WASHINGTON, DC ––The West African nation of Liberia could lose significant international aid and development support in the coming years, as several international groups are wary about the country’s political direction.
Liberia holds presidential and legislative elections tomorrow, Tuesday, October 10. There are 20 presidential candidates and one of the political groups, the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led by former soccer star and Montserrado County senator George Manneh Weah and his running mate, Charles Taylor’s wife, Jewel Howard Taylor, is accused of being politically and financially supported by the jailed former Liberian leader and ex-warlord.
Charles Taylor faces 50 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in the war in neighboring Sierra Leone where he is said to have exploited the country’s diamond resources along with the late Corporal Foday Sankoh, the dead leader of the Revolutionary United Front’s rebels, an offshoot of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group.
According to unclassified international security briefing/report derived from international research, Taylor affiliated with several terrorist groups, including Osama bin Laden al Qaeda, in the blood diamond trade in Sierra Leone. One aspect of the report says the funds that sponsored the 9/11 hijackers and other terrorists came from the Sierra Leone blood diamond trade which Taylor facilitated when he served as president of Liberia and warlord, directing activities in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Veteran western investigative journalist, Douglas Farah, who first uncovered Taylor’s business connections to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, issued a groundbreaking report, titled: “Discovery of the al Qaeda Diamond Trail” that caught the attention of the CIA and the British intelligence services.
Farah first stumbled upon the connection between al Qaeda and the illicit African diamond trade a few weeks after September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington DC, while serving as the West Africa Bureau Chief for the Washington Post. Over lunch in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Cindor Reeves, a veteran of West Africa’s murderous underworld of diamond trading and black-market arms deals, described to Farah a safe house he had rented in the Liberian capital of Monrovia on behalf of a group of Arab diamond dealers protected by then-Liberian president Charles Taylor. These Arabs, he reported, were furiously buying millions of dollars of diamonds at above-market prices from rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. They had also put pictures of bin Laden on their walls and spent much of their free time watching videos of Palestinian suicide bombings.
Al Qaeda’s entrée into the West African diamond trade in the late 1990s was provided through Ibrahim Bah, a Libyan-trained Senegalese who had fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan and whom Charles Taylor had entrusted to handle most of his diamond deals. Bah arranged for al Qaeda operatives to buy all diamonds possible from the RUF, the Charles Taylor-supported rebel army that controlled much of neighboring civil-war-torn Sierra Leone. “The rebels used the cash from al Qaeda to buy the weapons. The stones gave al Qaeda a fail-safe way to hide its assets outside banks and other financial institutions,” writes Farah. “Belgian investigators later traced $20 million through a single account they believe was used by al Qaeda to purchase diamonds.”
Farah’s investigative work led to the establishment of the United Nations Special Panel on Blood Diamonds by then UN Secretary Kofi Annan at the urging of the UN Security Council. The panel conducted a thorough year-long investigation and analysis with conclusions that confirmed Farah’s reports. To read more about Farah’s reports, visit his blog on the following web link below: http://blog.douglasfarah.com/reviews/press-release.shtml
When political campaign kicked off in Liberia in July and August this year, both Charles Taylor and incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, two founding members of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), a rebel group that waged a sustained war in Liberia and later Sierra Leone, reconnected to support the candidacy of former international footballer George Weah and Taylor’s wife, Jewel Howard Taylor. This move is not going down well with many in the international community.
A former top official of the UN Panel on Blood Diamonds told Globe Afrique that “there is international determination to sanction Liberia because of Taylor’s active involvement in Liberia’s political process as well as his financial and political support for some candidates in the 2017 presidential and legislative races in the country.”
The top international official who chose to remain anonymous since he spoke in an unofficial capacity, said, “since Liberians are revealing to the world that they lack moral decency and common sense, the rest of the world stands with Sierra Leone where the citizens are cognizant of the difference between wrong and right.”
The official said, “I understand that Liberia has a wide negative gap in educational awareness and exposure than Sierra Leone and other countries in the sub-region. And the country’s leaders, and most recently the current president, have botched an opportunity of delivering the goods and services the people most need, especially support for early childhood education, adult literacy, and civic enlightenment. However, it still makes no sense for Liberians to reward criminals and their relations with valuable political authority and power.”
He said: “The outcry against Charles Taylor is an international indictment and concern for order and sanity. The mere fact that most Liberians believe that the international community is wrong in its work, or has no right to prevent Taylor from engaging in regional affairs in West Africa serves as a smack in the face to the global body. Therefore, we will ensure that Liberians suffer and face the occasioning consequences for whatever bad choice they will make.”
Several international institutions have currently ruled out Liberia for development assistance and collaboration due to endemic corruption in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration.
Apart from the Open Society Institute for West Africa (OSIWA), a unit of the Soros Foundation, almost all reputable global humanitarian private institutions such as the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation as well as several international foundations in Europe and Asia have all withheld interactions with Liberia in the past few years.
A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC said, “George Weah’s decision to associate with Charles Taylor and his selection of Taylor’s wife as his running mate is bad for Liberia.”
Adding, “the antics it shows are just plain stupid.” It shows Weah has poor judgment and lack the sophistication in understanding and relating to international trends. How can he run a country when he cannot decipher international implications?” He added, “Taylor’s wife might be a nice person but Weah would have chosen to run with someone more acceptable and far from the image of Taylor.”
Liberia, which already has an unemployment rate at an astronomical level, could face severe hardship if powerful international human rights institutions push for sanctions. Such action could prevent international investment and aid to the country.
Meanwhile, Weah who admitted to speaking with Charles Taylor a few weeks ago has backtracked on his previous statements, saying recently during an interview that he has no contacts with the former president whose wife has clearly said she and the CDC will reintroduce Taylor’s agenda in Liberia if the CDC wins tomorrow’s poll.
A UK-based Nigerian political science professor, Oladapo Aminu, said, “Liberians are their own worst enemies. They don’t know what they want and they are the first to always inflict pains and sufferings on themselves. Let them vote whoever they want and then live with the consequences later.”
Professor Aminu said, “the fact that many young Liberians are in the streets planning to vote for a Charles Taylor’s anointed presidential ticket shows to most people around the world the strength and weakness of the country’s educational awareness.”
Professor Aminu condemned outgoing Liberian president Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as “reckless.” He said, “the Liberian leader is an absolute failure and a negative historical impact on the efforts of African women who seek greater political involvement.”
“Her leadership of Liberia leaves nothing to desire. She expounded chaos after chaos,” he concluded.
Liberia will need massive international aid and development support as well as strong investment opportunities to keep the country from a breaking down. According to sources, the country’s coffers are virtually empty and its international credit rating appears to be sinking in the red.
In the last few years of President Sirleaf’s tenure, her government allegedly went on a massive borrowing spree from several clandestine financial institutions in Asia as well as took additional loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Funds for failed and non-existence projects.
Other ongoing or long-begun projects such as the renovation of the Executive Mansion (official home and office of Liberian presidents) have stalled and the funds unaccounted for. From 2011 to present, President Sirleaf has, directly and indirectly, requested and obtained an appropriation for the renovation of the Executive Mansion but as the funds are disbursed, the work remains undone.
Apart from Liberians living in the country, some Liberian citizens abroad would also feel the impact of the October 10 presidential election depending on the result. Presently, there are over 10,000 Liberians living in the United States in removal proceedings since their Temporary Protective Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure Status (DED) expired early this year.
The US Department of Homeland Security and the Trump administration have expressed no indication of renewing the program, not now and in the future. That means these Liberians in these immigration categories will either have to return home or find other means to adjust their status to live and work in the United States.
With poor social services, heavy congestion in the capital city Monrovia, and high unemployment, any attempt by international institutions to withhold much-needed support from Liberia will send the country into paralysis and Liberians will have themselves to blame.