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Liberia’s Corruption Saga: Who Are the ‘Big Boys Global Witness Report?

Monrovia – It was anybody’s guess in Monrovia Thursday as Liberians woke up to some damning revelations contained in an exposé released by the London-based watchdog-group, Global Witness Wednesday uncovering more than US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments by UK mining firm Sable Mining and its Liberian lawyer, Varney Sherman.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, in keeping with a pledge made to the London-based watchdog group, Global Witness, moved swiftly Thursday to take initial Action on Global Witness Report by setting up a committee to probe figures named in an exposé released Wednesday which uncovered that more than US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments by UK mining firm Sable Mining and its Liberian lawyer, Varney Sherman.

SG Bolts Over Possible Conflict

The President in consultation with the Ministry of Justice appointed a taskforce to investigate the just published Global Witness on Liberia that linked several individuals and prosecute as the evidence may require. The Liberian leader announced the decision today following a review of the report, which was submitted to the Government of Liberia by Global Witness alleging corruption and bribery on the part of several former and current officials of government.

According to an Executive release, the task force is to be headed by Minister of State Without Portfolio, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, who is named a Special Prosecutor along with a team of lawyers from the Ministry of Justice. The Task Force is also charged with investigating and resolving all allegations contained in current and past GAC reports.

An Executive Mansion source told FrontPageAfrica that Solicitor General, Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo recused herself from the committee in a bid to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Blamo used to be a lawyer for Sable when she worked for Sherman & Sherman Law Firm.

The President has also urged all individuals named in the report to submit to and cooperate fully with the investigation.

Britain Asked to Aid Probe

The President has further written British Prime Minister David Cameron requesting full cooperation and assistance from the British Government, as a UK company is involved.

Multiple Executive Mansion sources confirmed to FrontPageAfrica Thursday that the President initially had planned to suspend members of the Executive branch named in the report, including her son, Fombah Sirleaf, head of the National Security Agency (NSA), Willie Belleh, Chair of the Board of the Public Procurement Concessions Commission (PPCC) and Mr. Sumo Kupee, a former Lofa County Senator now head of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company. However, sources say the President was advised by her legal advisors to await the outcome of the report.

The President who aides say was visibly angry after receiving the report from Global witness, is quoted as saying that “the report brings home the fact that the real purveyors of corruption are those predatory investors who rely on the weaknesses of some officials and the vulnerability of poor countries to carry out dubious business transactions while being harbored by rich countries”.

The President called on the leaders of “rich and powerful countries to use this matter involving Sable Mining to take strong punitive actions against criminal- minded individuals, who export corruption to African countries, obtain illegal wealth and store their ill-gotten wealth in these western countries while economies of poor countries suffer as a result of these illicit deals”.

GW Mum on Mystery Big Boys

President Sirleaf also pointed out that the foreign businessmen and corporations that are alleged to have paid bribes must also be investigated and prosecuted by their respective governments.

Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia has formally requested Global Witness to make available all pieces of evidence cited in the report to assist the Task Force in the investigation.

In a letter to Global Witness, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe said: “The Government of Liberia is concerned about these grave allegations of bribery and corruption and therefore formally requests Global Witness to make available all pieces of evidence on this matter so that it can take appropriate actions to investigate and prosecute if a violation of the laws of Liberia is determined”.

Minister Nagbe said: “Transparency and anti-corruption watchdog organizations must transcend from merely making allegations in reports to adducing evidence to concerned authorities for appropriate legal action to be taken”.

Despite the President’s initial action, many in Liberia remained baffled over a missing piece of the puzzle in the GW report, relating to a payment of US$250,000 each made to two figures named only as “Bigboy 01” and “Bigboy 02”.

Jonathan Gant a Senior Campaigner at Global Witness when pressed Thursday by phone from London, said they too are hoping that the investigation in Liberia will determine who the duo linked to a half-a-million dollars are.

On the streets of Monrovia Thursday, many expressed disappointment, including supporters of the ruling Unity Party.

Disappointments Around Town

At the Center of Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO), Siaffa Kanneh, a resident of Monrovia, lamented that it is highly unfortunate on the part of Cllr. Sherman and all those that allow themselves to be used in that direction in order to give birth or right to corruption.

“Varney Sherman as an individual, looking at his status currently in the Liberian politics ranging from his attempt to take the Liberian presidency by contesting the 2005 election; and holding a respectable position in the ruling party, Unity Party, to be caught in an act that against the developmental agenda of the state is tantamount to economy sabotage.”

Jefferson Koijee, Youth leader of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, for his part argued that he was disappointed that Liberia’s reputation was once again in ruins and took aim at President Sirleaf who has gone on record of transparency and pledging to make corruption a public enemy #1.

“When you read the Global Witness Report about the huge excess of money, over nine hundred thousand (US$900,000) plus, we think the President should demonstrate leadership.”

Koijee says he doubts whether yet another committee set up to probe yet another scandal will lead to prosecutions. “We think the President must do what is appropriate and what is right. The President should not say she will launch an investigation; we think those comments are cosmetic. The issue is a grave; we cannot have a country with criminal empire; the President should dismiss those individuals involved.”

But Ramsey C. Smith, a bystander at the exchange center disagrees, suggesting that in fact the report’s timing makes it political. “I believe in prima farcie evidence and facts; what are the evidences Global Witness have on our lawmakers.

"I strongly believe Global Witness has been paid to tannish the reputation of those good men and women at the level of the Legislature who have continue to contribute the growth and development of our country.

Those are the guys who continue to legislate policy that will create empowerment for the young people, or that will restore the sanity of our country; those are men that believe in the rule of law.

So, I strongly disagree with the report; it is internally politically motivated, and I can tell you for free, these are propaganda from politicians who want to put the sediments of the people against these good men and women of the legislature.”

Romeo Johnson, another member at the center argued that Global Witness was not political institution. “For anyone to say that they want to drag the name of speaker Tyler Sumo Kupee, Varney Sherman in the mud because speaker Tyler will be contesting, is unfair.

Just look at the amount that has been apportion Richard Tolbert, speaker Tyler Sumo Kupee, Varney Sherman. Those monies were given them at the level of the National Legislature to lobby and pass laws that will not be in our interest so that sable mining can take over the Wologisi Mountain.

The report also highlighted how Varney Sherman was angry with the election of Henry Fahnbulleh and how Sable Mining compensated Fahnbulleh with US$25,000 for him to resign and he did, that’s how you saw Wilmot Paye coming as Secretary General, so for this report, any serious government around the world will look into it and investigate it.

Public Divided Amid Skepticisms

The report, The Deceivers (1), showed how in 2010 Sable hired Sherman, who happens to be the current Chairman of the ruling Unity Party, in an effort to secure one of Liberia’s last large mining assets, the Wologizi iron ore concession in northern Liberia.

Sherman told Sable that in order to obtain the contract the company must first get Liberia’s concessions law changed by bribing senior officials, according to a source familiar with the discussions. The account is backed up by leaked emails and company documents seen by Global Witness.

According to the documents, Sherman then began distributing Sable’s money to some of Liberia’s most important government officials.

“Sable and Sherman paid bribes in order to change Liberia’s law and get their hands on one of its most prized assets, the Wologizi concession,” said Jonathan Gant, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness. “The government must act fast and investigate Sable, Sherman, and the officials they paid.”

Neither Sherman nor any of those named in the report have spoken out so far although FrontPageAfrica has learned that a press conference is planned for Friday by UP chairman.

For now, many appear divided over the report but skeptical at the legislature. “This is the reason over the past time all of the 68 concession agreements that was signed by the legislature do not have a trigger-down effect on the Liberian people.

Varney Sherman brought in Sime Darby, but go to Grand Cape Mount today see if the company has any impact on the lives of the people, indeed, the lives of the people in that county has not been improved,” Sekou Kanneh lamented.

Sable Mining: Bribes and Questionable Payments in Liberia

15 April 2010: $500,000 in two equal payments marked “Bigboy 01” and “Bigboy 02”

22 April 2010: $200,000 for the convention of the ruling Unity Party, paid out to Sable’s lawyer Varney Sherman. Sherman was elected chairman of the party at the convention unopposed after his opponents “were persuaded to back off”, according to a local newspaper.

23 April 2010: $50,000 for Richard Tolbert, Chairman of Liberia’s National Investment Commission and one of the most important decision-makers in Liberia’s tendering process for mining rights. Tolbert denied taking bribes from Sable.

26 April 2010: $50,000 for Morris Saytumah, Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs, attached to the presidency.  In March 2011 Saytumah, after he left office, wrote a letter for Sable—backdated to April 2009—saying that “the Government will assist the Delta Mining in its bid for any iron ore reserve that it may be interested in and has the technical and financial capacity to operate”.

28 April 2010: $10,000, labelled as “Sherman’s contribution to IE Sports Association”, with the funds coming out of Sable’s account. This was a reference to the Invincible Eleven soccer team and associated teams, of which Richard Tolbert was President.

5 May 2010: $10,000 labelled as “Heine’s contribution to IE Sports Association”, headed by Tolbert (see above). Heine van Niekerk was Chief Executive of Sable’s Liberian affiliate.

24 June 2010: $10,000 paid to Willie Belleh, Chairman of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission, who held a key position in the tender process for mineral concessions and helped review the procurement act. Belleh denied receiving any payment.

24 June 2010: $25,000 labelled as “Political contribution – UP Secretary General resignation”. Henry Fahnbulleh, recently elected Secretary General of the ruling Unity Party, resigned under pressure from Varney Sherman the day after the payment was made.

29 July 2010: $5,000 for Lofa County Senator Sumo Kupee.

29 July 2010: $5,000 for Cletus Wotorson, at the time the Speaker of the Senate. Kupee and Wotorson’s payments are listed in internal company records. Kupee and Wotorson denied receiving any payments.

23 August 2010: $4,500 labelled “accommodation ECB Jones and C Onanuga”. Ernest CB Jones was deputy mining minister, while Chris Onanuga was Delta’s long-standing fixer before and after its purchase by Sable.

25 August 2010: $75,000 for Alex Tyler, Speaker of the lower house of Liberia’s parliament at the time.

12 May 2011: Sable made a purchase worth $1,070.87 at Twin Bore Agencies, a Johannesburg gun shop, for the Liberian President’s son, Fombah Sirleaf. It is unclear what was purchased. Sirleaf is head of Liberia’s National Security Agency.

13 June 2011: $6,532 to take Fombah Sirleaf on an all-expenses-paid hunting trip in South Africa.

2 August 2011: $5,000 to Eugene Shannon, a former Mining Minister who lobbied a cabinet minister Morris Saytumah to write his backdated letter backing Sable’s claim to Wologizi. Shannon denied receiving any money from Sable.

August 2011 to Jan 2012: $1,565.28 on a telephone and bills for Fombah Sirleaf.
 
Total: $958,668

Edwin Genoway, edwin.genoway@frontpageafricaonline.com

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Who’s Next?

As a Liberian and an American educated returnee scholar to Liberia since 2011, my anticipated study of my people and nation takes ten Blacological Research steps.

(1) What is my most significant topic for discussion. Being culturally and nationalistically conscious to assist in the post-conflict Liberian reconciliation and peace building, ten Blacological research propositions will authentically facilitate constructive and objective guidance through this effort.

(2) What have I already learned about post conflict Liberia since my physical presence on the ground?

(3) What exactly are my burning questions and state of affairs relevant to post conflict Liberia?

(4) What do I need to know that is necessary for the intellectualization of my people?

(5) Are there ethical concerned that might obstruct or do harm than good to my people through this intellectual exercise since I am just returning to my country after many years from studies?

(6) What are the Blacological methods that will be substantially applicable in this exercise?

(7) How can my message be receptive in a culturally complex post conflict Liberian political and socio-cultural society?

I was born knowing Liberia as a nation and people who were culturally, ethnically, spiritually, traditionally, fraternally, maternally, paternally, and religiously diversified and sensitive and a culturally conscious community.

However, contemporary observation of my land of nativity has drawn me to deduce that my people and my nation have embraced, in some degree, a philosophy, a doctrine, and a selective rush to judgment philosophy or paradigms that appeared to be evoked into an orthodox self-ascribed scriptures, belief, and concepts that can seem quite confusing on issues of post-conflict True and Reconciliation and comprehensive structural transformation in the Liberian 25-years genocidal civil conflict.

Notwithstanding, post-conflict Liberian leadership, decision makers, and outspoken citizens, and concerned Liberian victims of the Liberian civil conflict and the current social construction of reality, must distinguish between two kinds of judging in these critical periods of our perpetual transitions from 25-year civil conflict to an EBOLA, the enemy unknown, the enemy of death against the Liberian people, the enemy you do not see.

This is absolutely essential because the scourge of post-conflict  disparities, discontents, dissolution  within the  Liberian population, evident on the author’s watched, would make humanity sees that her long-term interests demand the obliteration  of present   hates, disputes, false accusations, rush to judgment conclusions, and that only in unity, found in a united federated,  culturally conscious one Liberian people, one Liberian community, one federated government can the Liberian people  find their  lost destinies.

It is necessary to elucidate that I have always had a pre-disposition with the Liberian political leadership since my "over standing" (understanding) of the Liberian political cultures. Please note that different does not mean divisive, it's just different. I am a descent scholarly thinking Liberian. Overall, I am just a different person, and Black African Liberian scholar who understand contemporary social phenomena differently.  I do not subscribe to the philosophy of going with the flow; knowing that only fish goes with the flow. I have always come up on the rough side of the mountain of despair with the stone of hope. This article intends to provoke a constructive and reasonable political controversy and to provide a new thesis concerning post conflict euphoric political confusion and miss-understanding of a good leader who is dealing with difficult circumstances.  This declarative hypothesis is articulated based on an empirical observation, that all politics are local. If this assumption cannot be a fallacious characterization, or sounds like a static description of a political naivety, then all Liberian political propositions must be, at minimum, culturally, ethnically,  and  ethically composed of a specific frame of reference (concepts and their cultural consequences and  definitions), and overall  articulated statements (proposition) connecting the components of the  frame of reference.

Taking a concise objective view and conceptualization dimension and analysis of the subject in question, one can  pre-maturely test the hypothesis with some semi-justifications that , the question of Legacy in the context  of whose next after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has a demonstrative and theoretical  aspects of crucial importance of the present political situation without  a preponderance  and specific political focus group's  optimism of an honorific  gratitude and title symbols for good work done so far; considering the circumstances of making the best  use out of the worst  Liberia post conflict situations. Therefore, to write anything about the politics of post conflict Liberia in many ways requires an extraordinary ambitious undertaking. For post conflict Liberia’s political cultural context, it is hard enough to understand what happens politically in one single district at times, indeed, hard enough to understand what happening in an individual town or particular occupational post conflict Liberian communities (factories, schools, or universities, and departments). How can one surely hope to comprehend such a treacherous and opaque subject matter of such huge scale out of prejudices or biases? For me, there is nothing ambivalence about a modern professional training in the social sciences which gives even a modicum of trustworthy intellectual guidance on how to approach an understanding of these post-conflict Liberian political operational extremities.

As Karl Popper meant by the statement that "Within any cultural science there must always be an overabundance of falsifiable propositions"[1] Personally, from every humanistic  and logical comprehension of natural human groupings, and  from an intellectual expository political and philosophical  calculations, the anticipated legacy of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf can be viewed, in many instances,  from her first book written by the  author of this article as (a) Helping Visionary Liberian Leader Gain Democratic Power). From all fairness, are the people of Liberia, specifically the government officials, actually and faithfully helping President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to gain democratic power in meeting the national demands? (b) Why President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf can be viewed, in our excruciating post conflict situations as the appropriate chosen Visionary Liberian leader? From an introspective retrospection, all Liberians, if not just many Liberians, specifically those who were on the ground at the genocidal days of Liberians by Liberians, will admit that the only appropriate and internationally reputable and creditable Liberian who could be a person of interest that was, in many cases, nationalistically, patriotically, passionately, prepared, and ready to take the life's detrimental position on behalf of her land of nativity and her people, that person was and is our mother, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia. It is essential to lament that Liberian(s) who are interested in determining the evaluation of President Ellen Johnson Sir leaf’s legacy, make efforts to un biassly study her ultimate honest performances with deep and great consideration of the nation's circumstances with whom she serves.

Liberia: The Political and Socio-Culture of Amnesia and the Anti-thesis of Political Generation.

It is saving to elucidate that we as Liberians and or as a people, must be opened to the dimension that we do not know. For, no one knows all and everything there is. Paradoxically, yet, true, that the more we know, the ignorant we become. It is only through our consciousness that we acknowledge our limitations. Precisely, the more gratifying results of our intellectual evolution are our continuous opening up of a new and a greater innovative and culturally conscious intellectual development. I am presently developing an observable political, social, and culturally sensitive prognosis…that Liberia will rise again.

Therefore, during difficult times, everyone must rationally exhibit extreme sensitivity in grace. Political, culture, and economic transformation has its own painful transition and post-conflict Liberia is a case in point. At times, only when it is dark can you see the stars. The Liberian people in general have specific appetites for negatively accusing good people for doing good things. And they suffer from amnesia for your goodness and when you do well for them. It must be mentioned that post -conflict situations in Liberia cannot and will never be resolved by obnoxious, pessimistic, and skeptics Liberians whose horizons are indefinitely myopic by obvious realism.

This brings the subject to what is coined as a "Political Generation": A German Sociologist Karl Mannheim argued that great events put their mark on an entire generation who carry the attitudes formed in their young adulthood all their lives. He called this Political Generation. For instance, World War I. produced a war weary "lost generations" throughout Europe. The Great Depression produced people who forever craved job security and welfare measures. Vietnam produced many Americans who are cautious about U.S. military intervention overseas. One theory of war-not a completely one, uses the political generation approach. A generation that experienced the horrors of war is reluctant to send its sons and daughters to war. This, of course, inclines the country to peace.

The new generation, though, which has known only peace picks up a romantic and heroic vision of war and tends toward an assertive foreign policy that may lead to war. We might call this a "forgetting" theory.  The generation that forgets what war is like, is more inclined to engage it.   It is save therefore, to elucidate that as a culturally conscious Black-African- and an American educated repatriate-Liberian scholar and professor, at Cuttington University since September 11, 2011 to 2016, my personal and professional engagements with students, the public, and other concerned citizens; the question of legacy and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; whose next after, has been one of my major in and out of class rooms subjects. Of course facing the challenges of post conflict Liberia demands a new age and mind set and overall realistic reasonableness in asking a research question of this nature. The Liberian people, many of whom have been at my professional disposal Blacologically, have come to the ultimate realization that never again.

Never again...and never again shall they be made to reflect on the painful and useless genocidal self inflected destruction to provoke them to uncalculated actions like in the past? I indeed personally support this endless cause. Every Liberian has graphically explained to me, both in classes, seminars, conferences, and open discussions, their personal experiences of the useless civil conflict. And those experiences are not always synonymously mutual or the same in graphics.  Many of these culturally, ethnically, spiritually, and nationalistically conscious individuals have come to the realization that the  only tragedy is that the truth about  the authentic Liberian Culture and its role in human progress has been so effectively suppressed that not even the Liberian institutions of higher learning and the religious institutions are  fully convinced of its reality.  In spite of all of these disappointing experiences, many Liberians are positively alluding to the "Political Generation" theory. Liberians do not want to go back to war anymore as speculated on the 2017 Elections and The UNMIL-Draws’ Dawn.

For many, the 25-years foolish and self-destructive civil conflict has wasted their early and youthful  learning times; even though it never too late to learn, these good citizens thank God-Allah for this day that they and their children are able to sit in classes to learn together without sounds of mechanized weapons of mass destruction. This is why the main focus of   the question of legacy-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose next after; can and must be critically viewed as a new realistic research question in post-conflict Liberia.  For me, whose next after President Ellen Johnson is my pressing fears moving forward. If there is anything that fearfully calls for concern, it is the dangerous struggle for the occupation of the political vacuum after President Sirleaf. It is even dangerous than when Liberia becomes a Christian nation.

Conclusion

President Ellen Johnson Sir leaf’s legacy, if crafted by an un biased expository  writing practitioners,  must critically evaluate some areas such as a core values and mission, the restoration of what the 25-year useless genocide  Liberian civil conflict has denied our people, our young people, specifically our post-conflict Liberian youth.. "I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes.  From a personal conjecture of this article, I would like to address myself from the perspective that those of us who live in the twentieth century were and are privileged to live or to have lived in one of the most momentous periods of human history. It was an exciting age filled with hope in many instances.

It was an age in which a new social order was being born. We stand today between two worlds. (1) The world of the dying old, and (2) the world of the emerging new. The Liberia and the Liberians I left in the 80s are not the Liberia and Liberians of today. In addition, I am absolutely cognizant of the fact that they are those who would contend that we live in the most ghastly period of human history. They would argue that the rhythmic beat of the deep rumbling of discontent from the Liberian in the Diaspora of the United States, the uprising or protests of the few minority strong Liberians on the ground against those needless protests, the Blacological and nationalistic longing of peaceful resolution and intervention of our institution are justifiably defending a peaceful retention of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration and wishing for it future leadership replication.  It must be emphatically noted that under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in spite of all else, this is the best and rethinking moment for us as Liberians to make the best use of what we can do to move our nation forward.

This, of course, is an exciting time and full of stories telling times of our past tragic experiences with progressive and transitorily commemorating, and hope with the thinking that doing good is a cardinal value of reciprocity. And that does well not difficult. In fact, just speaking good is a movement to one who does it. From post conflict Liberian situations as it relates to President Ellen Johnson Sir leaf’s leadership, for those who do good selflessly in this administration and for others, are at the same time doing it for themselves and their nation. I want to go on record based on my independent scholastic and critical thinking philosophy that; I will continue to support President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the end. This is my nature of support…when I obligate myself to a cause or to a person of interest; the sky is the limit….

About the Author:

Dr. Amos M.D.Sirleaf (Ph.D), Vice President-Professor, Blacology Research and Development Institute, Inc., (USA-Liberia). Professor-Peace Studies, Cuttington University/Director/Professor-Law Enforcement-Criminal Justice, Cuttington University/amdsirleaf@gmail.com or amdsirleaf@cuttingtonuniversity.edu.rl

[1][1] See Dr. Clyde O. McDaniel, Jr. Research Methodology: Some Issues in Social Science Research, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1974.

‘Bold Face Lies’: Internal Affairs Ministry Refutes ‘Looting’ Story

Kakata, Margibi County - The Ministry of Internal Affairs says a recent FrontPageAfrica publication alleging that the Project Director at the Ministry, Massa Fofana Johnson, was linked to a looting spree at the site of the Millennium Development Villages Project in Kakata, is a bold face lie. “The Ministry in this public manner describes the…
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