U.S. Rep. Chris Smith on Liberia’s Worsening Political Situation
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa and co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, has issued a statement of concern regarding worsening political conditions in Liberia.
In the statement, the US Representative pointed out recent behaviors of a thug group being organized by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) under the command of Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee, terrorizing peaceful citizens.
“Human rights advocates are increasingly alarmed by the deterioration of civil and political rights and the corruption that is occurring in Liberia under President George Weah. I am especially concerned by allegations surrounding Monrovia Mayor Jefferson Koijee and the thuggish behavior of the Congress for Democratic Change Security Force he heads.”
“Credible allegations of serious human and civil rights violations–including attempted murder, rape, unlawful arrest, detention, and torture–have been attributed to Mayor Koijee by the International Justice Group, a US-based non-government organization.
Recently, Jestina Taylor, a former member of the Congress for Democratic Change and a former combatant, levied serious allegations against Mayor Jefferson Koijee in a live facebook interview in Monrovia. In that interview, she accused Koijee of murder and arms trafficking. The following day after she made the allegation, Ms. Taylor went missing and was later found along the Robertsfield Highway and was rushed to the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital where she was treated under heavy police presence.
When she regained consciousness, she narrated that she had been gang raped, injected with harmful substances and left with one of her attackers to be killed.
An earlier incident in which Koijee also featured prominently was during a by-election in Montserrado District #13 in November 2018, when a group of CDCians, headed by Koijee, disrupted activities of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties, wounding some supporters of the CPP. Since the incident, the Justice Ministry has not said anything and the police made no arrest.
While stepping out from presenting his regular talk show yesterday, Henry Costa came under attack by some men he believes are supporters of the CDC. According to Costa on a Facebook live report, he called the Justice Ministry and the Police Inspector General to complain that he was being attacked and some of his bodyguards stabbed, but the high ranking officials who are in charge of security in the country did not answer his call.
The Police on December 19 stood by as spectators and witnessed a thug group referred to as “Sabu Unit” attacking Henry Costa and his followers when he (Costa) was returning from the United States. Instead of arresting the attackers, the Police reportedly teargassed Costa and his followers to disperse the huge crowd following him that day.
Before this incident, Augustine Nagbe, former rebel commander who is on record for forcing a woman to eat human feces, announced on Freedom FM Radio that he was forming a “Kru Defense Force” to protect President Weah. Kru is a local language in Liberia from where George Weah originates. It is widely reported that this former rebel commander is training men and women on the new compound of President George Weah opposite the Baptist Seminary along the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Highway.
The United States and Liberia have historical ties that make both countries to be in a mutual partnership. Thousands of Liberians live and work in the United States, and people from here visit there often. The Liberian economy is significantly underpinned by remittances from Liberians working in the USA.
A planned mass protest is expected to take place on December 30 with the intent of asking President George Weah to step down because of claims by the protesters that he is incapable of running the country as evidenced by the deteriorating economic and security conditions Liberians are living with.
Fully aware of this planned protest, the US Congressman cautioned the Liberian government to respect the rights of the protesters and provide them the necessary space and security to conduct their protest peacefully.
“Especially in light of our historic ties to Liberia, the United States Congress will be closely monitoring the mass public demonstration that is scheduled to occur on December 30 in Monrovia, and I call upon the government of Liberia to respect the free speech and assembly rights of Liberian citizens. Anyone who suppresses these fundamental rights, or engages in ongoing corrupt acts, may very well become subject to targeted Global Magnitsky sanctions,” the US Congressman said.
The Magnitsky Act, which applies globally, authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S.