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Liberia

VPA Goes For Another Three-Year Period

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…As EU, Liberia Launch Phase II Today

The lifespan of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between the European Union (EU) and the Government of Liberia through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has been graciously extended by another three years period, a release has disclosed.

The ceremony marking the official launch of Phase II of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement is expected to take place today, August 19, 2019, in Monrovia and is expected to be graced by an array of government officials and EU delegation.

This Long Term Technical Assistance to Implement the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in Liberia is a project, funded by the European Union for the continuation of EU support to the forestry sector to assist the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement / Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (VPA – FLEGT).

The Government of Liberia will be represented by the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority, Hon. C. Mike Doryen and the EU by H.E. Ambassador Hélène Cavé.

The objective of this project is to contribute to the development of Liberia’s forest sector by increasing the value of traded timber products through the strengthening of overall forest governance, sustainable management of forest resources, law enforcement and rule of law and equitably sharing of forest benefits, amongst others.

This second phase of EU assistance will emphasize the trade rather than aid aspects of the program.

This phase aims at enabling Liberia develop its capacity to issue FLEGT Licenses to help increase international trade with higher paying markets like the European Union and others.

For this to happen, completing the building of systems and procedures and putting these into operation is needed, so that a Legality Assurance System is fully in place in Liberia.

Private operators and community forest owners can then be encouraged to obtain FLEGT Licenses and benefit from added-value exports to premium markets.

The FDA and Government of Liberia are already increasingly taking over responsibilities for managing and financing the VPA implementation.

The EU assistance to the VPA process started in 2013 under a first phase of VPA support through a co-financing arrangement between EU and DFID by a total of approximately EUR 20 million, implemented through two main technical assistance projects; one to create a Legality Verification Department (LVD) and the other a VPA Support Unit (VPA-SU).

This was complemented by funding of specific additional actions, like support to the Civil Society, the independent auditor and others.

A key feature of the EU project is that it will help FDA to provide this coordination in its role as Lead-Agency.

This will be achieved through the institutions and processes that were set up for VPA in the first phase; such as the VPA Secretariat, the Liberia Implementation Committee (LIC), National Multi Stakeholder Monitoring Committee (NMSMC) and the guidance provided by the Forward Planner (the VPA road map).

The main counterparts to this project are the Government of Liberia institutions administering the forest resources namely the Forest Development Authority (FDA), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MoFDP), the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ministry of Labour (MoL), among others.

The present project is a second phase of the specific technical assistance, totaling around EUR 3.4 million.

Liberia, a country rich in natural resources with over 4 million hectares of forests, has successfully emerged from war into peaceful democracy.

With variable figures during the last decade, the current contribution of the forest sector to the GDP is estimated around 10 to 11% with ambitions from the current administration to increase this contribution to at least 12% in the coming years, hence the importance of emphasizing trade.

The export of commercial timber generates about $8 million of government revenue annually, which is roughly 26% of the total earnings from natural resources.


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Liberia

Weeks, Others Spend Second Night

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…At Central Prison

Former and current Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials who were re-arrested Tuesday, August 20, 2019 and jailed have spent their second night at the Monrovia Central Prison.

Defendants Charles E. Sirleaf, Milton A. Weeks, Dorbor Hagba, Richard H. Walker and Joseph G. Dennis were re-arrested Tuesday, after prosecution changed their earlier charges to Money Laundering.

The defendants were immediately taken to the Monrovia Central Prison and jailed.

But defendant Sirleaf was released late Tuesday evening on medical ground while the others spent the night there.

Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. Edwin K. Martin told The NEWS Tuesday evening via mobile phone that defendant Sirleaf’s medical bill has since been before the court which indicates that he’s not well.

However, his colleagues remained behind bars, apparently they have not filed valid bond to be released.

On Tuesday, Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court “C” ordered the defendants re-arrested and imprisoned until the right bond is proffered if possible.

The Judge in his ruling on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, said government lawyers should turnover every documentary evidence to the defendants through their lawyers in 72 hours to give the defendants sufficient notice and enable defense team to provide adequate representations.

He also commanded the sheriffs of the court to serve the defendants with the Writ of Arrest along with the indictment so they can be aware of the new crime charged by prosecution.

The defendants were first charged with Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, Criminal Facilitation, Criminal Solicitation and Bribery.

The five former and current CBL officials who were re-arrested Tuesday, same being August 20, 2019, were immediately taken to the Monrovia Central Prison for the amended crime of Money Laundering that was imposed on them.

The defendants were re-arrested based upon the indictment prepared against them by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County.

The indictment said the Grand Jurors have taken an oath to find probable cause that the defendants at CBL at the time committed the crime of Money Laundering, a first degree felony in violation of chapter 15, sub-chapter “D”, section 15.2 (a) (b) (c) (d) (f) of the penal law of Liberia.

The crime, money laundering states that, “a person or body corporate or other legal entity commits the offense of money laundering if that person knowingly or having reason to believe that is the proceeds of crime: engages directly or indirectly in any transaction which involves the property; receives, possesses, conceals, disguises, transfers, converts, disposes of removes from or bring the property into Liberia; or participates in, associates with or conspires to commit, attempt to commit, or aids or facilitate the commission of any of the above acts.”

According to the indictment, on April of 2016 up to August of 2018, at their CBL offices, the defendants by virtue of their employments within the CBL deliberately, knowingly and intentionally colluded and conspired with the wicked intent to launder money and sabotage the Liberian economy.

It also revealed that the defendants defrauded the CBL and the government when they unauthorizingly printed excess Liberian dollar banknotes amounting to 2,645,000,000 (Two billion six hundred forty-five million Liberian dollars) to infuse into the Liberian market.


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Liberia

Weah Reiterates Commitment

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… To Protect Women

President Dr. George Manneh Weah has again reiterated his commitment to the promotion and protection of women and girls against sexual gender-based violence and gender inequality, an Executive Mansion release discloses.

The release said President Weah made the pledge Wednesday, August 21, 2019, at his Foreign Affairs Office when he received a petition from women who reportedly represented ten civil society organizations.

The women through their designated speaker, Mmenbeydo Joah-Harell petitioned the President to protect the rights of women, increase the number of women in government and provide security in District 15, Logan Town.

The Liberian leader told the petitioners that his commitment to gender equality and protection of the rights of women, girls and children would not diminish for any reason or by another force.

“I want to assure residents of Montserrado County, particularly voters and candidates of District 15, as well as all Liberians and the world that there would be a free, fair and transparent elections anytime under my administration,” the Liberian Chief Executive averred, adding that he would increase security presence in District #15 if there would be a rerun.

President Weah also reminded the women to take responsibility to preach peace. He urged the women to also prevail on their relatives, mainly youth, to at all times be peaceful and refrain from violence.

He used the occasion to once more call on leaders of political parties to encourage their supporters to be civil and peaceful during election times.

The Liberian Leader also promised a timely and prompt investigation into last Saturday’s violence in District 15.


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Liberia

Culture Of Impunity Must End

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…RWHR Wants War Crimes Court Established

The Regional Watch for Human Rights, Inc. (RWHR) has stressed the need for the Liberian Government to end the culture of impunity that it said has engulfed the Liberian society by the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court.

Addressing a news conference Wednesday, August 21, 2019, in observance of International Justice Day Worldwide which was celebrated on July 17, 2019, Cllr. Thompson Adebayor, Regional Director of RWHR said Liberia failure to establish war crimes court for people to account for their actions is responsible for the recent wave of violence in the country.

He said had people who committed heinous crimes during the country’s civil unrest been prosecuted for their action, it would have served as deterrence for others.

Adebayor told journalists that the establishment of war crimes court would demonstrate the government commitment to fight impunity which he claimed appears to be taking over the country.

He said the establishment of war crimes court is in the best interest of the government and its people.

At the same time, Cllr. Adebayor said his group is troubled and concerned about the wave of violence and insecurity in the country.

He called on the government to probe the recent electoral violence in District#15, Montserrado County to ensure perpetrators are brought to book.

The RWHR boss said Liberia has come a long way relative to the maintenance of peace and stability, something it cannot afford to jeopardize.

He called on every political party to jealously guide the peace that the country currently enjoys.


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Liberia

“False Assets Declaration”

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…Rep. Gray Descends On Dillon

By A. Omaska Jallah

Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray has described as ‘false asset declaration’ the recent declaration of assets by Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, terming it as a violation to Section 10.3 of the Code of Conduct.

He said Senator Dillon declared his assets at the Liberian Senate without knowing and indicating his net salary on the assets declaration form provided to him by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).

While taking over at the Liberian Senate, Senator Dillon presented all documents regarding his assets, but his gross and net salary as senator was not indicated, something he told journalists in a recent press conference that he has not being informed about his salary by the Senate; as such, he could not indicate it,

But Rep. Gray said this contradicts his understanding of assets declaration.

According to Section 10.3 of the Code of Conduct under sub topic ‘Sanctions for False Declaration’ “every Public Official and Employee of Government shall declare and affirm that his or her declaration is accurate to the best of his or her knowledge. Any statement in such declaration found to be false upon verification shall lead to summary dismissal and other measures provided by law.”

But speaking to Legislative reporters on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Montserrado County District #8 lawmaker said Senator Dillon lied under oath, according to the mentioned section of the Code of Conduct; and as such, it is punishable under the same law.

He claimed that Senator Dillon violated the Code of Conduct relative to asset declaration; as such, he should be punished for misleading the public, noting that the senator undeclared his assets.

Rep. Gray maintained that Senator Dillon has betrayed historical comments made by him several months ago before coming to the senate.

Before his election, the Montserrado County Senator, in several public forums, stated that he will declare his assets if elected as senator and front for the reduction of salaries by senators at the Liberian Senate, something Gray described as political rhetoric that is yet to come to reality.

At the same time, Rep. Gray has disclosed that the CDC has filed a bill of exception to the National Elections Commission (NEC) which, according to him, is expected to be heard today.

According to him, the NEC haring officer that heard the complaints filed by the candidate of the collaborating party in the just ended Montserrado County District #15 by-election, Telia Urey, was in a contradiction.

The NEC hearing officer called for a rerun in the six quarantined precincts within the district, specifically Logan Town.

Rep. Gray said the hearing officer told the hearing that there was no fraud, yet he called for rerun.

This, the Montserrado County lawmaker said, is a complete contradiction by Hearing Officer.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gray has condemned the serious wave of violent perpetrated by both supporters of Telia Urey and Abu Kamara.

He called on supporters of candidates Urey and Kamara to remain calm.


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Liberia

Abu Kamara Reveals ‘Untold Story’

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…In Latest Electoral Violence

LINA

“It was the first time ever I saw my family shivering from fear and trauma caused by the sounds and cracks from stones thrown at our house. Cars parked in and around my compound owned by family and friends were also vandalized,” Abu Kamara, candidate of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in District #15, Montserrado County, narrates his ordeal.

The statement on his social media platform followed the counter-throwing of projectiles by his supporters spurred by initial attacks by those loyal to his key opponent, Telia Urey of the All Liberian Party.

Supporters on both sides were injured in the process which happened in the lead-up to a re-run at six precincts in the district under the county’s combined Senatorial and Representative By-elections.

The car belonging to candidate Urey was also attacked, one account stated.

In his statement, though, Kamara said: “We witnessed another episode of an act of electoral violence within our District. I am ultimately concerned about the escalating tension and violence erupting fears into residents of our district and contaminating the peace we enjoy.”

“We must stop the fears and electoral violence by all means possible and free our people from this political servitude,” he added.

Furthermore, Kamara urged his partisans, supporters to detach and avoid any act of violence and remain calm as they progress to the re-run poll, adding that episodes of violence are fast approaching a point where they can cause division amongst the people and land their fate into a doom of anarchy. “Liberia stands beyond us.”

Meanwhile, Kamara says he stretches hand to meet rival Urey and her team of managers, the district governing council, religious leaders, and all stakeholders in the by-election of the district for a reconciliation meeting in a secluded environment to mend relation, mitigate future violence and put the interest of the people above their political egos.

“I caution all involved, especially my supporters, to remain steadfast to peace and remain calm by avoiding all forms of violence to enjoy our fragile peace,” said Kamara.


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