Former Press Union of Liberia Leaders Applaud the U.S. Stance on Accountability; Pledge to Work Against Threats to Democratic Ideals In Liberia

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Sacramento —Three former leaders of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) are applauding the United States Embassy in Liberia for strongly condemning the recent election of Senator Prince Y. Johnson as Chair of the Liberian Senate Committee on Defense and Intelligence. In a press statement on May 19, 2021, the Embassy stated that it can have no relationship with Senator Johnson, a notorious warlord, as well as Senator Varney Sherman, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petition, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for corruption involving judicial bribery.

According to a press release, the former PUL leaders, Isaac D.E. Bantu, Emmanuel D. Abalo, and Gabriel I.H. Williams, made the commendation after the U.S. Embassy issued the press statement, in which it noted that “Senator Johnson’s gross human rights violations during Liberia’s civil wars are well-documented; his continued efforts to protect himself from accountability, enrich his own coffers and sow division are well known.” 

The former PUL executives observed that the U.S. Embassy’s decision against Senators Johnson and Sherman is in line with recommendations they submitted to the Biden administration calling on the U.S. government not to deal with individual Liberian government officials who are found to be involved in human rights abuses and corruption.

In April, the former PUL leaders wrote a letter to the Biden Administration, addressed to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in which they cited widespread corruption in the Government of Liberia and serious inefficiencies in the management of the West African country’s economy.

The former PUL leaders, who also expressed alarm over increasing attacks on freedom of speech and of the press in the country, proffered six (6) recommendations to the Biden Administration in an effort to promote good governance, adherence to accountability and transparency, and respect for the rule of law in Liberia.

Principal among the former PUL Executives recommendations was a call on the U.S. Administration to deny visa opportunities to corrupt individuals and their families, condition any new economic assistance on the full implementation of the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission with a focus on setting up the war and economic crimes court, and declination of invitations and meetings with Liberian Government officials who are designated as corrupt and “roadblocks” to fostering a democratic environment.

 “We welcome the direct indictment of the Liberian Senate by the U.S. Embassy over the Senate’s poor judgement in elevating Senator Johnson who remains a major threat to justice, reconciliation, and healing in Liberia. Lawmakers in Liberia have a duty to responsibly demonstrate their commitment to the Liberian Constitution and personal moral rectitude as examples for a country which remains very divided,” the former PUL officials said.  The former PUL Executives promised to remain engaged with the U.S. Administration and other international partners to ensure that those in Liberia who remain a threat to democratic ideals, freedom of the media and good governance find no favorable opportunities anywhere.

The former PUL executives maintained that the recent action by the U.S. Government is an important step in Liberia’s long march to ending impunity. They stressed that the recent U.S. action must be comprehensive, leading to the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court and extend to those officials who have consistently soaked in Liberia’s wealth and run to the U.S. to receive honor and legitimacy. “We call on the U.S. to cease from according them any honor but rather reject them with the precondition to respect the rule of law, human rights, adhere to accountability and the tenets of good governance in Liberia,” the press statement added.  

Meantime, the attention of the former PUL leaders is also drawn to a Government of Liberia’s statement warning “the managements of Sky Communications and Radio Bushrod (D15 Radio) against relaying in the future the broadcast of Mr. Henry Costa, who the government has declared as a “fugitive from Liberian justice.”

According to the press statement, the former PUL leaders held that, “Reversal of freedom of expression and attacks on the media and plurality of critical voices under the Weah Administration is very regrettable in this circumstance. We remind all stakeholders that the protection and exercise of the God-given and Constitutional right of freedom of expression and thought are fundamental to the functioning of a democratic and representative society as Liberia. The Government of Liberia must refrain from being a “roadblock” to Constitutional protections and instead, seek judicial relief, for matters which it perceives injurious to its functions. The media and critical voices are not a threat to Liberia,” the statement concluded.

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