President Weah Singles Out BBC Stringer

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(Left to right) The United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohammed, and the President of the Republic of Liberia, George Weah, attend the media at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia, Liberia. (Photo: UNMIL/Albert González Farran)

Brands Jonathan Paye-Layleh as ‘one of those that were against me’

President George Weah, at a joint press conference on Thursday, March 22, with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amin Mohammed, evoked fears and memories of the 1985 brutal killing of journalist Charles Gbenyon when he openly described local journalist and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stringer Jonathan Paye-Layleh as one person that has been against him even in his (Weah’s) advocacy over the years.

Below is the full transcript of the exchange between the journalist and the President and his guest, the UN Deputy Secretary-General:

Jonathan Paye-layleh: Thank you for the opportunity. Just one question for the two of you. I was here in Monrovia on the first of October, 2003, when the United Nations took over. Even on that day there were some street battle in the capital so we are happy to see that we have come so far with the peace. But you are coming to Liberia just at a time with a serious debate as to whether this peace can exist without justice, or whether the United Nations can help Liberia to achieve justice that should exist side-by-side with peace. And specifically people are asking for those who stand accused of committing atrocities in Liberia during the war to face their victims in a court, like you did for Sierra Leone. So is the United Nations ready to help Liberia achieve this? And Mr. President, talking about that, Human Rights Watch has asked you to create the environment so that victims can meet face-to-face with their perpetrators. Are you prepared to do that; and how soon? Thank you.

President Weah: Well, I think we have to follow the rule of law. We are not trying to undo what is already there. I think this — the history of this reconciliation and the court already has on its desk — those perpetrators need to come back to the status quo so they can face their — those who all that [were] harmed [by] them. But what I want to say is that… we have to step by step follow the rule of law. The Peace and Reconciliation body already have a case. And those who all that are victims have their rights also too to listen to those that victimized them. So it’s a process; peace is not just a one-day thing.

If you can recall, I always use you as an example; when I was advocating for human rights in the country, you were one of those that were against me. But I always reminded you because what I was doing at that time was for us not to reach to this point where Liberians are not against each other. And I’m glad that you’re here today. This is the time now we have to make sure that we create that environment and create awareness that Liberians will find reason to forgive each other so we can move on. And I hope that those who are responsible — the ministry responsible, which is Justice Ministry and the Peace and Reconciliation Committee, will come back to the table and call all of the actors so they can look at what is there to make sure that either we forget and justice be done to those who all justice needs to be done to.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amin Mohammed: Thank you. Let me just say that Mr. President has already committed to, um, concluding what would be unfinished business. But sustaining peace is about justice. It’s about strong institutions, it’s about governance, it’s about continuing the work of the national reconciliation, but it’s also about your constitution. But it is also collective responsibility. The President would not do this by himself, so it requires the Liberian people to get behind him with the intentions that he has for bringing justice, of reconciling, of helping build the nation, now that you have an environment for peace. The Peacebuilding Commission that we have in the United Nations, we have our representatives here — very happy to see our Permanent Representative from Sweden — is an important part of our contribution to helping you to create that environment to ensure that justice is done. It must be inclusive. People must feel part of rebuilding a new Liberia, and I believe that the leadership here has that commitment and we’re here to support it. Thank you. 

Jonathan Paye-layleh: Are you say that the UN is not prepared to support a war crimes court in Liberia? 

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amin Mohammed: No, what I’m saying is that the UN is prepared to help build the bridges that will sustain peace; and that we know our support for the national reconciliation, for constitutional reforms, is what we are prepared to support. 

Many see this as a veiled threat against not only Paye-Layleh but against the media and free speech as well. Journalist Paye-Layleh is now reported to be living in fear for his life. He has meanwhile appealed to his colleagues in the media to seek clarification from the President on the true import of his statement accusing him (Paye-Layleh) as being against him.

“I have asked the Press Union of Liberia and the entire media community to seek an explanation from Mr. President, because I have never had any confrontation with him even before he became president; we all have instead given promotion to all that he has done, as footballer, former footballer and as a politician; he was never in any human rights work as far as I know and even if he was in any human rights struggle, I could never have been against him for working for human rights in Liberia,” Paye-Layleh said.

Going back into history, it can be recalled that following the failed Quiwonkpa coup attempt in 1985, Journalist Charles Gbenyon was arrested by state security forces and taken to the Executive Mansion. According to sources, he was taken to the Executive Mansion to meet President Samuel K. Doe, who was reportedly angry about the journalist’s coverage of the events of that fateful day of November 12, 1985.

Gbenyon is reported to have interviewed then Elections Commission Chairman Emmett Harmon who, believing that the coup had been successful, reportedly confessed to having rigged the 1985 October elections.

But when taken to the Mansion, Gbenyon was allegedly denied audience with President Doe. This was after having been informed of the arrest of Gbenyon and his presence on the grounds of the Executive Mansion. Doe  was reported to have angrily said he did not want to see the journalist and Gbenyon was taken away. Later it was revealed that Gbenyon had been killed but by who and on whose orders remains unknown till today.

BBC correspondent in Liberia, Jonathan Paye-Layleh

According to local media watchers, the loaded import of President Weah’s remark to the journalist apparently may have induced Paye-Layleh to write the Press Union appealing to his colleagues in the media to seek clarification from President Weah, being fully aware and apprehensive about what such remarks could mean and how it could be interpreted by state security or the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) zealots.

“All that I am asking the media community to do is to seek some explanation from the office of the President; such a statement from a populist and popular President has far-reaching impact; you can never tell what this would mean to Mr. President’s tens of thousands of supporters, some of whom are too young to be able to analyze issues.”

Paye-Layleh believes a clear explanation from the President or his office citing instances will give an insight into what the allegations are, adding, “when a president says an individual is or was against him, it means a lot.”

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10 COMMENTS

  1. This was an embarrassing gaffe by George Weah. Please admit it. This gaffe should be a lesson to the president and his supporters. His choice of words here were very careless and unhinged on how much weight his utterances carry. He shouldn’t have used the word “you” in his answer. It would have sounded better had he said “many people were against me”, or :”detractors were bent on distracting me”… He cannot be so direct in pointing fingers to who was and is against him when he was advocating for power or fighting for any of his endeavors.

  2. Like we have always thunderforth: “TRUTH KNOWS NO BARRIER!” If journalist and others can “speak truth to power” there is nothing wrong with POWER SPEAKING TRUTH TO A JOURNALIST! Especially so, when the particular journalist IS FACING THE POWER!

    Read prudently and objectively the statement By President Weah and you are bound to conclude that President was been highly diplomatic, but also very truthful with absolute clarity:

    “If you can recall, I always use you as an example; when I was advocating for human rights in the country, you were one of those that were against me. But I always reminded you because what I was doing at that time was for us not to reach to this point where Liberians are not against each other. And I’m glad that you’re here today.”

    Like we said elsewhere, the statement from the President needed no further clarity; for it had all the elements of the phenomenon of clarity! Layleh should have been honest and WISE, and the public would have not now been notified or learn about he Layleh “UNDERMINING HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE PEACE PROCESS” OVER THE YEARS, AS HE LAYLEH WAS BENT ON “GIVING POSITIVE IMAGE TO THE WAR!” The have all thse skelentons; and they come to present themselves as Angels. When the reality is that they are demons in angelic robes!

    • You’re a complete clown and I’m not sure you speak for CDC or the President, but you’re jumping from one news outlet to another defending President Weah’s grounded errors. Firstly, Weah worked to help with the disarmament and demobilization of combatants. He has never been involve with any human rights advocacy and his statement here is truly careless for a leader. When he said you were against me, he need to define that in context because his statement as president has weight.

      Clearly, I hope he can learn quickly and stop these gaffes, you guys that are loyal to him will be embarrassed eventually because he’s not up to the task. The Presidency of Liberia is not like heading a local club. You’re first responsible for the security of everyone within your borders, but most especially Liberians. For a President to attached a journalist in such a fashion and you’re here defending such attitude is mind boggling. You’ve to be looking for job or you must be on Weah’s payroll to be defending him even if he says something that’s indefensible.

    • I so pitied you Dortu Doe Defense attorney for Mr. Weah. You’re everywhere leaving irrelevant comments. I categorized you as one of the sycophant of President Weah who doesn’t see wrong in anything he utter. You are doing him more harm then good. You attacked Rodney Sieh for practicing yellow journalism whenever he writes about Weah and his sycophants like you, when Rodney Sieh was speaking against against madam Sirleaf regime you all applauded him. Never one day had Mr. Pay layeh wrote anything negative against the president. Mr. President was very wrong by accusing Mr. Pay layeh without any substantial evidence. Anyways I’m not surprised by his response to that question because people who are limited gets very defensive when a critical question is being asked.

  3. This is total nonsense from you Dortu-Siboe Doe. Paye Laleh is one of the professional and finest journalists that the country has produced and like journalist anywhere, his reporting over the years has been objective. His stories were always checked by his editor before being aired. So to claim that he Layleh undermined or was “bent” on undermining human rights and peace in Liberia during the civil conflict is total nonsense. What I am sensing from you and many of the president’s supporters is your lack of objectivity and honesty, and whoever spoke against Samuel Doe brutal dictatorship and tyrannical rule was and is “bent’ on undermining peace. My fear for this president who has all the characteristics of a thug and a tyrant is that his supporters like you will take him down the same path that Samuel Doe was taken by his supporters like George Boley, Yancy Peter Fly, Guye Jones and others thereby taking us back to the dark days when people would disappeared for criticizing (Samuel Doe)him . It is dangerous for the country and for our young democracy.

  4. The president needs to be responsible in his thinking he’s no longer an ordinary person he’s a state man now so his saying towards people should be refined. So i will suggest to him to appologize to this brother.

  5. Thank you Mr. Doe for your informative and educative contributions on these sites. I and many others have shared how worthy your participation have always been and continue to be on these sites. Please keep up the good work.

    A few of our young people as well as the middle age and older generation are so mesmerized by the media (especially by journalists) that even a mere stringer of a broadcast station is held in high esteem.

    And actually, that is neither odd nor surprising. For even taxi drivers were regarded as “STARS” in the 50s and 60s in Monrovia. But what is indeed very disappointing is the fact that Jonathan Paye Layleh is on record for being one of the paid journalists who made utterances over the years that the war was justified.

    And worst, but also shameful is many have seen the FAKE gory videos Jonathan Paye Layleh placed on the internet only to tarnish the reputation of others.

    Has it not occured to you or others as to why the PUL have given “cold shoulders”, in short a snub to Mr. Paye Layleh’s call for help? Or why FPA made it a headline about Mr. Jonathan Paye Layleh’s “UNDERMINING OF HUMAN RIGHTS”, and even mentioning how he Paye Layleh gave “positive image about the war”?

    This is because both the PUL and FPA have always frowned on such roles of Jonathan Paye Layleh as a journalist who carried out such a behavior of a thug.

  6. It is politically unhealthy, uncultured and democratically impractical for the winner of a presidential election in a country to firstly or look for enemies from his or her subjects, in other words to look for enemies from among his people that elected him or her. The presidency of any country under the democratic culture of politics; is a winner takes all principle. What this means; is that the president of a country incorporates everyone of a nation within his or her heart as his or her citizen, resident or subject for whom he or she went under oath to serve and protect. Journalists or critics are not enemies of a country or the president. Criticism is the tool or the means for the improvement of democratic nations since the days of Greek political and social actors in Athens, Greece.

    Let us remember this from the yesterday of President Charles Taylor; when he won one of Liberia’s fair elections in modern time, he didn’t disarm his heart as a president of a nation. Before any form or plan for reconciliation, healing and reconstruction, he decided to put to death all perceived enemies of his first. For example Mr. Samuel Dokie , his wife and four other family members were burn alive in central Liberia, Bong County at his Solalee Base, a place where death was better than life. Question, did Mr. Taylor and Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf succeed or fail in Liberia?

  7. Both Charles McArthur Taylor and Samuel Kanyon Doe and by extention all the interim governments ascended to power one way on the other, by or through the influence, impact, or consequence, of THE GUN!

    George Weah was given power throug the BALLOT BOX WITHOUT ANY ADDOCIATION WITH GUN OR WAR. He has no searc enemies as those we mentioned above. And there is nothing wrong with reminding those (PAYE LAYLEH ETC) who promoted the wars about such despucable behavior on their part.

    Jonathan Paye Layleh is boring people in his search for asylum.

    • How did Pay layeh support the war Kou Gontee?? Some of us do not have knowledge about that, can you please enlightened us?

      And your previous comments about PUL giving Mr. Pay layeh a cold shoulder is a blatant lie. The pul made a release asking for clarity from the President on how Mr. Pay layeh undermined his human rights advocacy.

      I don’t blame you and many others when it comes to George Weah issues cause some of you are just blind followers, supporters and fans of the celebrity. He will say things and go away with it that when a regular person say many of you will have problems with.

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