Liberia: Int’l Bodies Hold Talks with Political Leaders, Civil Society Groups ahead of Release of L$16 Billion Investigative Reports
MONROVIA – The international community present in Liberia has begun to mitigating possible furious outburst that might occur when the investigative report of the missing 16 billion in Liberian dollar banknotes and the US$25 million infused in the economy to mop up excess liquidity is released this Friday.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Representatives of the United Nation, ECOWAS and the African Union held a meeting with leaders of the opposition political parties and the ruling party, pressure groups like the Concerned Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUMBOMB) and the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), and religious groups.
The meeting held at the ECOWAS headquarters in Monrovia FrontPageAfrica understands, was intended to talk these stakeholders into accepting the findings of the investigation conducted into the L$16 billion and to encourage them to engage into dialogue so as to avoid actions that might undermine the peace of the country.
The reports come in two folds – the USAID-funded report is expected to be published on the USAID website on Friday, March 1, 2019 while that of the Presidential Investigation Taskforce would present theirs to the government at a press conference on February 27.
Members of the opposition, especially the four collaborating parties which comprise the Alternative National Congress (ANC), the Unity Party (UP), the Liberty Party (LP) and the All Liberian Party (ALP) expressed hope that the report would help them find clue about the whereabouts of the missing money.
They also fear that the report may have been watered down from its original version, taking into consideration the protracted period it took for its release.
“We keep our options open to demonstrate if the report doesn’t address the primary question of where the money is,” the collaborating parties cautioned.
COCUBOMB also warned that they will not accept any report short of credibility.
“The report should also include the 25 million USD intended for the mop up exercise,” the leader of COCUBOM demanded.
It can be recalled that on September 24, 2018, thousands of Liberians through COCUBOMB defied the heavy downpour of rain to petition the international community through the US Embassy near Monrovia, UN, AU, EU, and ECOWAS.
This massive peaceful civil action in demand of public accountability led by COCUBOMB called for an independent international forensic investigation into the mysterious disappearance of L$16 billion under President George M. Weah.
In response to the popular desire of the Liberian people through this mass peaceful protest, the International Community through the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia through USAID launched an independent international forensic investigation to ascertain basic facts pertinent to this national mystery that has wounded the image of the country.
Members of the opposition bloc present at the meeting raised issues about the rule of law which they say is a major concern. They indicated that there is a gradual breakdown of law and order, lamenting that the law enforcement agencies are taking no steps to remedy the situation. They cited the Montserrado County District 13 violence and the Sinoe by-election not being investigated by the regime.
They called for electoral reforms, noting that their participation to the 2020 senatorial election will be predicated upon complete reform of electoral laws and voter registration process.
The political parties expressed concern over the coercing of civil servants to join the Coalition for Democratic Change and the false accusation of the opposition political members of concocting to assassinate President Weah.
However, the CDC representatives present denied that neither President Weah nor the chairman of the party, Mulbah Morlu, ever accused the opposition of wanting to kill President Weah. They also accused the opposition of not condemning statements of assassination made against the President on social media.
Meanwhile, both the political parties, civil society organizations and the religious groups at the meeting have demanded investigations into the sudden giant size properties acquired by some officials of government in the absence of asset declaration.
They called for openness in the asset declaration and urged that President George Weah must lead the way to true transparency and accountability.
President Weah recently told a BBC interview that he cannot be make his asset declaration forms public as it borders on his privacy and that of his family, especially his children. He at the same time said he cannot compel officials of his government to declare their assets as he has already informed them that the law requires them to do so.
The UN, AU and ECOWAS pledged to work with both the government, oppositions, religious community and civil society to ensure that peace is maintained. They also urged the government, oppositions, religious communities and civil society to collaboratively to ensure that peace is maintained in Liberia.
EFFL Invited for Peace Talk
Meanwhile, the Liberia National Police (LNP) has written the commander-in-chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) on their planned demonstration against the impeachment trial of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh slated for Thursday, February 28, 2019.
“As you are aware, it is the statutory responsibility of the of the Liberia National Police to protect life and property and maintain law and order within the Republic of Liberia. In keeping with this mandate, we wish to invite the leadership of EFFL to a meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 2:00pm at the Bella Casa Hotel located on 3rd Street, Sinkor so as to discuss the security aspect of the planned protest/demonstration in maintaining the peace for the benefit of all,” stated the letter written to EFFL.
Accordingly, as stated in the letter, some civil society institutions, stakeholders including the Inter-Religious Council, WIPNET and the Liberia Council of Churches have been invited to meeting in order to make the environment more conducive. AU, ECOWAS, the European Union and the United Nation would be present as observers, the letter stated.