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.
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.