Says the American Lawmaker spoke irresponsibly
Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie has officially responded harshly to US Congressman Christ Smith, who last week described the George Weah Administration as a “kleptocratic” government that is associated with cronies who are set to steal resources belonging to the country and commit human rights abuses.
In his response yesterday, April 5, 2021, Minister Rennie, who did not mince his words, referred to the American Lawmaker’s remarks as “Irresponsible and a complete breach of international diplomatic protocol.”
“I will not mince my words about this. The Congressman breached international diplomatic protocols by addressing our government as he did,” Rennie said when he appeared on the OK FM afternoon show.
Rennie said Liberia is a sovereign country and has an ambassador accredited near Washington D.C., the political and administrative headquarters of the Government and people of the United States of America (USA).
“There are Liberians in America who do not want to see President Weah and his government to succeed and, as such, they run with outright lies. Those are the lies Chris Smith took and, without contacting our government through our Embassy in Washington, he went on saying what he said.
“But again, we are not deterred because his opinion is not the official position of the Government of the United States. The U.S. Embassy here, which is the direct mouthpiece for the Joe Biden administration, distanced the American government from Smith’s assertions,” Rennie said.
He noted, however, that there are challenges in government but they are not unique to the Weah led administration as presented by critics of the government.
Many a time, officials of the George Weah Administration shift blame for Liberia’s socio-economic woes on the past administration wherein several of them, including Mr. Rennie, worked in various executive positions.
The American Republican Lawmaker, fully known as Christopher Henry Smith, is serving his 21st term as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 4th Congressional District. He has been in office since the 1980s and has been instrumental in pushing for many actions the U.S. Government took around the world.
Reports have it that he, as head on the Committee on foreign affairs, pressured former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, to turn former Liberian President Charles Taylor to Sierra Leone to face prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity in that West African country’s brutal civil war.
Rep. Smith, as a panelist at the Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability act around the world, highlighted Liberia and Nigeria in his presentation.
He alleged in his presentation that President Weah has been running a kleptocratic (corrupt) government since Weah’s inauguration and that actions are needed to bring Weah and his inner circle cabinet officials to check.
Smith, in that presentation, mentioned Senator Cllr. Varney G. Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County as being an example of corrupt officials who was sanctioned by the American government for facilitating dubious legal transactions in Liberia.
In furtherance of his response to the U.S. Congressman, Liberia’s Information Minister said Smith is fed with lies by members of the Liberian opposition community and the Lawmaker, taking the words of those critics as law and gospel is unfortunate.
“We read the State Department’s report, but is baffling for anyone to say that this government has instituted arbitrary killings. No, not all. Police who came in conflict with the very law they are called to defend and protect, are bearing the full weight of the same law.
“A police officer killed, he was arrested, detained, brought to court and tried. Today, that officer is serving his prison sentence as provided for by law,” Rennie said.
He added: “Liberia and America have a long standing relationship and that is more important than an individual selfish interest. I believe that it will even get better under President George Weah.”
Establishment of War Crimes Court
On the establishment of the War and economic crimes court that many yearn for, Minister Rennie said government is not reneging but there are issues necessary to consider.
“We don’t have the resources as a country and, more to that, President Weah alone cannot run with the decision. The Legislature has a stake in it. In fact, a national referendum could also play to settle the matter,” he said.
According to Rennie, Liberia’s peace, although now in its fifteenth year, is still fragile and there may be lots of ramifications, some even more troubling if care is not taken when it comes to the establishment of War and Economic crimes court.
“Look at Sierra Leone today. It cost them not less than three hundred million United States Dollars to prosecute Taylor and other war criminals. But with all of what they did, the lives of the people are still poor. Living conditions have not improved in Sierra Leone because there was a tribunal and people got prosecuted,” he emphasized.
He said the Weah led government is in consultation with international partners to see the way forward on the establishment of war crimes court.
“In case the Court is established, we all need to think about who are those that will be the judges. It is not a simple thing as we might think. This is why former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf found it difficult to establish it. There was no money,” the Liberian government spokesperson noted.
On the local scene, Rennie said President Weah’s nationwide tour is providing lots of understanding to the government on what needs to be done in order to improve the living conditions of the people, mainly in the rural counties.
“It is not about politics. The President listens to his people and the recommendations are taken seriously. Coming back to Monrovia, he sits with his cabinet ministers to find ways out on raising funds to implement projects such as road connectivity, provision of electricity, building of better market facilities, among several others,” he said.
Phoning in on the show, David Kortee, former Senator of Lofa County, said Congressman Chris Smith should “keep quiet small” because America has lots of challenges dealing with bad human rights records.
“I think the only country that can condemn Liberia for bad human rights records is the Republic of Heaven, not one on earth like America. There are killings every day in America and racial discrimination, which is another great form of bad human righgts, is on the increase in America,” said Kortee.
“Let them solve those problems first, set good examples by allowing all to have access to equal justice before condemning Liberia or any other nation,” Kortee said.
He offered a disclaimer that his assertion was in no way in support of any wrong doing but politicians, mainly from Liberia, are not fair to their own country when they are out of power.
Another caller said human behaviors cannot be legislated and as such, President Weah should not be held responsible for individual misconduct or violation of the law.
While the two supported Rennie’s position against Chris Smith, a different caller said there is a need for the Weah led government to take the reports from the U.S. seriously and work out means to correct the wrongs.
“The first thing is that the position of Congressman Smith is not ordinary and he should not be taken for granted,” the caller said.
The Jerome J. Verdier side
It can be recalled that recently, Cllr. Jerome J. Verdier, former head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), said on the online Spoon Talk show that he reported President Weah and his inner cycle men to Congressman Smith and boasted that he (Verdier) has submitted a list of names including President Weah for possible sanctions.
Verdier, in his appearance on the show, said he is disappointed in Weah because he (Weah) has the executive power to allow the implementation of the TRC report, but has refused to do so, even though in his campaign in 2017 he promised that he will not be like his predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in whose hand the TRC report was birthed but never implemented the recommendations.
Verdier also told his interviewers that Weah is aware of all of the mysterious deaths in the country, mainly those involving the three auditors and a tax official, as well as other high-profile officials in government.
His assertions have since been rubbished by Rep. Acarus Gray of Montserrado District #8, Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, and a host of other government officials, who all termed Verdier’s claims as unfounded and mere hate against President Weah because he (Verdier) was not given the Justice Minister position in the CDC-led government.