Protesters Demand ‘Smart Sanction’ on Gov’t

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Martin Kollie (far right) one of the leaders of the protest march, presents the group's petition to UN country director Yacoub El Hillo, ECOWAS Ambassador Tunde Ajisomo and other international partners

Liberians who defied all odds, especially the heavy downpour of rain, to protest the distasteful manner in which the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government is handling the affairs of the state, have called on the international community to withhold all financial and non-financial aid to the government until it accounts for the allegedly missing money.

“We call on you to withhold all direct support [in terms of financial and non-financial aid] to our government until it can fully account for and restitute this stolen L$16 billion,” campaigners for the restitution of the money said.

Described as “smart sanctions,” the protesters said those actions will help prevail on the government to do the right thing. “This is because it will need financial assistance from the international community to carry out its development agenda,” the protesters said.

Under the banner Coalition of Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB), a mass-based umbrella pro-democracy and pro-advocacy organization consisting of over 26 civil society organizations (CSOs), youth/student groups and trade unions, presented petition to the United States government, the United Nations office in Monrovia and the African Union.

Other multinational bodies that also received the petition include the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU).

“We have peacefully rallied and assembled conscious and patriotic Liberians from every sphere of our society to petition you in pursuit of L$16 billion (US$106 million) that mysteriously disappeared under the government of President George M. Weah,” COCUBOMB Chairman, Martin K. N. Kollie, told UN Special Representative to Liberia, Yacoub El Hillo.

The protesters called on international partners to launch an immediate but independent international forensic investigation into the missing L$16 billion saga which has both economic, social and security implications. The nation remains terrified by this mystery.

With oneness of purpose and an unhindered allegiance to Liberia and posterity, Kollie noted, “We have come on this day to send this clarion message to our International Partners, though you also said all those linked in this horrific economic plunder and mass looting against the State and its people must be prosecuted and made to fully restitute such amount.”

The protesters told representatives of international organizations that the Liberian government cannot be the accuser, the defendant, and at the same time the juror. “The Liberian people need their money back. Those who viciously siphoned our resources must account and account now! The people are resolved about this and we will not rest until this L$16 billion is fully accounted for by those we describe as ‘vicious economic scavengers and plunderers of our State,’” Kollie said.

They promised to remain peaceful, civil and mature as they pursue this irreversible and patriotic path of bringing an end to systemic corruption in Liberia. “The people deserve better; they deserve to rise above poverty, misery and inequality. It cannot be business as usual. The International Community must act to help rescue Liberia from perishing. The popular call of our people is ‘BRING BACK OUR MONEY,'” Kollie added.

Protesters in the “Bring Back Our Money” campaign promised to remain peaceful, civil and mature as they pursue this irreversible and patriotic path of bringing an end to systemic corruption in Liberia.

Kollie said they must also prevail upon the Weah-led government to immediately release the internal investigative report of the CBL that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referenced in her latest interview on BBC. “This report in our opinion could unravel a lot of hidden secrets and untold realities,” he said.

He continued, “We call on you to assist Liberia in auditing all financial transactions done so far under President George M. Weah and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. We are also concerned about the recent infusion of US$25 million in the Liberian economy by the Weah-led government. We are also interested in knowing the source of this US$25 million and how it was infused in the economy. This we believe must be thoroughly investigated as well.”

COCUBOMB craves investigation into the giant-sized private properties being constructed and/or purchased by President George M. Weah and some high-profile members of his government in just six (6) months of his tenure. “We are confident that such investigation could also dig out some hard truths about this missing L$16 billion,” Kollie said.

Protesting under the hastag #BRINGOURMONEYBACK, the gathering reverberated with  songs and slogans reflecting anti-corruption messages which were directed at President George Manneh Weah and former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—two individuals many believe are at the center of the missing money saga.

Some of the songs were, “This Kinda stealing we never saw it in Ellen time,” “Weah says he striker but Dabo [Old Ma Ellen] dribbled him,”; “CDC rogue party, we want our money back.”

The streets of Monrovia were practically deserted and normal activities were paralyzed due to apparent fear of violence. But those fears proved unfounded as the demonstrators remained peaceful, leaving some to question others about the wisdom of keeping their businesses shut out of fear of harassment and probable looting.

The protesters called on the UN, US and others to expedite the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia. “This, we believe, would end the longstanding culture of impunity and guarantee justice for Liberia and Liberians especially war victims,” Kollie said, adding, “This approach would certainly serve as a deterrence for would-be war and economic criminals.”

The protesters also called for assistance to help overhaul/upgrade Liberia’s financial management system in order to maintain fiscal discipline, accountability, transparency and public integrity at all levels. “The need to reinforce and rebrand anti-graft institutions such as LACC, GAC, FIU, PPCC, LEITI and IAA cannot be overemphasized. Corruption, especially in the judiciary, must also be dealt with,” he said.

“We demand that all former and present heads of these institutions (NPA, MoFDP, CBL, MICAT and RIA) that had/have direct link to the missing containers of money immediately recuse themselves so that they can be brought in for investigation by a forensic investigative panel,” Kollie said.

The Commander-In-Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Emmanuel Gonquoi, said the group will persist with the protest until the container of money is brought back. “Our partners have received our petition and told us to give them time. This we will do but we will not rest until the money is brought back,” Gonquoi said.

“Our gathering today is the beginning of the new Liberia where accountability and rule of law are the order of the day. We must demand the best for our people,” he added.

He assured the protesters that movement will ensure that the campaign have the perfect result.

“You need to be assured that we won’t compromise your interests. We are people of integrity and we all crave a better Liberia. We remain resolute until the right things are done. You can count on us as your leaders,” Gonquoi noted.

Upon receiving the petitions, the international partners promised to act upon the protesters requests and will subsequently get back to them in due time.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Good riddance Martin Mollie and others. Not only did you and the others express the sentiments of millions of Liberians by way of this demonstration, but you did it in style. It couldn’t have been the CDC. The occasion would have been characterized by violence, bloodshed, property destruction and certainly death. Hopefully the power that be got the message loud and clear-Liberians are tired of being lied to, fooled, and taken for granted by their government. No more indifference!

  2. Those who are advocating for “smart sanction” against the Liberian Government, I say to you, “there is no such thing like smart sanction”. I m not member of the ruling CDC, I didn’t vote for the CDC. I m concern about the average Liberian. When the United States imposed ‘smart sanction’ against Saddam Huissan in the 90s, it was the Iraqis that suffered. When ‘smart sanction’ was imposed on Kim Jong-Il (the father of the present North Korean President), it was the Korean People who suffered. I m not backing those that stole the 16 billion dollars, but we Liberians should by now understand that we must learn to solve our own problem, instead vilifying the whole country. There is no sanction that is precise, surgical, that will bite only ‘the wrong doer’, and never to touch the average Liberian. When ‘smart sanction’ was impose on former president Taylor’s regime, in the 90s and the early 2000s, the ‘big boys’ were still doing business with the outside world and travelling as well. Arms were still entering Liberia by the tons of load, even though the US, Great Britain,The European Union and UN imposed arm embargo. We are living in a world in which one man’s enemy is another’s best friend.

    Calling for the mass suffering of fellow Liberians, because certain elements decided to become criminals, it is just not right for the rest of Liberian People. Unless there are some hidden elements within the administration or other working outside this administration with the help of foreign agents that are bent on seeing the downfall of this administration.

    Liberians are right to demonstrate…..calling on foreign missions accredited in the country to foster the imposition of ‘smart sanction, is just not right in my view. it will give the perpetrators a reason to dig in there heel, because they don’t have anything to loose. We have gone down this avenue before, and it was not pleasant at the end.

  3. “There is no such thing called , smart sanction”. Mr. Kollie Jumkaye, you have just score a touchdown. Liberians are quick to forget. When the so-called “smart sanction”, come to bite, Government officials will not be the victim. The criminals that took the ‘missing 16 billion dollars’, will not be affected in no way. Liberians have the right to demonstrate at any time, and any where.
    We are a sovereign nation, taken our problem to foreign missions, and asking them to influence ‘smart sanction’ on our nation. is the bottom of the pit decision. We have laws in Liberia. We also have people in Liberia who told us, during the run off election, to gave the law and constitution a chance, and Liberian people did. Let the people demonstrate, and they should protected at all times, and any where.
    Hahahahaha….it is just 9 months, they are running to foreign missions to advocate for “SMART SANCTION” against their fellow brothers Ummm! Let the law takes it course.
    Peace. God bless Liberia, our people have suffer too much.
    To all Liberians, love. From the University of Sydney.

  4. In the hurly burly of economic and war crimes court’s demands, we lost sight of the dramatic irony of protesters for holding alleged war crimes suspects accountable using the same ill-conceived methods, now mind-bogglingly christened “smart sanctions” by apologists, of those who triggered the war, in the first place. Yes, the umbrella organization (ACDL) of all warmongers at home and abroad in the mid-1980’s appealed to the International Community for suspension of financial and other aids to the poor people in Liberia.

    They even carried their demands before the US Senate Committee for Foreign Relations, and reportedly met with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mr. Chester Crocker. Apparently, in giving unofficial support to regime change in Liberia, which they knew was going to be a blood fest, not celebration, the US Senate and Administration adopted the realpolitik principle of venerable American diplomatist Henry Kissinger, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”.

    Beware, people, that exaggerated historical ties means a fiddle; President Bush’s Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was emphatic: Liberia is of no strategic value to the US.

    But democratic rationale doesn’t move any segment of society accustomed to self-entitlement. No wonder, then, despite the prevarications of so-called democratic-minded Liberians, the fact remains that when a minority group has perpetuated itself at the apex of political and economic power as long as the oligarchy did, letting it go is always a tug-of-war, literally. That’s why many of us thought the CDC-Coalition had the best chance of bridging the Country-Congo historical divide, which is still actively relevant never mind denials. Apparently, some are militating even against that, because the driving force behind the feigned righteous frenzy is to divide the ruling CDC Coalition, with no thought of the inherent national security dilemmas for the nation.

    Sylvester Moses

    14 mins ·

    Well, well, in the hurly burly or frenzy of war crimes court’s demands, we lost sight of the dramatic irony of protesters for holding alleged war crimes suspects accountable using the same strategy of those who triggered the war, in the first place. Yes, the umbrella organization (ACDL) of warmongers in the mid-1980’s appealed to the International Community for suspension of financial and other aids to Liberia.
    They even carried their demands before the US Senate Committee for Foreign Relations, and reportedly met with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mr. Chester Crocker. Apparently, in giving unofficial support to regime change in Liberia, which wasn’t expected to be a celebration, wily Uncle Sam adopted the realpolitik principle of venerable Henry Kissinger, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”. Beware people!

  5. Yes indeed! Economic sanctions only hurt the poor and not the rich corrupt government officials!

    I remember vividly just returning to Liberia a month after completing my undergraduate studies in Ghana of 1979 to find Monrovia engulfed in a massive demonstration that ended up in the horrific deaths of many Liberians and the dreadful man-hunt for Bacchus Matthews and other PAL (Progressive Alliance Party) leaders.

    Perhaps some opportunistic self-professed “radicals/agitators” like Mulbah Morlu, Jefferson Koijee and others of the ‘Congress for Democratic Change’ who were known architects, and adjutants of frequent demonstrations (sometimes violent) during former President Sirleaf’s administration, were too young or unborn to recollect the violent historical details of Liberia’s bloody “Rice Riot” of April 14, 1979: unless they were told or read about it.

    These young so-called revolutionaries of CDC mentioned above, who have been riding on the coat tail of President George Weah’s popularity for so long; who protested vigorously against corruption during Madam Sirleaf’ administration, are now wallowing in their do-nothing high salaries and fabulous perks given to them by President’s Weah administration.

    The ball is now in CDC court. Despite not agreeing with the peaceful demonstrators call for economic sanctions, it is also dangerous for CDC leaders to suppress these peaceful demonstrators’ right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of association, and the right to freedom of speech that is explicit in Liberia’s Constitution.

    Fortunately, it took the wisdom and maturity of Justice Minister Dean and other reasonable matured individuals who were of age during that infamous April 14, 1979 bloody crackdown to learn from history: by putting in place the right mechanisms to allow this peaceful protest to be held. In the end, the protesters honored their promise of being peaceful.

    Secondly, I remember there was a transitional team set up between the out-going government of President Sirleaf and the incoming government of President Weah. Did the incoming administration fall asleep during this transitional period?

    Why weren’t all these technical financial matters that pertained to the economic life-blood of Liberia discussed that might have perhaps avoid current confusion and suspicion about the purported missing money?

    The purpose the transitional team was to help the incoming President (Weah) become familiar with inner workings of the government and to abreast the new government of what inventories (finances and other assets) were being turned over to them from the old government.

    During the transitional period, why wasn’t the US$160M President Sirleaf said she left in the coffer accounted for? Why would President Weah say, the coffer was empty? Who to believe or not to believe is the question?

    Furthermore, all printed money authorized or unauthorized should have been ironed out during the transitional period, or discovered early-on in this new admiration. Early transparency and truthfulness with the Liberian people would perhaps develop a good relationship with the public and such costly demonstration (yet peaceful) could have been avoided.

    As a result, the secrecy of Pres. Weah’s administration, coupled with the lack of transparency, and the many contradictions between this government and the former administration on monetary matters have created a toxic environment that is eroding the public trust.

    No wonder the lack of transparency and the attempt to suppress these demonstrators constitutional rights have led to distrust and the massive peaceful demonstration calling for “Bring Back our Money“….”#BRINGBACKOURMONEY!”.

    Yes indeed! Sanctions only hurt the poor and not the rich corrupt government officials!

  6. I commend the persistence of the organizers of the peaceful protest and the calculated demand for economic sanctions, that would bear weight on the government to fulfill its obligations to its citizens.

    Be mindful that many will rebuke you, but stay the course with a deliberate objective in mind to achieve. There’s no better model I can use to express my thoughts than the anti-apartheid protests and sanctions that led to the freedom of Nelson Mandela and dismantling of apartheid.

    I was a young student leader who participated in and led students protests groups on college campuses across the United States that demanded corporations divest from South Africa. I even had the privilege of inviting Randall Robinson, founder and Executive Director of TransAfrica, the anti-apartheid organization that spearheaded and facilitated protests and U.S Congressional pressures to bear on the white minority government of South Africa.

    When Dr Robinson learned I had a Liberian lineage, he reminded me that he along with black leaders across the political spectrum in the U.S. travelled to Liberia in 1979 for the
    OAU summit. It was a year of great achievement by blacks in American politics. There were more blacks heading major cities as Mayor’s, serving in Congress and governor offices than ever before, so to share that achievement with the African brethrens was a great and momentous movement. Dr. Robinson expressed his regret though that they failed to see the underlying looming conflict that existed, as they were all captivated by the leadership of the nation, and never availed themselves of going beyond the staged limelight of the OAU conference and PAN-AMERICAN theme, to understand what had just taken place in the country with the riot. As a result they were short-sighted and unable to have provided valuable and probably what would have been a life saving advice to the Tolbert government.

    The lesson is that one should never ignore the importance of protest, and neither undermine the patriotism of protestors for the larger and long term benefits to the nation, because of our own short term self-interest.

    In the U.S. today, protests by women rights groups have brought into accountability and liabilities upon powerful men who abused women with impunity as far back as three decade ago. It was the protest movements of groups like #me Too Movement, or the sit-ins protests of early 60s that made it possible for many of us today to be able to go to public places of our choice, which as blacks were barred from.

    I can list many examples of protests as a viable political tool that even the government should encourage. Presidents have used it to have their supporters pressure Congress to act on a policy decision and vice versa. Liberians can do the same in the manner exhibited by the recent protestors.

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