Liberia: Weah’s Supporters Not Bothered by Sanctions against Top Officials As They Vow to Give Him Another Term￼
MONROVIA – Supporters of Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah appeared to be unmoved by the sanctioning of three top officials of his government for corruption by the U.S. Treasury Department as evidenced by the unwavering and recognizable show of support and turnouts for the ongoing tour across Montserrado County.
The sanctions, which fall under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act hooked the Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, National Port Authority Director Bill Twehway, and Solicitor General Cllr. Syrenius Cephus.
After a rigorous inter-agency investigation, the Treasury Department determined that these three officials engaged in corrupt acts, and they are now subject to U.S. financial sanctions and visa restrictions. This is a decision that the United States Government does not take lightly because corruption is not a light topic. As Treasury Secretary Yellen put it, “Corrupt acts take resources from citizens, undermine public trust, and threaten the progress of those who fight for democracy.
According to the US Treasury Department, during his tenure in government, Minister McGill has bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.
“McGill has manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids. McGill is credibly accused of involvement in a wide range of other corrupt schemes including soliciting bribes from government office seekers and misappropriating government assets for his personal gain.
He has used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals. McGill has received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered. McGill regularly distributes thousands of dollars in undocumented cash to other government officials for government and non-government activities.”
The Treasury department said, McGill is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
Regarding Cephus, is the current Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of Liberia, the Treasury Department noted that the controversial Solicitor General has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and has received bribes from individuals in exchange for having their cases dropped.
“Cephus has worked behind the scenes to establish arrangements with subjects of money laundering investigations to cease investigations in order to personally benefit financially. He shields money launderers and helps clear them through the court system and has intimidated other prosecutors in an attempt to quash investigations. Cephus has also utilized his position to hinder investigations and block the prosecution of corruption cases involving members of the government. Cephus has been accused of tampering with and purposefully withholding evidence in cases involving members of opposition political parties to ensure conviction.”
The Solicitor General, according to the Treasury Department, is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
Regarding Twehway, the Treasury Department noted that the current Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), orchestrated the diversion of $1.5 million in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA into a private account. “Twehway secretly formed a private company to which, through his position at the NPA, he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan. The contract was awarded to the company less than a month after its founding. Twehway and others used family members to obfuscate their own involvement in the company while still benefitting financially from the company.”
Twehway is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
George Weah-led government, the Liberian President has suspended his most trusted ally and Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, Bill Twehway, head of the National Port Authority and Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus.
Less than 24 hours after the sanctions, President Weah reacted by suspending the accused officials.
“President Weah views the allegations against the officials contained in the report as grave. In view of this, President George Manneh Weah has suspended the named officials, Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, the Managing Director of the National Port Authority Bill Twehway, and Solicitor General Seyma Serenius Cyphus with immediate effect to enable them to face investigation,” the statement issued by the Executive Mansion
Following the President’s action, many of his supporters are engaging into acts to provide consolation and encouragement. They seem not to be perturbed by the news of the sanctioning of the trio.
Hundreds of youths took to the streets in the densely populated township of West Point, chanting pro-slogans for Weah and his government where the President and other government officials had gone in continuation of his tour across Montserrado on August 16.
They were heard chanting: “Sanction, no sanction, we’ll vote for George Weah
Protest no, protest we will vote for George Weah, Who you want…ahaaaa da Weah we want,”, among others.
The supporters, mostly young men were seen with a flag and an emblem bearing the photographs of President Weah and his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
However, there have been mixed views since the video of supporters of President Weah showcasing their loyalty went viral on the social media.
Many believed that the decision of the youths displays their lack of independence to make sound judgment in the interest of their country.
Arthurlyn Jimmy: “You all lack independence decision making skills. You guys are already in your graves.”
“Sad for West Pointers who lives will never change for the next six years of Weah’s presidency. Same People different day. You lehkay you not lehkay da 12 years. “Sanctions no sanction we will vote for him” Suffering people with smiling faces….This won’t happen 2023, we will change these drivers without driving licenses. It’s Us Verses Your…” Romeo Trokon Coker stated.
For his part, Max K. Mixer believed that it was wrong for the government, through its local authorities to request school administrators to allegedly suspend academic activities in the township as a result of the President’s tour.
“Very wrong way the leadership took yesterday by putting out our 15 to 17 years old school children and instruct them to react to the sanction. I got sick when I saw a video of those kids pushed to sing …”Sanctions NO sanctions, We will vote Weah”. Mulbah Morlu, this was one of the most STUPIDEST things you have ever organized and trust me even you will pay for it at your party convention. IT WAS NONSENSICAL”, Mixer emphasized.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. Well, what do you expect? In a nation where fools are more in number than the wise this is what happens. Now I understand why America has Electoral College. Democracy without some form of check point is dangerous. We’re getting there,” Mus Emile Kommeh noted after taking a glance of the video.
The Taylor’s scenario
The latest action of the youths of West Point is a complete replica of the most memorable, but infamous campaign slogan “You killed my ma, you killed my pa, I’ll vote for you” sang by supporters of ex-Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor.
Barely few days to the climax of the campaign period in 1997, thousands of Liberians took to the streets across the country singing and running to show their overwhelming love and support for a man who once took arms and ammunitions and recruited child soldiers to launch a senseless war in their nation. The citizens reciprocated their actions into votes and Taylor won more than 75% of the votes at the time.
In an interview with the BBC on his popular campaign slogan, Mr. Taylor stated: “”They mean it, you know, and they love me.”
In the name of democracy, contemporary Liberians, especially youths continue to depict similar style by downplaying the latest US sanctions on top government officials, flagrant disregard for the rule of law corruption, harsh economic constraints, extreme poverty, and others they are currently experiencing.
However, many Liberians see differently the views of these young people ahead of the 2023 general and presidential elections in Liberia.
“History has a way of reminding people it’s comical when I see zealous Cdecians saying sanctions or no sanctions we will vote Weah. I’m reminded about 1997 election where Liberians were saying you killed my ma you killed my pa I will vote for you (Charles G. Taylor ) . We know the aftermath of such sarcastic rhetoric. Liberians be warned,” Vatango G. Konneh noted.
Randolph D. Logan: “ Every president such a song was sang for went down bad in history, Charles Taylor can relate.”
“Liberians sang the same song doing Taylor’s days. He kill my ma he kill my pa, I will vote for him.
Today they’re singing Protest or No protest we will vote for George Weah, sanctions or no sanctions we will vote for George. What a nation? Sad group of people” says Kou Toomey.
Austin Godpower Johnny questioned the rationale behind the youths displayed of loyalty to President Weah and his government in the midst of extreme hardship.
“You kill my mam, you kill my pap, I will vote for you. This is the 1997 scenario that they are about to repeat. The fools are many in this country. We’re undergoing extreme abject poverty, and you are saying President Weah will be reelected? What’s happening to their understanding? Do they love hardship? I believe, those who saying this, don’t have plans for themselves. I’m tired with this country.”
Lying on Weah
On the other hand, few supporters of the government believed that the latest move by youths of West Point shows that members of the opposition community have been bad-painting and making up stories against the current administration.
They claimed that concocted propagandas are being implored by opposition figures in a bid to discourage citizens from again voting for President Weah in the pending elections.
“That alone with show oppositions that all they are doing by lying, insulting and treating the peace with their blood in their eyes and they will make the streets bloody is a waste of time. We will vote development president back in power come 2023. Let them tell Americans government to just bring them and put them in power but even as that, we will chase them out by our votes.” Jallah Riley Johnson stated.
Wake up call for opposition
The latest show of uncompromised loyalty for President Weah and his government by youths in the densely populated township of West Point is a wakeup call to opposition Liberian politicians to form a common front if they must unseat the ruling party come 2023.
Since the 1997 elections, no single political party has won the presidency in the post-conflict nation without forming merger or alliances with like-minded political parties or coalitions.
The visible division, internal wrangling and lack of patriotism among opposition leaders and unwillingness to bury their egos and proffer a formidable ticket remain contributing factors for the loss of appetite from citizens for a change in national leadership.
There has been mounting calls for opposition politicians to bury their differences and cement a lacking and genuine political marriage in a bid to build hope to the citizenry by finding solutions to the mountainous challenges and hardship in the country.
“Interestingly, no one has lost an election in Liberia due to corruption or criminal activities. To those who think these sanctions mean an automatic victory for the opposition, keep dreaming. Our people are very special,” Taa Wongbe stated
The overwhelming showcase of loyalty and support to President Weah and his government by youths of West Point could be a win-win situation for both the ruling party and the opposition depending on the political strategies that would be implored ahead of the elections.
The chanting of infamous campaign song by youths and others did not end well for the country’s former President Charles Ghankay Taylor, and as such, President George Manneh Weah should take keen by taking actions in the interest of the country and the masses, instead of pleasing or shielding his closed confidantes, selective few or closed associates, his supporters and partisans.