Following the release of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act annual report on Liberia, the opposition Unity Party USA and Canada chapters on Friday March 26 called on the United States Government to impose sanction on President George M. Weah and members of his inner circle for alleged acts of corruption and abuse of human rights in Liberia.
The Magnitsky Act, formally known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, is a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009, and also to grant permanent normal trade relations status to Russia.
Since 2016, the bill, which applies globally, authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S.
Initially introduced as separate legislation introduced by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) in the Senate and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) in the House, the Global Magnitsky Act was ultimately incorporated as Title XII, Subtitle F (sections 1261 through 1265) of the omnibus National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which became law on December 23, 2016, of the NDAA FY 2017.
Perhaps, the US Congressman Christ Smith may not be speaking for the US Government; however, he is one of those who co-sponsored the bill, and is therefore suggesting to the US Government to do more.
Speaking to journalists in a live video conference on Friday, March 26, 2021, in Monrovia, the Unity Party USA-Canada chairman, Kerper Dwanyen accused the Weah-led government of engaging in the systematic looting of the national coffers in countless ways that continue to affect the lives of Liberians daily, stressing that it was time for the U.S. to step and ensure accountability.
However, The Daily Observer contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Executive Mansion for the government’s reaction to the development, but said they were not in the position to comment.
He said, “We are hereby calling on the government of the United States to impose Magnitsky act sanctions against President George Weah and members of his inner circle involved in corruption and the abuse of the human rights of Liberians.”
According to Mr Dwanyen, the “Twin Evils” of jungle justice and rampant corruption threaten the Liberian people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as “frustrate our efforts as diaspora Liberians to ensure we have a peaceful, thriving country to come home to, and we are duty-bound to speak out.”
He said since assuming power in 2018 under ‘dubious and disputed circumstances’, President Weah and his cronies have engaged in the systematic looting of the national coffers in countless ways which the Liberian people are aware of and suffer daily the negative consequences that have come with this level of official corruption.
According to him, the government, witnessing the resounding rejection of the voters in the just ended Senatorial elections, has embarked on a mission to disregard the law by all means necessary and is on a clear path to establishing a dictatorship.
A classic example of the government’s dictatorial tendency, he said, is the latest treatment of the Unity Party National Secretary-General, Mo Ali by the Liberia National Police (LNP).
On Thursday, Mr. Ali was arrested and detained for nearly 24 hours by the LNP after he was invited to its headquarters for questioning over his social media comments.
Party officials said Ali and his lawyers were kept waiting for nearly two hours before the police investigators informed them that Ali would be arrested and charged for arson attack, attempt to commit murder, and terroristic threat.
Despite the Minister of Justice’s call for Ali’s immediate release until the evidence backing his charges are produced, he stayed behind bars until the next day.
Mr. Dwanyen said the bogus charges by the police against Ali in contravention of the Ministry of Justice clearly indicates the arson attack against the NEC was staged managed, and it was done in the mode of previous incidents of such nature in the country’s recent dark past.
He noted that the government’s attempt to silence Mr. Ali on the basis of his vigorous and patriotic speech as an executive of the prominent opposition political party in the country is a dangerous escalation of the government’s repression that should not be tolerated.
“Yesterday, it was Justice Kabineh J’aneh, government auditors and Senator-elect, Brownie J Samukai and countless others. Today, it is Mo Ali. Unless we stand up and say NO MORE, tomorrow it will be other Liberians,” he cautioned.
He added “All efforts must be exerted to counteract the repressive tactics of the government and ensure that George Weah and his ruling inner circle are held accountable for their twin evils of corruption and jungle justice.”
At the same time, the UP US-Canada Chairman stated that it is of the party’s firm conviction that the “abuse of human rights in the country, the spate of unresolved murder of government auditors and financial management professionals, and the manipulation of the electoral process are directly linked to the efforts aimed at sustaining the kleptocracy of the Weah administration.”
Owing to these, he said the party’s diaspora branch view the plan of the government to print an additional U$48 billion as another scheme to enrich a few individuals that will throw the Liberian economy into a further downward spiral of hyperinflation that is not supported by any sound economic advice or theory.
The group called on the Senate to reject the resolution passed by the House of Representatives, authorizing the Central Bank of Liberia to print the new family of banknotes to completely replace the legacy notes.
“This massive, unwarranted explosion of the money supply is simply voodoo economics. We, therefore, call on the Liberian Senate to exercise its fiduciary responsibility to current and future generations of Liberians by categorically rejecting this unsound effort to bring more economic hardship to the country and fully investigate the series of money printing that is not being accounted for as this represents unabashed corruption eating away at the future of the country,” said Mr. Dwanyen.
At the same time, the US embassy in Monrovia through its Public Affairs Officer Michael Ardaiolo, who spoke to FrontPage Africa on Sunday, March 28, 2021, said the US Congressman Chris Smith’s comments does not represent the Joe Biden administration or the US embassy.
Mr. Ardaiolo stated: “Representative Smith is a member of the House of Representatives. He represents one of the many diverse viewpoints of our elected officials, which is a strength of our democracy. He does not, however, speak directly on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration or the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Embassy has consistently raised concerns over corruption in our private conversations with the government and in our publicly available reports, including on investment climate and human rights.
Congressman Smith is also the proponent of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was enacted in 2012 by the US Congress and signed into law by ex-President Barrack Obama in 2016, to among other things, allow the U.S. government to sanction foreign government officials implicated in human rights abuses anywhere in the world.
The Congressman’s comments come amid murmurs in Monrovia last week that the US government through Congress was on the verge of placing sanctions on a number of officials in the Weah-led government.