Monday, December 26, 2011

A new novel "Concealed" published by Sang N. Kromah

By: Sang N. Kromah

My debut novel, Concealed
Designed By: Matthew Maniscalco & Sang Kromah (author)

Illustrated By: Matthew Maniscalco

When sixteen year-old Bijou Fitzroy and her nomadic grandmother leave New York City to live in a home in the sleepy town of Sykesville, Maryland, Bijou thinks she will finally be able to live a normal life and be like everyone else. This move will be permanent, and Bijou cannot be anymore thrilled. After years of being shut away by her grandmother, Bijou will finally able to interact with peers, make friends, go to school, and live like a normal teenager.

Moving around and being homeschooled definitely made it difficult to make friends, but there are other reasons for Bijou’s solitude. With eyes that constantly change from gray to green to a honey-coated shade of brown and an ability to feel exactly what other people are feeling, the concept of obtaining closeness is more of a fable than a reality. Although her eyes are beautiful, their constant shift in color instills a sense of fear within other people and causes them to look away. Bijou’s premonitions, blackouts, and semi-prophetic dreams of a faceless boy don’t help her social musings either. Regardless, she decides to attend the local high school.
Bijou is immediately introduced to Sebastian Sinjin, a quirky and unusually beautiful boy who doesn’t seem to belong in a high school in small town Maryland. Sebastian is also special. Instead of looking away from Bijou, he makes direct eye contact with her. And when he shakes Bijou’s hand something dark and familiar begins to awaken within her as an electric shock surges through her body. Bijou soon finds herself deeply attracted to Sebastian, who remains aloof and often acts like Bijou doesn’t exist.

Despite the pains of having her first real crush, Bijou makes friends quickly and excels in all of her classes…well, all except for Mythology with Mr. Jennings. Mr. Jennings’ class starts off great with endless discussions of djinn and how they conceal themselves from the human eye, but things soon take a turn for the worse when the stories of the mythical creatures begin to take shape in Bijou’s life.

Editor's note:

Rush now and grab your copy before it runs out!

Monday, December 05, 2011

The need for alternative county wide introspection in Gbarpolu County

                              By; Sam K Zinnah

The November 8, 2011 legislative elections results ushered in new breed of law makers in Gbarpolu County. The results changed the ways that people of Gbarpolu County are going to feel, listen, do things politically and relate to one another. Everyone I talk to during the political campaign expressed concern that the County was leaning toward a new political era. Their political friendship was being shaped by either political rhetoric or fallacies but some admitted that reality would set in after casing the ballots.

The feelings expressed were as divided as polling stations across the county. One thing voters were very passionate and united about was “change”. Subjects like road construction and development were discussed in commercial vehicles, market places, front and back porches, farm roads and drinking spots around the county. The idea that the campaign was very peaceful and that the electorates had something to contribute to the rest of the world by campaigning peacefully and hoping for a violent free transparent elections meant a historic shift not only in Gbarpolu County political but Liberia as a whole.

For Gbarpolu County, the November 8, 2011 marked a transcending moment of one of the many obstacles confronting the County. The ghost of painful political memories stand buried. The coming years are likely to be auspicious for political actions and countywide renaissance as sign by the incumbents’ response to the elections results. In my opinion and political view, the time has come for Gbarpolu County to force the hands of history for its own good.
The outcome and incumbents response to the November 8, 2011 elections must give Gbarpolu County a pause and reasons to re-evaluate its political future, monitored the next years to come and strategize the next course of political actions.
As to the orderliness, fairness, credibility and transparency of the electoral process, it was in this case, unlike other pre-war instances, very objective. To underline the fairness and transparency of the process, the ruling Unity Party, in Gbarpolu County, lost three of the four legislative seats to the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

True enough, if the process was compared to the 1985 and 2007 undertakings which were fraught with overt and gross irregularities, the results would be far different. What stands more laughable is the electoral credibility factor raised by opposition CDC. As transparent, peaceful and fair as the electoral process was, and as welcomed as CDC convenience factor was, the allegations of CDC ascertaining the credibility and validity of the electoral process in which they (CDC) won 15 legislative seat nationally and three legislative seat out of four in Gbarpolu County and kept the seats won while alleging that the electoral process was not fair, clearly expose their political motives.

When legislative elections results were announced, it was clear that the entire incumbent lost their legislative seat in Gbarpolu County. The losers accepted the results and congratulated the winners in that there were no protests or rejection of any results.
It was clear that the dignified people of Gbarpolu had spoken through the ballot box. What I quickly said to myself was “it would be a dreadful mistake to move on to doing business as usual without closely looking at events and analyzing the anger that brought about the recent political change in Gbarpolu County”.
Mr. Sam K. Zinnah
Frankly, this time should be used for alternative county wide introspection; not a moment for cross and unbridled triumphalism despite the deep political divide in the County. Maybe some political opponents have been under or mis judged in the past. The next six or nine years will provide the new breed of law makers the opportunities to move the county in the direction they portrayed during their political campaign. Six or nine years may sound like a century but in the twinkle of an eye, we will be back to the ballot box to be evaluated for our campaign promises and to be politically rewarded. If the newly elected law makers fail to address the obvious and not-so-obvious pitfalls on which their campaign were based, they too should be prepared for similar and even more dissembling political actions against them at the ballot box comes the next elections.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In Liberia, Scratch card scammer exposed, but helped by police to escape justice

By: Sam K Zinnah
Law enforcement officer, State of Delaware

On Thursday September 29, 2011 at approximately 7: 15 pm local time, scammer Alfred Wenyu, the man believed to be behind the major scratch card scamming in Liberia was caught right handed in another attempt to scam one of his many victims. Mr. Sam K Zinnah who was previously scammed by Alfred Wenyu on September 16 and 17 was already on the alert for the suspected scammer.

How he scammed me

On September 16, 2011 while returning to Barnersville, I received a phone call from a lone star cell number “0880978527”. After answering my phone, the caller introduced herself as Senator Gloria Musu-Scott and thanked me for the rating given the government of Liberia during my interview on ELBC radio on September 15, 2011. The caller said she was on her way to Gbarpolu County to campaign for Unity Party. At that point we ended the conversation and terminated the phone call. Few minutes later, I received a phone call from the same lone star cell number “0880978527”. This time, the caller said “Mr. Zinnah, this is Senator Musu-Scott again, I need a favor from you. Am in Gbarpolu County campaigning but I just ran out of scratch card and would like for you to send me $20.00 scratch card or transfer”. I understand you have a meeting with Senator Naatehn on Monday. He invited me to that meeting also. I will pay your money after the meeting. Without hesitating, I immediately call my nephew and instructed him to send the $20.00 scratch card to the designated number “0880978527”.few minutes after my instruction, the scratch card was electronically transferred to the designated number.

On the morning of September 17, 2011, I received another phone call from a 0777201575 number. The caller introduced herself as Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris and said “Mr. Zinnah, this is Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris, the head of the anti-corruption commission. I’m in Gbarpolu with Senator Musu-Scott on the campaign trail. We were together last night when you sent the $20.00 transfer to her phone. I too just ran out of scratch card, please send me $20.00 card, I will pay you back when I return to Monrovia on Monday morning”. Again, I instructed the transfer of $20.00 scratch card to the designated number “0777201575”. The transfer was made and confirmed by the recipient. On the evening of September 17, 2011, I discussed the transaction with a government official who happens to be Cllr. Johnson-Morris’s former work mate at the NEC who dismissed the possibility of Cllr. Morris asking for scratch card in such dubious manner. The NEC official informed me that I was a victim of scam.

It was at this point that I became to organize my puzzle to enable me prepare my plans to capture the scammer. On the evening of September 18, 2011, I attempted calling the two suspicious numbers from another phone number. After dialing the 0880978527, the phone rang twice without respond. I hung up and dialed the 0777201575 number. Again, the phone rang twice without respond. After the two attempts, I was at least sure that the numbers were working numbers. On Monday morning (09/19/2011, I drove to Lone star offices to inquire about the process of getting information on any active phone number(s). I was told to file the case with the Liberia National Police who will then order the phone company to release information about the allege phone numbers to a competent court of jurisdiction.

Determined to capture the scammer, I left the lone star office and drove to The Liberia National police headquarters. Upon arrival at the LNP headquarters, I went to the front desk and explain the transaction to a female police officer who then directed me to the second floor CID division. I went upstairs and met with a plain clothes officer who asked me to explain the transaction to him. Again, I explained the transaction to the CID officer. I was sent to another room on the same second floor where I was again asked to explain the case/transaction to another plain clothes officer who was sitting behind the desk with a huge ledger-like log book. I for the third time explained the case or transaction to the officer who later told me to return to the first “CID” room to register the case. I returned to the first room and was place in the queue where I sat for almost 15 minutes without talking to anyone.

After 20 minutes, another plain clothes officer appeared in the office and sat behind the desk with a big ledger like log book. The plain clothes officer asked, “sir, why are you here”? for the fourth time I explained the transaction to the officer who later told me that I had to go to the Barnersville police station to file the case. Frustrated about the handling of the case, I decided to design my own strategy to capture the suspected scammer.

I left the LNP headquarters and return home. While strategizing the capture of the scammer, another call came from the same 0880978527 number. Again, the caller claimed to be Senator Gloria Musu-Scott but this time in Nimba County with the President. She said “Mr. Zinnah, I’m campaigning in Nimba with president Sirleaf. Please send me $20.00 scratch card”. I told the caller that my phone was experiencing some technical problems but I was still willing to help. The caller said “thank you so much” without even asking or knowing how I was going to help. I said to the scammer “my friend Mary Broh is also with the president in Nimba, I will call and ask her to transfer the requested scratch card to your phone”. The caller immediately rejected the offer and said “oh! I’m not in the same group with Mary Broh, I’m in another village with the president but that’s ok, we can do it another time”. My relax tune of conversation gave the caller no clue about my plans to capture him and have him place behind bars.

How he was captured

On September 29, 2011 at about 2 o’clock local time while touring Monrovia city hall, I received a call from 0776853290. The caller introduced himself as Alfred Wenyu “the blind musician”. He said “Mr. Zinnah I’m a blind musician scheduled to travel to Ghana over the weekend. I’m looking for donation to help with my trip. Is there any way you can help?” deep down in my heart, I was convinced that the caller was my target. Relaxed and very confident, I expressed interest in providing some help or donation for the caller’s trip to Ghana but suggested to see him in person to deliver some other items I would also like to donate to him from the U.S. I asked him to direct me to his house to drop off the donation but he became a bit insecure and suggested that he instead meet me at a location other than his home. To give him more assurance or security, I accepted his suggestion but he immediately hung up and put his phone on 21 (to inform callers that his phone is switched off but in actuality, he will receive message for every miss call). I attempted calling him several times but all effort to reach him was not successful. At about 5:25 pm I sent him a text message that read “sir, am trying to reach you to give my contribution but your phone is switched off. I will be going out of town in the next 20 minutes and might not come back until after the elections”. Less than a minute after the text message was sent, Alfred Wenyu called back and asked “where are you now?, I gave him my location and advised him to meet me at the lone star gas station in Jacob town. He said “ok, let me ask motor bike to bring me there”.

I arrived at the gas station and anxiously waited for the arrival of Alfred Wenyu. Few minutes later, a dark skin, skinny criminal looking guy with kids eye glasses arrived on a motorbike and parked in the gas station. He pulled out his old bonanza phone tied with rubber stripes and attempted to call me. I walked to the motorbike and introduced myself to him as Mr. Zinnah. I held his right hand and assisted him to get off the bike. After successfully getting on the ground, Wenyu pretended as if he was a blind man. I held onto his right hand and guided him to the table where he sat while I order a drink for him. The order for cold fanta was placed for Mr. Wenyu who sat and covertly watch me with one eye while I walked around for his cold drink.
The cold fanta was served. Mr. Wenyu took the first drag out of the battle and lay back in the white plastic chair to help settle his thirst. I pulled a nearby chair and sat close to Mr. Wenyu and took a deep breath. My first question to him was “sir, how did you get my number?” he responded by saying “from somebody”. At that point, the suspicion was heating up over his head. My second question to him was “sir, where are you from?”, he responded “my mother is from Gbarolu County””. When asked what was his mother’s name, Alfred Wenyu murmurs his mother’s name and said “you know I just came from campaigning in Gbarpolu. At this point, I was one hundred percent convinced that I was sitting with the man who have succeeded in scamming hundreds of people in Liberia over the past years.

Being so confident that my hands were on my most wanted man, I decided to break the news to Alfred Wenyu. I said to him “sir, I was duped twice few weeks ago by a scam network believed to be operated by you, we can either find a mutual solution to it right here or take it to court where I will present all the evidence against you and be left with the judge to sentence you to jail”. I instructed Wenyu to wait for me at the table while I talk the motorbike man that transported him to the gas station. I slowly approached the motorbike rider and confronted him with the issue. I asked him to talk to his colleague to either tell the true or they both face the full weight of the law. The motorbike man agreed to negotiate the deal. While the two suspected criminals were discussing, I immediately alerted the Jacob’s town police with the help of the Jacob town community leader “Mr. Tokpa” who was at the Lone Star gas station during the incident. When police arrived at the gas station, they questioned Alfred Wenyu who agreed to being the guy behind what is believed to be Liberia’s biggest scratch card scam group. When taken to the police station in Jacob town, Alfred Wenyu confessed to the police and asked for pardon based on his blind condition. I said to Alfred Wenyu, “sir, we are not trying to prosecute you because you are blind, we are trying to prosecute you because you are a suspected criminal”. Wenyu was ordered by inspector Bacuba Jallah to remove his shade from his face. I stood few inches from Wenyu to observe or authenticate his claim of being blind. Wenyu refused to remove the shade from his face and argued that the breeze affects his eyes without the shades. Inspector Bacuba Jallah removed the shade from Wenyu’s face and it was noticed that Wenyu’s left eye is damaged while his right eye was shinning like a bright star. To test Wenyu’s vision, I attempted to poke his right eye with my right hand, Wenyu quickly dodge my hand and took a step backward from where I stood. We were all convinced that Wenyu was not telling the true about his condition.

After Wenyu failed the vision test, Inspector Bacuba Jallah ordered one of the female officers at the station to take statement from both the complainer and the defendant. At this point, I confiscated suspect Wenyu’s cell phone and decided to check his call and other activity logs in his phone. In his incoming call log, I saw calls that I had placed to him prior to our meeting that led to his capture or arrest. My next stop in his phone was his phone book/contacts. In here, shocking contacts were seen. Some of the names I can still vividly recall were: President Sirleaf, H.B. Fahnbulleh, Joseph Boakai, Senator Daniel Naatehn, Senator Musu-Scott, Hon. Frances Johnson Morris, Senator Barlue, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, Mr. Robert Sirleaf, & Senator Momo. Determined to get the source(s) of Wenyu’s data collection, I moved my search to his text messages box. I discovered text messages from different lone star phone numbers to Wenyu. The question that came to my mind was “why lone star numbers only?”. From one lone star number, a number was text to Wenyu without name. Few minutes after the text was sent, the sender noticed that the number was not named. The same number was resend this time with name to identify the number. The number read “06…… and was named H.B. Fahnbulleh. After figuring out the intent of the message, I was convinced that Wenyu was operating with external help.
Wenyu’s incoming text message box was jammed with transfer messages received from different phone numbers with transfer amount ranging from USD$5.00 to $20.00. One of the numbers I identified was that of Cllr. Jerome Korkoya of The Dunbar &Dunbar law firm and also a representative aspirant in Bong County. At about 8:00 pm local time I placed a call to Cllr. Jerome Korkoya to ask him whether he had been dubbed by any scratch card scammer. At the top of his soft spoken voice, he answered in the affirmative, “yes!” He (Cllr. Korkoya) in turn asked, what happen Sam?, I said to him, “Sir, I’m also a victim but I got hold of the guy and we are currently at the Jacob Town Police Station. I asked Cllr. Korkoya, “how much did you transfer to him?” he said he transfer $60.00 total to the scammer before realizing that it was a scam. I asked Cllr. Korkoya to text me the number he transferred the credit to. In less than a minute he text me a number 0880978527 which matched the number used as Musu-Scott to scam me. When asked Cllr. Korkoya what name was used during the transaction, he said the caller posed as Senator John Barlue and that he (Senator Barlue) was stranded on the highway.

Cllr. Korkoya was very excited about the apprehension of the scammer but said he could not make it to the police station because he was in Bong County. He promised to follow up on the case upon his return from Bong County after the elections.
After concluding with Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, I called Senator Musu-Scott who was also campaigning in her County. She too was very interested in the details of the story.
I completed my few contacts and got back to the female police officer who was ordered to take statement from me and Wenyu. I prepared my statement and presented it to the officer in charge. Again, I pulled out my cell phone and this time, placed a call to True FM. I spoke to Chris Salee and broke the news to him about the capture of the man believed to be behind the scratch card scam group in Monrovia. I was interviewed live during the 9:00 o’clock pm news hour on True F.M. After the news, calls began pouring in from Alfred Wenyu’s victims from different parts of Monrovia.

Evidence beyond reasonable doubt

On the morning of September 30, 2011, I returned to the Jacob Town police Station and ask for two police officers to escort me to the suspect’s house. CID commander Stephen McClain and CID officer Ballah along with the motor bike driver and suspect Alfred Wenyu escorted me to the suspect’s house. Upon arrival to the suspect’s house, we identify a lady claiming to be the suspect’s girl friend. Suspect Alfred Wenyu, led by his girl friend, entered the room. Using his hands as guide to locate his bag, suspect Wenyu walked by the walls and reach out to the Colombo block window where his bag was hanging. He grabbed his bag and began searching in the smaller packets where he had his numeral sim cards. He pulled out three sim (subscriber identity module) cards and handed them to CID officer Ballah.

After suspect Wenyu handed the sim cards to officer Ballah, I asked suspect Wenyu, “do you have anything in here that we need to include in our investigation?” suspect Wenyu responded, “no”. I turned to suspect Wenyu’s girl friend who was sitting on the half inch filthy looking mattress and asked, “lady, do you have anything private in here that you need to get out?” she responded, “yes I do”. I asked whether it was money or something else. The lady said she had some money in the room that she needed to get out. I instructed her to get the money out.
While she was making effort to make her way to where the money was hidden, I asked, “who owns the money and how much is it?” the lady said the money in question was USD$385.00. Of the total, suspect Wenyu owned $100.00. I took out my pen and began jotting down information from both suspect Wenyu and his partner in crime. When asked about the rest of the money, the lady claimed the $285.00 was given to her by her uncle. She lifted the taint and grubby looking mattress and took out the money. I ordered her to hand the money to officer Ballah. When she did, officer Ballah counted the money in the presence of everyone in the room. The amount was confirmed by officer Ballah. With my pen pointing to my note pad, I asked her “what’s your uncle’s name?, she responded, “he’s Nathaniel Dahn”. Asked where was Nathaniel Dahn at the moment? she said Mr. Dahn was at work around the red light market. I again ask, “what’s your uncle’s contact phone number?” the lady said she did not have contact number for her uncle. My suspicion began gaining ground at that moment. I folded my note pad and said to officer Ballah and officer McClain “I think we can go back to the police station now”. Before exiting the room, I informed the suspect’s girlfriend that we were taking the money ($385.00) with us to the police station and that she should tell her uncle to contact the police station.

While on our way out of the house, we met an elderly man sitting on the front porch of the house. I greeted the man and ask “sir, do you live here?, he answer “yes”. I took out my note pad and ask “what’s your name sir” he responded “my name is Nathaniel Dahn” I compared the name to the one given me earlier by suspect Wenyu’s girlfriend. The name given by the man matched the one given by Wenyu’s girlfriend. Suspect Wenyu’s girlfriend ran to mr. Dahn and began speaking Gio while pretending to be taking something from the man’s right ear. CID officer McClain ordered the lady to stop talking and back off from Mr. Dahn. When the lady did step away from Mr. Dahn, I asked Mr. Dahn, “sir, did you give money to this lady?” Mr. Dahn responded “no, I did not give her money”. My suspicion and doubt about the statement taken from the lady were finally confirmed. The lady stood few feet away from us and stared at everyone with huge disappointment and guilt expressed on her face. CID officer McClain ordered the lady cuff. The silver looking hand cuff was placed on the lady’s hands while suspect Wenyu look on. The two (Wenyu & his girlfriend) were ordered to pose for a photograph. Officer Ballah photographed the two partners in crime. I too pull out my camera and took few snap shot at them for my personal record.

After the photograph, the lady requested to talk to me and the two CID officers. When she was granted the time to talk, she asked not to be taken to the police station because of some health complications she was faced with. She explained the nature of the problem and was released to stay home. Investigation continued with her boyfriend Wenyu. We proceeded to and boarded the car along with suspect Wenyu & his motorbike driver and headed back to the police station with the evidence collected during the search.

While in route to the police station, I asked suspect Wenyu, “sir, now that you and your girlfriend has given us conflicting statements about the money, what’s next? Are you ready to tell us the true? I further informed suspect Wenyu that I was very determined to expose his activities and to break his criminal empire. I further informed him that I was going to the phone companies to get his phone logs which would include the transaction of all the sim cards collected during the search of his room. Suspect Wenyu took a deep breath and said “ok, let me say the true, the scratch card or transfer I get from impersonating is what I sell to get money. I asked specifically if the $385.00 that was in the possession of the CID officer was raised from scratch card sale, Wenyu answered “yes”.

Upon arrival at the police station, we decided to authenticate the three sim cards collected from suspect Wenyu’s room during the search. Officer Ballah placed two of the sim cards in his personal phone. I went through my phone book and located two of the numbers used to scam me. I dialed 0880978527 (Musu-Scott), Officer Ballah’s phone (hosting the confiscated sim card) rang, thus confirming that suspect Alfred Wenyu was the man behind the scam operation that has victimized many Liberians including top government officials. After confirming the numbers, I asked CID commander Steven McClain, “now that we have the evidence beyond reasonable doubt to prosecute suspect Wenyu, what’s next?”, McClain responded, “we have all the evidence we need to prosecute this man, we will keep the evidence, transfer him to south beach (pre-trial) until the court decide the hearing or court date. We or the court will notify you once the date is set”.

Evidence destroyed by Police

On Monday October 10, 2011 I returned to the police station to check on the status of the case, to my surprise, I was informed by CID officer Ballah that suspect Alfred Wenyu was released. When asked what happen to the evidence, officer Ballah said “we give the blind man his money because it was not part of the investigation”. officer Ballah further informed me that the case was sent to the Paynesville Town Hall and that I should go there to check on the status. I stood by the police station, facing the soccer field near the Somalia drive and began profusely sweating. After few minutes, I returned to the CID office and asked officer McClain “sir, what happen to the $40.00 suspect Wenyu overtly agreed to getting from me by impersonating as Musu-Scott, who’s going to pay me back?”. Officer McClain responded, “The court will decide that”. Frustrated over the handling of the evidence, I turned around to exit the CID office. One of the officers asked me “sir, so what you get for us na?” I responded “do I look like an investor to you?”, their smiling faces quickly change thus matching my frustrated face. So, we became paste like ugly baboon but deep down in the officers’ heart, they collected their share of the $385.00 confiscated and pretended as if they return the money to the suspect.

Note: part two will be published if the alleged police station or officers respond.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

UNMIL Public Information Office Media Summary

[The media summaries and press clips do not necessarily represent the views of UNMIL.] Local News on Liberian Issues Behind Closed Doors – Ellen, Tubman Talk [Daily OBSERVER and New DEMOCRAT] • The standard bearer of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change, Counsellor Winston Tubman Tuesday met with incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf behind closed doors. • The meeting, which took place at the Trinity Cathedral on Broad Street, was aimed at achieving reconciliation to move the country forward. • The meeting between Sirleaf and Tubman, both Harvard University scholars and formerly of the United Nations was organized by the Dean of Trinity Cathedral, Dr. Herman Browne. CDC Plans Black Friday - Partisans Take Petro-Bombs Lessons [The New Dawn] • Reports have hinted that some members of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) are insisting on carrying out the party’s planned mass demonstration in Monrovia Friday, against official warnings. • This follows the cancellation of the one announced for Monday, November 14 during a news conference hosted by its standard bearer, Winston Tubman Saturday at the party’s headquarters in Congo Town. • The reports further indicated that some CDCians referred to as ‘Generals’ of the Monday November 7 uproar were seen at the party’s headquarters in various groups discussing the strategies for the demonstration at the community levels in order to confuse and subdue state security in their efforts to prevent them. • The “November 7 Generals” most of whom are ex-combatants of defunct Liberian warring factions, according to the reports, were seen conducting practical training for a select group of partisans in producing and targeting petro-bombs in various areas of the city during the planned Friday demonstration. CEMESP Welcomes Re-opening of 4 Media Houses, But With Caution [The New Dawn] • The Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) has said it welcomes the reopening of four media houses recently ordered closed by Criminal Court ‘A’ as a necessary action to promote peace and stability in Liberia. • However, CEMESP is concerned that the wording of the ruling suggests a limit to media reporting in the future. • The media group’s statement comes in response to a ruling by Criminal Court Judge James Zotaa in which he found the media organizations guilty of propagating hate messages, though he rescinded the petition to close the stations. • CEMESP considers the ruling as a gag order on the freedom of the media to freely report, and an inducement to other actors to continue censoring the media in Liberia, given that the media is prone to reporting issues of transparency and accountability that are necessary in the fight to curb corruption. CDC County Chairs Want Results Accepted [Daily OBSERVER, INSIGHT, New DEMOCRAT and The INQUIRER] • The 15 county chairpersons of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) have issued a statement calling on their leaders to accept the results of the just concluded run-off presidential election after the party leader, Counsellor Winston Tubman rejected them. • The county chairpersons want their leaders accept the result and push for a government of inclusion. • But party chair, Geraldine Doe Sheriff expressed no knowledge about the document. • She remarked “There must be an ulterior motive for doing that. Maybe they have been bought over by the ruling party.” Go and Sin No More – Criminal Court Judge Warns Media Houses [Daily OBSERVER, FrontPage, Heritage, IN PROFILE DAILY, INSIGHT, New DEMOCRAT, PUBLIC AGENDA, The ANALYST, The Independent, THE INFORMER, The INQUIRER, The New Dawn, The New Republic and The NEWS] • The Judge of Criminal Court ‘A’ has strongly warned proprietors of three local media houses recently shutdown by government for allegedly broadcasting “hate messages and misinformation” not to repeat such act. • Judge James Zotaa gave the warning Tuesday at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia when he ordered the reopening of POWER FM/TV, LOVE FM/TV and KING’s FM and CLAR TV, respectively following a week-long closure. • The judge instructed the Information Ministry to revoke permits and licenses of the three media institutions in case of a repeat of such act. • The judge ruled against the media outlets following series of conference hearings with them and state prosecutors at the Temple of Justice, but reserved punishment for the sake of free press and information. • Judge Zotaa said he was convinced having thoroughly viewed the state’s evidence, and concluded that the respondents did use their media outlets to disrupt public security, safety, general welfare, among others. It’s Official - Ellen Wins Run-Off [Daily OBSERVER, FrontPage, Heritage, IN PROFILE DAILY, INSIGHT, NATIONAL CHRONICLE, New DEMOCRAT, PUBLIC AGENDA, The ANALYST, THE INFORMER, The INQUIRER, The New Dawn and The NEWS] • The National Elections Commission (NEC) Tuesday declared incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and running mate Joseph Boakai of the governing Unity Party winners of the just concluded November 8 presidential run-off election. • The election was largely boycotted by the leading opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). • NEC through acting Chairman Elizabeth Nelson made the declaration in Monrovia during the pronouncement of final results of the polls. • The Unity Party received 607,618 of the total votes, which translate to 90.7 percent, while the opposition CDC obtained the total votes of 62,207 representing 9.3 percent. According to the NEC, a total of 694,412 votes were cast during the run-off. • International observers from ECOWAS, the AU and Carter Center have declared the polls as peaceful, free, fair and transparent. NDC Opposes Result - Says UP lacks mandate to govern [IN PROFILE DAILY] • "Liberia belongs to all Liberians, those at home and abroad, minorities and majorities alike, settlers and indigenes, all the same. However, unlike the past and having graduated from fifteen years of a bloody civil conflict in the search of democracy, no one group or groups of Liberians should ever be allowed again to govern our country without a popular and legitimate mandate from the vast majority of the sovereign people of Liberia – a mandate determined by genuine democratic elections, void of fraud, reflecting the expressed wishes and aspirations of the vast majority of the people," a statement from the National Democratic Coalition (NDC) issued in Monrovia recently indicated. • The NDC said fraudulent elections have always remained part of the principal causes for pushing conflicts in Liberia and other parts of Africa and stressed "that is why both ECOWAS and other peace building partners of Liberia, including the United Nations and the United States Government in particular, ought to be very sensitive to, cognizant of, and guided by this very important element as a matter of strategic positioning". • Hence, the statement said declaring Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf president under the circumstances amounts to a blatant disregard for the sovereign people of Liberia. • "This the opposition will not accept. Moreover, the international community runs a serious risk to do business with a minority group that is incapable of winning democratic elections, and prefers to grab power undemocratically, despite the huge financial resources and other strategic advantages that were available to it," the party said Reporters without Borders Writes Ellen [The New Dawn] • The international media group, Reporters without Borders has written President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf voicing concern about the fact that the second round of the presidential election a week ago was marred by the suspension of four opposition media and by violence against journalists covering clashes between police and demonstrators. • The group urged the President in its communication Tuesday to demonstrate a commitment to establish conditions that favor freedom of the press and opinion. • Reporters without Borders also want the Sirleaf-government to ensure that those responsible for the violence against the journalists are punished. Weakening multiparty Democracy? - CDC in Disarray as Leadership cooperates with Government [FrontPage] • Conflicting signals appear to be emerging from the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) over their standard bearer’s latest change of mind to recognize and cooperate with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party-led Government. • Reports say Ambassador Winston Tubman’s pledge to cooperate with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has sparked uproar among executives of the CDC as if the decision on his part was unilateral. Radio Veritas (news monitored at 9:45 a.m.) Court orders radio stations reopened • Three radio stations down by the Government of Liberia a week ago for allegedly broadcasting ‘hate messages’ during the run-off election, have been ordered re-opened by the court in a ruling handed down Tuesday by Judge James Zotaa of Criminal Court A who said he was pardoning the stations even though they are guilty. • He warned that their licenses could be revoked if they engaged in similar act again. • But the head of one of the stations, Aaron Kollie said the court’s action was a ‘miscarriage of justice’. • He emphasized that the broadcasters have done no wrong and will not heed the judge’s warning. Police advisor dismissed • Reports say President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has sacked the Special Advisor to the Liberia National Police Paul Mulbah for failing to perform the task for which he was appointed. • Mr. Mulbah, a former Director of Police is currently the Chief Executive Officer of one of three media institutions shut down by the government. Liberia gets status in tourism organization • Liberia has been admitted into the United Nations World Tourism Organization with Assistant Information Minister for Tourism, Aissa Bright who just returned from a tourism conference saying the move will attract international assistance to Liberia. UNMIL Radio (news monitored at 1:00 p.m.) Election contenders to get certificate • The National Elections Commission has said that a ceremony to certificate the winners of the 2011 legislative and presidential elections will be held next Monday at the commission’s headquarters. • The Acting Chairman of the commission, Elizabeth Nelson made the announcement when she declared President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf winner of the presidential election race, and asked all the contenders to make their campaign expenditure available to the commission. US urge Liberians to accept the November 8 poll results • The Government of the United States has called on political parties and their supporters to accept the result of the presidential election won by incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, even though the second round of the election was boycotted by the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change. • Meanwhile US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has congratulated President Sirleaf for her victory. International clip on Liberia Liberian Court Orders Reopening Of Closed Media Outlets A Liberian judge Tuesday ordered the re-opening of four radio and three television stations sympathetic to the opposition which the government shut down one day before runoff elections. The government accused the stations of broadcasting hate messages and spreading misinformation aimed at causing insurrection and disorder. Press Union of Liberia President Peter Quaqua, who was in the courtroom, says the judge, James W. Zota, did not make evidence available to the lawyers representing the media institutions. Quaqua says he views the action against the stations, and the subsequent court proceedings, as an attempt to frighten the media away from reporting critical issues in Liberia. “The judge ruled that the petitions filed by the Ministry of Justice and the Information Ministry were corroborated by the evidence the Ministry of Justice provided to the judge. Dramatically, that evidence was never produced in court,” he said. International clips on West Africa Ivory Coast Paris Club cuts Ivory Coast's debt burden The Paris Club of creditor nations said members agreed on Tuesday to reduce the Ivory Coast's foreign debt burden and said reforms underway should lead to further relief. The West African nation's creditors in the Paris Club agreed to reschedule the repayment of some of the country's debts over a 10-year period. Repayments of arrears on those payments were rescheduled over eight years. The informal grouping of creditor governments said in a statement that the measures would reduce the country's debt service payments and arrears due by the end of June 2014 by $1.8 billion. Of that amount, $397 million would be canceled. Ivory Coast is rapidly recovering after last year's disputed election reignited a civil war that killed some 3,000 people and displaced more than 1 million. "Participating creditors noted that following the crisis that the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire has gone through, the Government has quickly revived economic activity and resumed negotiations with the Paris Club," the statement said. Traditional chiefs take on Ivory Coast's post-war ills Could crowns, scepters and ritual sacrifices save Ivory Coast? Some of its traditional chiefs are seeking to help in the reconciliation of the long-divided country, but not everybody agrees. Sporting an enormous crown and a multicolored robe, Awoula Amon Tanoe, king of the small Ivorian tribe called the N'Zima Kotoko, is a man who parts the crowds, carried by strong porters to the sound of a sacred tam-tam. "His Majesty" presided this month over the annual Abissa festival of the N'Zima people, which drew thousands of visitors to Bassam, the former colonial capital which is close to Abidjan and renowned for its beaches. The theme for 2011 was "reconciliation". A career diplomat in his 70s, Aman Tanoe was named vice president of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CDVR) set up by President Alassane Ouattara at the end of September, after years of conflict in the West African nation. ****

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ICC, Not just Francophone Ivory Coast, come to Anglophone Liberia too!

By Bernard Gbayee Goah President, Operation We Care for Liberia While crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by a handful of individuals go unquestioned in Liberia popularly known as “Little America” amongst its West African neighbors, the International Criminal Court judges have given the ICC's prosecutor the go-ahead to open an investigation into post-election violence in neighboring “French Ivory Coast”. However, if the ICC should come to Liberia as a result of some kind of intervention only to concern itself with investigating post-election violence after the 2011 elections, justice would not be considered served to Liberia’s 15 years’ war victims. Few questions that must be answered are: 1.What if Post elections violence does not occur in Liberia during these elections period, will Liberia’s current war victim receive justice at all?? 2. Will the ICC have interest in investigating crimes committed in Liberia from 1979 - 2003? The above are questions that must be addressed and not just the investigation of post elections violence. The fact is there are war crime suspects in Liberia right now walking freely while victims of war pray for justice that may not come at all if nothing is done. Unlike Ivory Coast where evidence of war crimes are still under investigation, in Liberia, evidence shows Ms. Sirleaf played a central role in the planning, financing and directing of a war so brutal, so violent and so devastating that experts have labeled it one of the worst in modern History. Ordering the NPFL forces to attack the then overcrowded City of Monrovia shows the extent to which Ms. Sirleaf was willing to go in order to become president. The NPFL carried out her orders and thousands of innocent people were killed. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her accomplices must account for their role in the 15-year carnage in Liberia that claimed more than 250,000 lives, raped countless mothers, children, and wrecked the county’s entire infrastructure. This is the right thing to do, even if it means carrying out citizens’ arrest. After all, democracy is not an event to be observed only during the period of election or on Election Day; rather it’s a way of life. Even though her testimony at Liberia’s Truth Commission hearing proved otherwise, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has claimed consistently during these elections period that she had no role in the war that maimed and killed innocent people and destroyed the country’s entire infrastructure. She must be presented an opportunity to exonerate herself in a war crime court. If Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is responsible, as the evidence indicates, regardless whether such crimes were committed in Liberia or in elsewhere pre or post 2003, it would be a travesty of justice to have indicted former president Charles Taylor and removed him from office; but yet allow Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to remain head of state even though she also financially supported as well as ordered a rebel group (NPFL) to committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. If the people of Liberia and the rest of the world allow rape, torture and murder to go unpunished, soon there will be nothing left to protect. This is why it is important for the International Community to break the cycle of ignorance and untimely death by holding accountable those bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity whether in Liberia or elsewhere on this planet. And yet … surely, the United States of America and the United Nations could both help by standing with war victims in Liberia but … behold the US Ambassador to Liberia befriends Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf while UN peace keepers currently control the security of the country in which a war crime suspect (Madam Johnson-Sirleaf) runs the affairs of Liberia’s war victims. The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Lastly, with the help of France and the Ivorian people, the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have given the ICC's prosecutor the go-ahead to open an investigation into post-election violence in the French Ivory Coast. Let the ICC also come to the aid of war victims in Liberia. After all, Anglophone (Liberia) needs protection too. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Professor Alaric Tokpa outline his Campaign Purpose for the Liberian Legislature

By:Sam K Zinnah
Clayton, Delaware

The man who was once seeing languishing behind bars as one of the many political prisoners in the notorious Belle Yallah prison is likely to return as a representative of that part of Liberia.
Ever since his ascendancy to student politics in Liberia, Mr. Alaric Tokpa has had great interest in creating some form of good political governance through peace, unity, accountability and transparency not only at a student level but national level as well.
Few months ago, Professor Tokpa declared his intention to challenge Unity Party Incumbent Representative Dickson T. Yarsiah in Gbarpolu County Electoral District # 2. Professor Tokpa’s declaration is widely accepted and supported by citizens and residents of Gbarpolu County electoral district # 2. One elder said “this is long overdue, we will do all we can to support you”. Few days after declaring his intention, a website was launched by some of his many supporters in the Diaspora.


Born unto the union of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Tokpa on August 2, 1958, Alaric Tokpa came to prominence as a national student leader in the early 1980s and has since captured public attention as a consistent advocate for progressive social change in Liberia. From 1978 to 1979, Alaric served as Chairman of the Student UHURU Movement (at the William V.S. Tubman High School), the leading secondary school political party organization in twenty century Liberia. In that role, he agitated for the release of political prisoners (i.e. university student leaders, leaders of national political organizations – All Peoples’ Freedom Alliance, Movement for Justice in Africa, Progressive Alliance of Liberia) who were accused by the government of William R. Tolbert for organizing the rice uprising of April 14, 1979 in which about a hundred protesters were killed by the police. This led to a near encounter between students of Tubman High and the Guinean army in Sinkor, Monrovia. The neighboring Guinean army had been called into Liberia to back the insecure government after the mass protest.

In 1980, the year in which non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia overthrew the Tolbert Government in a bloody coup d’├ętat, he entered the University of Liberia and was immediately elected Assistant General Secretary of the Student Unification Party (SUP), the most prominent university student political party in Liberia to date. In 1981, he was elected General Secretary of SUP. In the same year, he became General Secretary of the Liberia National Students Union (LINSU). Through hard work and painstaking endeavors, he and his colleagues gave LINSU prominent places in the All Africa Students Union, the International Union of Students and the World Federation of Democratic Youth. And through his able and selfless leadership of a vibrant secretariat, the regional unions of LINSU were organized and effective opposition to the excesses of the military dictatorship was mobilized in the 1980s. In the absence of national opposition political parties to the military junta, the national student movement played the leading role of opposition to the military government and is on record for inspiring the campaign for military disengagement from politics in Liberia. For his part in the latter campaign, Alaric was to suffer prolong neglect and humiliation; but, because of that experience, he earns a special place in the Liberian political class today.

The banning of student democratic political activities in December, 1981 was mainly aimed at preventing him and his colleagues from eventually taking the leadership of the powerful University of Liberia Student Union which the dictatorship feared. Yet, this was to intensify his opposition to the draconian policies of the military dictatorship. Alaric led the advocacy and struggle for the unbanning of the student movement. Because of this, Alaric (then General Secretary of the Liberia National Students Union) was sentenced to the firing squad (January 1982) among four other national student leaders. That he and his colleagues were reprieved did not deter him from active opposition to military rule.

On suspicion of participation in the “underground publication”, REACT against the military, he and five others were subsequently banished to the maximum prison at Belle Yallah where he spent a year (1985) of hard labor. The truth is that he was a part of the defiant “patriotic pamphleteering” campaign, but the national security system could produce no proof. In reality therefore, his latter imprisonment was a continuation of punishment for opposing the oppressive policies of the military government, and also for his part in the campaign for democratic transition and military disengagement from politics. But he carries no malice or grudge due to past suffering and even thinks that prison life (because of the very small part he played in the struggle for the emancipation of his people) was a rewarding experience that money can never buy.

When war started in late 1989, Alaric was a master student at the University of Ghana. Upon graduation from the University of Ghana in 1990, he did just what many others could have avoided. He returned to Liberia in the midst of war and actively participated in the peace movement through the Campaign for Freedom and the Liberia Advocacy Group, which brought together the major civil society organizations in the country.
But no sooner did the notorious warlord, Charles Taylor come to power in July 1997 than it became clear that the country needed to go beyond the election of autocracy and democratize. In June 1999, Alaric launched the effort to form the New DEAL Movement, which is the only political party that organized and registered in Liberia under the oppressive administration of Charles Taylor. Today, Alaric is nationally acclaimed as the Founding Chair of the New DEAL Movement, Liberia’s only social democratic party which has led the efforts to bring together Liberian opposition parties under the banner of the National Democratic Coalition (NDC). Moreover, it is interesting to note that Alaric has continued to excellently blend the academic with the politician.

Accordingly, Alaric is former head of the political science department at the University of Liberia where he currently lectures as Assistant Professor. He has also studied and held teaching positions in Ghana and the United States. After the Liberian civil war (1989 – 2003), Alaric served as Civic Education Administrator (2006 – 2007) in the training of the new post war army, the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and was frustrated by the extent of executive imposition on the Liberian legislature in disregard for constitutional purview. In addition, he has provided consultancy for civil society organizations (i.e. Liberia Democratic Institute, Green Advocates, Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy) and INGOs (i.e. United Nations Development Program, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Irish International Charity - Trocaire) in the areas of training and research. Also, he is the National Investigator of Afro barometer in Liberia. Afrobarometer is a comparative series of national public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, markets and civil society in Africa.

Alaric has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Liberia and holds a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) in political science from the University of Ghana. He is currently pursuing PhD research (at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia) on Diaspora studies and thinks that the Liberian Diaspora has an important role to play in the reform and development of the Liberian homeland.
Alaric has remained consistent in the advocacy for concrete democratic change and believes that government should go beyond textbook economics and pay close attention to the basic needs of the people in order to be relevant. A believer in human rights, gender equity and economic justice, Alaric also supports the notion that nature has rights. His selflessness and long years of struggle for the democratization of Liberia has given him enviable connection with and Influence over the youth and grassroots communities. An adherent of the positive values in democratic politics, Alaric has the added advantage of being a descendant from the chieftaincy in his native homeland. He is therefore well schooled in the practice of consensus democracy.
Alaric is well known, connected and respected in the Liberian political class, civil society, business community and lager society. Ironically, despite his humility and widely recognized ability to serve, successive governments have hesitated to invite him into national administration due to his persistent advocacy for human rights, economic justice, social democracy and uncompromising stance against wide spread corruption.

Alaric has seen the rise and fall of several governments in Liberia. He therefore believes that until government refines itself, cling to democratic principles, and pursue people-center policies, instability and a vicious cycle of violence will continue to characterize Liberian politics. Thus, the core content of his electoral campaign for the representation of his people will be informed by town hall meetings, focus group discussions, and a survey of public opinion on the way forward. In view of its relative autonomy of executive prerogatives, he thinks that strengthening the legislature is a significant point of departure in the quest for governmental reform in Liberia.

Campaign Purpose for the Liberian Legislature (House of Representatives)

Vision: Improve social economic conditions and create better future for the children and residents of District Number Three, Gbarpolu County and Liberia as a whole.

Mission: To work hard for people-centered governmental policies and better public service delivery as well as the mobilization of the popular participation of district residents in decision making, implementation and the pursuit of development activities.

Current Aim: To secure support for electoral success in order to provide exemplary legislative service that will improve the quality of the Liberian legislature and positively impact executive and judicial functions for the purpose of bettering the conditions of the Liberian people.

Major Objectives
• To fight bad laws and support the formulation of good laws.
• To promote human and peoples’ rights as well as the rights of nature.
• To collaborate with other potential legislators for the purpose of promoting government reform and the improvement of public service delivery.
Specific Objective
Use mandate of people and legislative authority to mobilize residents of District # 3 in Gbarpolu County to find for themselves answers to five basic concerns:
1. Building of consensus on general needs of district
2. Building of consensus on the way forward
3. Achievement of agreement on how to make progress
4. Collective formulation of ideas on what can be done to improve conditions
5. Attainment of commitment on cooperation for the improvement of conditions

National Context

Since the establishment of the Liberian state in 1847, the legislature has essentially functioned as a subordinate of the executive branch of government, despite its constitutional powers and oversight of executive institutions. In post war Liberia, the uncritical attitude of the legislature toward executive appointments, the approval of bad concession agreements and the growing dissatisfaction with the national budget process as well as patterns of reconstruction, development, employment and public service delivery threaten to undermine the building of post war peace and stability. The situation is exacerbated by the high level of corruption and abuse of power in government.

Even though official documents capture the context of the national problem, they are severely limited in the construction of the required strategies for addressing them. For example, the development priorities outlined in the Gbarpolu County Development Agenda (roads, health facilities and educational facilities) and the four pillars of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy (consolidating peace and security; revitalizing the economy; strengthening government and the rule of law; rehabilitating infrastructure and delivering basic services) leave no place for the participation of the people in post war reconstruction and development. Like other county development agendas, these two national and regional programs are limited because they completely ignore the capacity of a post war people to participate in the conversation about themselves and contribute to the improvement of their own lives. Generally marginalized and dispossessed, the people of Liberia are treated as passive recipients of development assistance, at best, and neglected subjects, at worst. Therefore, in view of the urgent need to improve the security of the state and the state of security, the change of government orientation is imperative. Except by introducing violence into the political process (which should be avoided), the legislature is well suited to inspire such a change.

Moreover, a major problem of governance in Liberia is the lack of standards, the absence of suitable policy and institutional frameworks, the attachment of low value to creative, homegrown solutions, and the unequal distribution of national opportunities and possibilities. There is the need for laws, statutes and policy alternatives to reverse the trend.
With its oversight responsibilities and relative autonomy of executive prerogatives that usually demean well meaning government functionaries, the improvement of the quality of the legislature has the potential to positively impacting the nature of the executive branch of government and induce hope in the population. These are the main motivations behind Alaric Tokpa’s quest for legislative representation.

Local (District) Program

• Support, promote and explore every possible means for the construction of motor roads, health centers, quality schools and general market.
• Pay close attention to women, children and youth concerns as well as improvement in the economic conditions of residents.
• Support human rights protection and the promotion of social and economic justice.
• Encourage popular participation in dialogues on development.
• Help protect integrity of environment and cultural rights of indigenous residents.
• Pursue implementation of government policy agenda for district.
• Promote transparency and accountability.
• Explore ways to generate productive employment opportunities for young people.
• Find means for the training of teachers and health workers.
• Support and promote respect for the interest and concerns of teachers, health workers, midwives and other public servants.
• Organization in-service training for teachers and health workers.
• Support adult literacy and night school programs.
• Support improvement of human security and rule of law for all.
• Promote peace, unity, and sports.
• Instill idea of hard work and voluntarism in youth.
• Inspire involvement of district residents in self-help initiatives.
• Initiate district youth brigade for cooperative venture in housing


• Seek support for and promote cooperation for massive housing program and the improvement of agricultural production.
• Encourage the proper structuring of the local market system and improvement of general market locations.
• Help identify micro loan scheme for market women and encourage local savings mobilization.
• Support small business education.
• Find means for the construction of children playgrounds.
• Seek scholarship support programs for needy students.
• Map community resources and ensure community participation and interest in business negotiations.
• Encourage social service delivery by government and development partners.
• Find ways to bring community radio and telephone communication to district.

National Agenda

• Work for the review of bad laws and the enactment of good laws.
• Take initiatives for the institutionalization of non-partisan collaborative relations and cooperation for the promotion of progressive legislation, policies and collective actions.
• Support the protection of human rights, the rights of nature and the rights of the defenders of human and environmental rights.
• Promote the legislation of stiff penalty for human rights violation and abuse.
• Support advocacy for the promotion of social and economic justice.
• Support comprehensive attention to the burning concerns of women, youth and children as well as improvement in the economic conditions of the Liberian people.
• Support improvement of security and rule of law for all.
• Support and promote respect for the interest and concerns of teachers, health workers and other public servants.
• Support the promotion of accountability and transparency as cardinal government policy position.
• Mobilize agreement over the need for constitutional review.
• Work to improve the budget and public expenditure tracking processes.

• Mobilize for the allocation of more budget support to areas of national priority needs (i.e. education, health, teacher education, health education, national road construction, agricultural production, clean water, electric power, transportation, communication).
• Support national investment in hydro electric power generation.
• Promote national investment in domestic agriculture and farm to market roads for increased production and improved trade.
• Support national investment in water transport for international trade.
• Pay particular attention to improvement in the quality of legislative oversight responsibility of executive and judicial government institutions.
• Strive for concession agreements and business investments to serve the best interest of the country and the Liberian people.
• Promote the idea of national investment in the construction of uniform educational and health facilities across the country.
• Support government investment in low cost housing programs.
• Support government investment in public works and mass employment.
• Strive to improve the quality of legislative representation in the

international system.

• Support for government investment in the installation of a national think-tank of Liberians with interdisciplinary background.
• Support the documentation of Liberians and the financing of planning for future development.
• Support policy reforms for improved governance.
• Promote legislative reform and ethical training.
• Support judicial reform, the election of judges and the election of local government officials.
• Advocate for legal proceedings and stiff penalty for corruption, abuse of official prerogatives and misuse of public resources.
• Advocate for government devotion to domestic revenue generation, budgetary expenditure on national priority needs, and the alignment of public expenditure and foreign assistance with national priority needs.
• In the event that the exploitation of oil begins in Liberia, advocate for public participation in the debate on the future use of oil money.

International Initiative

• Engage Liberian Diaspora in dialogue on the way forward.
• Search for development partners and mobilize assistance for district.
• Work with Liberian Diaspora to identify partners for development assistance.

Principles of General Policy

• Focus on close attention to women, youth and children concerns and rights.
• Promotion of unity, hard work, development, transparency and accountability.
• Involvement of District residents in decision making process.
• Involvement of citizens in planning the future of the district.
• Mobilization of citizens for voluntary contribution to district development.
• Support for the empowerment and improvement of local and traditional leadership.
• Support for the protection of the environment, forest resources and cultural heritage.
• Devotion to reversal of rural-urban migration trend.
• Pursuit of government and development partners for attention to District.

Core Principles of Service

• Unity and Hard Work for Development
• Consultation and constant dialogue
• Accountability and transparency
• Hard work and perseverance
• Self-evaluation and upholding of focus
• Humility, respect and teamwork
• Multi-partisan cooperation in the national interest

Motto: The time has come.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Living with agony, people alive but searching for life: an eye witness account.

By: Sam K Zinnah
Clayton, Delaware

Former head of the political science department at the University of Liberia, Alaric Tokpa who has declared interest in unseating incumbent, Representative Dickson Temo Yarsiah, have described his initial tour of his electoral district as “successful beyond expectation”. Mr. Tokpa said he was well received by the chiefs, elders, traditional authorities, women, youth, students, religious community and small business community. Mr. Tokpa said he visited ten towns and finally sponsored soccer and kickball tournaments for the youth from sixteen towns of the electoral District # 3 political sub-division. He said the tour and the events were cost intensive, labor intensive and time consuming. Yet, they were all worth the attention. From one town to the other, he walked day and/or night through tick rain forest for hours. That experience was not as agonizing as the encounter with general despair and loss of hope – no motor roads, no health centers, no clean drinking water, no good schools, no good homes, abject poverty in the midst of riches (i.e. gold, diamond, logs, rich agricultural land, possibility of flourishing tree cropping).

The young people are absolutely tired of carrying pregnant women and other sick people in hammocks for hours “un-end” in search of motor roads to urban health centers. Hearing reports and stories of constant deaths in such circumstances became unbearable to the candidate. Mr. Tokpa started the tour by involuntarily crying in the first town meeting where a woman cried uncontrollably for the loss of a young lady who had recently carried a triplet but was only blessed to leave behind one child, as the other two died unborn along with her in a hammock in the dense forest. He subsequently rolled over to grieving in his heart, very aware that the cries of leaders are not to be visible in our Liberian traditional culture. So his heart started to harden. Eventually, it almost became normal to live with agony, with people alive but searching for life. However, he would suddenly realize, as was his occasional experience, that there is a natural limit to human suffering and ability to absorb pain. He could not totally ignore the urge to express sorrow over the deep suffering of a potentially industrious people.

In general, it would appear that the future of the people in the land he seek to represent is bleak. But he observed them, searched their hearts and found resilience, courage and great heroism. He covertly said to himself “They need leadership, motivation and direction; they can become a success story”. But as it is, what Mr. Tokpa observed in Gbarpolu County Electoral District # 3 is a reserved army of insurgents that are vulnerable to the deception of any potential warlord. In any post war situation where many are battle tested, this is dangerous. Mr. Tokpa feels a compelling obligation to work with his people. His aim is to secure support for electoral success in other to provide exemplary legislative service that will improve the quality of the Liberian legislature and positively impact executive and judicial functions for the purpose of bettering not only the people of Gbarpolu County Electoral District # 3 but the conditions of the Liberian people as a whole.

So as he reflect on the centralized condition of national government and elected local government authorities, he now feels challenge to make a contribution to Liberian national history that will (practically) register as a profound political statement in activist scholarship.
Mr. Tokpa was in Ghana attending a research conference of Afrobarometer (a series of comparative public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, civil society and markets in Africa) where he had access to better internet access to communicate his eye witness account with me. As he narrated, I vividly pictured myself once growing up in the very/identical conditions he was describing to me. As he prepared to return to Liberia to begin his second tour through Bokomu , another District within his electoral District, He have no doubt about what awaits him as he has already seen a lot during his initial tour of parts of Electoral District # 3. He said “I also look forward to additional surprises and I am preparing my heart for calm. Incidentally, the adventure has great research value. And each time that I embark on a tour of imagination, I look forward to collaboration with other nationalistic Liberians to capture the experience of our people who I can see living in centuries behind today”.

The problem is grave and it is common to encounter legitimate request for assistance in every town. The teachers according to him, were the first to admit that they are untrained place holders until appropriate interventions can be made in the educational sector. Mr. Tokpa observed that while the need to call education ministry authorities attention to this problem is urgent, there are immediate requests for blackboards and chalks. He said some existing blackboards are all damp because they are under leaking thatch roofs. So one popular request is for zinc and nails to construct schools. Most students can't even afford copy books or uniforms. Nor have most teachers materials with which to teach.

Another observation he made is in the area of midwives. He said in the absence of health centers, the midwives association has become a very important part of the decision making structures in all the towns because of the important roles that they play in delivery. Their overwhelming request is for materials to work with. So, one of the first things that he did after the tour was to arrange a meeting with the registrar general of the Liberia medical and dental association, Fortunately, The registrar General is presently inspecting health centers in Monrovia and he could relate to the situation. Mr. Tokpa said The Registrar General who recently returned home from A U.S. State of New Jersey to help his Country was alarmed when the situation in Electoral District # 3 was brought to his attention.

young men are requesting for chain saws (power saws) to do the continuous self help work of road cleaning on the foot paths. Large trees fall on the roads almost on a daily basis. They have to be removed or by-passed. Makeshift bridges over streams and creeks must be constructed almost always, as movement between the towns is constant.
He said “I was keen to find out from these young men why they have left school for the gold fields and other economic ventures. Their response was singular - shame. They said they could not afford to sit in class with their children and "compete" for knowledge when they needed to be taking care of their families. They admitted interest in learning but through night schools. They always repeated the interest in adult literacy schools”.

The candidate thinks such developments need both quick impact and well thought out interventions. But as he suggested to his people, interventions will have to be incremental and well spread out (indiscriminately) until it all come together. Mr. Alaric Tokpa’s vision is to improve social economic conditions and create better future for the children and residents of District Number Three in Gbarpolu County and Liberia as a whole.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Can Hon. Dickson Yarsiah be re-elected?

Un edited. This is a draft copy of this article. it will be edited in few days.

Gbarpolu is one of the youngest of Liberia’s 15 counties. It is situated in the northeast of Liberia, occupies an area of approximately 1,263 square miles.
Gbarpolu is bordered by Lofa County to the north, Bomi County to the south, Bong County to the west, Grand Cape Mount County & Sierra Leone to the east. Gbarpolu County consists of six districts which is divided into three electoral districts:

District: population (2008)
1. Bopolu District………………18,298
2. Bokomu District………….…10,460
3. Belleh District………………..17,288
4. Gbarma District………………15,972
5. Komgba District………………13,625
6. guonwolaila District………..8,115.

The vast majority of Gbarpolu consists of forest. Mining was the primary economic activity in Gbarpolu prior to the Liberian civil war, in addition to subsistence farming. However, the civil war devastated all sectors of the County even before the 2001 legislation that granted legal County status to the newly created County. Prior to the creation of the county, lack of development was amongst the major problems in the area. To date, most part of Gbarpolu county remains land lacked.
In 2007, electoral district number three representative, Hon. Dickson Yarsiah, during an exclusive interview in the United States revealed that his relationship with his electoral constituent was cordial. Below is a portion of Hon. Yarsiah’s interview.

Q. It is almost two years now since your election as Representative of electoral district number three in Gbarpolu County, how would you describe your relationship with your constituent?

Dickson T. Yarsiah: Well, it is cordial, since our election, we’ve made frequent visits to them. We mainly designed those visitations to ask them what their priority needs are and also to work along with them. As you know, as their true representative, we have to work as per amended, so, to ask me about the relationship between us, our relationship is very cordial and transparent.

Q. What are your legislative caucus’ major development pillars for Gbarpolu County?

D.T.Y: Immediately after our induction into offices, we wrote a five years development package covering four major key focuses, those focuses are: road network, health, education and agriculture. We decided to do these as priority because of the fourteen years of destructions our country experienced. As you know, all of our social institutions were destroyed. Roads were locked, right now; most places are not still accessible. This is why we decided to make road network our priority. Next is health, and that’s followed by education, and as we said, our fourth priority is agriculture so as to make them self sufficient.

Q. According to your county development agenda, the first priority is placed on the rehabilitation of road networks. To date, Bokomu and Gue-nwolala districts are still land-lacked and completely inaccessible to NGOs and other humanitarian institutions that may want to deliver basic social services to residents of the two Districts, what percentage of your priority has been achieved after nearly two years in office?

DTY: Well as you know Sam, a nation on this fate with a little over three hundred and some years when the war came for almost fifteen years and destroy all those institutions, we cannot just build them over night. When it comes to the roads leading from Bopolu to Gue-Ngwolala and Bokomu districts, that includes also Belle District, really Gue-Ngwolaila and Bokomu Districts have been land-locked since the existing of our country. Belle District had some kind of path roads where some past so-called investors used to only harvest their logs and bring them forth. So, Sam, to be candid with you, this government has done all she could. What we decided to do first was to ensure that we prepare a development agenda or package. Well, now that we’ve prepared the development package, as we speak, we’ve started rehabilitating the roads from Tubmanburg “Bomi County” to Gbarpolu County capitol “Bopolu”. And from there we are going to continue the road rehabilitations as promised by this government. We will also ensure that the road is build between Belle Yalla. That will also touch portion of Bokomu district. We will later be connecting Gbarpolu County to Bong County by way of the St. Paul river to palakolleh. We just got a company that has agreed in principal to build the bridge over the St. Paul River. That company will also be extending the bridge construction to the Tuma River in Bokomu. So, this government has just started the implementations of those promises made to our people during the campaign. But the first two years or the first twenty months were designed to prepare ourselves to commence your work. You know you can’t just get up to build roads without studies because it is capital intensive and there are lots of studies you need to do. You first of all need to survey, you need to do assessment, blue print, before you can commence and this is exactly what we are doing.
Four years later, the above promises are yet to be delivered. With the 2011 elections campaign season few months away in Gbarpolu County, political parties, independent candidates, especially those in the opposition, are working hard to defeat the ruling party’s incumbent Hon. Dickson Yarsiah. The latest to announce his candidacy is University of Liberia’s professor, Alaric Tokpah. This latest development sets the stage for the toughest battle in Gbarpolu County political history. Previous and recent surveys in electoral district number 3 shows that many political pundits in the district are of the opinion with Mr. Alaric Tokpah in the 2011 race, Hon. Yarsiah stand a slim chance of retaining his representative seat in the lower house.
Unconfirmed reports from the county revealed that honorable Yarsiah, during the 2005 elections, solicited and secured the support of Bokomu and guonwolaila Districts with verbal agreement that the two districts supports him in the 2005 elections. The report said Hon. Yarsiah agreed to step aside to support someone of the two districts choice to succeed him. What appeared to be a political betrayal is struggling to become overt before the beginning of the 2011 campaign season. If in fact it is true that such agreement was made and Hon. Yarsiah is attempting to betray the trust of Bokomu and guonwolaila Districts, he’s likely to face a political disaster in his electoral district comes 2011 elections.
Another serious problem faced by Hon. Yarsiah is his unexplained involvement in the Ministry of Labor’s approved $10.000.00 rural road project. Investigation conducted by this author revealed that the project proposal was written by Hon. Yarsiah’s junior Brother, Wilmont Yarsiah. According to a top official of the Labor Ministry (who choose to anonymous), the project was to be undertaken or implemented by The Belle District Development Association (BEDDA). When the project proposal was approved, the $10.000.00 check was instead written in a Catholic Father’s name. Suspicions about Hon. Yarsiah’s involvement in the way the check was switched quickly surfaced among Gbarpolu residents.
I immediately contacted Wilmont Yarsiah to clarify conflicting reports about the project proposal being written in BIDDA’s name and the check surfacing in the Catholic Father’s name. Wilmont Yarsiah clarified that the project proposal was written in BIDDA’s name. When I requested for a copy of the project proposal for my own perusal, Mr. Yarsiah promised to send me copy of the proposal via email the following day. I anxiously checked my email all day without the document arriving. Two days later, I called Mr. Yarsiah to find out while the document had not been sent. I was told by Wilmont Yarsiah to contact Hon. Dickson Yarsiah. Very determined to grab a copy of the project proposal, I immediately hung up and dialed Hon. Yarsiah’s number. At the third ring, Hon. Yarsiah answered his Phone. I slowly expressed my interest in obtaining a copy of the project proposal for accountability and transparency purposes. Hon. Yarsiah responded “Mr. Zinnah, instead of trying to investigate the pass, we should be focusing on the future”. I asked Hon. Yarsiah, “sir, if you cannot give us account of the past, how do you expect us to go forward?”. The tune of the conversation took different route that sounded up ward. I again asked, “sir, am I getting the copy of the project proposal or not?”. Hon. Yarsiah responded by saying “Mr. Zinnah, we should be concentrating on the President’s visit to our county instead of trying to investigate the past”.
I said good-bye to Hon. Yarsiah thus bringing the conversation to an end. A minute later, I placed a call to one of the ministers at the labor ministry who then directed me to the appropriate department. I managed to get hold of a colleague who finally got me a copy of the proposal. I read the proposal keenly and underlined some important points. A week later, I emailed Hon. Yarsiah with some questions. To date, am yet to get respond or answer to my inquiries.
Very determined, I wrote the Gbarpolu County legislative caucus in my capacity as the County Association’s chairman in the U.S. urging the caucus to conduct an investigation into the USD $10,000.00 road project and present us with a comprehensive financial report. That request was never responded by the county legislative Caucus.
On May 2, 2011, I email Hon. Yarsiah and cc all the members of the Gbarpolu County Legislative caucus. The email read: “Hon. Yarsiah, I've attempted contacting you several times to get your side of the story concerning the $10.000.00 mini road project package that was approved by labor ministry (prior to Miniser Woods departure) in your electoral district # 3 sometime last year but all attempts to reach you or get your side of this story are being ignored. Elections seasons are just around the corner, some of these issues might pop up during the campaign. To accurately address some of these issues, I would be more than happy to get your side of this story since in fact you are the direct representative of the people of District # 3.
I anxiously await your respond as I work on a major news article to be published in few days.
Sam K Zinnah
Chairman, Gbarpolu County Association in the Americas.

On May 5, 2011, Gbarpolu County senior Senator J.S.B. Theodore Momo responded the inquiry email. Hon. Momo wrote “Thanks for your inquiry. As far as I know BEDDA wrote out the project proposal for the project in question but my information is that the check of US10,000(ten thousand United States dollars) for the said project was written in the name of the Catholic Priest(allegedly). Since the Office of Hon.Yarsiah spearheaded this effort on behalf of the CAUCUS, it is fair and reasonable enough to seek clarification from him, and by extension, the Catholic Priest.Up to date, the CAUCUS has not received any report on this project.We appreciate your concern and look forward to the final outcome of your inquiry.
To date, Hon. Yarsiah is yet to respond to any of my many inquiries. With all these unanswered questions, should we reward Hon. Yarsiah with re-election.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Automatic Loss of Liberian Citizenship: A Battle of Our Time

Clayton, Delaware.
The opposition builds its argument in an unreal world. In that world, it can start a war. Show no respect for age and gender. Cause the death of more than 300,000 Liberians. Force a million into exile. Destroy properties. Suspend constitutional provisions for politicians to run for office. Allow some with foreign passports to pass senate confirmation, while rejecting others. Pretend that dual citizenship does not exist. Embrace millions received through western union and moneygram.

Tell the majority of overseas-based Liberians their non-monetary contributions are not welcomed, and that their Liberian citizenship and real estates can be taken away without the constitutional requirements of a hearing and a judgment consistent with due process. And, as a show of raw power, deny natural-born Liberians the dual citizenship rights that naturalized Liberians from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and other countries that recognize dual citizenship are enjoying. Is this the argument?

Having experienced a system that ignored the Liberian Constitution and forced Liberians into refugee camps, some of our educated friends have sadly embraced the belief that the legislature can automatically deprive a person of his or her Liberian citizenship, even though the Liberian Constitution clearly states there must be a hearing and a judgment consistent with due process before the government may deprive a person of citizenship.

With due respect, the fundamental rights in the Liberian Constitution do not belong to the Government of Liberia, nor are they the exclusive rights of a particular individual or group. These individual, constitutional rights belong to you, me, and every other Liberian.

Statements that every Liberian with a foreign passport 'renounced his or her Liberian citizenship' and that this person is 'more Liberian' and 'loyal' than another, are what individuals--unable to defend their actions and limited view of other nations--say to substitute for logic and commonsense. Don’t believe the hype. There are a number of Liberians who become naturalized citizens of the U.S., Canada, Israel, the U.K., and other countries without ever having to take a 'renunciation oath.'

Never before in our history have we allowed the legislature to automatically deprive a person of even a privilege. The Constitution must be respected at all times, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with a person’s conduct. If due process of law can apply to the TRC Report regarding government jobs, it can protect Liberians against automatic loss of the right of citizenship.

We appreciate the battle to enforce fundamental rights. Accomplished in his own right as a counselor-at-law, Counselor Alvin Teage Jalloh could have followed the norm, kept his status as a young Liberian-American secret, ignored the selective practice that punishes Liberians for being forced into refugee camps, and perhaps applied for a government job. But we have to be honest with ourselves, and stand up for what is right. We can not condone a practice that disrespects the constitutional rights of Liberians, especially when they answer President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's call to make additional contributions to their beloved Liberia.

Perhaps the legislature will address the divide created by the automatic loss of citizenship controversy and the dual citizenship absurdity, which favors naturalized Liberians over natural-born Liberians. That possibility, however, does not excuse us of our obligation to uphold the Constitution, and assert our fundamental rights as Liberians.

While one can not predict with certainty how the honorable Supreme Court will decide the automatic loss of citizenship case, this much is predictable: when the Supreme Court issues its decision, Liberians at home and abroad will know whether the Liberian Constitution prohibits automatic loss of Liberian citizenship, or whether automatic loss of citizenship is permissible and should be enforced against everyone, regardless of wealth, power, ethnic, religious, or political affiliations.

On April 11, 2011, Counselor Jerome Korkoya appeared before the honorable Supreme Court to convince the Honorable chief justice and four associate justices of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia to explain while Counselor Alvin Teage Jalloh and thousands of Liberians around the world should be awarded due process in retaining or losing their natural Liberian Citizenship. Again, many Liberian and international lawyers, observers from the American bar association; foreign and local journalists witnessed the intimidation tactics by some members of the highest court.
Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision, it is very important to remember that the principle of equal rights for all Liberians is one of the central themes of our infant democracy. Any law, therefore, that treat a Liberian or group of Liberian as non-citizen or second class citizen is detrimental to the system of social equality as advocated by this administration.

By Sam K. Zinnah
Chairman, Non-Resident Liberians