Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lorma-Mandingo Conflict Spotlighted

…ZODWOCA Director Stresses the Need for Coexistence

A local NGO, the Zorzor District Women Care (ZODWOCA), has been finding working to resolve a long standing conflict between the Mandingoes and the Lormas in Lofa County The Executive Director of ZODWOCA, madam Agnes Kortimai, told this reporter that it is now time for all Liberians coexist and move forward with the national development agenda of the present administration

She said it was because of this she included the Lorma –Mandingo conflict on the in a recent NED-sponsored workshop which discussed amongst other things, the fundamental rights in the Liberian Constitution, new legal protections against gender-based violence, defending rape victims in local courts, protecting against domestic violence and women’s leadership promotion.

According to her billkjarkloh.wordpress.com, the new world does not call for discrimination, which she said has impeded on the rights of individual to so many things including intermarriage amongst others.

Calling on Lormas and Mandingoes to bury their hatches by accepting each other, Madam Kortimai said for this reason, at the workshop discussions were also centered on “resolving conflicts among the belligerent tribes over hot-blooded issues such as conflict between the Lormas and Mandingoes ethnic groups, property rights, religion, and intermarriage”.

During the workshop, the group exercises, formal and informal presentations, discussions, and exchange of personal experiences formed major parts of the workshop. Workshop facilitators included religious leaders, community women’s leaders, youth’s leaders and ZODWOCA staff.

Addressing the Lorma-Mandingo feud, the workshop reviewed the ethnic problem between the Lormas and the Mandingoes. Some of the speakers, especially a religious leader, who spoke briefly as a facilitator, asked the participants to do with him a research aiming at finding the root causes of said conflict, of which nearly every participant agreed, was the issue of land, .intermarriage and petty jealousy.

Ms. Krubo Deddeh, a Lorma women leader in the clan, told her fellow women that they should be the one to bring peace between the Lormas and the Mandingoes.

Madam Deddeh also alluded to an incident between Lawalazu and Samie Town, in which a youth leader of Samie Town was missing and Samie town was accusing Lawalazu for the youth leader, a situation which she noted has almost resulted to war between the two towns.

Madam Deddeh also said she said that they were prepared to put the past behind them and move forward with live. She also cited the recent program held in Quondi Bondi, a Mandingoes dominated Clan, where the two conflicting tribes made greater gains in enhancing their relation.

Deddeh further cautioned participants of both tribes at the workshop to encourage their respective kinsmen to avoid conflict between their tribes as conflict was not the best solution in solving any problem. “This county/country belongs to every one of us and we should try to live in peace with one another, and that is the only way that we can develop this county, Lofa.” She said.

The Lormas and the Mandingoes in Lofa have not been coexisting since the Lormas accused members of their rival tribe of killing their members of their tribe during the Liberian Civil war. The conflict started far before the Liberian war when the Lormas were claiming ownership of Lofa which the Mandingoes opposed.

During the war, the bitterness that attended the Lormas claim has caused the Mandingoes who were dominant in ULIMO-K and the LURD rebel groups reportedly haunted and killed the Lormas, leading to the formation of the Lofa Defense Force predominantly of the Lormas to prevent themselves from further attacks of the Mandingoes.

LETCOM Wants 25% of National Budget

…To Improve Liberian Education

By: Papie Sheriff Kollie Jr.

National Coordinator of the Education-for-all Technical Committee (LETCOM), J. Jaye Lablah, has reminded the Liberian Government to keep to its promise of allotting 25% of the total national budget to education.

Mr. Lablah is further calling on the government to commit least 18% of the national budget to education if it cannot meet up with the promised percentage.

The LETCOM Coordinator spoke at the St. Simon Baptist School on the Capitol Bypass in Monrovia last Saturday when his organization joined 163 countries around the world in the celebration of the Global Action Week on Education

The week is annually celebrated each April globally to underscore of the importance of the right of every person to education.

Lablah said the Liberia government joined the 163 countries in the year 2000 to set forth six goals, which he indicated the countries committed themselves to achieving by 2015.

Paramount among the six goals is signing of the Dakar Protocol by all countries concerned to make sure that by 2015 everyone of understanding age acquires a minimum education of primary/elementary level.

During the annual celebration of the Global Action Week on Education, programs are executed to depict various education-related activities geared toward highlighting the importance of the education and the right of every person to education.

Liberia’s celebration of the week is to exemplify the importance of the right of every Liberian to education.

LETCOM’s officially celebration of the Global Action Week on Education around Liberia started here, in Monrovia, with a parade from the Sports Commission on Broad Street to the St Simon Baptist School on the Capital Bye-pass.

Addressing his audience, Mr. Lablah said: We at LETCOM love to appeal to the government to please implement more free compulsory primary education policy by providing adequate, affordable, easily assessable, well staffed and good quality educational facilities.

The LETCOM boss further calls on the Liberian Government to rescue Education from prostitution. The inspectorial division of the ministry of Education has the duty in addition to its official mandate to ensure that institution are not established in Liberia by individuals and other organization whose sole objective is to get money.

LETCOM National Coordinator also said they are going to offer their services to assist the ministry in inspecting and monitoring learning institution in post war country Liberia.

In Economic Sabotage Case: Admission of Guilt or Protection of Nat’l Interest

…Bryant Admits Authorization of Funds; Defends LPRC

On his second day in the dock at the Criminal Court “C” hearing the “Economic Sabotage” charges the State brought against him, defunct National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant, has put up defense for the Edwin Melvin Snowe regime of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), saying that the close to US$1m expended by the LPRC during the transitional regime was spent based upon his directive.

Mr. Bryant, the fourth witness in the marathon case, rather toke responsibility for the use of the funds for which he and the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) managers are being prosecuted for the reported commission of “Economic Sabotage”. The transitional chairman told court that the money was used on security matters to safe guard the fragile peace of Liberia in 2003.

The NTGL Chairman is being prosecuted along with four of his LPRC officials including Montserrado County Representative Edwin Snowe and his deputies while served as LPRC managing Director under the transitional regime of Chairman Bryant.

Mr. Bryant and four other former officials of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Company including Edwin M. Snowe, Jr., Richard Devine, Siaka A. Sheriff and G. Andy Quamie are on trial for allegedly conspiring to take away close US$1 million from the coffers of the LPRC during the interim administration. However the accused have pleaded “NOT GUILTY” to charges brought against them.

Mr. Bryant told the court that the monies were spent at different times upon his instruction to quell trouble by ex-fighters in various parts of the country so as to prevent the country from slipping back to chaos after the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA).

The CPA brought Bryant, a businessman, to state power at the Executive mansion. The document which was crafted by stakeholders and signed in Accra, the Republic of Ghana introduced calm to Liberia and paved the way for the elections of 2005, which brought to power the first female president of Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The national Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) which was installed to steer the affairs of state for two years was headed by Chairman Bryant.

Bryant was however audit by ECOWAS investigators and other international institutions such as the EU, and findings of the investigative bodies making Bryant and his team of economic managers culpable were perused by the Johnson-Sirleaf administration leading to “Economic Sabotage” Charges against them

During his testimonies in court, the defunct NTGL Chairman Charles Gyude Byant said the monies were mainly given to ex-rebel leaders to help talk with their men who were at some point disgruntled over disbarment benefits and in some places refused to disarm, explaining that none of the payments were made to him or people from the Executive Mansion, his office.

He explained, “Instructions and directives from me to LPRC were to pay monies out to people. None of them work in my office,” and added that how LPRC Management or Board wrote the internal instructions to the Account Staff to make payments was totally out of his control and knowledge.

“All I knew was for example there was a particular threat because a senior official or cabinet minister or example has been taken hostage by their supporters who they were unable to give jobs to, they wanted jobs. Other times there were incidents in the Guthrie Rubber Plantation for example where combatants had been disarmed but have not gone through the PR portion of the NCDDRR because the UN that were funding this program has run out of funds”, Bryant told the court.

He said many of the payments were made to individuals who could help to talk with ex-combatants that were harassing civilians mainly in the South eastern region of the country where the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) did not deploy immediately after their coming to Liberia on peace keeping mission.

Mr. Bryant revealed that at one point while preparing to tour the country, UNMIL informed him that the south east was not safe for him to travel as there were reports of gun fires and harassments.

“When the disarmament ended, I told UNMIL I am ready to the South east and that was in October 2004. They say sorry Chairman we can’t go there and I said but you have disarmed,” he claimed, noting: They said that is true but in the interior of the counties we are still getting reports of gun fires and harassments of innocent civilians.”

So he indicated that he called the commanders and their leaders because “sometimes when you deal with the leaders the commanders will come and say we didn’t get anything so how can we deal with the men.”

According to him, these commanders went to LPRC for a hundred thousand dollars to use to quiet tension, for instance, since “I am about to go to the southeast and before I go there I want to hear that all the troubles and harassments have ended. They went, they dealt with their people, UNMIL was then able to deploy into those areas and then I was able to go there and that was not money I had in my pocket”.

The former NTGL Chairman said he gave LPRC the instruction to pay the monies out and charge it to what the company saw was partial dividend or donations and contributions to government, while at his end, he only wanted the money to keep Liberia peaceful.

Responding to question from prosecution lawyers on whether receipts were issued during the payments to these individuals by the LPRC to whom the numerous payments including an amount of US$100,000 and US$300,000 were made, the former NTGL chairman told the court he was not concerned with the issuing of receipts but the availability of the money to serve the purpose at the time.

“I do not know because I did not work ever for LPRC. What I know is that those to whom I directed that funds be given to, received the funds; they carried out the missions and the intended objectives were satisfied”, Bryant declared.

On a bank account that was opened by the Management of LPRC at the time with US$25,000 at Eco Bank, a sub-regional bank and the money used to sponsor a trip by some officials of the LPRC to attend a seminar in Ghana, Mr. Bryant denied having knowledge on the opening of such account.

He however admitted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) organized a program for financial institutions from Liberia and it was held in Ghana due to the prevailing security situation in Liberia at the time.

“I knew nothing about this account. I did not authorize it and defendant Snowe has told this court and jury that his Board had authorized this transaction. However, I can confirm to you that it is true that the IMF did require that bi-lateral discussions be held in Accra, Ghana for security reasons. That decision did not only affect LPRC, it also affected Finance Ministry staffers. Budget Bureau staffers, Planning Ministry staffers, Central Bank staffers and members of my Council of economic advisors”, Bryant continued.

The former transitional head of state’s admittance that he sanctioned the numerous payments made by the LPRC to several individuals summing up to about US$ 1million without caring for receipts or vouchers has created what legal pundits described as a shift in the ongoing trial involving him and four other former officials of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Company including Edwin M. Snowe, Jr., Richard Devine, Siaka A. Sheriff and G. Andy Quamie.

With the admittance, the trial will now be focusing on finding out how the monies were expended and to whom all the payments were made as the former Liberian leader has taken full responsibility of the overall spending of the close to US$1 million.

But with Mr. Bryant’s testimony that he only ordered the payments and was not responsible to instruct LPRC to issue receipts, opinions solicited from lawyers observing the trial indicates that the former officials of the LPRC will now be made to state whether they issued receipts and if not why such huge monies ere spent without records.

Meanwhile Bryant continues in the witness stand today on the cross. He started his testimonies on Monday during which time he admitted instructing LPRC to disburse funds for security reasons.

Travel-ban Victims Cry for Justice

…Says “We Can’t Destabilize This Country”
Compiled by Bill K. Jarkloh

Victims of the UN Travel ban against officials and associates of detained former President Charles Ghankay Taylor have been crying foul for what they considered miscarriage of international justice against them, calling for intervention of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration.

Those on the travel ban include Randolph Cooper, Cyril Allen, John Richardson, Representatives Edwin Snowe, Kai Farley and Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor amongst others. The affected Liberians want their government to ask the French Ambassador about the truthfulness of his statement. They observed the UN keeps giving different reasons for the travel ban imposed on them and the allegation from the French Ambassador is no exception.

It is totally unfair for one to be denied the right travel which is curtailing one’s right to free movement, even if he was to go to seek health attention abroad, especially when such person has not been tried and convicted of any crime to warrant the punitive action, says Lewis Brown, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Charles Taylor-led administration.

Mr. Brown spoke on the Truth Breakfast Show of FM 96.1 where he accused this administration of protecting a few and leaving others vulnerable. The former Foreign Minister and one time Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) said amongst other things that the United Nations’ travel ban on them has not been justified. He noted that they, under the sanction, have been punished or convicted without trial for their perceived offence.

“You should know that people on the travel ban enjoy the confident of their people. Some of these people were elected to the Legislature because their people think they are capable of defending their interest,” Mr. Brown, also a one time Security Advisor to former President Taylor, noted.

He maintained that the treatment being meted against them could not have been one meted against United States officials, especially congressmen elected by their respective constituents, who have not been convicted but merely accused of crimes.

Another Liberians who has got to be bitter against the ban include another former Foreign Minister Dorothy Musuleng Cooper, who said, in reaction to French Ambassador Jacques Gerard’s statement, that victims of the travel ban have been responsible people who “..,will not destabilize the country” even if they were purged of the sanction.

Also John Richardson, another victim of the travel ban, who spoke recently at a news conference in reaction to the French ambassador’s statement against travel ban victims, said Ambassador Gerard’s recent statement to the effect of the UN travel ban should not be taken lightly; he said instead it should be engaged. Mr. Richardson wondered whether the French Ambassador’s statement is a personal view or the position of the French Government.

The Liberians placed on travel ban by the UN have appealed to the Liberian government to intervene in a statement made against them by the French Ambassador.

Ambassador Gerard reportedly told Senate Pro-Temp Cletus Wotorson that the affected Liberians would use their alleged hidden wealth to destabilize the country. Ambassador Gerard made the remarks when Pro-Temp Wotorson requested the intervention of France in the removal of the travel ban on the Liberians.
The sanctioned Liberians recalled the first reason the UN gave was to facilitate the peace process in Sierra Leone, which later changed to on-going ties with former President Charles Taylor. According to the affected Liberians, with peace now restored to Sierra Leone and Mr. Taylor in prison, a new reason is being crafted to justify the travel ban on them.
The Liberians, some of whom supported the Unity Party in the 2005 elections, said they have remained law-abiding and promised to be law-abiding in spite the situation. They want the Liberian government to intervene in what they termed advanced punishment without due process or the benefit to be tried for any wrong-doing.

UL Baccalaureate Was A Flop

…Rev. Simpson Wants Graduates Use Education for Nation

The 87th commencement baccalaureate of the University of Liberia was somehow a flop as a result of poor organization, which reduced the occasion to photo-taking affairs.

Panwhanpen who stopped by on the Main Campus of the University of Liberia to listen to the Baccalaureate sermon noticed that the service, which should have started11:AM, was delayed for almost an hour plus. It was scheduled to have begun with a procession of faculty and successful candidates for this commencement convocation, but the process was poorly arranged.

Seated later, some of the members of the graduating classes did not have a chance to view the podium or to listen to the baccalaureate sermon due to uncontrolled over-crowdedness of the UL Pavilion that hosted the service.

Journalists who went to cover the occasion were caught up in struggles for shots between the stage and the podium which Rev. Simpson and others spoke from without a public address system to transmit sound louder to the thousands of prospective graduates who swam the area along with their jubilant relatives, friends, spouses and/or well-wishers.

Panwhanpen observed lost of total orderliness and lack of quietude that should have characterized such occasion, as there ensued a struggle amongst the prospective graduates to hear speakers and the master of ceremony.

The ultimate thing that therefore resulted was the cornering of members of the graduating classes by photographers for shots, thereby reducing the entire campus to a photo taking gallery.
Speaking to the graduates, however, a Liberian cleric and educator, the Rev. Leo M. Simpson, on that Sunday, admonished the 2, 155 successful candidates of the classes of 2009 of the 87th Commencement Convocation of the University of Liberia to use their education to contribute to the process of nation-building.

He told members of the graduating classes to use self-control and sound reasoning as academicians to fast-track national development.

Bishop Simpson of the Pentecostal Assembly of the World (PAW), who delivered the baccalaureate sermon, further called on members of the classes to be careful and disciplined as they obtain their respective academic degrees. He was addressing more than 2, 155 prospective graduates from under-graduate and graduate schools of the University of Liberia.

“Education without discipline leads to anarchy. Education without discipline leads to disaster and crisis”, he said as he struggled to be audible in amidst of a poor sound system and an overcrowded baccalaureate service.

The PAW cleric and educator told the graduates that education is not a right in Liberia but rather a privilege. “There are thousands of your colleagues out there who do not have the opportunity to achieve education. Education in Liberia is not a right but a privilege,” Rev. Simpson said; writes Bill K. Jarkloh (www.panwhanpen.com) also billkjarkloh.wordpress.com