Liberia: Rep. Kolubah’s Family Stopped from Traveling out of Liberia

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MONROVIA – Immigration officers at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) on Saturday, July 13, morning stopped the wife and children of Representative Yekeh Kolubah, Montserrado County’s district #10 lawmaker, from leaving the country.

It is not clear why the Immigration Service barred the lawmaker’s family from leaving the country, but he believes it was a directive from President George Weah.

Speaking to reporters at their Old Road Community residence, Mrs. Georgetta Kolubah told reporters that she and her six children were traveling to Ghana for vacation as they have usually done; their passports were stamped and boarding passes were served, according to her.

She said, it was when she was about to leave the terminal for the plane that immigration officers called her back, requesting her passport and that of her children.

The immigration asked her to provide an exit clearance since she was traveling with many children.

According to her, she had frequently traveled with all the children through the RIA without anyone asking her for clearance, something that prompted her to call her husband, Rep. Kolubah who drove to the RIA to intervene but to no avail.

She alleged that all her luggage including that of the children and food of her six-month-old twins were confiscated by the immigration officers. Their passports were seized, too, according to her.

“Last year, my husband and I, we traveled to Lebanon with these children, at that time I was pregnant. When I came back, December (2018) I took my children to Nigeria, you didn’t request for this, why now? 

She told reporters she believes that she and her children were deliberately stopped from traveling because of her husband’s critical stance against the government.

Kolubah: Leave My Children Out

Also speaking to reporters, Rep. Kolubah alleged that he was informed by the acting Justice Minister via a telephone call that his family was stopped from traveling on the instruction of President George Weah.

The lawmaker has a travel ban on him pending a court trial for the alleged commission of attempted murder, criminal facilitation, torture, amongst others. 

He wondered by the government would extend the ban to his family, especially his children.

According to him, he received a call from the immigration officers at the airport asking if he was aware that his wife was traveling with his children which he confirmed.

He said he was requested to go to the airport to fill out a form which prompted him to drive to the airport and go through the process.

“By that time my wife and the children’s passport have been stamped, only to get out and get on the bus for them to be called back. They said, they have received instruction from the higher up that they should not allow my wife and my children to leave the country,” he alleged.

He said he requested their passports since they were not being allowed to leave, but the Immigration commander refused to give him the passports, he said.

Rep. Kolubah said that was when he called the acting Minister of Justice [name not mentioned] who informed him that President Weah had just arrived from Guinea [at that time] and instructed that he and his family should not be allowed to leave the country. “He said to me, we’ve also received instruction to seize all your luggage and passports,” Rep. Kolubah said.

He said he would officially inform Liberia’s international partners, especially the U.S. Embassy about government’s continuous harassment of him and his family. 

“What these children have to do with what I’m doing. I’m a politician, if you want to get to me you can get to me and leave the children out,” he said.

Kolubah believes the latest move by the Immigration Service is the government’s reaction to the announced July 24 mass demonstration.

“My family has been harassed, my family has been humiliated because of my critical stance against this government,” he asserted.

He wondered why the Immigration at the RIA never asked for exit clearance on their previous travels.

The lawmaker was one of the leading organizers of the June 7 mass protest against bad governance and the declining state of the economy under the Weah-led government. The protest was the biggest peaceful demonstration in Liberia’s recent history.

The July 24 planned protest is expected to be a sequel to June 7.

Government’s Response

Meanwhile, the government says it did not prohibit family members of the lawmaker’s from leaving the country out of any political consideration or ongoing legal case he has with the courts. Instead, immigration officers acted purely in keeping with anti-human trafficking regulations.

In a statement from the Ministry of Information, the government said, 

“Madam Georgetta Joyce Kolubah – believed to be the wife of the Representative – was due to leave the country on Saturday, June 13, 2019 accompanied by seven children, five of whom had diplomatic passports. The other two had laisser passers. During routine checks, Madam Kolubah could not prove that all the children were hers, or that they were traveling with the consent of both parents in keeping with anti-human trafficking procedures.

When she didn’t produce the necessary legal instrument, which would have validated her claims, Mrs. Kolubah was duly informed on how such documentation could be obtained, without which she cannot leave the country with the children. This is standard practice which other adults accompanied by even a single child have had to face.”

The Ministry added that the government would interpose no objection to any plans by Representative Kolubah’s family to travel out of Liberia, except where interdicted by the courts.

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