Liberia: Opposition Alliance CPP Warned About ‘Toxic’ Figure By Washington
Washington – Joseph Boakai has long prided himself on his status as a politician with self-proclaimed integrity. He has also highlighted his record as serving as Vice President, though many have suggested his role in government was minimal.
However, as Boakai gears up for yet another bid for the presidency in 2023, he must not only concern himself with his record but also take serious stock of the records of those who surround him.
It does little good if the candidate himself is clean, but his backers and associates are tainted by allegations of war crimes, money laundering and corruption.
It is for this reason that sources report the Boakai camp has been warned that association with individuals such as Benoni Urey of the All Liberia Party (ALP) pose a serious risk to his presidential bid.
According to sources, Urey’s dark past as a collaborator with convicted war criminal Charles Taylor has led him to be viewed as toxic by the US Embassy in Monrovia. It is broadly known that Urey was sanctioned by the United Nations and the US Government in connection with clear evidence that he misdirected funds from the Liberian Maritime Authority to obtain weapons on behalf of Charles Taylor.
Furthermore, sources suggest that the US Embassy continues to view the mysterious circumstances under which Urey managed to wrestle control of Lonestar Cell MTN from Taylor and his allies with suspicion, which could quickly escalate to Urey’s re-designation for sanctions by the US Treasury Department.
Sources consulted on this question point to a past State Department cable released by the whistleblower website Wikileaks, which strongly recommended against lifting sanctions against him. The diplomatic cable states that “Benoni Urey continues to pose an ongoing threat to the peace and stability in Liberia and the subregion.”
The cable also added that Urey “was known to play a key role in arms procurement.”
Making matters more urgent, on June 21 the US Congress held a hearing entitled “Establishing a War Crimes & Economic Crimes Court for Liberia. The focus of the hearing was not only on achieving justice for the horrific crimes against humanity committed during Liberia’s civil war, but also on economic crimes that have resulted in certain individuals continuing to enjoy ill-gotten wealth as a result of their nefarious activities during this period.
Urey has for years publicly called for the establishment of such a war crimes court – which, given his well-documented role in the war years – has raised eyebrows. But the Boakai camp was undoubtedly alarmed by the elevation of this issue in Washington and its implications for his campaign, given that Urey’s name has repeatedly surfaced in the US Government as a key target in any pursuit of accountability for the horrors of the war.
As the race for 2023 gets closer, calls for Boakai to publicly separate himself from an individual deemed toxic by the US Government are likely to only grow louder.