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A Letter from the Editor: In Liberia, an Embarrassed ECOWAS Tries to Save Face With ‘Unequivocal’ Denial

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Dear Readers,

As journalists we are obliged to protect confidential sources through anonymity for a variety of reasons. It could be to keep them from physical harm, economic or professional reprisals or political entanglements. This was the case in the famous Watergate Scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States of America and right in Liberia’s backyard, the Knucklesgate scandal and scores of others exposed by FrontPageAfrica that could have saved Liberia millions, if not billions lost to corruption and greed.

Today, the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission finds itself in an embarrassing situation as it looks to draw a line of demarcation between what President George Manneh Weah reportedly told the regional body’s President, Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou, when he visited Liberia last week.

We may not always be perfect but our pursuit of the truth is sincere, genuine and almost, always right on the money, just as it is now as an embarrassed ECOWAS tries to save face with an “unequivocal” denial – many within its ranks know to be the truth.

In a stinging denial Monday, the ECOWAS local office stated that its attention was drawn to “the purported Startling accusations made against ECOWAS by the Liberian FrontPageAfrica newspaper publication of Monday, 3rd June 2019 and other media outlets, in which they reported amongst others, that both “the former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Vice President Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, were quietly aiding the organizers of the protest against the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government.”

The ECOWAS, in “unequivocal terms, noted that at no time during the official Visit of H.E. Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou did President Weah speak to the President of the ECOWAS Commission that the former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Vice President Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor were supporting the planned June 7, 2019 Peaceable Assembly by the Council of Patriots.”

ECOWAS says it found it most unfortunate and indeed, worrisome that it was quoted to have allegedly expressed that the former President and the vice president of Liberia were aiding the organizers of the planned June 7, 2019 Peaceable Assembly.

Today, the world is filled with a lot of Deep Throats, some right under the noses of government, in the confines of homes and strategic areas where no one expects them to be. They furnish us with everything – vouchers, documents, audio and video recordings and a whole lot more. As journalists, it is our job to dig, dig and dig some more; it is our job to build their trust and to earn it. And once we earn it, we strive to protect it.

What the ECOWAS omitted in its attempt to rebuke our reportage is the fact that the first mention of the statement came to life on the Henry Costa morning show when Senator Sando B. Johnson(NPP, Bomi) made a startling revelation during which he revealed that President George Manneh Weah had told a visiting delegation headed by the head of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Kassi Brou that his vice president Jewel Howard Taylor was personally involved in the organization and providing funding for the protest.

FrontPageAfrica later gathered through sources who were present in the meeting when members of the Council of Patriots met with the with the ECOWAS Commission chair, that the issue of the President’s statement was brought up by COP. Senator Johnson, according to a source in the meeting, indirectly told the meeting with the visiting ECOWAS delegation that the vice president was not part of the organization of the protest. “We are man enough and are organizing the protest on our own. So, if the president wants to destroy his VP, he can do that without implicating the COP. We are not controlled by any external force as it is being rumored. So, yes it was raised,” the source said.

No one, including ECOWAS have disputed this fact.

Caught in the Middle of Executive Beef

Our reportage quoted a statement from Mr. John D. Gray, Acting Chairman of the NPP, one of three political parties in the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, who expressed concerns about what the President had reportedly said.

SAID MR. GRAY: “Over the past few days, certain national events have caused the Leadership and membership of the National Patriotic Party to become seriously concerned about unfolding events. For which we have decided to hold this press briefing, in order to provide clarity about serious Nation security matters which must not be ignored. The National Patriotic Party, a constituent member of the Coalition for Democratic Change, is troubled by rumors circulating in the public domain. These rumors, alleged that the President of the Republic of Liberia intimated to International Partners that the Standard Bearer of the NPP and Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor is the mastermind and financier of the planned June 7th protest with an aim of undermining this Government.”

Like all stakeholders, we as a media owe it to Liberia and Liberians to be true to this nation. Sometimes the best way to solve a conflict is to let it out in the open, not shield it from the outside world. ECOWAS has done a lot for Liberia and we all appreciate it. They may not have wanted to be caught in the middle of a high-profile beef between Liberia’s feuding hierarchy – or probably never planned on it. But this is what it is. But to insinuate that FrontPageAfrica is somehow instigating people to unlawful act, is totally wrong and in poor taste.

Our reportage also included a strong denial from the government’s chief spokesman, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe who told the Voice of America in an interview aired on Daybreak Africa Monday morning that the report of President Weah telling the head of the ECOWAS commission about his vice president’s alleged role in the protest is untrue. “It’s totally untrue and ridiculous that the President is being accused of telling a high-level diplomat like the head of ECOWAS that his own Vice President is link to the protest that is being planned for June 7. It is actually untrue,” Minister Nagbe told the VOA’s James Butty. Said Nagbe: “The President did not make such position to the head of ECOWAS. So, it’s just another of the rhetoric from some of the political forces in the country to sow seeds of discord in our country.”

According to the Minister, the Vice president and the vice president are working together cooperatively and there is no discord between the two of them. “Now, this allegation was made by one of the organizers of the protest, Senator Sando Johnson. So, it’s not a rumor, it was a false allegation made by Senator Johnson of a matter which did not happen at all. So, I don’t like people saying it is a rumor. Senator Johnson, publicly on radio made this false and malicious allegation which is totally untrue. Why should we be reacting to the imaginations of these people.”

We are taken aback by the ECOWAS’s local office’s insinuation that our reportage is inciting people to unlawful acts through improperly considered action and rhetoric.

In the same manner that ECOWAS “has consistently pursued a position of maturing and pleasant advocacy for a continued institutionalization of peace and security as well as development in each Member State, including Liberia’; we as a media organization strives to consistently pursue the truth in line with our creed regardless of where the chips may fall.
Like ECOWAS, we too are interested in continuing “to work with all stakeholders to promote cohesion and undiluted unity to sustain peace and stability in Liberia.”

When the word got out Monday that the VP was unhappy about the accusations thrown her way, sources alerted FrontPageAfrica that two of President Weah’s most trusted aides, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and Nathaniel McGill made their way to her house to make amends and apologize. But the VP, according to one source who was present, went into a rage, sending a message to President Weah that she had had enough and was ready to throw in the towel. She reportedly expressed her frustrations and the ill-manner in which she had been treated.

Our approaches may be different but the goals are the same.
The truth of the matter is that ECOWAS finds itself caught in the middle of an embarrassing turn, involving a much-publicized and well-documented feud between President Weah and his Vice President.
It is no secret that since the Coalition for Democratic Change government came to power last January, the strains between the pair have been obvious.

From Parked Car to Dump Truck

The VP who had boasted that she would not be a parked car in the garage, in reference to her predecessor, former Vice President Joseph Boakai’s assertions of the role he played under ex-President Sirleaf, has been relegated to an old dump truck, according to those closed to her circle.
FrontPageAfrica previously reported that shortly after his inauguration in January, President Weah sought to wrestle control from the VP’s office, including an attempt to deny her the constitutional right as President of the Senate responsible for presiding over its deliberations without the right to vote, except in the case of a tie vote.

The President followed that with a bill to the legislature seeking to wrestle the VP’s control of the Liberia National Lotteries after reports surfaced that the VP had left the country without informing the president. FrontPageAfrica would later learn that the President’s Chief of Protocol kept the VP waiting for three hours before telling her that the President was busy. And even though she left a file explaining the purpose of her trip, she was asked to returned home after her departure but she declined, expressing unhappiness about the lack of respect shown her by the President.

Then in February, a leaked audio recording on which the Superintendent of Bong County, Madam Esther Walker, who happens to be a long-time aide to the Vice President surfaced, on which the Superintendent was heard narrating an ordeal she says suggested that President Weah was unhappy that the nation’s highest traditional honor was bestowed on Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor – a ceremony that led to the dismissal of the county’s Dakpanah (heads of chiefs in the country).

The incident led to the dismissal of Chief Moses Suakollie, the Dakpanah, and Arthur Kulah, native superintendent in Bong County.

On the leaked audio, Madam Walker was heard, suggesting that the President was likely to dismiss a few traditional leaders over the row.
The Superintendent is heard on the recording explaining to her aides that she had attended a party organized by First Lady Clar Weah after President Weah delivered his second Annual Message. According to her, it was at the President’s Jamaica Resort, along the Roberts International Airport highway, where at least three of Pres. Weah’s trusted lieutenants – Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and Minister of State Nathaniel McGill were seated.

The superintendent was dismissed hours after the recording went viral on social media.

Superintendent Walker’s suspension was preceded by a Facebook posting from the government’s chief spokesman, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, who issued a word of caution that the superintendent’s days in the government were numbered. The minister went on to accuse the Superintendent of being a liar and a gossiper, even insinuating that VP Taylor was her Puppet-master. “Bong County will soon have a new superintendent. Since you want to be a lying gossiper, we will send you back to your “puppet-master,” the minister wrote.

Last November, yet another controversy ensued prior to a trip the VP made to Reykjavik, Iceland last year to attend the Women Political Leaders Global Forum. The VP was reportedly denied access to the President who placed a call to her later that she should return home because she did not get his approval for the trip.

The VP had reportedly gone to the President’s office to inform him of her travel to Reykjavik and her travel to Accra, Ghana for an international health conference. But to her surprise, the VP was kept waiting for nearly two hours before being told by the President’s Chief of Staff, Finda Bondoo that the President was too busy to see her. The VP, according to sources, reportedly left a file detailing her travels with the Chief of Staff and asked her to kindly relay the message to the President. The VP, prior to that visit had reportedly been denied multiple requests to see the President, according to sources at the time. To the VP’s surprise, the President reportedly called her while in Accra, ordering her to return home at once, declaring that he had no knowledge of her travel and would face consequences upon her return to the country.

The VP was also engulfed in an internal NPP party wrangle when Representative James Biney (NPP, District No. 1 Maryland County) reportedly commenced what aides to the Vice President described at the time as a plot to change county chairpersons of the National Patriotic Party, who appeared reluctant to collude with a plan hatched by Biney to agree to remove the Vice President from the party as standard bearer.

Reports of alleged involvement of the Vice President and President Sirleaf in the June 7 protest is not new. The murmurs have been in the air for weeks. When Mr. Kassi Brou came calling, sources confided to FrontPageAfrica that President Weah made it clear to the visiting ECOWAS President what Senator Sando Johnson alerted Liberia to last Friday and what FrontPageAfrica has been able to verify from a number of impeccable sources closed to both the President and the vice president.
In fact, when the ECOWAS Commission Chair, in his meeting with the VP reportedly confronted her about the President’s accusations, a source who was present said, the VP reportedly broke down in tears, reminiscing about some of the challenges she has been going through since the early days of the Coalition for Democratic Change government’s ascendancy to power.

Deep Throats Everywhere

When the word got out Monday that the VP was unhappy about the accusations thrown her way, sources alerted FrontPageAfrica that two of President Weah’s most trusted aides, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and Nathaniel McGill made their way to her house to make amends and apologize. But the VP, according to one source who was present, went into a rage, sending a message to President Weah that she had had enough and was ready to throw in the towel. She reportedly expressed her frustrations and the ill-manner in which she had been treated.

All Monday, FrontPageAfrica has gathered, diplomats and the VP’s peers in the Senate and the lower house pleaded with her to not walk away at this time.

No one, not ECOWAS, or the government can deny this fact.

Our sources have always been good to us with information that are often on the money. When we do miss, we are always ready to issue an apology – and this is rarely.

On this occasion however, the ECOWAS Liberia office got it wrong.

We may not be the best of friends to some of you, and others may not always like or agree with everything we write or how we write. What we do try to do, is work our butts off day and night – at grave risks and sacrifices, 24-7 to bring you unfiltered, uncensored news and analysis backed by quality supporting documents and/or quality sources.

Like all stakeholders, we as a media owe it to Liberia and Liberians to be true to this nation. Sometimes the best way to solve a conflict is to let it out in the open, not shield it from the outside world. ECOWAS has done a lot for Liberia and we all appreciate it. They may not have wanted to be caught in the middle of a high-profile beef between Liberia’s feuding hierarchy – or probably never planned on it. But this is what it is. But to insinuate that FrontPageAfrica is somehow instigating people to unlawful act, is totally wrong and in poor taste.

Mark Felt, known to the world as Deep Throat was the secret informant who provided information to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in 1972. He provided key details about President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate Scandal. Felt kept his identity secret for years and in 2005, 31 years after Nixon’s resignation and 11 years after Nixon’s death, a family attorney stated that Felt, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) Associate Director was Deep Throat.

By then Felt was suffering from dementia and had previously denied being Deep Throat, but Woodward and Bernstein confirmed the attorney’s claim. Felt died on December 18, 2008.

Today, the world is filled with a lot of Deep Throats, some right under the noses of government, in the confines of homes and strategic areas where no one expects them to be.

They furnish us with everything – vouchers, documents, audio and video recordings and a whole lot more.

As journalists, it is our job to dig, dig and dig some more; it is our job to build their trust and to earn it. And once we earn it, we strive to protect it.

We may not always be perfect but our pursuit of the truth is sincere, genuine and almost, always right on the money, just as it is now as an embarrassed ECOWAS tries to save face with an “unequivocal” denial – many within its ranks know to be the truth.

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