VP Boakai’s Dinner Marred by Protest on Visit to US

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Fridley, Minn – A dinner tendered here late last October in honor of Vice President Joseph N. Boakai didn’t pass without drama as a small group of Liberian protesters showed up at the Passion Event Center in Fridley, the site of the event, to protest against bad governance in Liberia.

Protesters who came from two Liberian community activist groups known as MOLAC and CLACI, denounced the present “Ellen-Boakai” regime for what they said is the regime’s bad governance system in Liberia.

They accused the “Ellen-Boakai” government of cuddling corruption, nepotism and abuses of human rights.
Protesters further called on the regime to support the international community to establish a war crimes court in Liberia to try warlords and rebel commanders suspected of having carried out civilian genocides during the civil-war.

“We need a war crimes court in Liberia for accountability,” screamed one poster. And another said, “Ebola exposed the failed and corrupt leadership of Ellen-Boakai’s administration.” The demonstrators were led by community activist, Seyon Nyanwleh, and didn’t seem deterred by the cold Minnesota weather either. They stayed outdoors and protested through the night.

Liberians at home and abroad appear divided over establishing a war crimes court in the country. Similarly, they’ve remained divided on the implementation of recommendations presented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ((TRC), which suggested people bearing the greatest burdens for genocides in the wars should face trial, while others should be barred from seeking public office for 30 years.

Nyanwleh, a University of Minnesota political science graduate, has become known in the African immigrant community here for rallying communities together in incidents of tragedy. Earlier this year, he helped organize search efforts that led to finding then missing Liberian 10 year-old Barway Collins, whose father later confessed to killing him.

Recently, he also helped organize searches for missing Mounds View Liberian resident, Henry McCabe, whose body was found Nov. 2.

Hours before the protest, Nyanwleh, along with Rev. Harding Smith, a Liberian community pastor who comforted the Collins family during the Barway tragedy, participated in a church opening ceremony at Brooklyn Center where both called on Liberians to stand together.

The dinner for VP Boakai was organized by “Patriots for Liberia’s Transformation,” a new organization.

During the event, a struggle among members of Unity Party-Minnesota branch and Patriots for Liberia’s Transformation came to light. Erasmus Williams, identified as head of UP MN chapter, was denied entry to the banquet hall. He told our correspondent that he had personally bought a ticket at $100 for the dinner.

VP Boakai hails from northwest Liberia’s Lofa County, a mountainous region where mineral deposits were discovered in the Wologizi Mountain few years ago. He came under severe criticism in 2013 when he lobbied House officials in attempts to pave the way for an Indian mining company, O.P. Jindal Group, to win mining contracts for Mt. Wologizi.

He had earlier expressed interest in the same company after he returned to Liberia following a visit to India. Boakai’s lobbying was strongly rejected by Liberians, particularly Lofans, given the level of corruption that exists in the current administration.

While Boakai’s government has aggressively fought in past years to purge the country’s rich and enviable cultures, including the performing arts, his supporters in the US, on the other hand, have, ironically, continued to rally local artists to provide entertainment for the aging vice president each time he comes to the US.

At the Fridley dinner, a group of local freelance Liberian cultural artists opened the event with traditional African drumming that added color to the occasion.


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