Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fire killed 7 Liberian in South West Philadelphia

(Philadelphia, PA) A fire described as “tragic and terrible” on Friday night (December 27, 2008) killed 7 Liberians and left several others wounded with conditions ranging from critical to serious. According to Harris Murphy ‘who escaped from the fire in the basement of the town home, all of the victims were very confuse and terrified when they found out that the fire had blocked their only exit to the town home basement. When asked how he escaped, Mr. Murphy said he used his 13 years fire escape training strategy which his colleagues refused to use. Murphy said after he realized that the fire was fully blazing to the only and main exit to the basement, he (Murphy) determined that their only option was to apply the technique he applied. Mr. Murphy said he asked everyone to go in the bathroom and drop in the bathtub for few seconds. He said every one in the basement ran in the bathroom but refused to get out of the bathroom. Mr. Murphy said he dropped in the bathtub and had his clothes wet to help delay fire getting to his skin while elbowing his way out. As Mr. Murphy narrated his story, crying voices of sympathizers, family, & friends increased from the crow surrounding him. Most parts of Harris Murphy’s head and hands were bandaged as he narrated the horrifying moment he survived. He said while at the hospital, several local and international journalists talked to him from his hospital bed. Most of the journalists that came from the accident scene could not believe that someone escape from the basement of the town home. Murphy said he was later asked to help identify some of the burned bodies in the hospital. He said of the seven bodies, he could only identify his closest friend “Henry Gbakoloi Ward”, whom many considered a brother to Harris Murphy. According to Mr. Murphy, the fire started in the basement of the town home where a mini restaurant was operated by a Liberian lady by the name of Chris Teah. The building was a three story apartment building occupied by renters from Liberia. According to the eyewitness who narrowly escaped death, the fire came from a kerosene heater that was used to provide heat for the basement’s mini restaurant. He said a strange blast came from the heater which started the fire. After the fire started forming blaze, it reached to a gallon that had kerosene in it. The restaurant owner, “Chris Teah” took the kerosene gallon and decided to run upstairs with it. In the process, kerosene spilled on the floor of the basement of the town home. The town home basement according to Philadelphia fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers did not appear to be equipped with smoke detectors. The commissioner said they did not found any smoke alarms at all, which they are very sadden by.
The owner of the Basement “Chris Teah” is among few of the survivals of the tragic accident. According to eyewitness Harris Murphy, Chris Teah needs a serious psychological evaluation after leaving the hospital. He said three of the children that died in the fire were Teah’s grand children and from what I (Harris Murphy) witnessed Teah display at the hospital last night, she will definitely need serious counseling.
According to CNN, Six of the victims- three adults, a teen and two children were found in the town home’s basement huddled together. A 2 year old boy who was pulled from the burning house by Philadelphia firefighters was later pronounced dead at the Philadelphia children hospital pushing the total number of death to 7.
Early clues suggest a kerosene heater may have started the blaze. The Philadelphia fire marshal has not officially determined the cause of the fire.
During my one hour visit to the tragic scenes, I briefly spoke to some members of the Liberian Community association in Philadelphia. One of the officials who was only identify as Jacobs, informed me about an urgent meeting scheduled for Sunday December 28, 2008 at a church few yard away from the accident scene on 65th street and elmwood avenue in Southwest Philadelphia. When Jacobs was asked about the planned role of the Liberian community association in Philadelphia, he said you are invited to the meeting tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A rejoinder to Aloysious T. Togba’s allegation

By: Sam K. Zinnah

(Clayton, Delaware) Mr. Togba or PMP, am not quite sure what you are trying to portray here. Are you telling me or other Liberians that we don’t have the right to know who’s stealing from Liberia?
From my understanding as a human service major student, media institutions are not suppose to be cheering squad for any administration. For decades, most Liberian media institutions served as cheering squad for government but from what we are seeing now, things are changing and those changes are becoming worrisome for close minded people like you “Mr. Togba or MP”. In an effervescent Democracy, media institutions serve as mouthpiece for the massive. These institutions are used to inform the public about the good or bad work of a seating administration to help the voting public decide how to cast their next ballot. This has been the complete opposite in the case of Liberia over the past decades or centuries now. For your information, FPA has gained the credibility that most Liberian news Medias has not reached since their establishment.
One good thing we now know about so-called government sensitive information is that it has always been fully loaded with criminal activities ranging from economic looting to threesome sex scandals. How can a sound minded person tell the whole world that an audit report loaded with corruption scandals is “sensitive information”? Am not even sure this “Togba” name is real. This name is probably used by some of those that have find their legs caught in the corruption webs.
The role FPA is playing now is one of the many opportunities that were promised to Liberians during the 2005 campaign by the Elle Johnson Sirleaf team. We were promised that we will have free and transparent administration. It was even based on this pillar that officials and nominees were asked or required to declare access prior to confirmation (for those positions that required confirmation by the national legislature). So, for someone like you to come out now swinging at a news media considered by most Liberians and the international community as “Liberia’s CNN”, raised serious doubt about the name you seem to be hiding behind. One of the good things we are enjoying about free world press now is the availability of advance technology.
I see your attack on FPA as the beginning of the smell of what lies ahead of the Knucklesgate II scandal. According to sensitive information I have on hand, the head of the so-called “hand-picked” Dunn commission “Professor Dunn” is currently in queue as one of the many applicants for the consultancy of the governance Reform Commission (GRC). The very administration that Professor Dunn is charged with investigating is responsible to approve or deny applications for this lucrative contract. What would any sound minded analyst predict as the future or the outcome of the “Dunn Commission”.
Ahead of the “handpicked” Dunn Commission, I have used my personal technical skills to conduct my own investigation. I hold a diploma in computer network engineering technology from the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT) in Ghana. I also attended the Cittone Technical Institute in Pennsylvania, where I did software engineering prior to transferring to Delaware Technical and Community College in Delaware State where I later change my major to human services.
For your information, all communication sent from your email account can be verified by what is referred to as IP address. From the various emails from Mr. Knuckles’s yahoo account, there are huge inconsistencies about statements he made after the chain of email was released by FPA. Let me hold back for now until the official reports are released by the Dunn commission.
Mr. Togba or PMP, from now onward, we will not keep quiet. We will talk & write until rights overcome wrong in Liberia.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Committed UN Police Force Needed to Strengthen Liberia National Police

By: UNMIL News

UN Envoy Ms. Ellen Margrethe Løj has said that in addressing the challenges in strengthening the rule of law in Liberia, UNMIL still needs a committed police force to continue to build the capacity of the Liberia National Police (LNP). She made these remarks during a ceremony to honor the Nepalese peacekeeping contingent for their role in strengthening the rule of law in Liberia.
· The contingent has undertaken medical outreach programmes as well as building bridges and roads in Liberia. “These will all have an impact on Liberians as they strive for the development of Lberia,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) added. She urged the Nepalese awardees and all other UNPOL to “continue working hard to ensure that the Liberian police force develop the confidence they need to take up the baton as UNMIL departs.

In Economic Sabotage Case: Bryant’s Poor Health Obstructs Hearings
(The Parrot, The News)

· Hearings into the economic sabotage case involving five former officials of the erstwhile National Transitional Government (NTGL) yesterday failed to proceed due to the poor health of one of the defendants, former NTGL Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant.
· The Judge of Criminal Court “C” Emmanuel Kollie however said the trial would resume Friday and hoped the defendant would have recovered and will be in court. “The case was postponed because we cannot conduct this trial in the absence of any defendant who is a party to this suit,” he added.
· Recently, the case was again suspended when one of the defendants, Richard Devine, travelled to the United States on national assignment. The five former officials of the NTGL who are being tried on corruption charges are Edwin Snowe, Jr., former LPRC Managing Director and his deputies, Richard Devine, Siaka Sheriff; and G. Andy Quamie who were indicted in February this year for embezzling over US$1 million from the corporation.

“Liberia’s Prosperity Depends on Quality Education” … U.S. Envoy Says
(The News)

· United States Ambassador to Liberia Linda Thomas Greenfield says it is imperative for authorities, parents, students and everyone to note that the future of Liberia and its prosperity greatly depend on quality education. Ambassador Greenfield spoke Monday when she and Mrs. Grace Cavert Nelson, wife of United States Senator Bill Nelson of the State of Florida presented additional 20 scholarships to 15 girls from the June L. Moore Public School and five boys from Cecelia Dunbar Public School in rural Montserrado County.
· The scholarships were provided under the Ambassador’s Girls Scholarship Program (AGSP) funded by American taxpayers through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The 20 scholarships awarded to primary school pupils bring to a total of 5,796 the number of scholarships awarded under the AGSP since its inception in 2004.

‘Perpetrators Fired at Us’ … Claims State Witness in Timor Massacre Case
(The News, Daily Observer, The Inquirer)

· One of the survivors of the June 7, Timor massacre in Grand Bassa County, in which 14 persons were killed, Vanjah Francis yesterday told the court that their attackers fired at them with single barrel guns, AK-47 rifles and also used machetes and acid water to kill the men. Vanjah said the number of persons killed during the massacre were 21 out of the total of 47 persons hired to brush a farmland in the area.
· He said during police investigation, 45 bodies were recovered while the villagers later found additional six bodies. The witness said following his escape he arrived in Kakata and saw Senator Kaine with the alleged ringleader riding in a vehicle marked “Sen. 22” heading towards the crime scene.

Radio Summary
Local Media – Radio Veritas (News monitored today at 9:45 am)
Criminal Court “A” Denies Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by JPC
· Criminal Court “A” has denied the petition for a writ of Habeas Corpus filed by the Catholic Justice & Peace Commission (JPC) against the government on behalf of 22 Liberian deportees.
· In its ruling, the Judge of the court, Boimah Kontoe said the motion was dismissed on grounds that it was filed in two courts in violation of the law.
· The JPC recently filed parallel petitions before the 7th Judicial Circuit Court in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County and Criminal Court A in Monrovia.
· On Monday, the 7th Judicial Circuit Court in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County also dismissed the JPC writ of Habeas Corpus citing similar concern.
(Also reported on Star Radio, Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

UN Envoy Decorates Pakistani Peacekeepers with UN Medals
· Speaking at an award ceremony for over 3000 Pakistani peacekeepers serving in UNMIL, UN Envoy Ms. Ellen Margrethe Løj lauded them for going beyond their call of duty by providing humanitarian assistance to communities in the country.
· Ms. Løj said they have helped the Liberian Government and UNMIL in the rehabilitation of major roads in the country.
· Also speaking at the programme, the Head of the Pakistani contingent, Ghulam Murtaza reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to the peace process in the country and UN initiatives in the world.
(Also reported on Star Radio, Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

Liberian Deportees Want Consulate in Washington Withdrawn
· Liberian deportees from the United States are calling for the withdrawal of the Consulate at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, Mr. Christopher Nippy.
· The deportees claimed that Mr. Nippy refused to visit or give them audience to explain their cases but immediately issued travelling documents for their deportation.
· Recently 22 persons were deported from the U.S. for various crimes they committed in that country.
· They are presently at the Zwedru Correction Palace in Grand Gedeh County undergoing rehabilitation before being release to their families.

Education Ministry Purchases US$4.5M Primary Textbooks
· Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Education Minister, Dr. Joseph Kortu said the ministry has purchased 200,000 primary school books valued at US$4.5 million.
· The books which comprise reading, math and social science materials are expected to be distributed to schools throughout the country.

Star Radio (News culled from website today at 8:30 am)
Finance Ministry Vets Pensioners’ Payroll
· The Ministry of Finance says it is in the process of thoroughly vetting the regular pensioners’ payroll of government.
· In an interview, the Comptroller General of Liberia, James Boker said a lot of names exist on the payroll that should not be there.
· He indicated that the volume of the government’s regular pension payroll has swollen beyond expectation, putting the amount of names presently existing on the payroll at 14,000.

Truth Commission Investigates Allegation Against One of Its Commissioners
· The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) has ordered an investigation into allegations that one of its commissioners was a member of the defunct rebels United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO).
· The TRC mandated its Inquiry Unit to immediately investigate the allegations that Commissioner Sheikh Kafumba Konneh served as a major supplier of arms to ULIMO.
· Former rebel General Ofori Diah who made the accusation said the commissioner recruited him into the group during the 1990s.
· The TRC said the allegation is the second against the Commissioner saying it initially received a letter this year from a Liberian in the diaspora claiming that Sheikh Konneh was a member of ULIMO, a claim he has since denied.

Reports Speak of Brewing Tension at Guthrie Rubber Plantation
· Reports from the Guthrie Rubber Plantation in Bomi County say unknown persons have burned down the security post in the area.
· In an interview, several employees said the guard post was set ablaze on Monday by the men.
· The employees claimed that tension is presently brewing at the plantation as most of the plantation Managers gave abandoned the area
· One report said a company vehicle which was enroute to the compound was recently turned back by angry men.

Labour Ministry Launches Major Clean-up Exercise
· The Labour Ministry in collaboration with the Liberia Emergency Employment Programme has launched a major clean-up campaign of Monrovia and its environs.
· The Acting Coordinator of LEEP, George Saah puts the cost of the campaign at over US$70,000.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

UNMIL Public Information Office Complete Media Summaries


The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on Wednesday released its bi-annual report with concerns over the weakness in the criminal Justice System due to the absence of key personnel, and inadequate resources for essential rule of law institutions, including the Judiciary, the Liberia National Police and the Corrections services.
· The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu told journalists that the report covers human rights issues monitored by the Mission Human Rights and protection Section.
· Highlighted in the report are prevailing human rights concerns in the country, including measures being instituted to address them, and that these concerns also include challenges being faced in the criminal justice system and delay in making operational the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, and the prevalence of rape and other violence incidents.
· The report covers the period November 2007 to June 2008. According to the Mission, some challenges still remain despite steps taken by Government to address some of the human rights concerns.

New Rape Court Dedicated to fast track cases
(The News, Heritage, The Analyst, New Democrat)

· President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf yesterday dedicated a new circuit court, Criminal Court “E”, at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia to prosecute cases of rape and Gender-based Violence (GBV).
· Speaking at the dedication ceremony, President Sirleaf observed that governance and rule of law continue to pose challenges in Government’s overall effort to meet its development priorities.
· An Executive Mansion release issued in Monrovia said the President praised the Danish Government for providing the funds for the renovation of the court.
· She hoped the establishment of the court would help confront the increasing wave of sexual violence n the country

Deportees Sent to Zwedru Correction Palace
(New Democrat, The Inquirer)

· Twenty-two Liberians recently deported from the United States of America have arrived in the country.
· The deportees arrived yesterday and were immediately sent to the Zwedru Correction Palace in Grand Gedeh County.
· Speaking to journalists, Immigration Commissioner, Col. Chris Massaquoi said the deportees were sent to Zwedru to face further security screening and rehabilitation.
· The 22 Liberians including one female were convicted of crimes ranging from rape, drug abuse, assault, armed robbery, overstaying amongst others.

Violence Erupts in Nimba Again
(Daily Observer)

· [sic]Incidents of land disputes in some parts of Nimba County seem to be far from over as latest reports indicate another round of attacks. This time, the attacks took place on a farmland belonging to the Statutory Superintendent of Saclepea, David W. Queeglay. According to Mr. Queeglay, during the attack over 100 marauding armed men set ablaze his three rice barns and made away with an amount of L$36,000 and several other valuables. The attackers, he claimed destroyed whatever they met in their path and looted several heads of cattle and then violently cut down most of the 12,000 rubber trees on the farm. When contacted, Nimba County Inspector, Thomas Suah acknowledged that the county authorities were aware of the incident. According to Inspector Suah, the office of the Superintendent Robert Kamei has already dispatched a team of joint security personnel to the disputed area to conduct an immediate investigation and bring the situation under control.

Egypt Offers Training For Nurses, Midwives
(The Informer, The News, Heritage)

· The Egyptian government has offered eight scholarships to five Liberian nurses and three midwives to undergo specialized advanced training at the Egyptian National Research Centre in Cairo. According to a statement from the Egyptian Embassy in Monrovia, the beneficiaries are expected to leave Liberia December 15, 2008 to undergo a 25-day intensive medical training in Cairo.
· The Egyptian Embassy hoped the training would build the capacity of the health practitioners so as to provide good health care to the people of Liberia. At the same time, the Embassy said five Liberian students are expected to depart Liberia soon for Egypt to undergo various disciplines including agriculture, commerce, among others.
· The students, the statement said, would spend four years in that country studying at various universities after which they would return home to contribute towards the development of their country. The Egyptian Embassy also mentioned that three Liberians are currently in Egypt undergoing training in peacekeeping.

Radio Summary
Local Media – Radio Veritas (News monitored today at 9:45 am)
22 Liberian Deportees Back in the Country
(Also reported on Star Radio, Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

UNMIL Releases New Human Rights Report
(Also reported on Star Radio, Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

President Sirleaf Dedicates New Rape Court
(Also reported on Star Radio, Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

Popular Musician Accused of Atrocities Faces TRC Today
· Popular Liberian musician, Michael Davis alias Sundaygar Dearboy appeared before Liberia’s Truth Commission(TRC) to explain his role in the country’s decade-long conflict.
· The musician has been accused by several TRC witnesses of committing crimes such as rape and torture in Grand Bassa County while fighting with the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) during the civil conflict.
· Appearing before the TRC public hearings early this year, the commission’s first witness, David Saweh linked the musician to the rape and subsequent death of his sister.
· Mr. Davies has however termed their testimonies as “baseless” accusing a Commissioner of the TRC of staged managing the testimonies against him a claim denied by the TRC.

Criminal Court “A” Hands Down Ruling in Angel Togba Murder Case
· Criminal Court “A” will today hand down ruling into a motion file to dismiss the case involving Hans Williams and his Fiancée Mardea Paykue who are accused of killing little Angel Togbah last year.
· Lawyers representing the accused filed a motion on grounds that the state has failed to produce medical report on the case before the indictment.
· The State however said there were no laws that required such documents to be filed before the indictment.

16 Dismissed AFL Soldiers Stage Protest
· 16 officers dismissed from the Armed Forces of Liberia have staged a peaceful protest demanding that they see President Sirleaf.
· The soldiers were dismissed in September this year for what Defense authorities termed as “Gross Insubordination”.
· Reports at the time said the “disenchanted” soldiers of the 23rd Infantry Battalion of the AFL protested their relocation their apartments to accommodate more than 500 of their colleagues who had graduated from the Sandi Ware military barracks at VOA.

Star Radio (News monitored today at 9:00 am)
President Sirleaf to Deliver Major Policy Statement Today
· President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf today delivered a major official policy statement on corruption in Liberia.
· In a live broadcast statement the President outlined policy measures the government has already instituted to fight corruption.

Labour Ministry, American Bar Association Sign MOU
· The Labour Ministry and the American Bar Association’s sponsored-Africa Rule of Law Initiative have concluded a Memorandum of Understanding.
· Under the MOU, the American Bar Association would provide legal assistance to the Ministry.
· A Labour Ministry release said the two agreed to establish a framework to place an Attorney-at law in the ministry.
· The Attorney at-law will assist the ministry in the determination of Labour disputes in accordance with the country’s Labour laws.