The Embassy of the United States of America
The EU Delegation to Liberia
The Embassy of France
The Embassy of Great Britain
The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
The United Nations Mission in Liberia
The ECOWAS Commission
The African Union
The Mano River Union
I have the honor most respectfully to convey my compliments and bring to your attention, unfavorable developments once again evolving in Liberia. It is fast becoming evident that the vices that once threatened the peace and stability of Liberia and eventually broke grounds for the devastating decade and half (1989-2003) civil war which led to the breakdown of law and order, loss of nearly 250,000 lives and destruction of the country are fast emerging once again. Although significant progress has been made towards Liberia’s post-war recovery and renewal efforts, but the country is yet to fully recuperate from the horrific experiences. The scars of the war are still very fresh and visible. Many Liberians are living with the trauma and excruciating pains they endured from rape, torture, miming, wanton destruction of their properties and loss of their children, spouses and other family members to years of brutal and indiscriminate killings.
Your Excellencies, let’s not forget that the failure to institute justice in the form of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) framework in the aftermath of the protracted civil war is an incentive for the deep-rooted corruption, disregard for the rule of law and engrained impunity that the country is experiencing today. As a direct result of the melee, the economy is still in a bad shape and the people are persistently enduring hardship. The situation has even worsened as Liberians are hopeless than ever before. Today, even as we look back 15 years ago since the senseless war ended, many victims are languishing unattended while their perpetrators are living scot-free. Some of those perpetrators are living in luxury overseas from the spoils of the war while others are parading the corridors of power with deep insensitivity and sheer arrogance in their various capacities as authorities of the nation.
This situation calls for immediate attention because the horrible experiences of the war are still fresh at memory due to the prolonged absence of a justice mechanism such as the implementation of the recommendations of the TRC. It is no doubt that the TRC mechanism is a right approach to ensuring genuine peace and reconciliation. Even former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after 12 years as President, admitted to her government’s failure in doing much to reconcile Liberians in a way that could deal with the age-old problems of corruption and impunity. In her last state of the nation address, former President Sirleaf cited corruption and reconciliation as challenges that her government did not do much to tackle.
Your Excellencies, as a Liberian, I am fully aware of the devastating impact of the war on my dear country. It was such horrific moment that I consider the darkest period in our history and it is incumbent upon me and all of my fellow compatriots to do everything possible not to walk down that road again. That is exactly why I remain grateful for the immeasurable contributions made by your respective countries and organizations to end the civil war and put my country back on the trajectory of sustainable peace and stability.
However, in spite of such sacrifice and progress made over the years, it is very disheartening and unfortunate to inform you that just as previous governments, especially the recent past fell prey to the triggers of corruption and impunity; so is the Weah-led administration walking the same path. Just like his predecessor, former President Sirleaf, President Weah’s government has demonstrated complete lack of interest in the implementation of the recommendations of the TRC report. It is anyone’s guess that President Weah is keeping his promise of protecting former President Sirleaf in her post-presidency life from prosecution for corruption or war crimes she may have committed. Additionally, President Weah is closely teleguided by Madam Sirleaf and it would seem very difficult or impossible for him to undertake any initiative such as the WECC to prosecute her.
Similarly, Sen. Prince Y. Johnson who is infamously known for committing some of the heinous crimes during the civil war including the brutal murder of former President Samuel K. Doe and so many other Liberians is enjoying pay-back for helping President Weah to get elected with significant number of votes from his vote-rich county of Nimba. Besides, Sen. Johnson and his likes who are in authority now feel very confident and comfortable of being protected by the Weah government. Sen. Johnson is on record for terming the call for the WECC as a “joke”. In essence, President Weah sees the prosecution of these people as betrayal of trust.
Your Excellencies, I am sure you would like to see Liberia fully recovered as a decent and productive nation; one with a democracy guaranteed by the tenets of fair play, equality and justice. Thus, the TRC framework is by all means the right mechanism to achieve this milestone. As you’re aware, the TRC recommendations is very comprehensive and consists of five essential components; 1) Accountability: Prosecution Mechanism, 2) National ‘Palava Hut’ Forum, 3) Amnesty, 4) Persons Not Recommended for Prosecution, and 5) Reparations. As I’ve indicated inter-alia, I have no doubt that the full implementation of the TRC recommendations will effectively dispense justice, address the issue of reconciliation questions and set the stage for ending corruption and impunity in Liberia.
Hence, the implementation of these recommendations is paramount to achieving genuine recovery and development in Liberia. As such, I would like to add my voice to those of my fellow compatriots in seeking your timely intervention for the establishment of a special tribunal or War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) of competent jurisdiction for Liberia. The establishment of the WECC is consistent with the TRC framework which calls for the prosecution of individuals, armed groups and other entities that the TRC determined were responsible for ‘egregious’ domestic crimes, ‘gross’ violations of human rights and ‘serious’ humanitarian law violations.
Your Excellencies, corruption is pervasive in Liberia and has been considered an all-time enemy of progress. Everyone abhors the scourge because it is a seed of discord and a catalyst that has ruined Liberia for decades thereby keeping the people in a state of abject poverty and degradation. Even though her government fell prey to corruption as well but Madam Sirleaf described the sleaze as ‘public enemy number one’ signifying the extent of its devastating effects on Liberia. In spite of this profound understanding of the dangers of this menace, in less than 10 months into his leadership, President Weah has given a blank check to corruption. The President is on record for surrendering to corruption. According to him, everyone in the country is related. Thus, it will be difficult for him to fight corruption.
Your Excellencies, the President’s concession has serious implications for the fight against corruption. It has seriously discouraged the already suffering and wearied Liberians and further made them hopeless of attaining any structural and systemic change capable of dealing with the economic hardship that would improve their lives in keeping with his promise. Quite frankly, the assertion by the President is inconceivable and one that creates a floodgate for a ‘corruption bonanza’ in Liberia. Thus, submitting to corruption to the extent that President Weah has demonstrated is a clear manifestation that his government is disinterested in fighting the plague by any measure.
Your Excellencies, President Weah’s concession to corruption is further reflective of what has now become the biggest scandal in the history of Liberia, the reported disappearance of 16 billion Liberian Dollars or its equivalence of 104 million United States Dollars. The money in question is said to have been printed by the Sirleaf government and brought into the country via the Roberts International Airport and the Freeport of Monrovia, respectively. The RIA is the country’s main airport and the Freeport is the gateway to the country’s economy; suggesting that no activities such as the shipment of the legacy banknotes consignments go on at these key agencies without being sanctioned and tracked by government.
The missing L$16 billion represents 5% of Liberia’s GDP and 18% of the country’s current budget which, when applied appropriately by the government, can meaningfully address some of the pressing basic social issues such as health care, education and roads. It has been more than six months since the money in question was said to have disappeared with no word from the then Sirleaf government in which President Weah, his Vice President and the current Speaker and Deputy Speaker served in key positions. Similarly, there has been no word from the Weah government about circumstances surrounding delivery of the billions with respect to clearance of the consignment of printed legacy banknotes from the two ports of entry (RIA and Freeport) and custody. The scandal which is being treated as a mystery by the government is shameful and embarrassing. It is a scandalous account that portrays a dark image of Liberia and has the propensity of blacklisting the country as a non-investment friendly country. In the end it is the impoverished citizens who will suffer the consequences.
Your Excellencies, the government’s approach to dealing with a scandal of this magnitude is dishonest and eventually unacceptable. The government has contradicted itself several times with certain agencies claiming that the money is missing while others are refuting such claims of their colleagues and averring that the money did not get missing. Specifically, the President, Ministers of Justice and Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism have confirmed in separate claims, the printing of the legacy banknotes and shipment, and subsequently disclosed the constitution of an investigation committee to probe the disappearance of the money. Conversely, the Minister of Finance and development Planning who works at the will and pleasure of the President, refuted the claims of his boss (The President) and his two colleagues of the Justice and Information Ministries and encouraging the citizenry to believe him that no money got missing.
Your Excellencies, this incoherence and inconsistency demonstrated by the government is reflective of dishonesty and lack of credibility. The approach of the government has caused more confusion than providing answers. Currently, there’s growing anxiety and apprehension in the country, especially where expectations are very high due to the rapid deterioration of the economy since Mr. Weah took over as President. This resentment is evidenced by the peaceful protest on September 24, 2018 of hundreds of citizens demanding that the Weah government accounts for the missing billions which could have significantly address some of the pressing issues currently affecting the country.
In the main time, President Weah has called on Liberians to exercise patience for the second time since he took over as President in the wake of growing resentment. According to him, the scandal is being investigated and his government is promising logical conclusion. But here is the thing. The 53rd Legislature of which President Weah, his Vice President, current Speaker and Deputy were all members of, the 54th Legislature, Ministry of Justice, Liberia National Police, Freeport of Monrovia, Central Bank of Liberia and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning are all culpable. All of these institutions of government played different roles including authorization of printing the banknotes, shipping, delivery, clearance from the ports, and taking custody. There is no way that any of these institutions can be involved with the investigation of the scandal. None is credible because they are all institutions of interest to the investigation. Therefore, the ongoing investigation sanctioned by President Weah has no credibility and the outcome will eventually be unacceptable.
Your Excellencies, I have no doubt that investigating this scandal is of great interest to you. The reason is simple. Liberia is one of the biggest recipients of taxpayers’ money from your respective countries for key recovery and development purposes. As such, it is just fair enough for you to equally ensure that there’s due diligence to engender accountability and transparency in the application of such resources from your fellow compatriots through your governments. Similarly, there are those of us Liberians who are interested in ensuring that your gestures or contributions to our country are effectively accounted for. That’s why we should demonstrate a collective interest in constructively engaging with the Weah administration to effectively account for the missing billions in question. I am not sure anyone, not even your governments and organizations would want to see this scandal treated as’ business as usual’.
Your Excellencies, it is against this backdrop that I would like to seize the opportunity to kindly request that you add your voices to those of the many suffering Liberians by calling on the government to establish an independent investigation panel completely exclusive of the government to investigate the scandal. In my opinion, this proposal is in everyone’s interest as it will help to address the trust and confidence questions currently beseeching the government; that is if it proves its innocent or get the government to account if the charge of the disappearance of the L$ 16 billion banknotes is proven. As I mentioned earlier, this will be in your interest as well because the outcome will redefine the extent of your future support or contribution to the country.
Your Excellencies, the advancement of the two proposals (Establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court and Independent Investigation Panel) in this letter is in line with my civic duty as a citizen of Liberia to contribute to the recovery and development of my country. As such, it is my ardent hope that my proposals will be granted as part of your immeasurable contributions to Liberia’s ongoing recovery and development process.
Josiah F. Joekai, Jr.