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Confusing Signals: How President Ellen Johnson Sirelaf Mortgaged Liberia

President Ellen Johnson Sirelaf

The International community is a confusing element––no one understands it, and Liberians do not know what the international community really stands for. This is all because there are mixed signals from what supposed to be the international community.

In one instance, the players in the international community coronate a tyrant or dictator, or a corrupt regime and a misguided ruler. At other times, the international community opposes and sometimes deposes these same people. But in the case of Liberia, the international community has become an oxymoron. They opposed and removed President William R. Tolbert, Jr., President Samuel K. Doe, Sr., and warlord Charles Taylor from power.  Yet, they coronate one of their own: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations.

These three former Liberian leaders have few things in common, but the most common factor for all three is that: they were all opposed and fought by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the current president of Liberia. While many did not know a woman will bravely fight regimes headed by men at the time, Madam Sirleaf alone knew. She knew that she was destined for greatness, as stated in her book: “This Child Will Be Great.” She also knew that she was going to be great at the expense of Liberian children, mothers, youth and elders. She most likely knew that she was going to be great at the expense of Liberia’s interest.

No doubt Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sought to become president of Liberia even before she was born––and even though that dream scared her, she went for it and got it by all and every means possible, including materially supporting Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel forces and calling on Taylor to level flat the Liberian capital city, Monrovia, to the ground during a BBC radio interview in early 1990.

What that material support translated into was Taylor’s desire to conquer West Africa and so he launched a brutal rebel war in neighboring West African nations such as Sierra Leone and Guinea. Guinea repelled all attempts because it had a strong military dictator named General Lassana Conte. Sierra Leone could not because it had a weak and corrupt regime headed by President Joseph Saidu Momoh.

President Ellen Johnson Sirelaf is tying the hands of any one of these people (with the exception of Prince Johnson, 2nd from left below who will never be president) expected to succeed her with her last minute so-called government reforms and rush-rush international loans borrowing scheme to enrich her cronies. If she failed for 11 and the half years, what makes anyone to think she can succeed in 4 months?

That material support provided by Madam Sirleaf also gave Charles Taylor and his NPFL rebels the audacity to rape and murder, in cold blood, five American Catholic nuns who were all elderly women in their late 50s. Did Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf commit these or any crimes herself? Absolutely not. It is important to draw and hold that line, but it is also very important to indicate that personal interest should not be a reason to support wrong, or actions that defied human dignity. Madam Sirleaf’s quest for power and wealth harmed Liberia in the past, is damaging Liberia today and will in the future, if nothing is done to oppose her unending desire.

To become president, Madam Sirleaf ensured that an entire nation went in decline. As president, she wants nothing more but tremendous wealth and building a future for her empire. To do that, she has resorted to another front, this time it is not the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). She has partnered with unscrupulous individuals in mortgaging Liberia and in planting the seed for future chaos. What happens when Liberia cannot service the mortgage? This is the billion dollars question.

First, President Sirleaf’s presidency has developed and administered a culture of open-ended and official widespread corruption, selective impunity, socio-economic stratification, and entrenched poverty for ordinary Liberians. While these are sad situations, her rule has also nurtured the seed that will eventually make Liberians slaves and paupers in their own land. That time is coming soon.

Second, the Sirleaf’s administration is on a last-minute hustling spree, borrowing money left and right from secret and non-secret sources, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Why should an outgoing president and her administration begin to borrow money and sign major long-term financial contracts when they have less than six months in power after twelve years of failure?

Third, the president and her regime have secretly renewed and extended major corporate concession contracts for decades, thus tying the hands of future Liberian administrations and handcuffing the entire nation. According to reliable sources, she has renewed and even extended the maritime contract with the Liberia International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) for 30 years. She has also given exclusive investment and business rights, including monopoly, to certain business people, many of whom have dubious records or do not have the interest of Liberia at heart.

“As a U.S. company, LISCR, LLC fully complies with U.S. laws as well as applicable Liberian laws. The statute creating the registry is embedded into Liberia’s Statutes and can be expected to remain the law of the land regardless of the government in power. Liberian law requires the owners of LISCR, LLC to be U.S. citizens to ensure a separation between the company and the Government of the Republic of Liberia. Changes in the contract/statute can only be made through legislation enacted by the Government of the Republic of Liberia,” according to LISCR website. But the international Trust Bank or IntrustCo which used to handle LISCR funds locally in Liberia is not owned by Americans. In fact, its name, corporate ownership and board members are all Liberians, with deep relations to the president.

George Abi-Jaoudi, President Sirelaf’s business partner

 

Fourth, the President is giving tax breaks to questionable companies in Liberia, thereby undermining the revenue generating capacity of subsequent Liberian administrations after her failed regime. Of course, a nation or good government can give tax breaks. It is basic conservative economics philosophy. But why is President Sirleaf giving a 30-year tax break to a single hotel that is owned by her family and her Lebanese business partner, George Abi-Jaoudi?

For 12 years under her regime, she gave the Abi-Jaoudi Lebanese family a semi-monopoly on everything that has a profit margin: from eggs, rice, meat, drinks and fish to Nissan vehicles that supplied to government ministries and autonomous agencies. In addition, the Abi-Jaoudi family took over the supply of crush rocks during the construction of the Mount Coffee Hydro plant, something that poor Liberians supposed to do to earn a living in a nation and under an administration with poor private sector job creation record. These crooked behaviours do not happen in places like Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal etc. Even Liberians have problems opening businesses in other West African nations not alone a tax break of this magnitude.

Fifth, even though Liberia’s forestry sector has a long history of corruption, crime, and conflict, according to Global Witness, a German-based watchdog group, President Sirleaf and her administration have elevated that charge to a new low. Global Witness’ investigation revealed that all of Liberia’s large logging contracts are illegal on multiple counts:
1. 66 Private Use Permits have been issued covering 26,000 km2, over 23 percent of Liberia’s territory;
2. Some documents justifying the permits, including at least one of the private land deeds necessary for the Permits to be legal, have been forged;
3. People who own and live in concession areas were not properly consulted and were not able to change key contractual terms when told to sign their forests away. As a result, communities will receive only a tiny proportion of logging revenues; and
4. Companies and officials within the Government’s Forestry Development Authority have ignored a moratorium placed on Private Use Permits in February of this year by allowing new Permits to begin operating.

“People being defrauded out of their forest rights at this speed and scale is worrying. When you look at who the forests have been given to, it gets even more alarming,” said Jonathan Gant of Global Witness. “Atlantic Resources, a logging company linked to notorious Malaysian giant Samling, now controls 8 percent of Liberia’s land area through Private Use Permits despite owing millions in back taxes. Giving your forests to companies like that is not a sustainable investment.”

Folks in President Sirleaf’s circle socialize at a major dinner party as millions of kids starve

Sources familiar with the issue say these new licenses – termed Private Use Permits – contain no sustainability requirements and therefore would essentially allow companies to clear 40 percent of Liberia’s forests, including almost half of Liberia’s primary intact forests. The sad part is, this is quarter of Liberia’s total landmass that has been granted to logging companies by the Sirleaf and corps.

Sixth, when it was said that Liberia had potential for oil, the president and her administration made it a curse rather than a blessing for Liberians. According to many international groups, including Global Witness, even before a potential for discovery was made, there were deep-seated problems in Liberia’s oil sector: government officials and at least one company paid bribes; contracts were awarded illegally and companies with little experience in the oil sector received concessions., and of course, the president’s high school’s nephew from Anchorage, Alaska, USA became an oil consultant. To date, all the proceeds from those contracts disappeared along with the leadership of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). Where is NOCAL’s most knowledgeable Chairman today? Equatorial Guinea?

Seventh, the president and her administration have paid deaf ears and done nothing about the illegal occupation of Liberia’s land in the south east of the country by thousands of people from Burkina Faso. The people known as the Mossi tribe are largely based in Grand Gedeh and surrounding counties as loyalists of President Alassane Ouattara.

Unverified information maintains that the Mossi people are brought in southeastern Liberia by the current Ivorian administration as a deterrent against insurgency from Gbagbo’s supporters who are said to be living in Liberia as refugees. The sources also maintained that the presence of the Mossi people is known to president Sirleaf. This is a potential for future conflict because this illegal and foreign tribal group is building homes, establishing farmlands and having kids that will only consider Liberia their home without due process. What happens 20 years from now?

President Sirleaf socializes with elite Liberians while million of kids stave in the country

Now, the president is still not pleased with the level of potential conflict she has designed for the country. She is bent on tying the hands of the next Liberian president by rushing with artificial reforms, including that of the Civil Service for which she sent a communique to the corrupt and ineffective Liberian legislature.

According to the communiqué sent to the Lower House, the “Act” seeks to establish a civil service commission that will carry out the functions and mandates, and regulate salaries and allowance of all government employees on an equity grade level across government. While didn’t she do this over the last 12 years despite various criticisms and calls from Liberians and others in the international community?

The president’s goal is to tie the hands of her successor and to also put Liberia in another chaos as she did the first time when she supported Charles Taylor in destroying Liberia. Fortunately for her, she has a useless legislature that approves every bad deal she sent them because of bribery.

Despite of the many bad practices displayed by President Sirleaf and her administration, we hear no criticisms from the international community. In fact, some in that club continues to give her accolades and undeserved honours as millions of Liberian children stave and thousands of women die from child birth, and more women and girls are raped under her watch. These, of course, are the conflicting signal sent out to Liberians by the international community, as one of their own mortgages the country’s future for personal gains.

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Jones Nhinson Williams

Jones Nhinson Williams is a Liberian philosopher (born in Pleebo, Maryland County but hailed from River Gee County) firmly educated by the Catholic Church. He is an American trained public policy, labor market information, strategic management, and workforce development professional with accomplished global experience in job creation and institutional governance.

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