Liberia: Cummings, “Weah Supported LURD, MODEL”

... Without proof, Cummings says the Liberian leader spent nearly US$175K in support of the two warring factions to fuel his presidential ambition

As the public debate ensues between CPP leader Alexander B. Cummings and President George M. Weah, Cummings has, in his latest statement, alleged that the President supported two of the country’s notorious warring factions financially.

The allegation about Weah’s donations to warring factions is not new — it has had many runs in hush circles. Yet, because the allegation has never been made on the official record — certainly not Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Report — or because there has been no — voice to ‘go there, it has remained nothing more than an allegation. 

Until Cummings spoke it.  He claimed that Weah, before he became President, spent approximately US$175,000 on warring factions in Liberia.

However, Cummings did not provide evidence to back his claim that Weah supported the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).  In reply to Weah’s riposte against his first open letter to the President, Cummings wrote that Weah reportedly rented “fishing boats and provided guns and ammunition at an estimated value of US$150,000 to MODEL.”

“Much earlier in 1999, you provided food and supplies, costing between USD20,000 to USD25,000 to the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD), another rebel group in the Liberian war,” Cummings wrote in his reply. “It has been further claimed that you did so to foster your long-held ambition for the Liberian Presidency as initially suspected by former President Taylor, whose unconstitutional removal you [Weah] supported.

“You also cannot credibly refute claims that you contributed and helped to direct the activities of MODEL, a factional group in the Liberian civil war, including paying for logistical support in 2002 for MODEL rebels to travel from the Ivory Coast ports to Sinoe County in Liberia, to fight against Taylor’s government.”

The MODEL and LURD factions were accused by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of committing serious ‘egregious’ domestic crimes, ‘gross’ violations of human rights, and ‘serious’ humanitarian law violations including economic crimes in Liberia between January 1979 and October 14, 2003. 

MODEL, was a rebel group that became active in Liberia in March 2003, launching attacks from Ivory Coast. Its leader, Thomas Nimely, was named as Liberia's foreign minister in the transitional government that was appointed on October 14, 2003, following the resignation and exile of Taylor. The group was accused of exporting timber from regions of southeastern Liberia under its control, in violation of United Nations sanctions. By 2004 MODEL, in effect, ceased to exist. Currently, the Superintendent of Grand Gedeh  Kai Farley, is a former Commanding General of the MODEL.

At the height of the civil war in 2004, Farley and his fighters were accused of seizing and looting Liberia's fourth largest rubber plantation in Sinoe county in the southeast of the country, which Farley and MODEL denied.

As for LURD, it was a rebel group in Liberia that was active from 1999 until the resignation of Charles Taylor ended the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. The group's only stated political purpose during the civil war that followed its rebellion against President Charles Taylor was to force him out of office: "Taylor must go".

Led by its chairman, Sekou Damate Conneh, the group received support from Liberian diasporas in other African countries, Europe, and the United States, but especially from the government of neighboring Guinea after the Taylor-supported invasion of the country in September 2000.  

Weah, in response to Cummings’ first open letter, which was a scathing rebuke of his administration, accused the opposition figure of hypocrisy on grounds that he (Cummings) dined and wined in the very system he (Weah) is working “so hard to fix — yet he wants the public to believe that he has morphed into an advocate of the people — “the same ones you neglected during the years of civil upheaval.”

While the President did not provide proof of his accusation, he, however, used the opportunity to question Cummings' patriotism, asking where the Alternative National Congress political leader was when sixty-plus concessions, awarded by the government “in which you served, were found to be bogus, illegal, and inimical to the interest of the Liberian people.”

“Let us take the debate to our people because they are the ultimate decision-makers on the issue of leadership in Liberia,” Weah said. “Instead of seeking to use unconstitutional means to circumvent the democratic process, come and face me at the ballot.

“Never again will Liberia return to the dark days of violence. All those wanting to take state power must therefore submit to the will of the Liberian people because it is only through peace, unity, development, and democracy that our beloved nation can prosper.”

“I left the comforts of Monte Carlo, the comforts of Paris, the comforts of Milan, and the comforts of New York to help my people who were in distress due to war. Many days, I flew from Paris to Buduburam in Ghana, from Monaco to Conakry in Guinea, and from Paris to Abidjan and Danane in La Côte d’Ivoire, to lend a helping hand to assist my people who were in dire straits in refugee camps," the President added.

He said, "I suspended my career to join UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador - free of charge and at great personal cost - to support the international efforts to end the war and help disarm child soldiers. The records are there, but none are as blind as those who do not wish to see. Where were you then, Mr. Cummings, did you leave your perched tower in Atlanta to lift a finger to help our people who were dying?”

However, in Cummings’ view, the President cannot cast himself as a victim of his administration, an attempt intended to gain public sympathy because he was born and raised in slum communities before rising to stardom and exceptional prominence.

Cummings reminded Weah then that what they as politicians do for Liberians should not give a sense of entitlement to the presidency as the President seems to have.  He also noted that  Weah should stop boasting of helping Liberians at refugee camps when he was reportedly fueling the crisis which led to Liberians’ refugee status.

“You are not, and cannot be. Every failure of your presidency has made the Liberian people the victims. It is safe to say for five (5) years, the promises you made to our people for change have been broken, by your decisions and actions,” he said.

“You pronounce yourself as a peaceful man, Mr. President. It will be unfair for me to pronounce you to be otherwise. However, you cannot refute that a peaceful man will not head-butt a fellow player on the pitch as you did Jorge Costa, causing him a bloody face and a broken nose in the infamous Porto vs Milan game,” Cummings reminded Weah.

“As you know, it is not the policy of UNICEF to request their Goodwill Ambassadors to suspend their work, or not to provide travel and daily subsistence allowances (DSA) to their Goodwill Ambassadors when they travel to represent UNICEF, as you seem to suggest."

"You also cannot claim to have suspended your career when the record shows that after you became Goodwill Ambassador in April 1997, you continued playing for AC Milan, in its 1997/1998 Season, including your November 9, 1997, Serie A, Round 8 Game between AC Milan v. Brescia, and in the 1998/1999 Season. When, then, did you suspend your career?”

Meanwhile, Cummings has said that he is confident of winning Weah at the ballot box in 2023, to ensure he is a one-term President.