Monday, July 06, 2009

Liberia's truth panel recommends banning Sirleaf from office

UNMIL Public Information Office Media Summary 06 July 2009
Source: AFP World News / English Date: July 06, 2009

MONROVIA, July 6, 2009 (AFP) - Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended Monday that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf be banned from holding public office for 30 years because of her alleged role in a civil war. In its final report, the panel investigating Liberia's successive 1989-2003 civil wars included Sirleaf's name in a list of people it accused of being "the financiers and political leaders of the different warring factions." "They (those named) should be banned from occupying public office for 30 years beginning the day of the passage of the report at the parliament," the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended. On the list, seen by AFP, the name of Sirleaf, who was elected in 2005, was present along with those of several members of her government, including Transport Minister Jackson Doe, the elder brother of former president Samuel Doe. In a hearing before the commission in February, Sirleaf denied ever being a member of the movement led by rebel leader and warlord Charles Taylor, who was president of the West African country between 1997 and 2003.
Prosecutors: former Liberian President Charles Taylor's list of defence witnesses is excessive
Source: Canadian Press Date: July 06, 2009
THE HAGUE, Netherlands _ The trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor could take up to four more years, if his lawyers call all their witnesses, prosecutors told judges Monday at a Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal sitting in The Hague. Taylor is due to begin his defence case next week answering 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone. Taylor will take the stand in his own defence on July 14, a day after his lawyers present their opening statement. Prosecution trial lawyer Brenda Hollis said at a hearing Monday that Taylor's lawyers have lined up an "excessive" list of 256 potential witnesses. However, the defence lawyers are not expected to call all the witnesses on their list to testify. Taylor's lead attorney, Courtenay Griffiths, pointed out that prosecutors listed some 200 witnesses and called 91. Griffiths told judges he has "no intention of being here another four years." Taylor is accused of arming and controlling militias from across the border in Liberia, where he held power from 1997 until he was forced into exile in 2003.

International Clips on West Africa
Ivory Coast's SIFCA seeks to double palm oil output
ABIDJAN, July 6 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's SIFCA group will double its annual palm oil output to 500,000 tonnes over the next three years with technical and financial investment from Singapore's Wilmar International, SIFCA said. It said that the increased output and the SIFCA group's purchase of its own ship to improve regional deliveries should help reduce the reliance on Asian imports while also easing a deepening shortfall in palm oil across West Africa. 'With this project, palm oil production from Palmci (a part of the SIFCA group) will increase from 250,000 tonnes to 500,000,' Palmci Managing Director Angora Tano told Reuters at the weekend. 'Wilmar will bring its techniques and experience in boosting production from plantations and reducing factory and refining costs to make the finished product more competitive for a growing market,' Tano said.
Local Media – Newspaper
Pro-War Crimes Court Group Wants Sirleaf, Others Resign
(The Inquirer, The Monitor, Public Agenda, Plain Truth, The News)

· A pro-war crimes court group, Forum for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court for Liberia (FORUM) has called for the resignation of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and others listed in the TRC final report.
· The Forum’s National Chairman, Mulbah Morlu believes the resignation will pave the way for proper investigation.
· The Group earlier endorsed the TRC final report, describing it as the best means for moving Liberia forward.
· According to the group, the collective merits of the Commission’s findings outweigh its misgivings about some of the recommendations.
· The group however disagreed with the granting of amnesty to people it considers active combatants who committed heinous crimes.
· The group pledged to advocate for the prosecution of active combatants who were given amnesty.
· Meanwhile, the Plain Truth reports that in a “survey” conducted by the paper, citizens say the President has lost the moral authority to govern and requested her immediate resignation.

TRC Commissioner Gives Dissenting Opinion over Recommendations
(Liberian Express, New Vision)

· A crack has seemingly emerged in the final verdict of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) with a dissenting opinion of one of its Commissioners.
· Commissioner Pearl Brown-Bull disagreed with the final report and declined to sign it claiming criminal prosecution and debarment as recommended runs contrary to the Liberian constitution and other legal instruments.
· She cited among other things an Act enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in 2003 granted immunity from both civil and criminal proceedings against all persons within the jurisdiction of Liberia from act or crimes committed during the civil war from December 1989 to August 2003.
· Meanwhile, the TRC’s Information Officer said that there’s nowhere in the TRC guidelines that all commissioners have to sign before a report becomes final.

Coalition of Civil Society Group Wants Legislature Reject TRC Report
(The Monitor)

· A consortium of civil society grouping, the Coalition for Peace and Tranquility in Liberia has called on the Legislature to reject the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) final report.
· The group in a statement described the TRC report as a political document targeted at rivals.
· The coalition said the consistent division among TRC Commissioners amounts to waste of tax payers’ money.
· They said the report will further divide the people of Liberia instead of helping to bring genuine healing and reconciliation.

ICTJ says TRC Report Vital But Not Last Step
(Liberian Express, The Inquirer)

· The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) provides a necessary foundation for Liberians to debate their past and address present and future need.
· In a statement, the ICTJ’s President Alex Boraine said the report was a necessary step but there was a need for additional measures to deal with Liberia’s difficult past.
· The ICTJ said an Independent National Commission on Human Rights, responsible for ensuring follow-up to the TRC's work, must also be properly organized and given the necessary authority.
· The International Centre for Transitional Justice assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse and has been working in Liberia since 2004 to support actors engaging in transitional justice efforts.

Consortium of Political Parties Frown at Delays to Enact Electoral Bills
(Liberian Express)

· A consortium of ten political parties in Liberia has expressed reservation over what they call the consistently failure and delay of the Legislature to enact the electoral bill ahead of the 2011 Presidential and General elections.
· In a statement, the parties made reference to the decision of the Senate to send back to the House of Representatives the Threshold Bill to additionally ensure that no county has less than two seats.

AU Summit Ends As Leaders Discuss Formation of Unity Government
(Heritage, New Vision, Liberian Express)

· The 13th ordinary session of the African Union has ended in Libya with a resolution to implement the Maputo declaration.
· The declaration called for the ten percent of the national budget of each member state to be allocated for Agriculture production. Leaders of the summit agreed to implement the decision.
· Meanwhile, the AU leaders have proposed the introduction of an African Union Authority to replace the African Union.
· The Authority, if approved, will provide for a President, Vice President and Secretaries, to coordinate affairs within Africa in a united manner.

Government Accuses UNMIL Of Drugs Trafficking
(Plain Truth)

· [SIC] Confidence between the Liberian Government and the United Nations Mission in Liberia appears to be sustaining manifold bruises with the former accusing the latter of drugs trafficking.
· The accusation comes in the aftermath of the use of over US$500,000 confiscated from a Nigerian businessman by government in 2006.
· The allegations are purported contained in an official Government statement forwarded to the House of Representatives committee set up to probe the matter.
· In the statement, The National Security Advisor, Dr. Boimah Fahnbulleh defended Government use of the money claiming that the alleged drugs found on the Nigerian at the time was stolen by an UNMIL Officer insinuating that there was a collusion between the officer and the businessman .

International Partners Support Bureau Of Immigration
(Daily Observer)

· The restructuring of the Liberian security sector has touched the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) with a flurry of international assistance in terms of capacity-building, equipment and other support.
· In a statement, the Commissioner of the BIN, Chris Massaquoi, said negotiations with partners aimed at “strengthening institutional capacity and tackling global migratory issues, particularly within the sub-region” culminated in support from the Dutch, French, American and the German Governments.

ICRC Dedicates Over US$15,000 Water Kiosk in Monrovia Suburb
(The Monitor, Daily Observer)

· The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has dedicated a water tower in the Crab Hole community in Duala outside Monrovia.
· Speaking at a brief hand-over ceremony, the Managing Director of the LWSC, Humbu Tulay, said the facility constructed at a cost of US$15,400 was done with support from the ICRC which decided to initiate a viable water project for residents in the area.
· The project was implemented by a Liberian construction company, Humbu Enterprises, under the supervision of Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC).

Local Media – Star Radio (culled from website today at 09:00 am)
President Sirleaf Not Embarrassed By TRC Report
· The Executive Mansion says President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is going through the TRC report and would comment appropriately.
· Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus Badio said the president had been in Libya attending the AU summit and is yet to fully read the report.
· President Sirleaf is among people listed by the TRC to be banned from public office for thirty years.
· At the same time, Mr. Badio says the President is not embarrassed by the inclusion of her name in the report.
· On calls for the President to resign, he said the Executive Mansion will not dignify the call and cautioned people that the ban remains a recommendation.

Pro-War Crimes Court Group Wants Sirleaf, Others Resign
(Also reported on Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

Coalition of Civil Society Group Wants Legislature Reject TRC Report
(Also reported on Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

LNP Training Academy Suspends Use of Firing Range
· The National Police Training Academy says it has suspended the use of its firing range.
· In an interview, Police Training Commandant James Hallowanger said the decision followed the digging of dirt from around the range by residents.
· Commissioner Hallowanger said the act was unsafe and would delay the training of officers of the Emergency Response Unit when it comes to the use of firearms.
· The Police Training Commandant disclosed the academy is also facing a serious land crisis saying people encroaching on the 100-acre of land given the Academy by the late J. C. N. Howard.
(Also reported on Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

AU Summit Ends As Leaders Discuss Formation of Unity Government

Truth F.M. (News monitored today at 10:00 am)
Consortium of Political Parties Frown at Delays to Enact Electoral Bills

Friday, July 03, 2009

Liberia commission recommends warlord prosecution

UNMIL Public Information Office Media Summary 03 July 2009
Source: AP Online Regional - Africa Date: July 02, 2009

MONROVIA, Liberia_Liberia's truth and reconciliation commission recommended Thursday that ex-President Charles Taylor and seven other former warlords be prosecuted for crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the West African country's civil war. The commission now will submit its recommendations to the country's legislature for consideration. It is not clear when it would start dealing with recommendations contained in the report. Liberia's back-to-back wars, which lasted from 1989 to 2003, sparked vicious factional fighting that killed an estimated 250,000 and displaced millions. Taylor, who launched the 1989 invasion, is on trial at The Hague, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in neighboring Sierra Leone. The Liberian commission recommended that he and seven other former warlords be prosecuted for offenses including "human rights violations, violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights laws, war crimes, egregious domestic economic crimes," the report said. Among those recommended for prosecution was Prince Johnson, a former rebel leader who won a landslide victory in the 2005 postwar election and is now a sitting senator.

Student finds determination to succeed
Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services Date: July 03, 2009
Jul. 3--Bernardine Okyne has come to Coastal Georgia all the way from war-torn Liberia thanks to her lifelong dreams and her steadfast determination. She is now a student at the Brunswick Job Corps, and while it may seem like she's a long way from home, she has made Brunswick her home and the people at Job Corps her second family. "They make you feel at home," she said, "They show you love and care and support." Okyne, 23, was born in Liberia, but fled to Ghana with her family when she was 6 years old to escape the Liberian Civil War. She now carries herself with the kind of confidence and strength of someone born to succeed. "Whatever happens in life happens for a reason. Never regret," Okyne said. She wants to be a neurosurgeon, and she has a firm path planned to take her there. Her dream of being a doctor developed naturally for her as a child growing up in Africa. "I'd see people in Africa, and if they had a brain tumor I would think, 'I wish I was a doctor so I could help them,'" she said. "I want to save lives and prevent suffering."

International Clips on West Africa
Sekou Conneh Is Treated As A Guinean
Jul 03, 2009 (All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- Reacting to public outcries relative to the reticence of the Liberian Government on the detention of Sekou Conneh in Guinea, former leader of one of the warring factions in Liberia, Information Minister Dr. Laurence Bropleh has set the record straight, saying that the detained Conneh is being treated as Guinean national and not a Liberian citizen. Saying that the Government of Liberia was concerned about his condition, he indicated that they (government) cannot do much because the former warlord is prominent citizen of Guinea. Apart from saying that he is a Guinean national, the Information Minister in the same vein noted that the Liberian government has not received any formal communication from the military government of Guinea, neither Ambassador E. Sumo Jones who follows the activities of all Liberians in that country.
Local Media – Newspaper
TRC Recommends President Sirleaf, Others Be Barred From Public Office for 30 Years
(Daily Observer, Liberian Express, Heritage, The News, The Inquirer, The Informer, New Vision, New Democrat, The Analyst, National Chronicle, The Independent, The Parrot)

· The Truth and Reconciliation Communication has finally released the listing of people recommended for prosecution and public sanction.
· Those recommended for prosecution include former President Charles Taylor of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Prince Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) and Alhaji Kromah of United Liberation Movement for Liberia (ULIMO) K.
· Others are George Boley of Liberia Peace Council (LPC), Thomas Yaya Nimely of Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and Sekou Damante Konneh of Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
· The TRC also recommended that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Senator Isaac Nyenabo, Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, Toga McIntosh Gayewea and Joe Gbala among others to be barred from holding public office for 30 years.
· The Truth Commission named Lewis Brown, Oscar Cooper, Coocoo Dennis, Cora Peabody, Emmanuel Shaw and Edwin Snowe as those who committed economic crimes.
· Former Maritime Commissioner under Taylor, Mr. Benoni Urey, Charles Taylor, Lonestar Communications, Firestone Corporation are also among people and institutions accused of committing economic crimes.
· Under its further investigation column, the TRC wants Daniel Chea, Peter Coleman, Cyril Allen, Siaka Sherif and others to be further investigated.

Senate Finally Passes “Controversial” Population Threshold Bill
(Daily Observer, The Informer, New Vision, The Parrot, The News, The Analyst, Heritage)

· The Senate has finally passed into law a compromise version of the controversial population threshold bill
· The Senate passed the bill at 40,000 provided no County has less than two representations in the House of Representatives.
· The passage of the threshold bill came as a result of over five hours of closed doors discussions by the Senate.
· A conference committee would now be set up to harmonize the two versions of the threshold bill passed by the both Houses.
· The House of Representative earlier passed the bill at 40,000 without a condition.

US Funds Renovation of Harper City Hall
(The Informer)

· Maryland County authorities have turned over the Harper City Hall to the Liberia Community Infrastructure Program (LCIP) for rehabilitation and construction works.
· The renovation which is expected to last for four months has already been sub-contracted to GILGAL, a local construction firm, to implement the rehabilitation and construction of the hall.
· During programs marking the turn over of the hall, LCIP’s representative, Heather Robertson said LCIP has rehabilitated nine administrative buildings in the country, and the project in Harper will raise the number to 10.
· She said administrative buildings in five other counties have been worked on by the United Nations.
· The renovation of the Harper City Hall is being done with funding from the United States Government.

New Transport Fares Released -Violators To Face The Law
(Heritage,The Informer)

· After months of confrontation between commuters and commercial vehicle drivers, the Government of Liberia has finally released new transport fares for Monrovia and its environs.
· Announcing the new transport fares at the joint news conference hosted by the Ministries of Commerce and Transport, Commerce, Minister Miata Beysolow said the new fare structure is due to the increase in the price of petroleum products especially gasoline.
· A gallon of gasoline is now being sold at a retail price of 230 Liberian dollars.
· In the new fare structure, from Central Monrovia to Paynesville Red-light is 45 Liberian dollars in taxi cab while from Monrovia to Oldroad is now 30 dollars.
· Acting Transport Minister Julius Caesar said the decision was taken in consultation with the Ministry of Commerce and Transport Unions.
· He said inspectors would be deployed to monitor adherence and warned, serious measures await violators.

Local Media – Star Radio (culled from website today at 09:00 am)
(Also reported on Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

Senate Finally Passes “Controversial” Population Threshold Bill
(Also reported on Sky F.M., Truth F.M. and ELBC)

Finance Minister on Liberia’s Fiscal Status
· Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan says Liberia is in a tight financial situation and that the country’s policy of cash based balanced budget was limiting expectations for spending in key sectors.
· According to the Finance Minister, Liberia has revised expectations in terms of Gross Domestic Products and export growth.
· Minister Ngafuan said while other countries have the abilities to borrow, Liberia is constrained to cut back during this period of the global economic slowdown.
· Minister Ngafuan said this was hindering development and key poverty reduction deliverables.

Governance Holds Retreat on Draft National Policy on Decentralization
· The Governance Commission today held a one day decentralization retreat for the House and Senate Committees on Governance.
· According to a statement, the retreat will explain key issues within the draft National Policy on Decentralization and local Governance.
· The statement said awareness on the draft decentralization policy will build consensus on the way forward.
· The policy came out of nearly three-year of nationwide consultations by the Governance Commission, key Government Ministries and Partners.
· The passage into law of the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance will eventually lead to a constitutional referendum in 2010.

Former President Charles Taylor to Begin Testifying July 13
· Former President Charles Taylor’s lead defense lawyer says his client’s testimony would be an integral part of the reconciliation process in Liberia.
· Mr. Courtney Griffiths said if the Liberian government is committed to promoting truth and reconciliation, it should pay attention to Taylor’s testimony.
· Former President Taylor is to give his account of the war in Sierra Leone on July 13.
· Though the testimony would focus on the Sierra Leone crisis, Mr. Griffiths also encouraged all Liberians to pay attention to what Taylor has to say.
· The Former Liberian President is being tried on eleven count criminal charges for allegedly supporting rebel forces in Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2002.