Liberia: Citizens, Politicians, CSOs Call for the Dismissals of Sanctioned Govt. Officials


MONROVIA – If President George Weah had thought that his decision to suspend three of his officials barely 24 hours after they were slapped by U.S. sanctions for their involvement in corruption would have been highly welcomed, then he got it all wrong.

Because since the announcement, President Weah has come under increasing pressure as calls to dismiss his disgraced officials continue to reverberate from all spectrums of the public- everyday citizens, civil society, religious groups and obviously, the opposition community.

“CENTAL believes that President Weah still has an opportunity to redeem his government. Such revival must begin by immediately dismissing, and not suspending officials of the executive that have been internationally found wanting in integrity,” – Center for Transparence and Accountability in Liberia.

On Monday, August 15, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the three Liberians officials: Nathaniel McGill, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, Liberia’s Solicitor General, and Bill Twehway, Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA)  for their alleged involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia.

Their designation, according to the OFAC, was in line with Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.

The U.S. Government said corruption has long undermined Liberia’s democracy and its economy, robbing the Liberian people of funds for public services, empowering illicit actors, degrading the business environment, and damaging the rule of law and effective governance in the country.

In the statement in response to the President’s decision, CENTAL, and affiliate of Transparency International, called on relevant Liberian Authorities to seek the support of U.S. Government to thoroughly investigate and prosecute the designated officials.

Said CENTAL: “The President cannot afford to be oblivious to history and the passage of time. Retaining Nathaniel McGill, Syrenius Cephas, and Bill Twehway would amount to explicit confidence in their integrity as against the countless outcry of Liberians, and now international partners, on several occasions.”

It added that Liberians have a role to demand accountability for corruption and rejecting members of the Legislature, who have been designated, at the polls in 2023 and beyond, adding “We must never give up in our quest for a better Liberia, and must keep pushing till victory against corruption is achieved.”

Anti-Washington Travel Campaign

The sanction comes as President Weah is poised to join 50 other African leaders for the Biden’s Summit for Democracy in Washington D.C. this December. There, he is expected to report on his pledges he made during the first virtual summit in December 2021. He promised to, among other things, fight corruption and promote the rule of law.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, presidential hopeful and human rights lawyer Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe threatened to campaign against President Weah’s travel to Washington D.C. if he fails to dismiss the three public officials who were recently sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department.

Cllr. Gongloe said Washington D.C. has a strong policy against corruption as well as promoting human rights and justice, adding that he was of the strong conviction that President Weah’s failure to adhere to these principles would declare him unfit to visit the U.S.

He said: “His failure to do so will be construed by all well-meaning Liberians as approval of public stealing and general reckless disregard for integrity in the conduct of public affairs. In that case, we will appeal to the Government of the United States to withdraw its invitation to him to attend the December Washington summit on Democracy and to isolate him and members of his government for the rest of his term. A word to the wise is sufficient. Let President Weah listen and act now while he still has time.”

The renowned Human Rights lawyer lauded the U.S. for imposing sanctions on three of Weah’s officials but called for the inclusion of more “corrupt” officials including vote buyers on the list.

“While the people of Liberia are getting increasingly poorer every day, President Weah and his select group of officials continue to conspicuously display their unexplained wealth by building mansions and throwing money around at impoverished Liberians as if they have private money-producing machines at their homes.”

“Opportunity for Cleansing”

The Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) welcomes the President’s swift response, but called for their immediate replacement.

“We call upon the president and his team to replace these leaders immediately, with persons whose competence, integrity and commitment to service align with the prosperity and wellbeing of all Liberians,” the LCC said through its new President, the Reverend Samuel B. Reeves, Jr.

It added that these officials who are viewed as ethical drags on the progress of the nation, and a noose around the president’s pro-poor agenda should have been axed a longtime ago.

“Yet, President WEAH has risen to the occasion and ceased the moment. It is our prayers that with the prompting of the US, and the outcry of various advocacy groups, the opportunity for cleansing and refreshing has come to Liberia.”

Citizens Makes Rallying Call

In the wake of the sanction and President Weah’s action against his officials, FrontPage Africa’s sampled the views of several residents including commuters and students who expressed dismay over the behaviors of the officials and called for their permanent replacement.

“President Weah must act now or have himself to blame. At this stage, we are calling for the immediate dismissal and subsequent prosecution of all sanctioned officials of government,” said Mohamed Deygbo, resident of Gardnerville. 

Deygbo noted that the sanctioning of three key officials of president Weah’s government is an indication that his government is doing little or nothing to tackle the issues of corruption. 

“President Weah and his officials of government have been engaged in wanton corruption and gross abuse of human rights and the rule of law. This news comes not as a surprise to many of us because we knew what these people are doing to our country and people in particular.”

“We want to call on the American government to place more sanctions on these corrupt officials of government. This will bring total hygiene to the governance process of our country and will serve as a deterrent to would-be perpetrators of such acts.”

Continuing, he said: “Anything other than dismissal and subsequent prosecution of these officials will be a slap in the face of the American government. President Weah himself is not off the hook because he is the main perpetrator of corruption and abuse of power. He too needs to be sanctioned and his invitation to the US be canceled immediately.”

Mulbah Kesselly, a member of the opposition Alternative National Congress said the sanctioned officials have betrayed the public trust and brought shame to the nation,

“What Nathaniel McGill, Bill Twehway, and Saymah Syrenius Cephus have done is detrimental to the survival of the Liberian State. The three of them have betrayed the entire nation and its people. They have brought shame and embarrassment to the Liberian governance structure. They have killed many Liberians and denied the country investments that would have brought our people much-needed economic relief.”

He added “Stealing public money is unacceptable and deserves scorn and condemnation from all Liberians. Therefore, the latest step taken by President Weah is insufficient and immaterial compared to the gravity of the crimes his officials have committed.” 

According to Kesselly, President Weah has shown on many occasions that he lacks the will to hold his officials accountable for stealing, human rights violations, and violation of laws, among others; adding “McGill, Twehway, and Cephus must immediately be dismissed and forwarded to the LACC for investigation and prosecution.”

Euodia T Gbatoe, a civil society leader pointed out President Weah’s security will be at risk if he keeps the disgraced officials in his company.

“The president must dismiss them, suspending them will be ok. I believe that there are more listings to come out, even Finance Minister Samuel Tweah will be included in the next list that will come out.”

“I think the President is not safe to keep those guys around him. He needs to save himself. He needs to dismiss them or else he will be sanctioned very soon. Liberians’ eyes are opening to what is happening in our country. The election in 2023, the masses will decide and I can say that this news is a big blow to President Weah’s reelection bid.”

Mary Kerkula, a student of the University of Liberia averred: “The sanction is welcoming at least Mr. Weah will begin to understand the grievances of our people without any assumptions, and step up his game by reciprocating our people’s support by initiating the working of his social contract with our people. Dismissal is the best decision it would serve as a point of reference to those who gainfully support the impunity culture in the system of government.”

Gerald C. Koinyeneh, Willie Tokpah and Webster J. H. Clayeh contributed to this story.