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Liberia: FrontPageAfrica Releases Annual Evaluation of the Executive and Its Functionaries

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Monrovia – A year mired in multiple unexplained and high-profiled deaths made the climaxing 2021 one of the most challenging to date for the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change-led government, now limping into its fifth and crucial year of its first term.

Much of the past year was eclipsed by political undertones amid criticisms that the George Weah administration has taken its eye off the ball on a number of issues to the detriment of itself and those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Like most third world countries, the COVID-19 pandemic hit an already fragile Liberia hard.

Fresh off the country’s first democratic transition of power between different political parties since 1944, the Weah administration inherited a country still trying to restore its economic sanity after the twelve-year reign of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2018.

Many international stakeholders fear that the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, has been a contributing factor to the lingering post-war fragility that has led to much of the security challenges the administration is struggling to tackle. UNMIL had been in Liberia since the peace agreement of 2003. However, since handing over its security responsibilities to the national police and military, things have apparently gone downhill raising questions about the effectiveness of the government to maintain the peace after a brutal civil war and a successful democratic transition.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the democratic transition, coincided with the winding down of increased foreign aid after the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak and the unfolding financial debacle which caused a sharp decline in net foreign exchange inflows to the country. “This, in turn, heightened pressure on the Liberian dollar exchange rate and on inflation. To stabilize the economy, the authorities had to make difficult adjustments to an economy with less foreign exchange inflows, which created significant hardship for the Liberian people. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Liberia during this difficult adjustment phase,” according to Mika Saito of the IMF’s African Department.

The administration also took some hits from the U.S. State Department over its budget transparency. During the course of the past year, the State Department annual Fiscal Transparency Report noted that  the government did not make its budget documents, including the executive budget proposal, enacted budget, and end of year report, publicly available in a reasonable period of time.  ”Information on debt obligations, with the exception of state-owned enterprise debt, was widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online,” the report noted.

The report also found that foreign assistance receipts, largely project-based, were neither adequately captured in the budget nor subject to the same audit and domestic oversight as other budget items.  Said the report: “Significant deviations between projected and actual revenues during the review period undercut the reliability of budget information.  The supreme audit institution did not meet international standards of independence and did not make its audit reports publicly available within a reasonable period of time.”

Despite these lapses, the Weah administration was able to stay afloat both economically and politically, although poverty level remains an all-time high and most Liberians are still struggling to get by. For the sixteenth year running we look back on the performances of government ministries and agencies, offering highs and low points and outlook for the coming year, 2022.

THE EXECUTIVE

THE PRESIDENCY

THE LOWDOWN:

President Weah’s ambitious agenda to trim the government’s wage bill was greeted with mixed reviews. In his 2020 Annual Message, the president acknowledged that reducing the public wage bill was a lingering issue and a politically-sensitive problem, that plagued not just the current government but past administrations as well.

The passage of the National Remuneration and Standardization Act aimed at bringing stern reform to the public wage system triggered what some say would later prove to be a major dilemma for the administration.

While the government was trumpeted the reduction of salaries for government employees through the harmonization process as a major accomplishment, critics were unsure, particularly when reports of budget shortfall raised some questions about the success of the harmonization program.

For President Weah, who trimmed his own salary by 25% upon assuming office, and further reduced his salary again during the harmonization exercise. “This is how it should be, because as leaders, we should at all times bear the highest burden, and lead by example. We should be the first to make the cuts and sacrifices, since we are elected to SERVE the people, and their interest should always come first. The harmonization exercise was necessary to ensure that the government lives within its means,” the President said during his Annual message at the start of the year under review.”

While critics have taken the government to task over the process, the exercise did discover that more than 25,000 public workers were being paid from a General Allowance that had no particular grading system. The President has been clear that the reforms are by no means complete, and we will continue as part of efforts to perfect the wage system. “We are also continuing to remove ghost names from the public payroll. And we intend to have all Government workers identified with biometric national identification numbers by next budget year. We are also working to remove from the public payroll those who have reached retirement age.”

Approaching what could be a lame duck year for his presidency, President Weah has his work cut out for him. So far, the incumbent has defied calls for drastic changes to his government amid noticeable lapses which from all indication could make or break his prospects for a second term or drive a wedge between himself and those looking to make him a one-term president.

2021 HIGH:  President Weah scored a major victory during the course of the year under review when the Supreme Court quashed a law that automatically takes away the citizenship of any Liberian who acquires another nationality.

Although the case was a result of a petition filed by Attorney Alvin Teage Jalloh who challenged the constitutionality of parts of the Alien and Nationality Law when the Liberian Embassy in Washington refused to issue Jalloh travel documents to travel to Liberia because he had become an American citizen, the decision by the court was a victory for the ruling government.

President Weah had opted to legalize dual citizenship in the 2020 referendum, but opposition leaders called on their supporters to reject the proposition, ultimately scuppering the bill. “The court’s decision is a fulfillment of the long-held desire to ensure Liberians of all persuasions, who left the country due to the civil war, are not deprived of their rights and privileges in the land they regard as home. This is Victory for all Liberians,” said Weah said in a statement in the aftermath of the high court ruling.

During the course of the year under review, President Weah touted his government’s strides against the deadly COVID-19 and poverty as strong and progressive despite mounting challenges facing his Government. 

In an address to the 76 session of the United Nations General Assembly in September, President Weah said his government’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PADP) which specifically targets longstanding socioeconomic deficits of the country has also developed a Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan intended to reduce the debilitating impact of the pandemic. “Under the Economic Recovery Plan, the Liberian economy is already beginning to show signs of resurgence, and in spite of the negative impact of the coronavirus, projections for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is now positive, and is expected to reach four percent (4%) in the coming year,” the President said on  Thursday, September 23, 2021.

According to the President, through the implementation of difficult macroeconomic reforms, his government has been able to obtain a substantial increase in domestic revenue generation for the first time in more than a decade, “and we are committed to broader economic and investment climate reforms”. “In the agriculture sector for example, my Government is endeavoring to vigorously launch agricultural promotion projects, which will increase agricultural production through new entrepreneurship opportunities, innovations, and safe farming techniques.”

Conscious of the importance and impact of infrastructure on social and economic development, as enshrined in the PAPD, the Liberian Leader told the United Nations General Assembly that his Government has identified investment in roads; energy and ports as key priority areas.

President Weah acknowledged a horde of negative socio-economic impacts and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic which, according to him, “remind us of the measure of work that is required at the global and national level to combat this pestilence.”

On the domestic front, an analysis by the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (Naymote), recorded that the administration on few of the promises they made when they came to power. “Based on available data and records, only nine of the 113 promises were completed, constituting 8 percent of all promises,” said Naymote, a watchdog group supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

The group said almost half of Weah’s promises are ongoing and another 44 percent have not started or there is little data to provide an assessment, according to Naymote, which carries out regular reviews called the “Weah Meter”. The ruling CDC took three senate seats out of 15, with the CPP securing six senators, according to the electoral commission, with a turnout of 37 percent.

The Weah administration also adopted policies such as free university tuition and road building initiatives as examples of bright spots during the first three years

Under Weah’s watch, the government has continue the democratic sojourn, it inherited after winning the 2017 presidential elections with the successful conclusion several bi-elections and the 2020 senatorial elections.

The government has also claimed credit over its controversial process of harmonization that allowed the government to significantly reduce the wage bill by eliminating ghost names. Implementing a biometric identification card for all government employees eliminated discrepancies. We have redirected excess finances to other critical areas. Additionally, the government’s tuition-free policy for public universities and colleges announced by President Weah in 2019 and the payment by the government of all regional testing fees for WASSCE [West African Senior School Certificate Examination] have provided huge reliefs for parents. The scheme, according to the administration led to increase in school enrollments and literacy rates.

The administration has also made progress in a number of infrastructural development with the rehabilitation of existing roads, including feeder and main highways while expanding the road network.

The administration is also making progress as it work toward connecting the country by paved roads, especially in the southeastern corridor.

2021 LOW: President Weah has come under pressure since assuming the presidency over his failure to utilize the seat of the Liberian presidency, opting instead to work mostly from his Jamaica resort. Critics of the President have been struggling to understand the rationale of the President’s decision.

During the course of the year under review, the President also suffered a setback when his plan to shorten presidential terms was rejected in a much-anticipated national referendum. The mid-December constitutional referendum proposed by the president had argued against politicians staying in office for too long. But his proposal for presidents and lower house lawmakers to serve five years instead of six, and for senators to serve seven years instead of nine, sparked suspicion that the President was looking for the change in a bid to seek a third term.

The administration was dealt a major blow over its failure to maintain the Millennium Challenge Account, one of the underlining factors defining the bread and butter issue of the government’s pro-poor agenda.

The government’s failure drew strong rebuke from the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy who pressed the administration during the course of the year under review to step up its effort to strengthen areas of governance, especially the fight against corruption, as identified in the MCC’s  scorecard.

A year prior, Liberia only passed nine of the twenty indicators, as released by the MCC in its Fiscal Year 2022 report. The eleven indicators that Liberia failed include the Rule of Law, fiscal policy, primary education expenditure, natural resource protection, inflation, trade Policy, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, immunization rates, girls’ primary education completion rate and child health. While the nine indicators it passed include political rights, civil liberties, freedom of information, gender in the economy, land rights and ccess, Health expenditures, Access to Credit, Business Start-Up and Control of Corruption.

Addressing a monthly press roundtable in November, Ambassador McCarthy commended Liberia for scoring well in some of the indicators that other countries struggled to pass, including political rights, civil liberties, and freedom of information.

The government also came under fire when in August, Ambassador took the Liberia Electricity Corporation over massive power theft which was contributing to losses to the local economy and the upkeep of the corporation. “The LEC’s international management team has greatly improved LEC’s operational readiness and facilities.  Even so, widespread power theft and unpaid power bills have placed LEC in a financial crisis from which it cannot recover without immediate intervention and support from the Liberian Government,” the ambassador noted while lamenting that more than half of all electricity LEC generates is not paid for. 

President Weah’s efforts appear to be thwarted by lapses in governance with threatens his quest to win the embrace of the Biden administration and Washington as a whole. The President has his work cut out as he aims to satisfy the concerns of international stakeholders and the donor community.

FOREIGN POLICY GRADE: B-

DOMESTIC GRADE: B-

2022 OUTLOOK: The Weah administration faces a daunting task as it approaches election year 2023. As an incumbent, the President’s populist brand still ranks high amongst his core grassroot base. While there may be some disappointment, the President is bolstered by ongoing infighting within the opposition alliance and appears to be in the driver’s seat for a second term unless the opposition can muster the courage and resist the temptation to remain divided. For now, the only thing probably standing in the way of President Weah and a second term, is himself – and those in his inner circle. Every step in the months leading 2023 will be decisive as to whether Liberians are content with the Weah’s government performance – or will they be ready to give the opposition a shot.

THE VICE PRESIDENCY

THE LOW DOWN

President Weah and his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s was a marriage of political convenience from the start. Since ascending to the leadership however, the pair’s relationship has been eclipsed by on-and-off again recurring drama mired in distrust and uncertainty.

The chatters surrounding the pair has led to unending rumors that President Weah is contemplating dropping the vice president for his second quest for the presidency. In June however, President Weah moved to dismiss those speculations, trumpeting the crucial political capital the former First Lady and Senator from vote-rich Bong County brings to the table.

The VP’s office has oversight over the Liberia National Lotteries, the National Center for the Coordination of Response Mechanism (NCCRM), Chair of the Youth Steering Committee, Chair of the One Health Platform, and the Group of 77 (with oversight over a segment of persons living with disabilities). The Office of the Vice President has increasingly focused on issues of Generational Equality, Youth Empowerment and Sexual and Gender based violence issues, over the year in review. Because of the scope of these issues, the assignments under this Office have expanded to include additional areas in Education, Economic Empowerment and Social Enterprise interventions.

In June, while in Salayea District, Lofa County at the start of his five-day tour of the county, the President, in a carefully-worded remark dropped more than a few hints about his plans to retain his Vice President as his running mate in the 2023 presidential elections.

Describing his collaboration with the former Bong County senator in the 2017 presidential elections as “the perfect team”, the Liberian leader said he looks forward to working with his “brilliant and politically-smart” vice president beyond 2023 when their first term ends.  “In 2017, Jewel Howard-Taylor and I came here in Salayea District to ask for your vote, and you voted us. Three years into our first term, we have come back to tell you thank you for your votes,” President Weah said.

The President added: “The team you elected is a very good one and I hope we will continue to work for the Liberian people beyond the first six-year mandate you people gave us. I have a vice president whom I rely on so much in this government for key decisions. People say Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor is smarter than me, but I say to myself, I am smart because I selected a very smart vice president in Jewel Howard-Taylor. I am enjoy working with my vice president, and I hope we can continue this working relationship beyond our six-year mandate,” the President said.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the Vice President took a strong position on a controversial topical issue, asserting that rapists should serve maximum sentence when they rape children under 18 in order to send a strong statement that rape is unacceptable in the Liberian society. “We must send a strong signal that Sexual and Gender Based Violence is unacceptable, especially for children below 18 and if a person rapes a child that is two or three years old, I think that person should get the maximum sentence available. We must send a strong signal that this is unacceptable,” said Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.

During the year, the Vice President not only raised her voice about the alarming situation of Sexual and Gender based violence across the Nation but was also personally involved. The Vice President intervened, visited and provided financial and other support to many victims. Key amongst which is a Victim (name withheld) from Cape Mount County who was raped by her teacher (who has since fled the country to Sierra Leone). The Vice President visited the victim and continues to provide educational and monthly support to the victim and baby.

There have been many similar instances of such, where financial support and educational opportunities are being provided on a sustained basis. In order to ensure substantial support to victims of sexual violence and abuse; the Office of the Vice President has gone a step further to initiate, in collaboration with the YWCA, the building of a Training Facility and a Safe Home for victims of sexual abuse. This project is currently ongoing, with support from GOL, CEMENCO, Spoon Foundation and the Shippers Association of Liberia. It is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2022.

On generational equality, the VPs Office provided opportunities for females to SUCEED, by investing in generational equality issues of Affordable and Accessible Educational opportunities for underprivileged girls.

As a result, Office of the Vice President currently provides educational grants to over 300 girls in high schools and Universities across the Country; keeping in mind that equality is about additional chances being given to those less fortunate ones.  

On the Group of 77, the Office of the Vice President, which provides support to persons living with disabilities, interventions were made. To date, there are about 10,000 registered members across the Nation. The mandate during this year was to increase monthly rations, provide educational support, and empowerment through skills training and agriculture, to ensure self-empowerment.

The Office of the Vice President, through the Group of 77, opened an agricultural farm in Todee, Montserrado County which is currently being operated by people living with disabilities under the G77 banner. As a result of the serious work being done in Todee and the need to empower more members of this group, the G77 unit commenced securing of all lands officially deeded to this organization by previous Governments, which have been encroached upon. The Office has engaged the Land Authority to resurvey said lands in Virginia and Todee. The plan is to remove the encroachments and utilize both sites for the building of a training center, housing for persons living with disabilities and create a productive Agricultural Site.

Also, during the course of the year, the VPs office engaged in the training of 25 G77 members in an empowerment scheme to make FIRE STARTERS for local consumption. This was done by a local Environmental Agency established under the banner of Green Gold.

The VPO also engaged in the monthly provision of food rations of 25kg bags of rice for many of our beneficiaries, instead of cups of rice as was done previously. 

The Office of the Vice President has oversight responsibilities over the Liberian National Lotteries Authority (NLA), and an Officer serves as Chairperson of the Board. The NLA is responsible for providing funds to persons living with Disabilities and supports the Group of 77 to cater for people with disabilities. During the period under review, the NLA provided food and assorted items to the Group of 77 for the Independence Day celebrations; and should provide food rations for holidays. The NLA has agreed to assist the G77 in the resurveying of its acres of land located in Todee, Brewerville and other places outside of Montserrado County. Once secured, said Land is expected to host the future headquarters, schools, hospitals, recreational centers, etc. for people living with disabilities.

The Vice President as the Chair of the Youth Sector Steering Committee (YSSC) is responsible for coordinating all youth related projects being implemented by the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The largest of the youth projects being implemented is the Youth Opportunities Project (YOP). The project became effective on September 30, 2016, and implementation commenced on January 9, 2017, after its national launch. The objective of the Project is to improve access to income generation opportunities for targeted and identified youth. The current YOP project targets about 15,000 youth across the country with a budget of USD$13.5 million with US$ 10 million from the World Bank (as a loan) and US$ 3.5 million from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)(as a

grant).

This project is expected to be implemented in several Counties including Montserrado. As a continuous program, its impact has touched the lives of thousands of young Liberians.

The Government of Liberia’s One Health Platform was launched during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak. Since its formation, the Vice President serves as Chair of that Platform. During the period under review, the Platform has been instrumental in coordinating activities of all institutions in the health sector to combat the spread of COVID 19 and provide Covid relief to particular segments of the population. The key role has been to liaise with the National Public Health Institute of Liberia and Ministry of Health in formulating and advising Government on safety and public health measure intended to safeguard citizens as we confront the global COVID 19 pandemic.

The Vice President is chair of the National Center for the Coordination of Response Mechanism (NCCRM); an ECOWAS early response initiative which is responsible to sound the alarm of any threat to the Nation. Over the past year, amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, in an attempt to keep an eye on the Pandemic , National Response, and Covid impact in Liberia, the Center has kept an active eye on this pandemic; it has produced eleven (11) monthly situation reports, six (6) alerts, four (4) policy briefs, five (5) situation updates and four (4) shorter briefs on the current situation; which has been sent to the appropriate authorities at the National and International bodies for response and actions.

Key issues presented through its reporting systems for timely action included the outbreak of COVID-19, refusal of citizens to follow health protocols and mandates issued by the government, political tensions and election related violence, increase in sexual and gender based violence and other forms of domestic violence against girls and women, fire outbreak resulting to death, issues of the need for accessible health facilities and services in some part of the country, malnutrition, increased incidents of HIV across the country, and the increase in maternal mortality in parts of in Liberia.

The Center during the year under review, identified an increase in child trafficking and abuse, increased illegal miming by foreigners, lack of a sustainable waste management scheme; negative climate change effects which result in heavy rainfall and floods leading to diverse negative social impacts on the population.

2021 LOW: The Vice President came under fire during the year under review over a controversial and what some administration officials touted as an ill-advised trip to Russia to attend the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia.The visit came at a time when the Weah administration is trying to shore up its standing with the Biden administration.

According to the VP’s office, she was a Guest in St. Petersburg, by the Russian Federation to attend the 3rd Eurasian Women Forum. The Forum, according to the VP’s office,  was created to champion the Women’s Economic and Political Empowerment, especially between African and Eurasian Women. In her comments during the Summit, she called for equal economic opportunity and equal access to Education, Trade, and inclusion in the Labor force. The Vice President ended her comments by reiterating that – “Women can compete; they just need a level playing field.” She challenged Women in Europe to do more to ensure full partnerships with African Women in Businesses.

Relationship between the US and Russia although critical has not been the best in recent years amid lingering claims that Moscow continues to interfer in US elections. The U.S. National Security Strategy declares Russia and China the two top threats to U.S. national security despite the two sides often engulfed in unending  competition and mostly adversarial ties.

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: Of late there has been mounting speculations that the NPP which the vice president commands major influence have been contemplating breaking away from the ruling CDC coalition amid concerns that jobs and other benefits have been uneven distributed since the coalition ascended to power. But more importantly, the vice president and her aides are growing increasingly worry over her fate in the aftermath of the 2023 elections. Would it be much more of the same or would she have more say on matters of decision making and influence?

MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE

THE LOWDOWN: The ministry of government responsible for developing the agriculture sector and ensuring that challenges that impede production are investigated, continues to face numerous challenges and the year under review was no exception.

Agriculture, including forestry, remains the primary livelihood for more than 60 percent of Liberia’s population and accounted for 31 percent of Liberia’s 2020 real gross domestic product (GDP). It provides sustenance for many households engaging in cassava, rubber, rice, oil palm, cocoa, or sugarcane production. Despite a high degree of involvement by the local population, the sector’s productivity remains low owing to the lack of technology and poor pest management essentials, combined with the extremely limited use of fertilizer and other modern cultivation methods.

The lack of adequate investment in the sector remains a challenge especially amid lingering and abject poverty. Some 51 per cent of the population lives in rural areas where poverty is heavily concentrated and most Liberians lack access to basic infrastructure and social services amid poor roads leave which leave areas inaccessible. While some 55 per cent of rural Liberian households are food insecure, the country’s economy depends heavily on exports of minerals, leaving 48.9 per cent of the workforce, mainly in smallholder and subsistence farming,  who rely on the sector struggling to make ends meet.

Trumpeting his administration’s commitment to sustainable food systems among world leaders at the UN Food Systems Summit in September, President George Weah pledged to ensure that Women, who are widely considered a driving force of our country’s food production, have direct access to basic support and resources – access to arable land through titled ownerships, financial loans and grants, market links, technology, training and extension services to ensure viable food systems. “We will act to ensure that Youths are encouraged to get more involved in food systems to reduce unemployment and enhance well-being.”

During the course of the year under review, Minister Jeanine Millie Cooper trumpeted a focus on food and crop production, saying that food grown in Liberia are superior to food grown in other countries.

In March, the minister while supporting a local agriculture group, Agro Tech at the University of Liberia Fendell Campus, reechoed President Weah’s slogan, “eat what you grow, and grow what you eat.”

2021 HIGH:  During the course of the year under review, the MOA signed three new projects with partners to empower farmers in Liberia to increase crop production. The projects were signed with the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the International Funds for Agricultural Development, respectively.

The projects which will be executed over the next five years in 13 counties, will specifically focus on the food crops value chain, infrastructure development through the building of farm-to-market roads, and increasing resilience to climax change. The new project includes a fund to pave 40 kilometers of road from Tappita, Nimba County to Totota, Bong Country.

The project’s focus is to provide cash grants to Liberian agribusinesses, cooperatives, farmer groups, and commercial farmers to increase their outputs, Madam Cooper details.

Additionally, in June, the World Bank Board approved a new financing to increase productivity and market access for smallholder farmers and agri-enterprises in Liberia. This new financing targets 60,000 persons, 50 percent of whom are women, mainly smallholder farmers and agri-entrepreneurs (private agribusiness investors, cooperatives, and SME processing or providing other services to agri-food systems) who are engaged in the selected value chains.

Funded by the International Development Association (IDA), the $55 million credit financing will seek to address challenges for developing agri-food value chains and pave the way for rural economic transformation.

Also, during the course of the year, the United States Government, through the US Department of

Agriculture (USDA), formally extended an invitation to the Government of Liberia for the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to join the US Government’s Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation Action Coalition.

The MOA fully organized the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) Dialogues for Liberia recently to help stakeholders better understand and manage the complex choices that affect the future of food systems and to accelerate progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The ministry also through its executed project – the Tree Crops Extension Project (TCEP) –completed the construction of three of four warehouses for cocoa farmers in remote cocoa-endowed towns in Nimba County.

Inadequate or lack of storage facilities in rural communities is one of the key constraints Liberian farmers continue to face which lead to post harvest losses of food crops.

For Minister Cooper, the facility was one of the practical interventions and support to farmers that the MOA has been threading on through the direction of President Weah. The warehouses with annexed offices have been completed in three cocoa-rich towns in central and eastern Nimba County precisely in Nyor-diaplay, Blolay and Bioyodar towns.

In August, MOA received a major boost when the Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development Liberia Mission Director Jim Wright pledged continued support to the sector in Liberia, declaring that the  United States remains committed to helping the Ministry fully use resources to make “agriculture an engine of economic growth and job creation” for the Liberian people.

The USAID’s agriculture support is also focused on engaging the private sector to invest in agribusiness.  Working with local banks, USAID helped improve Liberians’ access to financing to invest in agribusiness operations such as post-harvest processing and produce marketing by smallholder farmers.  These efforts are part of a broader USAID strategy to achieve market-driven inclusive economic growth that supports job creation, especially for women and youth.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, the Plenary of the Senate cited Minister Cooper for her alleged non-compliance and non-cooperative attitude exhibited towards the Statutory Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The decision was based on Minister Cooper’s failure to appear before the full Plenary of the Liberian Senate on Tuesday, October 26 after a summoned order.

The senators, during Tuesday session, expressed disappointment with respect to the manner and form the minister addressed her communication detailing an excuse to the Plenary, which some senators described as “more justifiable than an excused communication”.

In her communication of excuse, Minister Cooper cited her absence from the country as reason for not being able to honor the citation of the Liberian Senate. The minister explained  that she left the country on October 24 to form part of the President George Weah’s advance team of delegation to the Conference of Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Glasgow, Scotland. 

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the new year see Liberia slow down on its reliance on rice importation and end its vulnerability to global food price volatility?

MINISTRY OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY

THE LOWDOWN: The ministry responsible for the growth and development of Liberia’s economy and international trade found itself struggling to control prices of basic commodity during the course of the year under review.

Much of the government’s policies require the ministry to explore commerce and trade issues that facilitate private sector growth and innovations, while setting standards that will empower consumers to make informed decisions that will improve the lives of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

The country’s  economy is market-based and largely dependent on natural resources, foreign aid, and foreign direct investment. Liberia relies primarily on commodity exports (mainly rubber, iron ore, and gold) as major sources of export earnings.  With limited access to finance, cumbersome tax regulations, declining global market prices of export commodities, weak institutional capacity, and a shortage of skilled labor, the MoC, faced numerous challenges in dealing with every consumer issues.

Despite the country’s long-standing ties with the World Trade Organization, Liberians are yet to fully benefit from increased trade integration.

Like the previous administration, the current CDC-led government has been boggled down with multiple domestic constraints for firms to invest, produce, and export.

At the end of the civil war, and ushering of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government, significant progress was made on macroeconomic stabilization, the improvement of the overall business environment, the modernization of customs procedures, and increases in the capacity for facilitating trade.

Critics however point to mounting issues and unnecessary bottlenecks which continue to hold back Liberia’s competitiveness, leading to a stiffening of trade.

Today, not very many local firms have opportunities to take part in international markets to showcase their work, making it difficult to compete with countries in the West African sub-region.

Complicating things for local farmers and businesses, is the fact that exports are highly concentrated on very few primary products and few destination markets, making Liberia vulnerable. Additionally, trade capacity for effective participation in global markets is limited, and the quality of goods and services produced domestically is generally low, not least due to the low level of technology and lack of value chains. More importantly, Liberians continue to complain about the high cost of doing business – thanks to the bottlenecks.

2021 HIGHS: During the course of the year under review, the MoC made significant strides with the World Trade Organization regarding the development of a balanced and effective structure that enables innovation and creativity for patents, copyrights, and trademarks, where people earn recognition for what they invent or create.

The minister cited the single window endeavor at the Freeport of Monrovia undertaking large-scale accession commitments and implementing the WTO Post-Accession Implementation Plan. During a presentation in Geneva, Minister Diggs explained that the plan is aimed at  continuing with the reforms and transformation in critical areas, such as tariff regulation, trade facilitation, taxation, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, economic diversification and many others.

Also, during the course of the year, the ministry threatened legal action against anyone hoarding Liberia’s staple food (rice).The threat came as many local suppliers were hoarding the price of the staple foot. The minister couraged Liberians not to give credence to anyone who will create a situation that will take to country to a situation that have the propensity to under the peace and stability of the country.

The ministry also issued a number of regulations intended to govern the conduct of trade and commerce  throughout Liberia. The regulations, in line with the Ministry’s efforts to ensure a conducive   business environment where goods and services are available and affordable include the following: That all businesses operating within the Republic carry on all commercial transactions in both Liberian and United States Dollars in accordance with the 2019 Administrative Regulation, as the two currencies are legal tenders; All businesses are also instructed to display the daily Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) exchange rate as well as a full price list of commodities in both Liberian and United States Dollars at their business premises at all times to give consumers purchasing options; In line with the  measures, the Ministry warns  all  business entities against   coercing  consumers to transact or purchase goods and services in either of the dual currencies in  the Liberian  economy; noting  that doing so  will be a  breach of the 2019  Administrative Regulation,  which constitutes an offence punishable by law through appropriate fines upon proven violation; At the same time, all business entities are required to take due notice of prevailing CBL daily exchange rate in setting the prices of their goods; As part of the regulations announced on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, all purchases at all medium and large businesses above LRD$500.00 (Five Hundred Liberian Dollars) should be invoiced to authenticate price stabilization.

In addition, the ministry also declared that Inspectorate Division would monitor all businesses to ensure full compliance in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice

2021 LOWS: During the course of the year under review, Minister Marwine Diggs was forced to send out communications to local importers, requesting all to submit import documents for the period October 2020 to present, for the importation of goods which include but not limited to copies of INF Forms, payment invoices, Bill of Lading, Port charges and all payments related to the clearing of your goods from the free port of Monrovia to the warehouses of businesses.

The move came amid concerns that there was active and illegal practices in existence involving the illicit issuance and/or manipulation of Import Permits Declaration (IPDs) by local manufacturing companies.

According to the Ministry, the alleged illegal IPDs have resulted in low quality, imported eggs, biscuits and other essential commodities and goods with under-declared value, all of which are depriving Government of legal revenues. However, some businesses have complained that BIVAC has not been carrying out inspection. it is the duty of Bureau Veritas (BIVAC) to inspect imported goods and the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce have an agreement with BIVAC to inspect.

Business contend that it is BIVAC who determines goods are low quality and should not be the responsibility of the Ministry of Commerce.

This was part of the reason President in December 2020, issued Executive Order No. 103 in an effort to stimulate economic growth. However, the goal to exempt all commercial importers of goods into Liberia from seeking Import Permit Declaration (IPD) was rarely materialized during the year under review.

Despite the ban, a recent FrontPageAfrica investigation found that the ministry is still requiring businesses to process IPDs. The Executive Order stated, “All Commercial Importers of goods into Liberia are exempted from seeking Import Permits and filling Import Permit Declarations. In lieu of the Import Permit Declaration (IPD), the Import Notification Form (INF) is now being used as an administrative document to collect trade statistical data to monitor the inflow and outflow of goods and facilitate trade in the Commerce of Liberia.”

The lack of adherence to the President’s mandate at the Ministry of Commerce, have compelled businesses to seek IPD as the Ministry of Commerce has been reneging on the issuance of the IPD.

As Liberians experiencing jump in the price of the staple food, rice from USD$13.50 cent to almost USD$20.00, Commerce authorities were forced to step in to calm the situation regarding the sensitive nature of the price control, particularly, rice.

Minister Diggs attributed the hike in the price of rice to speculations in the public that the commodity is not in Country and maintained that there’s sufficient rice on the Market and disclosed plans by Government of Liberia to work, with Rice importers to resolve the situation in a shorted possible time.

What the minister failed to note is the fact that importers are having nightmares offloading rice from vessels at the Free Port of Monrovia which often leads to delays.

GRADE:  C

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the ministry finally solve the lingering IPD issue? When will authorities get a grip of the nagging price gouging issue?

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION

THE LOWDOWN: The ministry responsible for providing quality education for all and  preparing future leaders has been struggling to rediscover Liberia’s pre-war education system.

A lingering brain-drain brought on by 14 years of civil wars, gravely affected the education system making the rebuilding of the education system all the more challenging amid concerns that the country lacks data about schools and teachers which has hindered the government’s ability to accurately allocate resources.

According to the United Nations Education Children’s Fund(UNICEF), Africa’s oldest republic still has one of the world’s highest levels of out-school children, with an estimated 15 to 20 per cent of 6–14 year-olds who are not in class. This means, just over a third of pre-schoolers have access to early childhood learning programmes and only 54 per cent of children complete primary education.

While the sector has seen some progress since the end of the civil war, challenges remain. In 2015, close to 1.4 million children were registered in pre-primary, primary and high school. In addition, the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other partners teamed up and continue to repair or build new classrooms, train teachers, revise curricula and develop policies and plans for the education sector.

In recent years, the United States Aid for International Development(USAID) in concert with other donors, has been working with the ministry to address access to education, quality of instruction, and improved governance of the Liberian education system.  USAID education programs focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning (especially early grade reading) and increasing equitable access to safe learning opportunities for all learners, including students with disabilities, girls, and youth who missed out on education during the civil wars.  USAID programming also taps into the energy and dynamism of Liberia’s large youth population through a new activity that emphasizes developing the capacity of young Liberians to be key players in their country’s journey to self-reliance.

Despite the challenges, Minister Ansu Sonii has continued to express a willingness to improve the quality of Liberian educational system from being a best mess to a better learning environment. While the pledge has been good paper, the reality is the minister appears to be biting more than he can chew.

Among the steps the ministry under took over the past year, were efforts to improve the availability  of qualify  teachers, upgrade curriculum and improve the infrastructure  development  of  the various public  schools  across  the country.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the ministry announced that the closure of schools for the academic year will be done in phases, contrary to public outcry for the abrupt closure of schools.

In March, the House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to “create a special education scheme to support deserving students attending public tertiary institutions across Liberia. The Bill is titled “An Act to Create a Special Education Fund to Support and Sustain the Tuition Free Scheme for the University of Liberia, All Public Universities and Colleges’ Program and the Free WASSCE fess for Ninth and Twelfth Graders in Liberia, or the Weah Education Fund (WEF) for short.

The bill when enacted into law, will make all public colleges and universities “tuition-free”. The passage of this bill by the Lower House has been met by mixed reactions across the country: young, old, educated, not educated, stakeholders, parents, teachers among others, have all voiced their opinions about thd bill. While some are celebrating this purported huge milestone in the education sector, others are still skeptical that this bill may only increase access but not address the structural challenges within the sector. I join forces with the latter, and in this article, I discuss the quality and access concept in our education sector and why quality is important than access. I recommend urgent action to improve quality for learners in K-12.

2021 LOW: Over the course of the year under review, the ministry came under fire over the rampant rise in school fees. The issue drew attention of the Senate which summoned the minister to address the issues of hike in tuitions and removal of names from the ministry’s payroll.

The Plenary’s decision followed concerns raised by Senators Edwin Melvin Snowe of Bomi County and Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, respectively.

The Senators argued that a hike in tuition at the start of a new academic year, particularly in private schools continues to pose a serious challenge to most parents, who cannot afford it amid a general economic decline that is exacerbated by the global health pandemic. Some of the schools increase tuition and fees as high as a hundred percent, each academic year, but provide no new learning facilities or environment despite their astronomical charges.

The minister has also come under sharp public criticism recently for operating his own private institution that similarly charges exorbitant tuition and fees.

The action prompted the ministry to warn administrators in some public schools against unauthorized increase in the annual registration fees for public schools without remorse, the development it termed as willfully and intentionally undermining the good intention of the government and vowed to severely penalize the defaulting administrators.

During the course of the year under review, Liberia once again experienced poor results in the  WASSCE for Private Candidates (PC), 2020-Second Series.

WASSCE for PC, 2020-Second Series was administered at twenty (20) centers in seven cities: Kakata and Harbel, in Margibi County, Ganta, Nimba County, Tubmanburg, Bomi County, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Gbarnga, Bong County, and Monrovia and its environs in Montserrado County from November 29, 2020 to December 14, 2020.

According to the West African Examination Examinations Council(WAEC), a total of 2,013 candidates, comprising 956 males and 1,057 females registered for the examination. Of the total number of registered candidates, 1, 612 candidates, representing 80.8% sat the exam. This figure comprises 764 males and 848 females.

The results for WASSCE for PC, 2020-Second Series, said the release, show that six (6) of the candidates, three (3) males and three (3) females passed with credits in both Mathematics and English Language, while a total of three (3) males passed with credits in Mathematics, English Language and three additional subjects.

The results also reveal that sixty-nine (69) candidates comprising 38 males and 31 females, passed in at least five subjects, while 314 candidates comprising 176 males and one hundred thirty-eight (138) females, passed in at least three subjects. It stated that a total 1,070 candidates comprising 546 males and 524 females passed in at least one subject, while a 510 candidates comprising 198 males and 312 females failed in all of the subjects.

GRADE: F

2022 OUTLOOK: Will Minister Sonii finally address the issue of his private school? Will he put his words into action regarding the lowering of tuition and graduation fees?

MINISTRY OF FINANCE AND DEVELOPMENT PLANNING

THE LOWDOWN: The deadly Covid-19 pandemic is having severe impact on Liberia’s economy – as it is in most countries around the world, making the outlook, according to the World Bank a bit uncertain.  A modest 3.7% rate of growth was expected at the end of 2021, with 4.7 % projected for end of the coming year,  2022. 

Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have stated that structural reforms are needed to alleviate economic constraints and support diversification to enable a sustainable recovery and a better post-pandemic future.

The World Bank recent Economic Update discussed a rebound in economic activity, noting that  inflationary pressures have moderated. However, the rate of inflation slowed steadily to 7.1% by July 2021 due to a decline in food prices and the CBL’s cautious monetary stance.

Minister Samuel Tweah acknowledged to during the World Bank Economic Update that the main priority of the Government has been to increase growth that is sustainable and inclusive. “That means increasing the productivity of the agriculture sector and linking farmers to urban and regional markets through better roads and transportation infrastructure.  It also means increasing access to clean and affordable electricity, particularly in rural areas, and digitizing our economy, especially through digital finance.”

Through the national budget the Government has been trying to implement a range of projects while keeping civil salary payments constant and on time. Domestic revenue saw a strong performance in FY 2020/2021 but analysts can critics note that the Government would have to show the impact of this revenue increase in the lives of the people. The World Bank Update does show that the poverty situation in Liberia still remains challenging, with the Bank pushing the but the Government through the MFDP to do more to  translate increases in revenue to reducing poverty and to better public sector performances at Ministries and Agencies.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, Liberia’s fiscal position improved in the first five months of 2021 due to increased revenues and spending consolidation, according to the World Bank. 

The WB reports that total revenues and grants increased to $249.3 million, while total expenditure reached $286.4 million, yielding a fiscal deficit of $37.1 million (1.1% of GDP). “With the amended PFM act requiring Liberia to align its fiscal year to the calendar year by 2022, the legislature has approved a special budget to fund fiscal operations from July 1 to December 31, 2021. Total revenues and grants are projected at $429 million (12.7% of GDP) between July 1st and December 31, 2021, with domestic revenue representing 70% of public resources. Total expenditure is projected at $458.2 million (13.6% of GDP, including donor-financed projects), with current expenditure representing 60% of the special budget. The fiscal deficit of the special budget is projected at 0.9% of GDP and is expected to be fully financed by external loans.”

During the year under review, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed its third review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). 

The IMF reported that the four-year ECF arrangement, with a total access of SDR 155 million (60 percent of quota or about US$214.30 million) was approved by the IMF Executive Board on December 11, 2019. Completion of the third review enables the immediate disbursement of SDR 17 million (US$23.64 million), bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to SDR 68 million (US$94.8 million). On August 23, 2021, Liberia received SDR 247.7 million (US$345.3 million) in the context of the general SDR allocation to the IMF’s membership.

According to the IMF, program performance has been mixed, with a favorable fiscal outturn but delays in the implementation of the structural reform agenda. Despite the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities have kept the program broadly on track and maintained macroeconomic stability, with the fiscal deficit slightly declining to 4.2 percent of GDP thanks to higher grants, and inflation receding to 13 percent in 2020. While the economy contracted by 3 percent in 2020, for 2021, growth of 3.6 percent is expected, with the fiscal deficit declining further to 2.4 percent of GDP, and inflation reaching the single digits.

“The authorities intend to use the new SDR allocation to strengthen the reserve position, increase spending on the vaccination program, support high-quality development projects, and retire expensive debt. Fiscal reforms should focus on containing wage bill, enhancing domestic revenue mobilization, improving the quality of public spending, and operationalizing a Treasury Single Account. The authorities are committed to refraining from monetary financing of the budget and non-concessional external borrowing. Timely publication of public procurement information and audits of the government’s Annual Financial Statements remains a priority.

“The accommodative monetary policy stance improves liquidity and supports the recovery. The upcoming currency changeover operation brings benefits but requires strong efforts to manage operational risks and the further elaboration of the time-bound implementation plan to ensure a smooth transition. Further efforts are needed to enhance the central banks’ independence, governance, and transparency.

“Strengthening and developing the financial sector remains a priority. Ongoing bank restructuring and the bolstering of the supervisory toolkit are welcomed measures. The authorities are committed to addressing the high levels of non-performing loans and weaknesses in the AML/CFT regime.

“Efforts to fight corruption are key to the success of the program and better development prospects for the country. While the recent improvements in transparency and the governance framework are welcome, more rigorous implementation of reforms would help to ensure tangible results. It will be important to accelerate structural reforms to improve the business climate for private sector development.”

Both the World Bank’s Economic Update and the IMF’s latest report do speak to strong fiscal performance in the year under review. The Government has generally stabilized the salary situation which were a serious problems in 2019. The real challenge remains how to translate these fiscal gains into long term impact in the lives of people.

2021 LOW: Despite inroads made by the ministry during the course of the year under review, the administration fell short of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) required passing mark, which is required for the Government to seek a second Compact to support its development agenda.

All this gainst the backdrop of a high profile visit with Senator Lindsey Graham to promised to champion Liberia’s case with the MCC. Frontpage Africa has learned that Senator Graham did write MCC management a letter urging the Corporation to give Liberia a favorable treatment ‘once it met  the minimum passing level”. Despite this strong show of support, Liberia passed 9 indicators when it needed to pass 10 to be eligible.

Eligibility for the MCC funding is predicated upon a country passing at least 10 of the 20 indicators, as well as both categories “hard hurdles” categories – the political rights or civil liberties indicator, and the control of corruption indicator.As for  FY2022,  the Weah administration scored 50% on rule of law, 94% on gender in the economy, 77% on land rights and access; but failed in primary education (27%), and protection of natural resources (19%). The government also failed with regard to girls’ education (23%), child health (33%), fiscal policy (38%), Inflation (17.0%), regulatory quality (38%), trade policy (37%), and government’s effectiveness (31%).

The failing mark drew strong rebuke from United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy who called on the Liberian Government to step up its effort to strengthen areas of governance, especially the fight against corruption, as identified in the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) scorecard. “We urge Liberia to redouble its efforts to strengthen areas of governance identified in the scorecard, with particular focus on taking concrete steps to combat corruption sustainably increasing the overall number of indicators passed,” the Ambassador asserted.

Also,  structural payroll reforms still continue to dog the Ministry. A  Memorandum of Understanding signed with public sector workers almost a year now has not been implemented to a high level of success, though some progress has been made. The last grading of the MOU was around 50% and workers and teachers are still complaining about slow progress in several areas.

Teachers of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, MCSS, the very school system the Minister hails from,  had to stage a one day protest on concerns related to the impact of the exchange rate on their salary, which means the MFDP has not yet figured a framework for stabilizing workers pay when the exchange rage changes either in a positive or a negative direction.

Report from the meeting says the Minister assured teachers of the MCC that the Government would propose a formula to the legislature during the FY 2022 budget  discussion.

Also prices have been slow to adjust after recent exchange rate movements, and the MFDP, which chairs the Technical Economic Management Team, has yet to ensure that prices adjust to the recent changes in the exchange rate. Consumers continue to complain about the disparity but the Minister in recent public statements have only offered what critics  say are weak assurances.

GRADE:  B +

2022 OUTLOOK: The World Bank is projecting Liberia’s economy to expand by an average of 4.9% in the new year. While growth will be driven mainly by the mining sector and external demand, structural reforms are expected to increase activity in mining, agriculture, and construction. Per capita GDP is expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2023. The IMF also foresees the economy to be on track to rebound strongly in the new year, following the setback from the COVID-19 pandemic. “The medium-term outlook is favorable and the authorities are committed to steadfast implementation of their macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform program,” the IMF concluded on the year.

MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

THE LOWDOWN: Minister  Dee-Maxwell Kemayah assumed leadership at the ministry last September with a promise to institute reforms in the passport division by ensuring system and control and the availability of human resources. The new Foreign Minister also made a pledge to rotate some foreign staff, a policy which proved controversial and did not sit well with many within the ministry uneasy about the minister’s ambitious agenda.

During the course of the year under review, the ministry responsible for directing Liberia’s external relations and the management of its international diplomatic missions

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, Minister Kemayah held a number of retreats aimed at fulfilling his promise of massive reforms of the Ministry in a bid to provide a blueprint to guide the affairs of the Ministry.

The minister’s three-fold-vision for the passport was bolstered by the announcement that the price of the Liberian passport would reduced, while emphasizing the reduction on the waiting time for applicants.

Additionally, the minister took bold steps during the course of the year under review to strengthen the integrity and credibility of the Liberian passport, describing the accessibility to and integrity of the Liberian Passports as fundamental human rights.

For Kemayah, affordability and accessibility would allow citizens travel freely abroad without hindrances.

In a bid to address the issue of fraud, the ministry, in collaboration with Buck Press, through its corporate social responsibility,  installed CCTV infrastructure for effective monitoring of movement of people coming in and out of the passport areas, in a bid to unearth frauds or illegal transactions that might take place during the issuance of passports. 

In March, Minister Kemayah shutdown what he termed as a “black market” at the Ministry wherein Liberians and the government of Liberia were being exploited. “We have closed the general black market that people used to use to collect fees that were not going in government coffers,” Minister Kemayah said in March.

Minister Kemayah, at a briefing, said it was observed that payments for the services of obtaining laissez-passers, apostilles or attestations and corporate jackets were not going into government revenue but into individual accounts. The services were suspended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after it was realized that individuals were embezzling the funds generated by the ministry and diverting them to private use instead of government coffers.

During the year under review, the ministry signed signed the Host Country Agreement

With Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), granting Liberia privileges and amenities that they are entitled to, under the Conventions for International Organizations. 

In a bid to shakeup the various foreign missions, Minister Kemayah during the course of the year under review, encouraged Ambassadors, Consul Generals, Chargé d’Affaires and other diplomatic staff to deliver maximum representation.

 In a virtual retreat toward the end of the year,  the minister reiterated his commitment to working toward the much needed support that his colleagues desire in the field to complement their efforts.

The retreat, which targeted ambassadors, chargé d’affaires, consul generals and other diplomatic staff of Liberia’s Diplomatic Missions, is phase two of a previous retreat held recently for about One hundred participants from across departments, bureaus, sections and units within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The objective of the retreat, like the previous one, was to develop a common understanding to enhance the shared vision of His Excellency President Weah, as enshrined in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

In the past year, the ministry resumed the services for the issuance of Apostilles and Corporate filing of Article of Incorporation. The suspension of these services was to allow for a new regulation to approve fees for those services.

The ministry also took steps during the course of the year to reach out to Liberian refugees at the Buduburam camp in Ghana.

The refugees were grateful that the government was able to intervene with Ghanain authorities to prevent them from being booted out of Ghana. The Leadership of several associations on the camp hailed the role the government played to mitigate the demolition saga.

During a visit to Accra, Minister Kemayah prevailed to the Ghanaian authorities the concerns of the refugees; especially in relation to the security and protection of the Liberians and the demolition of the Camp.  Ghana’s Foreign Minister Botchey affirmed to Foreign Minister Kemayah and Delegation that the Government of Ghana has extended the deadline for the demolition of the Buduburam Camp from September 30, 2021 to December 1, 2021 as a result of the intervention of the Government of Liberia. The Ghanaian Foreign Minister assured the Liberian Foreign Minister and his Delegation that Liberians at the Buduburam Camp in Ghana are free to go about their normal businesses/activities and would be protected as Ghana extended residence at the camp until December 1, 2021. The Foreign Minister of Ghana urged the Liberians at the Camp to continue to be law abiding.

Minister Kemaya also won praise from the United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Madam Molly Phee who said on her Twitter page that she was honored to speak with the Liberian Foreign Minister, given the historic partnership. Madam Phee expressed appreciation for Liberia’s strong commitment to upholding human rights at home and at the United Nations.

2021 LOW: The ministry found itself entangled in a major saga during the year under review when both Minister Kemayah and his peer, Minister of State Nathaniel McGill came to near blows in front of President Weah.

The fight came amid an argument over whether should attend the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) September in person or virtually.

The decision to attend or not to attend the UNGA sparked a heated argument between Minister Kemayah and Minister McGill with both men reportedly trading insults right before the President.

The President had reportedly instructed his aides not to calm the situation on grounds that both men would sort it out themselves.

Sources familiar with the development informed FrontPageAfrica that Minister Kemayah had convinced the President not to make a physical appearance at the UNGA on grounds that he had received report from New York that world leaders were being advised to make a pre-recorded presentation and a make a virtual appearance. But Minister McGill was strongly opposed to the idea and insisted that the President attend in person.

In a memo from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the U.S. called on 192 other member nations to consider giving video messages instead of traveling to the U.S. in the midst of a wave of new COVID-19 cases.

However, FrontPageAfrica further gathered that the brawl between the two high ranking members of cabinet all started with the Minister of State demanding that the Foreign Minister report directly to his office and not to the President, something that Mr. Kemayah reportedly told him was outside the confines of the law and at the same time questioning how a Minister who works at the will and pleasure of the President would report to another Minister.

During the year under review, Minister Kemayah’s reign was eclipsed and muddled in accusations from the get go. Since Madam Wynee Cummings Wilson, a member of his staff at the UN Mission in New York claimed in a letter that she had been sexually harassed by the minister.

The minister has repeated dismissed the allegations he described as false, baseless and unfounded.

During the course of the year under review, murmurs floated around that the minister had been asked to resign by President Weah, a claim which was debunked by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism.

Minister Kemayah’s reign during the year was also marred by major infighting between he and his principal deputy, Henry Fahnbulleh. Fahnbulleh had become fond of sharing numerous text messages in WhatsApp chatgroups attempting to school the Minister about his role and functions as deputy and other qualifications that qualify him for the post:  Mr. Fahnbulleh urged his boss to go back and read the organogram of the Ministry. “I will hope that Your Excellency could do a mandate and functions review of the Office of the Deputy Minister.

GRADE: C+

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the bad blood between the minister and his deputy, Fahnbulleh be resolved in the new year? How will Kemayah handle what appears to be an unending internal wrangling under his watch?

MINISTRY OF GENDER, CHILDREN, SOCIAL PROTECTION & DEVELOPMENT

THE LOWDOWN: One year after President George Weah declared the issue of rape a national emergency and vowing to improve support for survivors and strengthen the country’s prosecution system, very few steps have been taken.

The President, in a statement last September introduced the first set of new measures to address the increase in violence against women. The measures include designating a specific prosecutor to handle rape cases and setting up a national sex offender registry. He is also creating a national security task force to handle sexual and gender-based violence and is allocating $US2 million to address the issue.

While women’s rights advocates were full of praises, many are now holding the administration responsible for the slow pace of following up on the President’s mandate.

Much of the blame has fallen on the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection Development, primarily responsible for policy formulation, coordination and monitoring and evaluation of Gender, Children and Social Protection issues within the context of the national development agenda.

2021 HIGH: The Ministry was one of the bright spots for Liberia during the course of the year under review, relating to the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Although Liberia failed to make the cut, the ministry, with support from partners, once again passed the Gender in the Economy indicator of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact from 81st percentile last year to 94th percentile this year with a score of 83.3

As indicated by the MCC – Gender in the Economy indicator measures the government’s commitment to promoting gender equality by providing women and men with the same legal ability to access legal and public institutions, own property, go to court, and get a job; and measures the extent to which the law provides girls and women legal protection from violence. It draws from two sources, the World Bank’s Women Business and the Law (WBL) Index and data from UCLA’s WORLD Policy Analysis Center data on Child Marriage and Customary Law.

Minister Piso Saydee Tarr, remarked that the constant passing in Gender in the Economy indicator hinged on the pivotal role the 54th National Legislature continues to play in meticulously passing needful legislations aimed at protecting the rights of women, girls and vulnerable people.

During the course of the year under review, the ministry with support from UNICEF, completed the training of eighteen (18) additional social workers with specific focus on implenting child protection programs in four counties hosting Ivorian refugees. The training primary goal of the program was to strengthen social service workforce to implement emergency child protection programs for Ivorian refugees in child friendly spaces and host communities.

Participants, drawn from Maryland, Nimba, Rivergee and Grand Gedeh respectively, were later

deployed in the four counties to commence the rollout of child protection’s programs.

The training was moduled with the objective to build the capacity of social workers in the four counties affected by the Ivorian refugee crisis in child protection in emergency, case managements; and also, to enhance participants’ understanding of the current Ivorian situation in Liberia, and further discuss the coordinated response mechanism.

2021 LOW: Women, girls and even young men still live in fear due to the failure of government to implement measures that would have provided some sense of security.

The high rates of rape in Liberia have been a long-standing concern. A United Nations report in 2016 recorded 803 rape cases the previous year in the country of 4.5 million, and found only 2 percent of sexual violence cases led to a conviction. A recent United Nations report ecorded 803 rape cases t in the country of 4.5 million. The report also found that only 2 percent of sexual violence cases led to a conviction.

This is even more profound with Liberia, according to the World Bank, ranking 177th out of 188 countries in the Gender Inequality Index. The SCORE Index, a tool designed to measure peace in societies, reveals that about two out of 10 Liberians endorse domestic violence against women and children, and one out of 10 endorses sexual violence, including rape.

In September, a report by UN Women in Liberia, while hailing the government for enacting several commitments to diminish unacceptable inequalities between women and men, recorded that  gender disparities persist at all levels, and is deeply entrenched attitudes continue to reinforce the lack of opportunities, marginalize women in public and private spheres, and hinder their possibilities to attain a dignified life.

GRADE: C+

2022 OUTLOOK: Uneven access to education, lack of employment, job segregation and lack of legal protection remain among the major issues affecting gender inequality in Liberia. What will the ministry do in the coming year to reshape its agenda in the coming year to improve on those lapses?

MINISTRY OF HEALTH & SOCIAL WELFARE

THE LOWDOWN: The Ministry tasked with reforming and managing the sector and deliver comprehensive, quality health services that are equitable, accessible and sustainable for all, is never short of challenges.

In a country where there’re just not enough hospitals or a health system simply inadequate to respond to people’s daily health care needs, the end result could me serious impediment to many looking for many in need of healthcare.

According to the World Health Organization, Liberia’s healthcare system depends heavily on international donor support. Many healthcare facilities are run by the government, donors, or through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including faith-based organizations. Generally, there is minimal private sector involvement in the health sector. In the national budgets for the fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19, the government appropriated 14% and 13%, respectively, to the health sector. The sector is constrained by weak supply chain management, particularly in terms of distribution and storage of pharmaceuticals and other supplies, as well as limited human resources, particularly in terms of doctors, specialists, pharmacists, and laboratory technicians. There is limited availability of essential genuine medical equipment and pharmaceutical products, and there are frequently reported stock outages, especially in areas of the country not currently supported by international donor agencies.

2021 HIGH: The ministry has been hailed over the handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemice. Since the May when the country saw a spike in cases  and came under fire for lacking the sophisticated equipment and technical ability to test samples, steps were taken with the help of the donor community to address the situation.

In July, the ministry received a donation of 302,400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine from the United States Government through the COVAX facility; a partnership of CEPI, GAVI, UNICEF and WHO to expand the COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the country. 

In March, the country received 96,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and so far, over 95,000 doses have been administered.  With the arrival of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which resumed the vaccination campaign, which was  halted after vaccines previously received were used up amid case surge in in June and July.

US Ambassador in a brief speech informed the Government of Liberia that the donation was a part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to share U.S. vaccines supply to the world. “We are proud to continue working together with the Liberian Government, the private sector and civil society to do everything we can to mitigate the pandemic’s high toll on life, livelihoods and social impacts,” remarked Michael McCarthy. To everyone who has not been vaccinated, I strongly encourage you to do so as I did; as soon as you have the opportunity.”
 

During the course of the year under review, the ministry in collaboration with partners rolled out a two-year Private Sector Engagement Strategy designed to structure engagement between the ministry and the private health sector while seeking to strengthen the private sector’s contribution to achieve the nation’s health goals.

Even though engagement between the Ministry of Health and the private health sector has a long history, this strategy aims to structure collaboration and dialogue between the two parties to achieve common long-term objectives. It was drafted through series of consultations with stakeholders from across the Ministry of Health and within the private health sector. It also includes areas of collaboration identified as those of mutual interest to both sectors.

The ministry also launched the National Malaria Strategic plan (NSP) 2021-2025 aiming to redefine the strategic direction and focus of the Malaria program, including strengthening of management and coordination structure, health system, and capacities to achieve greater equality, coverage, quality, and more effective delivery of the interventions. In addition, the malaria NSP includes plan for preparedness and timely response during emergencies to ensure malaria control activities continue with minimal disruptions in an emergency (e.g., Ebola Virus Disease or coronavirus).

Additionally, the ministry, during the course of the year under review, launched the country’s first Digital Online Licensing Examinations System which is intended to improve the LBNM’s operations and bring about professionalism as well as transparency in the country’s health sector. The system will also help students to be efficient and effective as well brings a high level of transparency.

The digital licensing exams system, launched in September, brought together health professionals from both public and the private sector, government officials including representative from the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Ghana among other partners.

This endeavor and other strategic engagements in the sector are aimed at seeing Liberia reached Universal health benchmark set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and team at the Ministry,  inclusive of partners, say, they are doing everything positively possible to meet such Global health goal and standard.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, the ministry found itself struggling to managed the negative perceptions of the Covid vaccines. The ministry was forced issue a clarity over a fake information circulating in the public glare concerning an individual who was said to have lost his life after being vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. The ministry has been urging and encouraging Liberians to take advantage of the ongoing J&J immunization process.


GRADE:
B+

2022 OUTLOOK: Liberians continue to suffer from high mortality and morbidity, resulting from a combination of poor living conditions and lack of quality health care. Infectious diseases are a major contributor to ill health and lost productivity with one-third of Liberians suffering from malaria each year, according to the WHO. Will the coming year see some progress made in erasing the trend?

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, CULTURAL AFFAIRS & TOURISM

THE LOWDOWN: One year after taking over the ministry tasked with the development and disseminating of factual information about Liberia’s culture and tourism, Ledgerhood Rennie has been working to transform MICAT. But with very little allocation in the national budget, the pitfalls caused headaches for many of his predecessors appears to be showing its face.  Upon taking over the ministry, last October, Rennie unveiled an ambitious agenda aimed at improving the internal communications in government in order to avoid mixed messages and various interpretations from reaching the public domain.  The minister also accentuated that there is a need for standards to be upheld at all times, saying gone at the days to protect other media colleagues when they all should be professional.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, MICAT ramped up the way it puts out govt information, using its different platforms including the holding of weekly news briefings, regular news releases and a revamp MICAT HOUR on the state-owned ELBC as well as the resurrection of The New Liberian newspaper and the LINA Panaroma.

With the revamped New Liberian now a regular on the newsstand, the ministry is making efforts to make editorial improvements and ensure the newspaper is self-sustainable and commercially viable.

The revamped LINA Panaroma offers an opportunity for Liberians to give feedback about the challenges  of society deserving of government’s attention. This effort was increased with visits across the country.

During the year, the ministry exerted effort to make was a significant improvement in relationship with the Press Union and the independent media, leading to regular dialogues and joint conflict resolution initiatives.

Additionally, there was an increase in the publication of releases on developing situations in the country, thus ensuring there isn’t a void that could lead to misinformation. MICAT also initiated discussions with the Chinese for the revamping of the National Printing Press. 

On the Tourism front, MICAT signed a landmark agreement with the US embassy in Monrovia for the development of the Providence Island, making it a major destination for international tourism

The MICAT also undertook the construction and rehabilitation of major historical monuments across the country and also followed through with the proposal for the organization of a bicentennial celebration to observe the 200th year anniversary of the arrival of free slaves.

On the culture front, MICAT also took steps to ensure the upkeep of the National Culture Troop, while making sure they are present at various national programs in order to espouse the positive Liberian culture.

2021 LOW: Minister Rennie came under fire during the year under review regarding reports and allegations of ritualistic killings in Liberia.

The minister, during a regular news briefing at MICAT declared that the issue of corruption allegations and ritualistic killings in Liberia has no iota of truth which they, as a Government, are not deterred about, noting that the CDC Government will continue to make sure the peace and tranquility reigns, though he admitted that Liberia is not supposed to be where it is today, they will continue to work in putting the country on a right path. “As far as I’m concerned, Liberia is on the right path, our democracy is getting stronger and better and we should celebrate it,” Minister Rennie asserted.

Critics took the minister to task for undermining legitimate fears in the wake of massive discovery of dead bodies on the streets and reports of ritualistic killings across the country.

The minister also found himself in the middle of a planned protest by supporters of the People’s Liberation Party(PLP) over the failure of the Weah administration to grant landing rights for the party’s leader Dr. Daniel Cassell to bring in a helicopter.

Minister Rennie warned against illegal protestation on grounds that the Government of Liberia has to ensure the greater good of the society.

Minister Rennie accused the PLP leader of trying to create a scenario that does not exist, citing that the best thing to do in the matter is to follow all of the necessary procedures as required by law. Minister Rennie went on to call on the political institution to abide by the regulatory processes that are involved to ensure that they can travel to any part of the country, citing that the use of aircraft in the country cannot guarantee anybody winning elections in Liberia.

The LBS DG also took hits and taken to task for his stance on what he called the “abuse of the airwaves”, while emphasizing that radio owners ought to abide by the guidelines set by MICAT and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority. He said although the government believes in freedom of speech and a free press, it will not hesitate in the strict enforcement of the laws of Liberia.

DG Rennie, during the year under review, warned the management of both stations, and all others, against repeating the infraction or risk the revocation of their permits. Costa, he said, as a fugitive can not be broadcasting to Liberian audience while out of the country and outside its jurisprudence. “How does a person seek redress if he feels injured,” the Minister asked rhetorically.

Solicitor General Cyrennius Cephus stressed during the discussion that the government was more concerned about national security than it was about content. He cited the November 3, 2019 incident when Henry Costa used his media outlet to direct people to engage in acts that broke the law. He revealed that because of this, there’s a pending litigation against  Mr. Costa. The SG explained that there are many challenges with having Costa broadcasting to Liberian audience.

GRADE: B –

2022 OUTLOOK: Minister Rennie, a veteran journalist of the BBC, now wearing the hat of a government defender is quickly discovering the complications of his new role. Will he be ready to withstand the pressure in the buildup of the 2023 elections?

MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS

THE LOWDOWN: Regarded as Liberia’s oldest and largest institution, the MIA has seen significant reforms since its establishment in 1864. In recent years however, the emphasis has been maintain the peace in rural Liberia, in the aftermath of the civil conflict which lasted more than a decade.

During the course of the year under review, Jim Wright, the Mission Director of the United States Aid for International Development issued a clarion call for Liberians to peacefully resolve grievances and disputes at the community level before they develop into violent conflicts. 

The message was clear that international stakeholders who have invested millions in Liberia’s peace efforts are concerned of a return to Liberia’s ugly past.

Director Wright’s comments in September came during a program marking the end of the USAID-funded Connect for Peace Project which promotes community-based conflict mitigation in Monrovia as well as Nimba County, the primary locations of extreme violence during Liberia’s civil wars.

The USAID project helped strengthen the capacity of community leaders and residents to resolve grievances using alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, which refers to the different ways people resolve disputes without a formal court trial.  It rehabilitated marginalized youth to make positive impacts in their community by providing employment skills and peace advocacy training. Connect for Peace also emphasized the use of conflict preemption strategies, including mobilizing women and youth to engage in local development work, such as health clinic construction, that benefits all members of their communities.

2021 HIGH:  During the course of the year under review,  the MIA the through Lofa County Administration headed by Superintendent William Tamba Kamba Sr, in collaboration with the Liberia Land Authority and Liberia Peace Building Office have finally concluded the Land Disputes and Boundary Harmonization between Seleca and Sarmodu towns in Lofa County with the planting of symbols and cornerstone. Representatives from both towns have all agreed on the Daziza creek which is a natural feature as official boundary between the two towns of Voinjama and Quardu-Gboni District..

The Ministry of Internal Affairs during the year under review took the government closer to the people. President George Weah in 2021 became the first President to visit some the places include Lukambeh in Lofa, Gbi-doru in Nimba, Jarkaken in Rivergee, and Pleson in Sinoe County, amongst others.  The citizens made requests of development needs which further informed the national development priorities. As a result of the county tour, dozens of development projects are have been earmarked. Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment has qualified contractors to undertake the initial 37 new projects nationwide, while others are being processed. These projects are in addition to direct undertaken by the President.

In September, the MIA facilitated a dialogue process between the people of Kparnyah Town, in Margibi County and the Management of Firestone Liberia, in a bid to end a long running tension between the people and the company.   The dialogue followed an intervention of Internal Affairs Minister Honorable Varney A. Sirleaf.

The people of Kparnyah and other nearby towns and villmages have repeatedly complained and recently set up roadblocks on grounds that the rubber company was allegedly destroying crops and taking their land, outside of a 99-year concession agreement entered into some 94 years ago and ratified by the Legislature in 2008..

They are also demanding some benefits as the company’s corporate responsibility including provision of electricity in parts of their community and other basic needs.

In October, Minister Sirleaf visiting neighboring Ivory Coast in continuation of discussions with top local government and Security agencies regarding the protection of the border between Liberia and neighboring Cote d’lvoire, sustaining peace in border communities and enhancing trade.

Key among the concerns raised by the Liberian team is the alleged use of the Ivorian border by foreign nationals, most of them Burkinabe nationals who continue to cross illegally into large parts of Liberian bordering Counties, mainly Grand Gedeh for illegal activities including farming, mining and other illicit acts. According to reports parts of Maryland, Rivergee and Nimba Counties are currently being used for some of these activities.

Minister Sirleaf also took steps during the year under review to add the ministry’s weight behind recent wave of rape cases across the country. The minister threatened to dismiss any local government official or traditional leader involved in handling cases related to rape and describes rape as a serious human right violation that must be handled only by the courts and not local officials.

2021 LOW: Over the past few years, there has been a lot of debate over whether or not Liberia should be decentralized. The year under review saw international stakeholders renew the call while expressing concerns over the lack of political will to pursue the policy.

An Op-Ed Co-authored by Ingrid Wetterqvist, former Swedish Ambassador to Liberia and Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Resident Representative to Liberia declared that despite the progress made, more work remains to be done to strengthen decentralization, increase citizen participation, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery in the counties. “To start with, the successes recorded to date must be anchored in firmer legal and regulatory frameworks. For example, the current draft Revenue Sharing Bill would give counties the authority to collect and retain a greater share of revenues, better meet their operating costs, and make critical investments in improving services and accelerating development at the local level. The Governance Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are leading the work on this Bill which, we believe, could be a potential game changer in terms of improving services to people and facilitating growth in rural and under-developed regions of the country.”

The envoys said the process will require all hands to be on deck to ensure that the envisioned law is developed in consultation with, and participation of all stakeholders, both at the national and county levels. “Citizens and civil society organizations should use the avenues provided to give their views and be ready to advocate for the adoption of the Bill when it is presented for vote in the Legislature. For its part, the Legislature should see this as an opportunity to debate and pass the necessary laws that can help to ensure that the needs of the citizens can be met where they live.”


GRADE:
B-

2022 OUTLOOK: The MIA has its work cut out in nurturing peace and stability in most of Liberia’s rural areas, which are trigger points for conflicts. Can the MIA take cue from the USAID’s Connect for Peace program?

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE

THE LOWDOWN: What a year it has been for the ministry responsible for providing effective, public safety and legal services which promote the rule of law, ensure the safety and security of the public and uphold the interest of the government and people of the Republic of Liberia.

The US State Department’s annual Human Rights report continue to document significant human rights issues including arbitrary killings by police; cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention by government officials; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on freedom of the press, including violence and threats of violence against journalists; official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women; the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and the worst forms of child labor.

Additionally, according to the report, impunity for individuals who committed human rights abuses, including atrocities, during the Liberian civil wars that ended in 2003, remained a serious problem, although the government cooperated with war crimes investigations in third countries. The government made intermittent but limited attempts to investigate and prosecute officials accused of current abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.

The issue of the establishment of a war crimes court was a major topical issue in the past year. In October, a group of 15 influential civil society organizations in Liberia tabled in Parliament a bill they say is ready to be used to establish a tribunal to try crimes committed during more than 20 years of civil war and unrest.

The organizations took this initiative at a time when, 18 years after the end of the civil war, the debate on the establishment of such a court is once again in full swing and Liberia, under the presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as well as under that of George Weah since 2018, has still not followed the recommendations made in 2009 by a special commission.

Among those recommendations was the prosecution of a number of warlords and high-profile alleged criminals. “We drafted this law for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal. We not only drafted it, we made 176 copies so that every member of the legislature has a copy,” said Tiawon Gongloe, president of the Liberian Bar Association, which represents the country’s lawyers.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the MoJ launched the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), a procedure for settling a dispute by means other than litigation. The program’s goals are: to improve access to justice for all, reduce court dockets and case back-logs, reduce pretrial detention and institute ADR as a binding component of Liberia’s Justice System.    

The Ministry has also enhanced its legal aid system  provided to those who cannot afford to pay for it or to pay full price.   The policy adopts a comprehensive and all – inclusive approach  to the concept of legal aid and goes beyond representation by lawyers in court. It encompasses a broad spectrum of legal services to the needy, especially women, children, and other marginalized indigents, to include legal advice, assistance, education, representation as well as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.  Draft laws have been completed, awaiting validation for submission to the National Legislature to be enacted into law.

The MoJ also drafted an amendment to several provisions of the Criminal Procedure law, regarding Term of Court, Plea Bargain and Conditions for Time and Authority to arrest.

On the Criminal Procedure Law, the current law provides that the circuit courts shall meet four times a year in quarterly sessions and each session shall last for forty-two consecutive days.  To provide for sufficient time to hear cases, the amendment proposes to have the courts sit in bi-annual sessions for a period of six (6) months each.  This will allow time for the courts to try as many cases as possible.  

The purpose of the plea bargain amendment is to introduce plea bargain as a part of our Criminal Procedure Code.  Plea bargain affords an accused or defendant the opportunity to plead guilty to a charge or a lesser charge or a lesser version as opposed to going to a regular trial which may entail greater punishment and burdensome expenses. The plea bargain process has the further purpose of reducing prolonging pretrial detentions and the over crowdedness of prisons and of trial court dockets.        

The current Criminal Procedure Law grants to magistrates the power to issue writs of arrest against accused persons based on the information or complaint of private persons on allegations of the commission of criminal acts by the accused against the complaining party.  This has resulted into manifold abuses and caused undue suffering and hardship for accused persons arrested without any prior investigation or examination into complaints or allegations to establish reasonable grounds. 

The amendments propose to have writs of arrest issued after investigation by the police and for non-violent misdemeanor, the issuance of summons to afford sufficient time for the accused to acquire bail.           

Consistent with the Liberia National Police Act of 2015, the MoJ constituted the Civilian Complaints and Review Board at the Liberia National Police to govern both the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Immigration Service. The purpose of the Board is to receive, process and determine any complaint made against the Liberia National Police, the Liberia Immigration Service, any police officer or civilian personnel.   

The MoJ also extended its Juvenile Diversion Programs from 5 counties in 2018 to eight counties in 2020/21 and the finalization of a five year National Strategy on child justice in Liberia.

Additionally,  a gender unit has been created at the Ministry of justice and gender sensitivity is prioritized in the security sector.

The Ministry of Justice completed and presented Liberia’s second and third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) State Report (2019 and 2020) to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.  The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all United Nations Member States.  The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur

Regarding Sexual and Gender-Based Violence crimes, the MoJ increased prosecution of Sexual Gender Based Violence crimes and general prosecution of cases nation-wide; and engagement with development partners to support the construction and equipping of Criminal Court “E” in Nimba and Bong Counties, devoted exclusively to rape and other sexual gender based violence cases.

Furthermore, at least 65 contracts and bilateral agreements were reviewed and legal opinions issued; legal advice on other matters arising from the law, including the amendment and validated Chapter 15, Offenses Against the Property Sub Chapter D, Theft and Related Offenses, of the Penal Law, Title 26, Liberian Code of Law Revised, to add thereto Section 15.63 Insider Trading, 15.64 Market Manipulation, and 15.65 Illegal Trafficking in Other Goods, Human Rights, including Treaties was ensured. Please see below the summary of major achievements.

2021 LOW: The ministry had its hands full over the past year as reports of ritualistic killings hit an all-time high. The practice was rampant during the 1970s when Liberians in Maryland County were constantly under the threat of ritual murders which went unreported and uninvestigated until the murder of a local fisherman and popular singer, Moses Tweh. Tweh was abducted on June 26, 1977.

The practice has since become a regular during every election circle. Ritual murders were also common during the country’s back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003. Body parts severed from the victim’s corpse are thought to be used in rituals designed to benefit the murderer. Despite the rise in the killings in the past year, police dismissed the alleged incidents as baseless.

In October, hundreds of women unhappy with the slow pace of the government’s response against a wave of alleged ritual killings, took to the street to demand justice – and answers. The group delivered a statement to legislators demanding that the government and police examine “the exponential rate of ritualistic killing”.

During the course of the year under review, Minister Frank Musah Dean came under fire from the international watchdog group, Human Rights Watch for giving a misleading statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 17 regarding the government’s purported efforts to ensure much-needed justice for widespread committed during the country’s back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003.

Speaking during the adoption of the outcome of Liberia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Minister Dean claimed Liberia is engaged in national and regional consultations around accountability for serious crimes.

But HRW recorded that the last such consultation it was aware of  took place in 2019. “As a coalition of Liberian and international nongovernmental organizations highlighted in a statement on the UPR outcome, the government has been essentially silent since then, while activists and witnesses of alleged crimes have faced increased threats. In any event, the path forward should be clear without additional consultations. Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended the creation of a war crimes court over a decade ago. International law requires states to prosecute serious crimes, such as war crimes, which helps ensure victims’ rights to truth, justice, and an effective remedy, while combating impunity. In addition, victims, activists, community leaders, politicians, and members of the general public in Liberia have backed a war crimes court, , even marching in the streets to show their support.”

Toward the end of the year, the MoJ was yet again embarrassed after three persons were killed when officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) fired live bullets during a crackdown on suspected armed robbers and drug dealers in the commercial area of Duala on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia. Duala is located in electoral district # 16, Montserrado County.

The unidentified victims believed to be in their early 30s were all males.

Two of those who were shot dead were believed to be commuters, while the other was considered as a “zogo”.

Disadvantaged youths are normally referred to as “zogos” in Liberia.

They are most often engaged into unwholesome practices including armed robbery, the snatching away of valuable items from peaceful Liberian citizens and others, the salvaging of dump sites for fairly used materials to sell, the loading of commercial vehicles with passengers, among others. They normally sell stolen items far below the original prices to satisfy their bad habit of taking in narcotics and other dangerous substances.

Like most ministries, the MoJ is also constrained in what it can and cannot do due to the lack of adequate budget allocations.

GRADE: C+

2022 OUTLOOK: 2022 – The eve of the 2023 elections could make or break the MoJ. Reports of ritualistic killings are likely to increase; or we could see a major response from the police and the MoJ in bringing perpetrators to book.

MINISTRY OF LABOR

THE LOWDOWN:  The ministry’s main task is to protect and safeguard the interests of workers in general, particularly those who constitute the poor, deprived and disadvantage sections of the society.

During the course of the year under review, the issue of human trafficking was once again a fixture of international discourse amid concerns that Liberia remains a source and destination for the trafficking of men, women and children.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the ministry received strong praise from United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, who welcomed the passing and signing into law the “Revised Trafficking in Persons Act of 2021”.

The US envoy however cautioned that if the law is not enforced, it will be of no use.

Addressing a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Ambassador McCarthy said the new law is important because Liberia was downgraded to “Tier 2 Watchlist” in the State Department Trafficking in Person (TIP) 2021 report. Tier 2 countries are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the US Government’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Ambassador McCarthy noted that countries in this category maybe automatically downgraded to Tier 3 if they do not show progress. “U.S. foreign assistance to Tier 3 countries is significantly restricted, and that is the last thing we want to happen here,” he said. Speaking of the TIP Report on Liberia, he said: “As that report makes clear, updating Liberia’s TIP framework is just one of nearly a dozen prioritized recommendations. As important as this Legislative action was, it will not by itself ensure that Liberia is moved from the watchlist.”

The ministry also received high marks for standing with employees of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) when it ordered the management of the LEC to put on hold its plan to cut down staff salaries by 30%.

Cllr. Charles Gibson, disclosed that he has informed the management to return to the status quo and pay staff their full salaries without any cut. Cllr. Gibson told the management to restore the 30% deduction from employee salaries with immediate effect and that they should desist from taking the employees by surprise on issues that are intended to affect their jobs and livelihoods. 

During the year, the ministry also issued Standing Order #2 restricting certain employment opportunities to Liberians in commercial business establishments with branches in Monrovia and other parts of the country. The Ministry noted that all Assistant Branch Manager Positions be restricted for Liberians in support of the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed between the Ministry of Labour and Liberia Chamber of Commerce for the creation of five hundred (500) jobs for new college and university graduates in the country.

In a communication sent out to commercial business establishments with branches in Monrovia and other parts of the Country signed by Labour Minister Cllr. Charles H. Gibson said that the decision is in reference to a meeting held on 15th of June 2021 at the Ministry of Labour with the management of major commercial houses and chain businesses in and outside Monrovia.

The ministry also took a bold step when it ordered the Management of Arcelor Mittal-Liberia to pay aggrieved former workers Three Hundred and Eight Thousand United States Dollars (US$308,000) constituting total and final settlement for unfair labour practices meted against them by the Management. Ministry mandate was contained in a ruling read by the Minister of Labour, Cllr. Charles H. Gibson at a press conference attended by the Ministry of Justice, National Bureau Concession and the leadership of the aggrieve workers at the Ministry of Labour in Monrovia.

In October of 2020 the Aggrieved  former contractors of Arcelor Mittal Liberia submitted a complaint to the Ministry of Labour (hereinafter Ministry) requesting the Ministry intervention into alleged unfair labour practices which, they claim are being meted against them by the Management of Arcelor Mittal Liberia (hereinafter AML). After initial meetings by  Minister Charles Gibson with both AML management and the complainant , the matter was turned over to  Deputy Minister Hannah Karbo,  who jointly spearheaded intervention with Assistant Minister Zeo Mensah. However after a prolonged stalemate, the matter  was transferred to the Assistant Minister for Labour Standards, Atty. Welma Blaye Sampson, with specific instruction  to investigate the matter and submit findings in keeping with the law.

2021 LOW:  The ministry hit yet another low in the year under review with the US In Trafficking Report found that Liberia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking although it is making significant efforts to do so.

The report recommended increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including internal trafficking cases and officials accused of complicity and urge Liberia to train law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the 2005 anti-trafficking law.

The government was also encouraged to amend the 2005 anti-trafficking law to remove the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion in child sex trafficking cases and also to amend the 2005 anti-trafficking law to prescribe penalties for adult trafficking that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties for other grave crimes.

Minister Gibson came under fire over a controversial decision to declare illegal, a strike action staged by the workers of the National Transit Authority (NTA) in front of the Foreign Ministry.

Critics came down hard on the minister for stating that his ministry had not been informed about the protest when it is the Ministry of Justice responsibility to make such claims.

Nevertheless, the minister cautioned the NTA workers that any go-slow must be done within their premises; but staging a protest before the Executive Mansion meant that it is not just a labour issue rather it is politically motivated.

The minister went on to say that the next time an illegal strike take place in entities under their supervision of UWUL and when it is established that the workplace union is ignorant of the rule, the Ministry will suspend their license.

GRADE: C-

2022 OUTLOOK: Will 2021 Liberia improve its effort to clamp down on human trafficking?

MINISTRY OF MINES & MINERALS REGULATORY AUTHORITY

THE LOWDOWN: The statutory agency of government in charge of administering the mining sector of Liberia also has direct oversight responsibility in the energy sector as well as a similar role in developing the water resources of the country. The Ministry functions in the area of policy formulation for the energy, hydrocarbon and water sectors of the country.

Minister Gessler Murray acknowledged during the previous year under review that the country’s current energy infrastructures were in deficit. As a result, have not been able to meet the load demand of the consuming public both in terms of affordability and reliability of energy supply. 

Much of the infrastructure deficit the minister referenced was mainly in the area of distribution, both in terms of on-grid and off-grid systems.

The ministry has been challenged in the area of electricity generation. At the moment, the Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant which was rehabilitated from a pre-war capacity of 65MW to 88MW is the primary source of electricity.

Liberia currently has an installed capacity of 126MW from the Hydro and HFO Thermal generation. Thus, much emphasis is now being placed on the potential significant boost in power transmission with the arrival of the CLSG Transmission Line.

However, the Cote d’Ivoire,-Liberia-Sierra Leone- Guinea interconnection project powered out of Ivory Coast is expected to mark a milestone in post-conflict Liberia energy delivery services as it is expected to fill the dry season generation gap during which time the Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant operates at a very low efficiency due to low water level.

On the mining front, Murray took local miners across Liberia to task amid reports that many were not adhering to the mining code and regulations that govern the extractive sector of the country.

According to Murray, the code and regulations of the extractive sector of Liberia consist of straight measures which provide a lot of benefits for miners in terms of safety and risk management, especially when adhered to. About 45 miners were in early February trapped under debris when the walls of an illegal artisanal gold mine in Gbonepea, Tappita caved-in on them. About eight bodies have so far been discovered. Hopes of recovering others alive continue to diminish by the day as the lack of earth-moving machines and other equipment to aid in the rescue mission continue to pose a challenge to the ongoing rescue mission.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, Minister Murray trumpeted the rail corridor project with neighboring Guinea as a new window of opportunity for both sides.

During a Cabinet presentation, the Minister Murray said the rail would be a win-win for both countries. The US$20 billion rail road project would allow ores from Guinea transported thru Liberia for exportation to bring economic benefits, including jobs, infrastructure and collaboration.

The biggest news in the mining sector for the year under review came after the government and ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel company, signed an amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (‘MDA’) which paves the way for the expansion of the Company’s mining and logistics operations in Liberia.

With the MDA amendment coming into effect, the ArcelorMittal Liberia will significantly ramp up production of premium iron ore, generating significant new jobs and wider economic benefits for Liberia.

The expansion project – which encompasses processing, rail and port facilities – will be one of the largest mining projects in West Africa. The capital required to finalise the project is expected to be approximately $0.8 billion, as it is effectively a brownfield expansion.

As the largest foreign investor in Liberia, ArcelorMittal Liberia has invested over $1.7 billion in the country over the past 15 years. More than 2000 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with Liberians envisaged to fill the majority of the roles created.

Days after the announcement of the deal, Ivanhoe Liberia, the company acting on behalf of High Power Exploration (HPX) in Liberia to ship iron ore from the Nimba Mountain in Guinea via rail through the port of Buchanan, said AML should not feel concerned by its presence in Liberia, as HPX is more than willing to work along with AML to improve the mining sector in the subregion. 

HPX acquired the rights to the Nimba project concession in late 2018 early 2019 at a time when iron prices were around $65 compared to today’s $94. The company says it acquired these rights through a competitive process with several competing bidders run by the consortium of BHP, Newmont and Areva which owned these rights. At that time the Government of Guinea had already made it clear for quite a while that Nimba ore could be exported through Liberia as long as certain conditions were met. “We are in no way competitors as Arcelormittal is not so much a mining company but it is a steel company, HPX believes that having 2 major new investments being developed in parallel, involving Arcelor’s $800 million and HPX/SMFG’s $600 million in Liberia alone, is of course much better for Liberia but it is also better for AML.

At the same time, AML says it is not threatened by the announcement by HPX and the Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) regarding positive results of its pre- feasibility study for the Nimba Iron Ore Project.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, Minister Murray was forced to dismiss allegations that the Ministry granted license to operate in protected areas of Liberia.

The minister said the Ministry respects laws establishing and governing protected areas across the Country. His statement is in reaction to the recent dredge mining in the Gola Forest National Park.

In a bid to address the issue, the ministry launched an operation seizing dredge machines and removed miners from Protected Areas including the Gola Forest National Park.

Recognizing that illicit mining is a contributing factor to prostitution, drug addiction and money laundering, the minister warned that if care is not taken, the increase in social marginalization of Liberians at various mining sites around the country could degenerate into xenophobic and reprisal actions that could trigger a degree of social unrest.

The minister was also forced to appear before the Senate to address reports that foreigners were evading Liberia’s mining sector and carrying out illicit mining activities. He told the Senators about how the illegal mining sector is being dominated by Ghanaians and other nationals. “Even though dominant foreign nationalities involve in illicit mining activities are Ghanaians, there are also other nationals in these activities to include Malians, people from Burkina Faso, Ivorians, Guineans and Sierra Leoneans. Without bias, the presence of citizens of Burkina Faso and Malians tend to raise some eyebrow as Mali and Burkina Faso are now confronted with the task of active jihadists militants.”

GRADE: D

2022 OUTLOOK: Some unanswered questions still lingering over the Liberia-Guinea rail deal. Can Mittal and HPX coexist?

MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE

THE LOWDOWN: Since the end of the civil war, the ministry responsible for the maintenance of the national defense and the governance of the military of Liberia, the Armed Forces of Liberia, has been largely reliant on donor funding.

In recent years, as donor money dried up, the army has struggled to maintain the same level of professionalism that won it praise in the aftermath of the war.

During the course of the year under review, U.S. Ambassador Michael Mcarthy offered what could be a reason for the decline. While expressing his delight at the workings of the AFL and other national security actors helping to secure Liberia’s borders with Guinea, amid the prevailing security concerns in that neighboring Guinea, the US envoy said the army is simply under resourced.

The US diplomat said that both the AFL and other security personnel lack enough resource support to fight against crimes and ensure there is security for everyone in the country. “We have seen that the AFL is doing well and they’re apolitical. The only concern is that they have very few resources to work with. They are under-resourced. The only thing the government can do is to increase the resource support to the AFL and all other national paramilitary forces in order to keep law and order.”

“We are pleased that today the Liberian Army is doing tremendously well. The size of the Army is small, but very professional and able to take charge of multiple responsibilities. We are glad that Liberia, a country still nursing its ugly past, can now boast of this team of committed, patriotic and loyal men and women,” he said as the audience applauded.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, Army Chief of Staff Brigadier General, Prince C. Johnson, drew praise when he declared that the high level of coordination and cooperation among security actors in the Mano River Union (MRU) region makes it difficult for any group to rage war or any external form of insurrection in Liberia, but the militarizing of young people by both the ruling and opposition political parties remain a threat to the country’s peace and stability.

General Johnson pointed out that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between MRU countries, particularly Sierra Leone and Guinea, to subvert acts which have the proclivity to destabilize the region.

He maintained that it remains impossible for anyone to rage insurrection in Liberia from outside without passing through any of the neighboring countries, and as such, the strong cooperation subsisting between authorities of the various security agencies, especially the military makes it impossible for any arm conflict to be launched in the country.

He made these comments recently when he addressed citizens at the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) on Carey Street in Monrovia. “What we are doing when it comes to those areas in the MRU; we are looking at cooperation. We have signed a MOU. We have Nigerians, Sierra Leones and Ivoirians in our headquarters as liaisons. So, if I hear anything ongoing on their side, I call the Liaison. That’s the kind of relationship that we have built”.

In October, members of the U.S. Army National Guard from the state of Michigan provided emergency medicine mentorship at 14 Military Hospital.  This exchange is part of the U.S. Embassy’s investment in security assistance for Liberia, helping to rebuild the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL)’s capabilities and enhance regional security.

The Michigan National Guard remains Liberia’s committed state partner.  This partnership improves the AFL’s capabilities by regularly exchanging best practices and providing opportunities to participate in multinational exercises via Michigan National Guard-sponsorship.

The U.S. Government has trained more than 2,000 AFL personnel (civilian and military combined), assisting the Government of Liberia in its efforts to build and maintain an apolitical and professional military force.  Providing emergency medicine mentorship is part of this ongoing effort.  We are in the business of building future together, and a well-funded and trained military is essential for Liberia and the region’s long-term stability.

Also during the course of the year under review, the US government stepped up its budget support by 25% to the AFL, which will now enable the AFL to send 40-45 soldiers to the United States for military studies under the International Military Training Program. Several personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia and Defense staff have benefited from U S training programs at various U S Military institutions in the United States of America and other training programs around the world.

The United States Government has been very supportive in the growth and development of the new Liberian army by the provision of specialized training opportunities for the new military.

2021 LOW: The AFL hit a low point during the course of the year under review when three of its officers and a civilian were arrested and investigated in connection to alleged armed robbery. The officers were picked up on September 8 by police at the Duport Road Market, following their alleged involvement with armed robbery activities in the Old Road area. Their arrest followed a tip-off by some community members in the Old Road area that the officers along with one civilian were harassing citizens in the area during the night hours.

Police Spokesman Moses Carter confirmed the arrest and said the officers cooperated by turning themselves over to police who had tailed them from the Old Road belt to Duport Road, following information from Kapawo, Kapawo who alarmed the situation.

GRADE: C+  

2022 OUTLOOK: Was the arrest of soldiers linked to armed robbery an isolated incident? Signals point to a slip in the cracks of the vetting process which, until now has been winning commendations.

MINISTRY OF POST & TELECOMMUNICATIONS

THE LOWDOWN: The ministry responsible for developing information, communications technology and postal services, including an expedited mail service (EMS) to the United States and other countries has been making some strides over the past few years despite some lapses in the delivery of services.

During the course of the year under review, Minister Cooper W. Kruah Sr. made assurances that the Weah administration remains committed to ensure the implementation of the Information Telecommunications Technology (ICT) policy.

The ministry has managed to successfully conclude its Cyber security Act of 2021.  The is a strategic document that aligns our Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Millennium Development goals and the goals of the World Summit on Information Society.

“With the increasing use of electronic communication, the ministry believes that it is essential that Liberia protects its data and cyber space from illegal, defamatory, or other abuses. The policy contains guidance or the measures that must be taken to protect Liberia’s cyberspace; the legal instrument needed to making sure that the illegal used of ICT in Liberia is checked has been drafted and awaiting final validation by stakeholders (The Cyber Security Act and Personal Data Protection Act) and that all users must have confident that our ICT system are adequately secured and all appropriate standards are met.”

The recent expansion of the fiber optic cable in and around Monrovia has helped put Liberia on par with most countries in the subregion. In a few months, the ministry hopes to jumpstart the National Backbone project and the landing of the second underwater optic fiber marine cable will land in Buchanan. These projects are designed to secure Liberia’s connection with the rest of the world.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the ministry was showered with praise from the United States Aid for International Development for the Launch of the Information Communications Technology (ICT) policy.

In May, USAID Mission Director in Liberia, Madam Sara R. Walter commended the minister and his deputies for the successful completion of the ICT Policy which is aim at creating a technological environment for all Liberians. The USAID Boss noted that the Ministry’s ICT policy promotes ICT development and encourage investment and cooperation in the ICT sector which is key to ensuring that no country is left behind in the push for digital transformation. “In many ways, the National ICT policy for Liberia that we are launching today fits the bill, it aims to expand existing ICT infrastructure and establish a national fiber optic backbone to connect all 15 counties capitals and enhance cross-border connectivity”.

She said the policy is focused on addressing last mile challenges to ensure universal access to voice services and broadband, supported by the adoption of infrastructure sharing.

The ministry has been able to integrate and interface the government’s Financial Management Information System (IFMIS)  via  GovNet which includes the current project management modules, budget management among others. The system is now playing a major role in E-governance via ICT which is enhancing tax revenue and improving tax administration, enhancing budget management and expenditure through the effective use of the IFMIS database, and supporting the National Biometric Registry among others.

2021 LOW: Liberia is perhaps one of the few countries in the world without a national postal address system or a unique address system where individuals can be easily traced or contacted. Postal services are largely handled manually.  

During the course of the year under review, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced the suspension of airmail services to Liberia and three other countries in Africa due to Covid-19 transportation cancellations and restrictions until further notice, effective October 15, 2021. Central African Republic

Chad and Sierra Leone were the others.

The USPS said with the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus continuing to spread globally, some countries are experiencing a new wave of infections causing governments to reimpose restrictions that are impacting package, mail, and postal operations. In addition, the testing and reporting in many parts of Africa are poor, and the World Health Organization estimates that actual cases are seven times higher than reports show. It’s possible, USPS may end up adding more African countries to the suspension list soon as governments could bring back more Covid-19 restrictions to fight the spread of the virus a.

The US Postal Service constantly monitors mail services globally and evaluates parcel volume as well as transport capacity to adjust its service standards and availability.

2022 OUTLOOK: Will this be the year every home in Liberia identifiable by a mailing address?

MINISTRY OF PUBLIC WORKS

THE LOWDOWN: The ministry responsible for implementing the planning and design, construction, supervision and maintenance of the road network as well as other public-sector buildings, structures and infrastructure, was busy during the year under review.

The ministry is still without a minister since the passing of the late Mabutu Nyenpan. Acting Minister Ruth Coker has outlined at least 20 ongoing projects including the Roberts International Airport (RIA) road project; the corridor between Gabriel Tuckers Bridge and St. Paul Bridge; the overpass to be constructed between the SKD Boulevard and the Ministerial Complex and the Somalia Drive road.

The projects also include the Cocoa Cola Factory road project; Harper road project which is about 66 kilometers completed; the Fish Town road project; Ganta to Yekapa road; Sanniquellie to Logatuo road Gbarnga to Salala road, respectively.

The acting minister revealed during the year under review that the RIA road is 45 km long and has been upgraded to four lanes beginning from the ELWA Junction to the airport in Margibi County. The RIA road project costs approximately US$116 million, including design and construction, monitoring and supervision and a cost of compensation for those alone the RIA corridor.

The project was embarked upon, an act was approved on January 18, 2020, by the Legislature and printed into a handbill on January 20, 2020. Madam Coker explained that the project’s start date is April 2021, and it has a duration of three years. The current detail of the project is engaging the first 10 kilometers, which will be from RIA to ELWA junction, around the Unification area.

2021 HIGH: In June, the  government and the World Bank signed three financing agreements worth US$157 million that will connect Zwedru to Monrovia by paved roads.

Named the Southeastern Corridor Road Asset Management Project, the Rural Economic Transformation Project, and the Second Inclusive Growth Development Policy Operation, the three financing agreements were signed on June 18 at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.

At the signing, acting Minister Coker-Collins also called the signing of the three financing agreements a milestone for road construction in Liberia. She added that the ratification of these agreements by the legislature would ensure that major corridors leading to southeastern Liberia would be connected. The funding is expected to connect Monrovia to Zwedru in Grand Gedeh by paved road.

During the year, the World Bank approved US$50 million to help government tackle gridlock on a major road linking the capital city of Monrovia to the Guinea border. The funds will support the Road Asset Management Project (LIBRAMP), a flagship transport activity in the region and part of the Government’s road construction program.

Also, during the course of the year, construction work began on a 45km, four-lane road that links Monrovia to Roberts International Airport in Liberia. The project will take three years to complete and include upgrading and construction of a bridge. The China-Liberia joint venture East International Group is involved with the road construction work. It was recently awarded a contract valued at $101 million.

The ministry also secured a major accomplishment during the year when the Embassy of Sweden endorsed the construction of polymer roads in the country. A brilliant, green and economic initiative from the government, the polymer pavement costs US $424,000 per one kilometer instead of the regular US $1million or US $1.2 million that are normally spent for a kilometer of asphalt or concrete pavement. The road project is the first in Liberia, and will probably be the first of a long series.

2021 LOW: Despite interventions in roads across the country, most parts of Liberia remains out of reach, especially during the raining season. Most areas are marred by pot-filled road which can be hazardous, making safe driving extremely challenging for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and taxis most times overloaded with people.

For example, the main highway leading to Liberia’s southeast, between Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties, remains deplorable, causing local small business people and others a severe transportation and mobility problem. As a result, the cost of goods and other imported products in southeastern Liberia continue to increase in prices. More so, mobility from that part of the country becomes a severe problem. It affects Monrovia wholesale businesses too since local businesses operating in the southeast cannot come to Monrovia to order goods.

Currently, about 50 percent of the major highways linking the capital city Monrovia to the rest of the country is in poor condition., 15 percent is in fair condition, and 35 percent is in good condition.

The ministry also came under fire over the company constructing the RIA Highway. There are concerns that East Corporation contracted by the Liberian government to construct the New Four-Lane Roberts International Road extension may not have the technical know-how and the capability to effectively implement this project on such a strategic highway. For example: Equipment rented from local companies are seen breaking down along the highway, causing delays to the project President Weah is hoping will ignite his re-election quest.

GRADE: C

2022 OUTLOOK: Will President Weah finally name a replacement for the late Mabutu Nyenpan? Who Will it be?

MINISTRY OF STATE

THE LOWDOWN: One of the least-impactful ministries in previous administrations has emerged as the most powerful during the first three years of the Weah-led administration, thanks to its influential and power minister, Nathaniel McGill, many dub the unofficial Prime Minister.

This Ministry is charged with, among other things, the responsibility of coordinating activities and operations of the Office of the President of the Republic of Liberia; and providing support to the President in carrying out the Executive Functions of the State through close consultation with the Cabinet, key agencies and other institutions, i.e. private sector and civil society.

Over the course of the year under review, minister McGill’s influence was visible. So, visible that in vote-rich Bong County, one lawmaker, Marvin Cole was brave enough to use the minister’s name to threaten his opponents.

In July, Rep. Cole, Representative of electoral district #3, came under fire from frightened local officials, who told FrontPageAfrica that the lawmaker had become fond of resisting dissenting views against him by threatening to inform Minister McGill and ensure the dismissal of those differing with him on issues.

One of those was Superintendent Esther Walker fell into the lawmaker’s dismissal dragnet after she indicated that the re-election odds were against President Weah ahead of the 2023 presidential elections at a program in Gbarnga.

Angered by Superintendent Walker’s comments, Representative Cole threatened that he would ensure Minister McGill submits the Superintendent’s name to President Weah for dismissal. “I would ensure that the superintendent is dismissed. I have the necessary connections with the right people and the Superintendent Walker should just consider herself ‘former superintendent’.

Another local official, Mr. William B. S. Kollie, regional cultural inspector for Bong, Nimba and Lofa, was also dismissed by the Minister of Internal Affairs after Rep. Cole openly stated at a public gathering that he would ensure the former Bong County Inspector be dismissed. The lawmaker made the statement after Kollie had differed with him on his stewardship as lawmaker of the district.

2021 HIGH: In spite of growing perceptions about his powerful influence around the President, Minister McGill appears to hold his own. During the course of the year under review, the minister undertook several presidential projects, highlight safety issues for motorists and pedestrians while making sure that key institutions like the Liberia Electricity Corporation and the Ministry of Public Works deliver on the projects President Weah is banging on to win a second term in the 2023 elections.

During the course of the year under review, the minister, along with Finance and Economic Planning Minister Samuel Tweah traveled to the United States of America and met several official in the Biden administration underscoring strong ties and benefits to the government and people of Liberia.

Minister McGill was also instrumental in securing the lobbying services of CNN analyst Bakary Sellers to push the Weah administration case in Washington.

Love him or hate him, Minister McGill is the glue that holds the Weah administration together. His advice and guidance, although often unpopular with some, will be crucial to the President’s second term bid.


2021 LOW:
During the course of the year under review, Minister McGill was involved in a major public spat with Mr. Dee Maxwell Kemayah, Minister of Foreign Affairs minister.

The fight between the pair erupted over whether or not President Weah should attend the United Nations General Assembly.

The clash between the two high-ranking members of President George Weah’s Cabinet, all started with Min. McGill demanding that Minister Kemayah report directly to his office and not to the President, something that the Foreign Minister reportedly told him was outside the confines of the law and at the same time questioning how a Minister who works at the will and pleasure of the President would report to another Minister.

The minister was also embroiled in another controversy involving what critics say was an extravagant funeral for his late mother. The minister, looking to clear the air over the criticisms of the state-of-the-art burial tomb constructed for his mother, said the public perception that the tomb built for his mother was with state resources was flawed.

Minister McGill said the much-talked-about burial is a fulfillment of the Bible’s Fifth Commandment which states: “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

In the interpretation of the Fifth Commandment is quite unique. In a Facebook post, the Minister rationalized that the latter part of the commandment seeks to say that in a society where children honor their parents, that society flourishes while urging building a society where honor is bestowed on parents.

“The corollary is: A society in which children do not honor their parents is doomed to self-destruction,” he stated.

The minister was also forced to take on his critics, including Senator Abraham Darius Dillon(CPP, Montserrado) who had insinuated that he was corrupt. Said McGill: “The issues of corruption are just perception, and vague allegations. People need to prove these allegations. I work for telecom for more than five years, earning US$2,500 monthly. My check went to Ecobank. I made money, I had a house, and I wasn’t living in one room, I was renting like any other Liberian would do or have done. This is a simple challenge to Dillon to prove any allegation of corruption. If anyone proves it I will resign. I want the bank to publish my bank account prior to January 2018. I will give letter of authorization to go to UBA and we both write our letters of resignation. If I cannot prove that I had more than US$20k before I was appointed to this government, I will resign and if I prove it you will resign.”

Minister McGill has also come under fire amid accusations that he is taking away much of the responsibilities of the party chair Mulbah Morlu, thereby contributing to the ruling party’s poor showing in the by elections held in the last year.

In Grand Gedeh, which has been a stronghold of the ruling CDC for years,  the ruling party lost to the Liberia Restoration Party (LRP) candidate, Erol Madison Gwion Sr. The county has voted CDC since 2005 when it was in opposition.

In Bong County, James Kolleh of the People’s Unification Party won with  4,283 votes for 33.3 percent reporting. The CDC’s Melvin K. Salvage was second with 3,582 votes for 30.2 percent. In Bomi County, Finda Gborie Lansanah, widow of the late Senator Lahai Lansanah, running as an independent, leads with 3,945 votes for 42.2 percent while Varney J. Kpakpa of the LRP is running second with 3,229 votes for 34.5 percent.

Ruling CDC insiders and political observers point to a controversial decision by Minister McGill to form an auxiliary band outside the party’s existing structure as a key reason the party is set to miss out on an important opportunity to score points over the opposition and solidify its chances for the 2023 elections.

Multiple sources within the ruling CDC confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that the McGill influence was also a factor in Grand Gedeh where the ruling party is poised to lose.

According to a party insider, candidate Jeremiah Sokan surfaced through McGill and Senator Zoe Pennoh’s connection while Madison Gwion, a member of the ruling CDC was heavily antagonized by Senator Pennoh found himself entangled in a rivalry between the two Senators Pennoh and Albert Marshall Dennis.

“Pennoh dictates the pace on everything taking place in Zwedru,” said a party source speaking on condition of anonymity.  “His power comes from McGill. Madison Gwion was the favorite of the party but Pennoh-McGill decided otherwise because they didn’t want Marshall Dennis to come out stronger in a Madison victory because Gwion is very close to Marshall.”

The source said Minister McGill had called him Gwion to a meeting once and asked him to back off the race because they had chosen Jeremiah Garwo Sokan.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that the ruling CDC Caucus in Grand Gedeh is heavily divided with Pennoh, Rep. Grant on one side and Marshall Dennis and others on another.

In Bong County, party sources fear that McGill is overzealous about making himself into a political alternative.

The source cited the Margibi, Bong and Nimba cash and scholarship interventions as part of that plan in hopes that it will further expand further into other counties.


GRADE:
D

2022 OUTLOOK: How much will Minister McGill’s continued quest to wrestle control of the ruling party from the party’s hierarchy cost President Weah’s quest for a second term in 2023? There also seem to be a growing uneasiness in the camp of the vice president Jewel Howard Taylor that Minister McGill is a threat to her being retained as Vice President heading into the 2023 elections. Aides to Minister McGill say the murmurs are farfetched. Time Will Tell!!!

MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT

THE LOWDOWN: The ministry responsible to administer or regulate all modes of transportation in Liberia made some strides during the course of the year under review but also fell short in a number of areas.

Over the course of the year in review, there was an increase in the rate of accidents, not only limited to reckless driving but also lack of driver’s education, bad eyesight in some cases, bad roads, wrong parking and breakdown vehicles.

Although the ministry launched a series of national road accident prevention programs to help minimize or prevent accidents in Liberia to ensure that lives and properties are saved, failure to address the nagging bikes and Keh-keh riders pose serious dangers to motorists and pedestrians.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the ministry, in a bid to to ensure that commercial drivers comply or adhere to the adjustments in transportation fares, as well as to bring relief to commuters against the arbitrary hiking of transport fares by commercial drivers, reduced the registration fees of taxis from US$190 to US$75; commercial buses from US$250 to US$150; tricycles from US$150 to US$50. The National Transit Authority (NTA) round town buses are also been increased from 10 to 25 buses, especially in the morning hours to help students, marketers, workers, etc.

The Ministry, in partnership with the Liberia National Police (LNP) and Unions of Motorcycles and Tricycle Operating in Liberia, with support from the Road Safety Secretariat (RSS) conducted a workshops for some 100 cyclists aiming to improve the skills of bikers and reduce the alarming rate of motorbike accidents in the country.

Deputy Minister Joe Roberts emphasized during that training that plans were in the works to revise the vehicle traffic law to make it conform to modern day reality while urging cyclists not to limit themselves or always have the perception that motorcyclist are just ordinary people.

During the course of the year, the ministry in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), launched a rigorous tricycle registration compliance enforcement exercises in Monrovia and its environ. 

The ministry also undertook a series of road safety engagement and awareness in rural Liberia in a bid to minimize accidents.

Road crashes continue to pose serious economic burdens to the state as a result of the deaths and injuries of people. The ministry has been hopeful that sensitization programs  could go a long way in addressing the problem by creating awareness about the dangers of reckless and dangerous driving.

The ministry also made itself visible outside the capital Monrovia with the supply and installation of welcome signs, streets naming and traffic warning signs. Additionally, the ministry ensured that thermo plastic paints were placed marking of 62.6km road of Monrovia and it environs. The ministry also made procurement of speed guns and breath analyzer for Law enforcement to the Liberia National Police and

established an accident data base office, furnished with associated equipment. The ministry also undertook the development of road safety school curriculum and driver education for motorists, including a national Toll- free number to report all accident using any cellular network.

In addition, the ministry introduced an eye testing center as a prerequisite to obtain drivers license and a new-retro reflective license plates, accompanied by the introduction of E payment system for motorists.

The ministry also generated the highest revenue since the establishment of motor vehicle division, collecting between US$ 8to US$10 million. There was a reduction in the price of commercial vehicles.

2021 LOW:  Minister Wlue found himself entangled in the line of his work versus the internal wrangles of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change government.

In March, the CDC through its chairman Mulbah Morlu instructed the Minister of Transport Samuel Wlue to withdraw the elevation of Mr. Oliver Dillon, an employee of the ministry to a newly created post, Director of Port and Border Entries because he is not a partisan. The minister obliged and revoked the appointment accordingly.

The decision by the ruling party was greeted with widespread public condemnation with many pointing out that the action was in violation of the Constitution of Liberia which calls for equal employment opportunities for all qualified Liberians regardless of politics. Mr. Oliver Dillon, who has reportedly been in the employ of the Transport Ministry for more than six to seven years as a civil servant, is brother of opposition Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, a strong critic of the ruling establishment.

The ministry and the Liberian National Police appear to have to remedy to the rapidly dangerous trend Pehh-Pehn and Keh-Keh drivers are posing to motorists, especially during the rush-hour traffic.

It is a nagging issue which the previous government also struggled to deal with. In 2013, the former administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf placed a ban on motorcycle taxis driving on the main streets of the capital.

Monrovia, which has a population of more than a million, has few roads which are in a bad condition and most residents rely on motorcycle taxis because it easy to get around on them. There are few buses and no rail network in the city.

During the year under review, the ministry announced a new measure aimed at track  operators of motorcycle (penpen) and tricycle (kekeh). In this regard, the ministry in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) launched a rigorous registration compliance enforcement exercises in Monrovia and its environs.

Motorists continue to complain that tricycles and bikers ply the streets without valid registration documents in violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Laws of Liberia. Despite the measure however, many bikers and tricyclists ply the streets at will to the detriment of motorists.

The ministry’s inspection policy has been a nightmare for motorists. The inspection exercise which seeks proofs of ownership of vehicles, road worthiness, insurance, eligibility certificate for the establishment of transport related businesses and possession of valid driver’s licenses is also responsible for traffic congestions with many wondering why the ministry continue to use such archaic practice for inspection.

GRADE: B-

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the coming year see drastic changes to the ministry’s much-criticized inspection policy largely blamed for traffic congestion during rush-hour traffic?

MINISTRY OF YOUTH AND SPORTS

THE LOWDOWN: The Ministry’s core responsibilities are focused on facilitating youth and sports development through the establishment of a conducive policy environment that provides strategic support systems, initiatives for personal development, character building, sports policy implementation and community based. For much of the past year, however, the ministry was the government’s worst performer.

When the former World Best, Africa Best and European Footballer of the year, as head of state is forced to see his national team play home matches away because the stadium has been deem unready, it speaks volumes to the performance of Minister Zeogar Wilson.

Head coach Peter Butler acknowledged following a recent World Cup qualifying loss to the Super Eagles of Nigeria that facing the Super Eagles away from home was a major  handicap for his side. A 2-0 defeat proved it and pretty much sealed Liberia’s fate in the qualifying rounds.

In his defense, Minister Wilson suggested during the course of the year under review that the ultimate solution to the SKD Complex playing pitch was the installation of an artificial turf.

According to the minister, the soil on the pitch had outlived its usefulness making it impossible to get a natural grass pitch that will meet the best international standard.

The minister got his wish but the Confederation of African Football was not buying and Liberia lost the opportunity of playing its home games away from home.

2021 HIGH: The shining star for Liberia during the course of the year under review was the performance of sprinter Joseph Fahnbulleh who qualified for the men’s 200 meters race final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. Finishing fifth, Fahnbulleh fell short of bringing home Liberia’s first Olympic medal but left his mark in a highly-competive field.

Also during the year, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Liberia awarded the Liberian government through the ministry a US$22 million United States dollar youth activity program for youths of Montserrado, Bassa and Lofa counties.

The Education Development Center (EDC), a global non-profit organization that advances solutions to improve education, promote health and expand economic opportunity, is tasked with  implementing the project in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The Producing Positive, Educated, Employed, and Self-Reliant Youth (Pro-Peer)program will run for 5 years from 2021 to 2025.

USAID’s Acting Deputy Education Office Director, Mardea Nyumah, said the goal of Pro-PEER is to increase the economic self-reliance and resiliency of Liberian youth between the ages of 15-29 years in the three targeted counties. She added that five principles, namely; systems strengthening, private sector engagement, promoting youth skills development, innovation, and inclusion will guide the program.

2021 LOW: The Confederation of African Football delivered the final blow to the ministry when it upheld its decision to ban the SKD Sports Stadium, as the facility still does not fully meet the set CAF stadium minimum requirements.

The continental football governing body in August placed a ban on the SKD, following the visitation of CAF Club Licensing Senior Manager, Muhammad F. Sidat, on August 18.

After touring the stadium for hours, Mr. Sidat, a Mozambican, informed Liberian journalists that it was too early to say that the SKD will be approved as there are lots of works that need to be done.

Mr. Sidat’s statement was followed by a communication from CAF on August 24, denying Liberia from hosting their home matches during the September and October windows of the FIFA 2022 World Cup African Qualifiers.

Since the ban in August, the Ministry of Youth and Sports along with the LFA has been working against time as part of efforts to make the SKD pitch playable. Unfortunately, following CAF’s re-inspection visit to the facility from October 15 to 17 — a visit that was initially scheduled for September 12 to 13 — CAF has informed the LFA that based on the inspection report, they (CAF) “regret to inform you that the stadium still does not fully meet the set CAF stadium minimum requirements and consequently will not be approved for the qualifying matches of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 matchday 5 & 6.” According to CAF’s inspection, the stadium still lacks several CAF criteria and requirements in order to properly host international senior competitions.

GRADE: F

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the SKD Sports Complex finally be ready to host international matches? President Weah’s patience may be wearing thin but Minister Wilson will likely stay on owing to President Weah’s reluctance to make serious changes – even to his own detriment.

MONROVIA CITY CORPORATION

THE LOWDOWN: As the first mayor to be confirmed by the Senate since the end of the civil war, Mayor Jefferson Koijee has had his hands full.

 
2021 HIGHS: During the course of the year under review, the MCC offered the City Hall to be used as COVID-19 testing and vaccination center amid the resurgence of the deadly coronavirus in the country. “With the new COVID variant hitting our country, it leads us all to a renewed vigor in stepping up as we did last time when our country was severely hit by the deadly virus,” Major Jefferson Koijee said.

The decision followed reports of health facilities in the country being overcrowded with several confirmed cases, limited equipment, and the need to strategize means in addressing constraints faced by the health sector.

2021 LOWS: The MCC took a hit during the course of the year under review when Laurent Delahousse, the Head of the European Union Mission in Liberia labeled  the capital city as “dirty and disgusting” after a massive outpour of donor money.

Ambassador Delahousse addressing a forum organized by the Monrovia City Council disclosed that he was “a bit surprised” by what he saw when he arrived in Liberia a year ago. “Monrovia is a disgusting city,

it is a dirty city. Of all the capitals I have seen in my previous posts in Africa, I have not seen one that is as dirty as yours,” EU Ambassador asserted.

In response to the EU Ambassador, the Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee said Ambassador Laurent Delahousse’ comment that Monrovia is one of the dirtiest cities he has visited is basically a restatement of the Monrovia City Corporation’s position that solid waste handling in the City of Monrovia is overwhelming their capacity to deal with the existing challenges they have in the absence of a sustainable approach.

Although the ambassador later retracted his statement, it had already gone viral and generated a lot of discussions around the world. “In no way were my remarks intended to disparage anyone or to affect the reputation of the beautiful capital city of Liberia,” the Ambassador later said. “In no way was my intention to take a political stance that would be absolutely contrary to my ethics and mission as a diplomat. I sincerely apologize to the Government of Liberia and anyone feeling misrepresented by these remarks and I willingly retract the exaggerated wording that I used.”

During the year under review, the mayor also came under fire when a writ of HABEAS CORPUS was issued out from the first Judicial Circuit, Criminal Court “C” against MCC. Resident Judge, A. Blamo Dixon issued the writ on Thursday, July 22, 2021 to ensure Mayor Koijee produces the living bodies of the three female and residents of North Road, New Georgia Caldwell: Rose Wreh, Felecia Wreh and Christiane Toe who are presently detained at the Monrovia City Hall together with cause of such detention on Friday, July 23, 2021.

Judge Dixson threatened to render a default judgment against the City Government boss should he fail to adhere to the term and condition stipulated in the writ issued him.

GRADE: C

2022 OUTLOOK:  What would be Mayor Koijee’s resolution for the New Year? Is a Mary Broh return to City Hall on the horizon. The bettors seem to think so.

CIVIL SERVICE AGENCY

THE LOWDOWN: The central government agency responsible for managing the Civil Service is going through one of the most challenging periods in modern history. Faced with growing pressure of padded payrolls and overburdened and exhaustive hirings outside the scope of the CSA, the agency has been challenged in putting in place a merit-based hiring and vetting system to attract, maintain and retain top-notch civil servants.

The current predicament is a far cry from the end of the civil war and the ushering of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s government in 2006, when brain drain, or large-scale emigration of skilled people for better opportunities in other countries hit the post-war nation hard.

The prolonged civil war in Liberia from December 1989 to August 2003 forced many of the skilled Liberians who had remained in the country sought employment with the private sector and non-governmental organizations because of higher pay and better working conditions.

During the 14-year civil war, civil service pay and pensions remained virtually unchanged and was extremely low and unattractive when the new government came to power in 2006.
Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs) found it extremely difficult to do any productive work. The Government ran a huge risk of failure if nothing was done quickly to address this critical challenge. In 2007, the Government undertook a multipronged capacity initiative, not only to address urgent capacity needs, but to build a cadre of competent professionals who could drive the country development agenda, particularly the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Fast-forward to the CDC-led government, a lot of those challenges have resurfaced under the guise of Pro-Poor.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, a significant portion of the government’s budget wss deployed to paying wages of public sector employees. To ensure those receiving public funds are legitimate, the government of Liberia through the Civil Service Agency (CSA) and the Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center LIMPAC is beginning a national payroll cleaning exercise across all Ministries, Agencies, and Public Corporations.

The process which commences with verifying the counties’ payroll of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was approved by the Cabinet and is expected to nip in the bud, the challenge of eradicating ghost workers on the government’s payroll.

Director-General James Thompson explained during the year that the exercise, which is targeted at all public sector employees will not only create equity but it ensures that those receiving payments are real people. “Payroll verification is an exercise we just started which follows the harmonization exercise which intends to create equity in the system. The verification exercise will enable us to know that those we are carrying are the real people”, he said.

Also during the year, the CSA boss declared that two working groups established to curb challenges in the Liberia’s salary structures were effective in carrying out their mandates.

Mr. Thompson said the Inter-Agency Wage Bill Technical Committee has been able to harmonized salaries and made the allowance system operate independently of the basic pay system of the CSA while the Inter-Agency Pay-roll Clean up Taskforce successfully removed ‘ghost names’ from the Liberian Government payrolls, while implementing civil servants’ retirement process.

During the past year, the CSA DG, Thompson, disclosed that the institution is gearing up to open a Center for Human Resources Directors in the country.

According to him, the training center will help improve their skills and make their work easy, while executing their duties, something he refers to as added knowledge. “We have already made payment for the training center, and we have also justified to our partners the differences between our HR training center and the Liberia Institute of Public Administration (LIPA) and they agreed for us to establish it,” Thompson asserted.

He emphasized that when the center comes into existence, it could have the jurisdiction to curtail problems that militate against HR directors by their heads in public institutions.

Also during the year, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and two commercial banks, the GT Bank and Ecobank, signed the National Legal Power of Attorney, known as the LPA scheme for Civil Servants who are employed with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Civil Service Agency.

The objective of the Legal Power of Attorney (LPA), seeks to empower civil servants by improving their lives in terms of infrastructure development and other human basic needs. Through this initiative, civil servants will have access to goods and services through salary credit schemes from various vendors in the country.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, the Ministry of Education and the Civil Service Agency were in total disagreement over the retirement of 2,402 public school teachers across the country without replacement, which is negatively impacting the educational system.

Appearing before the Liberian Senate Tuesday, the Minister of Education Prof. D. AnsuSonii and the Director of the Civil Service Agency James Thompson could not agreed how the retirement was carried out.

The Ministry of Education told the Senate it is not in the know of the retirement and that the Civil Service Agency is the government entity that is responsible to retire employees.

But the Civil Service director Thompson countered that when they generated the retirement data for public school teachers, it was shared with the Ministry of Education for its input before executing the process.

On the other hand, Education Minister Sonii told senators the CSA sent the list of teachers after they had been retired, and not for input. “The names that came to us are those people that are already being retired by the CSA”, the Minister said.

Professor Sonii disclosed the retirement was carried out under a US$11m program supported by donors in which teachers were asked to sit a written test.

He said teachers who scored below 20 percent were dropped and encouraged to go back to school, get trained and reapply, adding, this process started under the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the current administration met it there.

Also during the year, DG Thompson struggled in putting in a system that would ensure that civil servants do not stray away from their technical assigned functions and diverge into active and vocal politics.

DG Thompson sought to address the issue through the CSA’s mandate which primarily focuses on the protection of civil servants rights and to guide them through the merit system with everyone having equal opportunity to employment and promotion, civil servants must remain career driven void of politics.

The CSA was also at odds with the Liberian National Police after it was determined that the government through the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Service Agency (CSA) had told members of the 230 retired Liberia National Police (LNP) staff that their names, ages and dates of birth were generated from an automated system set up during the harmonization process which informed government’s decision on retiring them.

After meeting with the retirees, LNP Inspector General Col. Patrick Sudue explained that the process started without the input of the Liberia National Police, saying the LNP administration was seated and presented a list of those due to be retired.

The LNP retirees were made to understand at the meeting Wednesday that 2,149 persons were retired across the government institutions in August 2020 based on information generated from the automated system.

According to Col. Sudue, when the information came about the retirement affecting the police, it was rumored that his administration at the LNP had singled out individuals for retirement. However, Col. Sudue expresses delight that Mr. Dell Francis Wreh and the CSA Director General James Thompson were able to clarify at the meeting that the list was generated by an automated system in which one does not have to know who is due to be retired. 75 of the 230 retirees from the LNP are police officers, and the rest are civilian staff.

GRADE: C-


2022 OUTLOOK:
Is there really a need for the CSA when the party prioritizes partisans over qualification, competency?

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

THE LOWDOWN: The agency charged with the executive authority over all environmental activities and programmes relating to environmental management in Liberia continues to battle issues of deforestation of tropical rainforest, the hunting of endangered species for bushmeat, the pollution of rivers and coastal waters from industrial run-off and raw sewage, and the burning and dumping of household waste.

During the course of the year under review, the EPA launched a 10-month project to help assess the impact of its climate actions, and prepare for tracking and monitoring of the country’s progress towards its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Professor Wilson Tarpeh and team demonstrated a commitment to addressing climate change issues across the country, eyeing the reduction of GHG emissions by at least 10 percent and improving energy efficiency by at least 20 percent by 2030 – with the long-term goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

To meet its NDC targets, the government through the EPA has highlighted the need for further support to ensure that its measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) system is strengthened in order to track progress toward the implementation of NDCs, including non-GHG co-benefits.


2021 HIGH:
During the course of the year under review, the EPA carried out a massive demolition within the Police Academy Road intersection with the Samuel K. Doe (SKD) Boulevard in Paynesville in what many described as a rude awakening as bulldozers raved through and level to the ground illegal structures erected in the wetland areas of the community.

The massive demolition exercise was done by a team led by the Inspectorate Department at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the presence of a tact squad of police officers in October.

Many, if not all of those affected by the demolition exercise have been involved in what the EPA termed as unsustainable and unauthorized backfilling of the wetlands; blocking of waterways; discharge of wastewater and sewage into the wetland, and watercourses.

The damaged structures, many of which were makeshifts, include were used for residential and commercial purposes, and were constructed in the mangrove swamp against the advice of the agency, which has been reportedly warning them for months to vacate the area.

“They have been ignoring numerous warnings from the EPA, so we thought to move here early this morning to have the area clear,” Isaiah Kamara Paye, head of Inspectorate, told newsmen. “We cannot allow these things to be happening because we will be in violations of international laws our country is a signatory to.”

The Mesurado Wetlands, which the Mangrove swamp along the SKD Boulevard is a part of, is designated
as a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands of international importance.

EPA Deputy Executive Director, Randall M. Dobayou, said the integrity of the Mesurado Wetlands is being abused by unapproved erecting of structures contrary to the zoning regulation and environmental law of the country, the continuous degradation of the mangrove ecosystem, and the illegal dumping of garbage.

Also during the year, the EPA, working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) enhanced the quality of the Environmental Knowledge Management System (EKMS), an integrated platform that focuses on collecting, storing and sharing information and data between institutions for better environmental management and fulfilment of the obligations of the Rio Convention.

Rio Convention relates to the three conventions, which were agreed at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. They are the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Additional software (plug ins) was recently procured by EPA and UNDP to enhance the functionality of the EKMS, which was established by the Cross Cutting Capacity Development (CCCD) Project in 2019 with funding from Global Environment Facility (GEF).

In an effort to make the platform more useful, the EPA in collaboration with UNDP concluded a three-day learning–by-doing rehearsal training in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The rehearsal training on how to use the EKMS was held under the theme: “Strengthening National Capacities to Meet Global Environmental Obligations With the Framework of Sustainable Development Priorities”.

During the year, the government through the EPA and the UNDP concluded a one-day validation workshop for the purpose of finalizing a proposed project document that seeks to address threats posed by coastal erosion in Southern Sinoe County.

Greenville, the capital of Sinoe County, which is situated about 150 miles from Monrovia’s Liberia capital faces serious threats due to coastal erosion. Greenville City has a population of over 16, 434 people.

Mississippi Street, one of the principal streets in the city has almost been completely washed away by the Atlantic Ocean. In this light, the EPA and UNDP have taken step to prevent the city from being completely washed under the ocean by developing a project entitled: ‘Enhancing the Resilience of Vulnerable Coastal Communities in Sinoe County, Liberia’. The project will be supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Least Developed Countries Fund.

Also during the year under review, the EPA concluded a day-long stakeholders’ consultation in favour of the National Investment Commission (NIC) for the establishment of a special agro-industrial processing zone in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

Organized by Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA)’s Technical Review Committee headed by Assistant Manager, Daoda Socrates Carlon. The stakeholders’ consultation sought to get project affected communities’ inputs on the ESIA report submitted to the EPA by an EPA-certified independent environmental consultant firm named Planet Resources Management, Inc.

In August, the EPA released a preliminary report on the industrial accident at Sethi Steel Factory in Gardnersville, outside Monrovia.  Executive Director, Tarpeh said following a thorough scientific investigation of the situation, the Agency established that the cause of the accident was the collapsed of a conveyor cable’ carrying a magnetic bed containing metal scraps into an electric arc furnace holding molten steel. Prof. Tarpeh disclosed that the magnetic bed fell into the furnace causing molten steel (at temperature of about 1500 oC) to splash in all directions resulting in various degrees of burns to seven (7) staff of the company.

2021 LOW: Liberia continues to face challenges with pollution and environmental sanitation management. Most of the waste buildup is a result of the civil war when waste collection services in Monrovia were halted.

As a result iindustrial waste, the natural resources in Liberia, most importantly water resources have been affected.

In recent years, areas such as the  Firestone Rubber Plantation’s pollution of rivers in northeast Liberia has led to health issues for the communities and killed off fish populations. With just 1 in 4 Liberians having access to safe drinking water according to the World Health Organization, the EPA has its work cut out to find ways to address the issue.

Today, many Liberians continue to struggle during the dry season  to have access to access to clean drinking water as much of the necessary infrastructure is missing. All this in spite of the government through the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa, working with private sector companies to monitor their water use and ensure that communities are getting the clean water they need.

During the year under review, citizens in the port City of Harper, Maryland County sought the intervention of the EPA in their county. The citizens, among them marketers are seeking the EPA intervention on environmental pollution caused by the overflowing of the Atlantic Ocean. Their demand comes following the EPA’s recent visit to Nimba County, where it carried out a full-scale environmental monitoring assessment and chemical inventory at ArcelorMittal Liberia.

GRADE: B

2022 OUTLOOK: Will the world heed President Weah’s lament at the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change, in which he averred that countries like Liberia who maintain and protect the largest remaining tracts of forest reserves, receive the lowest benefits for these ecosystem services?

GENERAL SERVICES AGENCY

THE LOWDOWN: The agency of government  responsible for providing value for money-asset management services to the government has struggled to do its job without support from national government.

The misrepresentation of government vehicles remains an issue with Liberians continue to complain that officials of government abusing government properties.

Of particular concern, is the use of government vehicles after working hours, especially at non-government function.

Critics say the GSA, which is tasked with the responsibility of enforcing the regulation that has to do with the safeguarding of public vehicles and other valued assets and the mishandling of public assets, have not executed well.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, Madam Mary Broh was credited for setting up one of the better Covid vaccinations center in Monrovia. The GSA vaccine center, unlike most, does not give preferential treatment.  Pregnant women, the elderly (senior citizens), and people with disabilities do not have to get in the queue. Once they arrive at the center, they get their jab in a couple of minutes. The vaccines are administered by the staff of the Ministry of Health but the GSA supervises the process.

Broh said during the course of the year: “When you come in, you tell us whether you were vaccinated with AstraZeneca, and when we know that you are here for the second dose, we get your details and register you and then you go and get your final dose. We take you to the observation area for 5 to 10 minutes, then we certify you and you take your certificate with you.”

Certificates given to fully vaccinated people is the GSA’s own initiative to keep track of those who have been vaccinated.

In addition to the expedited service, the center serves its guests — who are there to get vaccinated and have not eaten – with a hot meal. An average of 300 to 350 people visit the center daily.

The GSA DG also frowned on public officials in the  habit of using Government vehicles for their personal advertisement.

According to Madam Broh, Government vehicles should be used for work proposes and not for funeral, church or night club as done by many public officials. She mentioned that some public officials use Government vehicles to transport sand, crushed rock among others.  She said,  “these Vehicles must be parked after work.”


2021 LOW:
Madam Broh’s frustration was evident during the course of the year under review when she lamented that entity’s mandate and operations were continuously impeded due to pressure from above. “The reason why GSA has stopped seizing and retrieving government properties was [is]due to the high pressure from above us”, Broh said in September.

Madam Broh explained that the GSA has various departments with separate functions, including administration, fleet management, and public buildings management, among others. But said when the agency commenced the seizure of government vehicles that were seen after the normal working hours, it had to stop due to the pressure that came from above.

Addressing the Ministry of Information regular press briefing on September 16, 2021, at the GSA compound in Monrovia, Madam Broh said influences that came from above were huge, adding “You all are aware when I became Mayor of this [city] I got booted out by the Legislature, where they declared me non-governmental material, only because I was doing the right thing by parking their cars, for introducing the city parking attendance to regulate the improper parking of vehicles in this country.”

Over the years, the Agency has worked very hard to rebuild its infrastructure and systems and handle a significant increase in Government vehicle repair services and public buildings maintenance.


GRADE:
B –

2022 OUTLKOOK: Murmurs in the air is the Madam Broh is being prepped for a return to City Hall to replace Mayor Jefferson Koijee.

NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY

THE LOWDOWN: The intelligence institution tasked with the gathering, collection, analyzing and dissemination of national security information for decision/policy makers including the President of the Republic of Liberia, plays a very key role within the country’s internal security apparatus, particularly dealing with investigating economic crimes.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the NSA unveiled its newly constructed headquarters, described by President Weah as “a milestone achievement and an outcome of excellent bilateral cooperation”.
 

The NSA headquarters was built with funding from United States Government in support of the Liberian security sector.He thanked the US government for its support, stating that Liberia looks forward to more US support for the improvement of other sectors in the future.

The President indicated that the construction of the NSA Headquarters is consistent with his government’s plan to construct facilities for government institutions in order to ease the pressure of paying huge rental fees to landlords.

During the unveiling, Mr. Michael McCarthy, US Ambassador to Liberia, said his government has made the significant investment because it believes that ensuring peace and security requires accurate, timely, and objective information. “Having the whole picture, the whole truth – with all facts and context understood – can prevent conflict in advance, can help respond to crisis situations, can help with mediation efforts and can ensure confidence in decision-making.”

Director Pearson, during the year also received commendation from a civil society group, for “giving face to Liberia’s intelligence community.” The Citizens Movement to Protect Good Governance and Rule of Law (MPGGRL) described Dr. Pearson’s work at the nation’s central intelligence as “a true agent of President George Manneh Weah’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).”

2021 LOW: A dismissed Assistant Director for Cyber Crimes and Intelligence at the National Security Agency (NSA), Joseph J. Brown filed a writ of prohibition against his incarceration and subsequent punishments upon the orders of Plenary of the House of Representatives for what they called, ‘lying under oath’.

Joseph J. Brown was sentenced on August 3, 2021 to 72 hours in jail. He was further demanded to pay the amount of four thousand four hundred ninety-nine Liberian dollars ninety-nine cents, as well as publish for 3 consecutive days an apology to lawmakers in 3 different local dailies to include Frontpage Africa, The Inquirer, and the Daily Observer. He is to also submit himself to an investigation headed by the Ministries of Justice, Gender and Labour, as well as NSA and the Liberian National Police.

The former NSA Assistant Director for Cyber Crimes and Intelligence was summoned by the House of Representatives regarding a pornographic video he posted on his Facebook page, which showed a little girl believed to be below the age of 10 performing oral sex on an older unidentified man.

GRADE: D

2022 OUTLOOK: Mystery continue to linger over the budget allocation for the NSA. Exemption from audit will likely continue in the new year.

LIBERIA NATIONAL POLICE

THE LOWDOWN: The frontline force of internal security in the fight against crimes, the protection of life and property, and in the maintenance of the rule of law endured a rugged year.

When the United Nations Mission in Liberia ended its time toward the end of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf presidency, the LNP was tasked with the responsibility of picking up the slack.

As incidents and reports of ritualistic killings rocketed in the past year, critics turned their anger on the LNP and the Ministry of Justice for failing to address the issue or go after predators.

The LNP maintain internal security, with assistance from the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency and other civilian security forces. The Armed Forces of Liberia are responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities if called upon. Both the LNP and Drug Enforcement Agency report to the Ministry of Justice, while the Armed Forces of Liberia report to the Ministry of National Defense. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.

During the course of the year under review, Col. Sudue wrote the House of Representatives seeking an additional budgetary appropriation of US$6,317,831 for its operations in FY2020/2021 to enhance the LNP’s capacity in combating crimes and maintaining law and order.

Critics have not lost sight of the poor conditions of officers patrolling the streets in faded uniforms and the lack of adequate motorbikes and vehicles to chase down criminals.

For Sudue, the current allotment of US$15,176,844 was inadequate as more than 95 percent covers personnel cost including salary and other benefits.

The remaining amount, Sudue argued in the communication to the Legislature, was just not enough to fund the many line items and operational activities of the LNP, including but not limited to fuel and lubricants for vehicles and generators’ operations, purchase of uniforms and accessories to ensure that police are neatly dressed, purchase of vehicles, repair and maintenance of vehicles and other assets to enhance police response and travel allowances.

Sudue told the legislature that the additional amount would be used for trainings and special operations including elections and rent for private properties hosting police stations across the country.

Sudue has been concerned about the blame game his office has been bombarded with in spite of the financial challenges facing the LNP. “From experience and analysis of our past performance, the Liberian National Police has been suppressed and constrained in carrying out its duties and responsibilities due to very minimum budgetary allocation, especially for special operations and goods and services,” the Inspector General said in his communication to the Legislature.

2021 HIGH: During the year under review, the LNP celebrate the dawn of a new era that is poised to make it much easier for Liberians to file complaints – or compliments – about police officers.

With support from The Carter Center, a Liberian company has developed the Find Officer app, part of a larger effort to build trust in the police by increasing accountability.

The Center began working with the Liberia National Police in 2016, first helping the force comply with the country’s Freedom of Information Act, then assisting it in developing and implementing standard operating procedures for handling complaints and commendations.

The Carter Center, with funding from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, started working with the police in 2017 to help flesh out that system and establish the review board.

Sudue says the feature is a great help to his officers, as was the Center’s records management training.

The police chief believes the Find Officer app “will help deter officers from unethical and/or unprofessional behavior in the discharge of their duties.”

RoviaGate Technologies Inc. created the mobile-friendly app, which makes it possible for anyone to file a report just by entering an officer’s name, badge number or merely an uploaded photo — which is an important element because many police officers don’t regularly wear badges or nametags. Even without any of this information, citizens can still report complaints and commendations by entering as much identifying information as possible.

During the year, officers of the Anti-Robbery Unit of the LNP gunned down five armed robbers while in an arm robbery attempt at the Fresh Frozen Food Liberia cold storage in the Redlight Market. The facility had been robbed several times.

A driver who reportedly attempted coming out when the robbery was taking place was severely brutalized by them.

Police Inspector General Col. Patrick Sudue said a huge sum of money was discovered in a rice bag at the scene.

The police was informed about the robbery by callers who reported that a driver was severely beaten by armed robbers which prompted the LNP to immediately dispatch a team to the Redlight Market.

Two of the robbers who earlier opened fire escaped when police arrived at the scene along with a vehicle that parked there.

Also during the year, four officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) have been selected to participate in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Southern Sudan (UNMISS), Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue has disclosed.

According to Sudue, the selection of Liberian cops to participate in the Mission in Southern Sudan signals the confidence and trust that the United Nations has in the integrity and performance of the LNP, especially under his administration. Additionally, Sudue said during the year that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) granted the LNP an opportunity to commit 140 Formed Police Officers to participate in ECOWAS Standby Force.

The police also scored a major coup during the year when it arrested the  “main suspect” in the 2020 murder of a German businessman near the country’s third-largest city Buchanan.

Juergen Schedema, who had been working in the Buchanan area was shot dead in his home on January 22 last year in circumstances that remain murky. Linda Schedema, the murder victim’s wife, told reporters after the incident that she had heard gun shots as she was returning to her home at around midnight.

Despite limited resources, the  Crime Services Department of the LNP in Ganta, Nimba County nabbed one of the Ganta’s most notorious armed robbers, who has been on the run for years. According to the CSD, 28 year-old Bangalee Jabateh is one of chief masterminds of most of the armed robbery incidents that have taken place on the Main Streets of Ganta.

2021 LOW: The police came under fire during the course of the year under review when hundreds of women protested in the nation’s capital against allegations of widespread ritual murders.

Many were taken aback when the LNP denied the bulk of the reports. A member of the opposition Alternative National Congress was arrested a member of the political opposition accused of fanning the rumours.

The protesters delivered a statement to legislators, seen by AFP, demanding that the government and police examine “the exponential rate of ritualistic killing”.

The LNP also took a blow when it was cited in the annual US Human Rights report for carrying out significant human rights abuses including arbitrary killings, cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention.

And in recent time, the Police came under heavy criticism again for the sporadic shooting in the populated Duala Market area in their attempt to arrest alleged armed robbers. Three commuters were killed during that shooting which was done in broad day light.

GRADE: C+

2022 OUTLOOK: Inspector General Sudue believes he is handicapped due to lack of adequate budget support. An SoS to Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah.

LIBERIA IMMIGRATION SERVICE

THE LOWDOWN: The LIS which implements and enforces the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia and safeguards and protects the borders and boundaries (air, land and sea) of Liberia against the illegal entry of aliens into the country, had a somewhat controversial year over breach of COVID protocols.

The LIS formerly the Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization  (BIN) is charged with the primary responsibility to implement and enforce the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia. Beside the Alien and Nationality Law, it is also governed by the Constitution of Liberia, the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movements of persons, goods and services within the sub-region, international conventions and laws, among other instruments. The Bureau has the statutory mandate to safeguard and protect the borders and boundaries (air, land and sea) of Liberia against the illegal entry of aliens into the country. The Bureau also screens and examines travel documents; admits aliens at sea, air and land borders (ports of entry); grants aliens resident status and provides border management and control.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, a Joint UN-Government of Liberia Rule of Law Programme, UNDP sought to provide capacity development support to the LIS.

The Programme has supported several specialized trainings held at the Gbarnga Regional Security Hub in Bong County, aimed at transforming in-service immigration officers and shifting their statuses from apprentices to professionals.

Between April and July year, more than two hundred officers received professional certificates after completing a series of trainings in disciplines and modules to include fundamental migration, human rights, professional conduct, drill development, gender, investigation, report-writing, exercises, as well as a course in the French language among others. The new batch of over two hundred immigration officers will now form part of an improved security system as professional duty bearers.

The UN Joint Rule of Law Programme is supporting the government to complete the Security Sector Reform (SSR) provision that prioritizes retention and training of in-service officers, in order to help narrow the existing professional labor force gap confronting the effective operations of the LIS.

LIS Commissioner General Robert W. Budy Sr. says the intervention is a key milestone in helping the government of Liberia through the LIS, to address the gaps related to professional human resource capacity within the immigration service.

In September, four Nigerian Nationals convicted of Armed Robbery as ” Undesirable Aliens” in keeping with section 7.1 of the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia.  The minister then instructed Commissioner General Budy to have them deported from Liberia.

The Nigerians were arrested in connection to the willful, unlawful, illegal and intentionally armed robbed the Ecobank Branch in Kakata, Margibi County where they took alway valuables and cash in the tune of Two Hundred and Seven Thousand-Seven Hundred Ninety-Nine United States ( $ 207, 799.00) Dollars.  They departed Liberia via Air Cote D’ivoire at 1500hrs on Monday the 27 of September 2021

2021 LOW: The LIS found itself in a rather difficult position during the year under review when President Weah suspended the Deputy Commissioner General for Operations at the Liberia Immigration Service, Abigail N. Wisseh. Madam Wisseh was suspended on Thursday, July 1, 2021.

A FrontPageAfrica investigation found that Ms. Wisseh’s assisted several covid-19 positive foreigners into the country via the Roberts International Airport. Executive Mansion and LIS sources informed FrontPageAfrica that Ms. Wisseh breached a temporary moratorium placed on the approval of visa on arrival, unless approved by the Commissioner. This internal regulation, FrontPageAfrica gathered, is intended to curb the Covid-19 transmission by monitoring those entering into the country. “There was a moratorium placed on the signing of visa but she breached that moratorium placed on visa by the Commissioner. She signed visa for some Turkish who came into the country. Now, it was later discovered that three of them were covid-19 positive,” an Executive Mansion Source said.

FrontPageAfrica’s investigation further discovered that Ms. Wisseh in breach of the moratorium approved visas for several Turkish who came into the country recently to work for Bea Mountain. Subsequently, it was discovered that three of them were positive to the virus which is now raging in Liberia.

A Bea Mountain internal memo seen by FrontPageAfrica indicate at least 25 percent of its staff are now confirmed positive to Covid-19. The western region Turkish mining company is now beefing up safety and precautionary measures among its staff.

The memo reads: “Dear all BMMC employees, the 4th [3rd] wave of the Covid-19 outbreak has peaked in Liberia, where we carry out our operations. Before, the measures to be taken by our occupational health and safety department and clinical doctor have been announced several times. With these measures, the spread of covid-19 has been prevented or slowed down in our field. In order to prevent re-infection, the following studies and rules must be followed strictly, and all our employees must comply with the relevant rules. Despite this, due to the lack of care and attention to the issue, the epidemic continues to spread among us rapidly and the number of positive cases continue to increase. The reason for this was determined as the failure to comply with the warnings and plans made at the beginning, the control mechanism not working, the personnel not applying personal protective measures and not warning each other.”

The memo added, “It is now a fact that 25% of each of our employees is diagnosed as positive.”

In October, the LIS also endured tragedy when during the course of the year under review, one of its officer, was slain in her home. Neighbors and family members found her lying unconscious in a pool of blood with bruises and cuts on her neck and forehead shortly after the incident. The victim was pronounced dead at the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital in Sinkor, Monrovia, where she was taken for advance medical checkup and subsequent treatment. Eyewitnesses say the victim was staying alone in her house when the incident occurred. The unknown men broke into the house by removing the iron bars from one of the windows of the victim’s house.

GRADE: C


2022 OUTLOOK:
Liberians are still in shock that President Weah brought back Deputy Commissioner Wesseh after a major breach of Covid protocol. What would she do in the new year?

DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY

THE LOWDOWN: The LDEA is a semi-autonomous agency under the supervisory authority of the Ministry of Justice, responsible for effective and efficient enforcement of laws pertaining controlled drugs, substances and precursors, including essential chemicals.

According to the U.S. Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, “Liberia is not a significant transit country for illicit narcotics, but the country’s weak law-enforcement capacity, porous border controls, and proximity to major drug transit routes leave it vulnerable to becoming one.

Despite the concerns, Liberia has ratified or acceded to the three main drug control international conventions which aim to control illicit drugs by reducing their supply, in particular through criminal sanctions.

Over the course of the year, the LDEA grappled with illicit drug trafficking, owing to the involvement of top VIPs  shielding of ghettos operators by community members and the compromised court system.

U.S. Embassy Monrovia salutes Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) Director General Marcus Zehyoue, who assumed the mantle of Director General last year after the sad passing of Marcus Soko. During his tenure so far, Director General Zehyoue has followed in the footsteps of his mentor by leading efforts to reduce illicit drug trafficking in Liberia and to strengthen Liberia’s Drug Law.

The US Embassy in Monrovia, on the occasion of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, commended the LDEA and its Liberian security partners for making tremendous strides to reduce the trafficking of narcotics in Liberia.

The embassy in a statement said:  “The LDEA continues to seize and destroy illicit drugs that enter Liberia through its borders and international ports, reducing the negative impact of these drugs on the lives of Liberians. We encourage the LDEA and Liberian security institutions to continue to work together to combat illicit drug trafficking. The primary duty of every government is to protect its citizens from threats, which include drug abuse and illicit trafficking. But it is also the responsibility of ordinary citizens to support efforts to educate Liberian youth about the dangers of drug abuse.”

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, a South African woman, age 39 identified as Marcia Thembeka was was arrested at the Roberts International Airport by the Liberia National Police for allegedly trying to smuggle into the country a huge quantity of narcotic drugs. Liberia National Police Deputy Inspector General for Operations, Melvin Sackor said the consignment of the illicit drugs was seized last Thursday, May 20, 2021 said to be cocaine or heroin. The drug seized is said to be four kilograms and it is estimated to be US$150,000.00. The suspected South African drug Trafficker was on board Kenya Airway and landed at 6pm at the RIA.

Also during the year, the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) confiscated over L$2 million worth of narcotics from inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison in Monrovia.

The drugs were confiscated from inmates during the BCR’s vigorous search and lockdown exercise at the various prison facilities in the country.

The drugs arrested include cocaine (20.4 gram), heroin (243.7 gram), marijuana, among others.

Speaking at a news conference at the Ministry of Justice in Monrovia, the Assistant Minister of BCR, Eddie Trawali said prison facilities in the country have been designated and used by drugs cartels and operators as a hub where they stored their drugs for commercial purposes.

“Few months ago, the BCR was involved in a vigorous lockdown and search in all of our prison systems in Liberia, and we were able to confiscate over L$2 million worth of drugs from our prison (Monrovia Central Prison).”

Minister Trawali said the BCR has officially informed the U.S. Government about the clandestine and illegal operations that are proceeding in the prison systems in the country.

2021 LOW: During the course of the year under review, a commander of the LDEA, alarmed over the involvement of a member of the 54th Legislature in the sale of illegal drugs.

Commander Martha Massaley, assigned at Gardnersville Township dropped the bombshell when she served as one of the panelists at a youth-led program marking the observance of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drugs Trafficking on  June 25.

“I was sitting with them (LDEA colleagues) at the checkpoint and this Honorable Representative came,” she said, opting not to mention a name. I won’t call his name before I be held in contempt, and for security reasons. He came driving in his big car. And the female officer stopped the car and said ‘Sir, can I just look in that car. She did not know him, but I know him and some of my colleagues know him. And he said even if you search my car and see anything there, you can’t do anything about it. So, no need for you to search my car. So, she said yes Chief, but please give me the benefit of the doubt let me just look in the car. When she opened the car, see the bag of drugs, marijuana one bag, the cocaine parlor (powder) there, the heroin parlor (powder) there. when I saw it, I got up, in an attempt to approach him, already we had bitter blood… he pulled off the car.”

Massaley explained that the lawmaker was not happy with the LDEA’s work because she arrested most of his men and agents and they are behind bars.

In July, the LDEA came under fire from the Committee to Protect Journalists over the attack on several journalists. CPJ in a statement called on the government investigate the attack and arrest of journalist Max M. Richards Jr. and hold those responsible to account.

On July 9, in the northeastern city of Ganta, a group of about 15 officers with LDEA attacked Richards Jr., a reporter with the privately owned Hott FM radio broadcaster, after he photographed them making an arrest, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Richards Jr. told CPJ that the officers slapped, punched, and kicked him, and then arrested him and seized his phone, and brought him to the local Drug Enforcement Agency office, where they made him take off his shirt and continued to slap and punch him.

The officers released Richards Jr. without charge about 30 minutes later, after Hott FM news director Musa More Sherman called Ganta’s regional solicitor, Lawrence Suah, who arrived and ordered that the journalist be released.

The DEA’s year ended on a poor when three persons killed when officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) fired live bullets during a crackdown on suspected armed robbers and drug dealers in the commercial area of Duala on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia. Duala is located in electoral district # 16, Montserrado County.

The unidentified victims believed to be in their early 30s were all males. Two of those who were shot dead were believed to be commuters, while the other was considered as a “zogo”.

Disadvantaged youths are normally referred to as “zogos” in Liberia.

They are most often engaged into unwholesome practices including armed robbery, the snatching away of valuable items from peaceful Liberian citizens and others, the salvaging of dump sites for fairly used materials to sell, the loading of commercial vehicles with passengers, among others. They normally sell stolen items far below the original prices to satisfy their bad habit of taking in narcotics and other dangerous substances.

GRADE: F

2022 OUTLOOK: Reports of unlicensed planes bringing in drugs at odd hours have been widely dismissed by authorities. Preying eyes will be watching in the coming year.

EXECUTIVE PROTECTION SERVICES

THE LOWDOWN: The elite paramilitary group responsible for the protection of the President, his family, the Vice President and other VIPs is often accused of being politicized by the government of the day and the year under review was no exception.

In February, the EPS took issue with Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon describing as unacceptable the continued disrespect for established security protocols. The EPS said Senator Dillon’s refusal to observe and abide by protocols at functions ,especially when President George Weah is in attendance, is troubling.

The EPS’ statement followed a scuffle between Senator Dillon’s bodyguards and an EPS officer during the County Meet final, at the SKD Sports Complex.

The EPS said, Senator Dillon, without regards to the protocols, instructed his personal guards to ignore and bypass security to enter the VIP stand.

The incident prompted the EPS to declare that the refusal by the Monsterrado County Lawmaker to adhere to security guidelines resulted in a fracas, which led to an EPS officer sustaining injury and breaking of the glass at the entrance of the SKD.

The incident coupled with a statement earlier in the year by Senator Dillon that he would stone the motorcade of President George Weah, prompted the President’s National Security advisor, Jefferson Kanmoh to released a strong-worded statement ordering officers of the Executive Protection Service and all other supporting units assigned with the President to neutralize with surgical precision any threat to the safety of the President of Liberia. The statement at the same time ordered maximum force to be applied  by State Security officers while providing Security protection for the President but said action must be done within the confines of the law.

“We will protect the life of the President which remains a National Security priority at all times“, The National Security Advisor to the President emphasized.

2021 HIGH: During the course of the year under review, the EPS received several modern sophisticated equipment and uniforms to boost its Anti-terrorism and counter-assault training programs. The donation of the state-of-the art equipment and uniforms was made last Friday at EPS Headquarters on Capitol Hill, Monrovia by Liberia’s Ambassador-At-Large to Italy, Ricardo Milici.

The equipment received are the first of its kind in the more than 60-year history of the presidential guards’ service.

2021 LOW: The EPS came under fire during the year when one of the President’s bodyguards traveling with him on his county tour, allegedly shot himself in the head on February 19, in Tappita, Nimba County. The officer died instantly, even though he was rushed to the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Referral Hospital for resuscitation.

EPS agent Melvin Earley had been with the President’s detail since its restructuring after the civil conflict ended more than 15 years ago.

This was not the first incident involving  officers of this elite force committing suicide. It can be recalled that the late Bobby N. Calphen, an Executive Protection Service (EPS), who used to be assigned to the details of Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, hanged himself. Police investigators had found no foul play; they treated it strictly a case of suicide even though some relatives of the deceased believed there was foul play. The wife of the deceased, Madam Kebeh Calphen had told a local daily that she came from the market and met her husband hanged on a belt to the wall in an unfinished building. The unfinished building is said to be the second house the deceased and his wife were constructing prior to his death.

In July 2016, Agent Prince Mawolo, who was assigned with the detail manning President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, shot one of his colleagues outside the convention hall. Officer Mawolo had shot and injured his fellow EPS officer when they reportedly disagreed on who was entitled to a “certain woman.”

GRADE: D

2022 OUTLOOK: Questions about the politicization of the EPS is likely to linger as the country limps into the 2023 elections.

COMING THURSDAY: WE LOOK AT THE PERFORMANCE OF THE STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES AND THE INTEGRITY INSTITUTIONS

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