever is elected seeks to get his sentence reduced and subsequently gets him back in Liberia will benefit from the booty.
President Taylor acknowledged that General Bright did not play any role at first in his government but came in later. “Immediately, no, Charles did not play any role. He went back into his family business.
He did not – and we called him – by the way, no, wait a minute. I made – I said something that is incorrect. Charles at that particular time did come in. He served as President of the National Bank of Liberia at that time.
“When I came to Monrovia. When I came to Monrovia from their side and the INPFL side, he worked as a – he was given the post of President of the National Bank, and I’m being – because it was changed.”
“Through my government we made it central. It was called the National Bank of Liberia.
He was President of the National Bank at that time. He remained in that role going into my presidency. After my election and the bank was changed, we removed him from that role and he went into his private business.
Mr. Taylor said in 2002 General Bright took over as Finance Minister, explaining that he had removed the Finance Minister at the time, Nathaniel Barnes, for certain improprieties and then put Charles in charge.
Vice President Howard-Taylor who is currently reported to be in Israel on a medical trip, ruffled feathers at the height of the Presidential campaign when she heralded that the Taylor Agenda would be back on the table should the CDC-NPP coalition secure victory.
Campaigning in what remains a stronghold of Mr. Taylor, in Saclepea, Nimba County, the former Bong Senator said she believes that the NPP he created is a grassroot party that made promises to its citizens since 1997.
“Because of what happened in our government and the abrupt closure and arrest of former President Taylor we were not able to fulfill those promises.”
“The NPP is now strong, and so we want to call all of the NPP stalwarts across the length and breadth of Liberia to come on board and help us win these elections, we will put that agenda back on the table.”