News reports of former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Governor Charles Sirleaf being let off the hook in the criminal trial of former officials of the CBL, as well as reports of heightened insider fighting amongst members of President Weah’s inner circle, could not have come at a worse time then this when the nation is in a state of virtual paralysis due to the onslaught of the pandemic COVID-19.
In the first instance, media reports of the discharge of CBL Deputy Governor has let loose hordes of suspicion in the public that the case of the alleged missing L$16 billion will fizzle into thin air and, eventually, nobody will be held to account. In the second instance, news reports carried in the FrontPageAfrica newspaper speaking about intense fighting amongst members of President Weah’s inner circle are troubling because of the potentially negative implications such feuding may have for the country.
An anxious public awaits answers, as things stand, to reasons why Sirleaf was let off the hook when both the Kroll and PIT reports clearly indicate criminal behavior on the part of not only officials of the CBL, including its Board of Directors but members of the Economic Management Team as well. This includes Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Justice Minister Musa Dean.
According to well-placed sources, the dropping of charges against Charles Sirleaf was driven by mutual desire by President Weah and his predecessor former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to keep a sealed lid on the affair because, according to sources (names withheld), “both individuals had played in the money”.
And in apparent fear of the retribution which they (officials of this government) believe would have been sure to follow from President Sirleaf were her son to be convicted on criminal charges, the government dropped charges against her son.
Whatever the case, hard questions to which answers have not been forthcoming, continue to linger.
For example, why did former CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray refuse permission to investigators to conduct a physical count of money held in its (CBL) vaults? Also, why did President Weah fail to compel Patray to grant investigators access to the CBL’s vaults?
Moreover, why did Kroll fail to adhere to internationally accepted accounting principles by choosing not to write local commercial banks for response to questions concerning the amount of money they received from the CBL to be put into circulation?
Additionally, why did the US Ambassador at the time, fail to ensure that Kroll, which was hired by the US government, did not follow international best practice by soliciting responses from local commercial banks on the amount of money placed into circulation through their respective banks?
And interestingly, the architect of the money imbroglio, the grand scheme to print billions of Liberian dollar banknotes through rather nebulous arrangements including the doctoring of records, remains ensconced behind a wall of protection seemingly erected by President Weah in fulfillment of his promises to make the protection of President Sirleaf’s interests his foremost priority.
For now, it remains unclear how the case of Milton Weeks is going to end given the absolution of Charles Sirleaf. The public is left wondering whether at the end he is going to receive similar treatment or whether he is going to be the sacrificial lamb. Should that be the case, will both Presidents Weah and Sirleaf be prepared to risk a “tell all” by Weeks in a bid to salvage whatever is left of his own reputation which has been dragged into the mud by this ugly affair?
Only time will tell but, for now, public attention appears to be growing by the day, on the feud within President Weah’s inner circle. Recalling history, such feuds can prove dangerous and potentially fatal. Feuding amongst members of the Peoples Redemption Council (PRC) led to purges and the execution of several of Doe’s colleagues. Eventually the rug was pulled under him and he ended up as a captive at the feet of Prince Yormie Johnson, begging for mercy which never came.
Even before then, feuding amongst members of President Tubman’s inner circle ended with his death under suspicious circumstances at a London clinic, but which was happily greeted, according to sources, by other members of the closely knit circle of “friends, confidantes, craftsmen and women (Masonic).
Similarly placed also was President Tolbert who was betrayed by his inner circle of friends, confidantes, craftsmen and women that eventually led to his execution and overthrow. Further afield is the example of former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, whose death by a poisoned apple clearly indicated the level of feuding within his inner circle.
These intra-feuds, judging from history, have always tended to exert a destabilizing effect on the country and it is for this reason the Daily Observer sees reason to caution President Weah to not allow this situation to get out of hand. On one side of the divide is Emmanuel Shaw and others. Shaw has a known criminal reputation and there is no telling that he would go down without a fight. His alleged ties to underworld criminal elements whose support he could seek cannot be dismissed outrightly.
As for Ministers Tweah and McGill, they are the two most hated men in Liberia, according to CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu in a leaked audio recording. Perhaps it is for this reason Shaw and company may be seeking to have them expunged for fear that they could suffer a rub-on effect in case worst comes to worst. Such feuding, if not checked, could lead to things coming to a head. And this is where President Weah may have his greatest test of leadership.
He should “CRACK THE WHIP” and “REIN IN HIS HORSES”, bearing on mind that only a determined and focused pursuit of the national interests will be in his and the nation’s best interests. But pandering to the likes of unsavory characters and attempting to balance the interests of self-seeking individuals will prove disastrous.
These are indeed worrying and uncertain times for Liberia.