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Liberia: Mr. Boakai comes loaded with heavy baggage

Written on:May 27, 2016
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EDITORIAL

A chaotic scene erupted two days ago at the Congo Town home of Unity Party (UP) Chairman Senator Varney Sherman, when security forces, led by the Liberia National Police (LNP), attempted to enforce a court order to search the home.

Worse yet, early Wednesday morning the news spread throughout Monrovia and around the country that Senator Sherman had been arrested.

On Monday morning a stream of angry and tough talking UP partisans in the early morning hours arrived at the Sherman residence where they encountered the police and officers of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LAAC), who had come to effect Cllr. Sherman’s arrest. But the police quickly dismissed an arrest attempt, insisting that they were there only to effect a search of the home for documents relevant to the current corruption saga sparked by the revelations of the United Kingdom-based transparency watchdog, Global Witness. These revelations accuse several high government officials of bribery.

The allegations were targeted against no less a person than Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as Senator Varney Sherman, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and several other GOL officials.

The Global Witness report on Liberia, which has rocked the nation, said that the UK-based Sable Mining Company spent US$950,000 in bribes, through the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, based on Cheeseman Avenue in Fiama, Sinkor, which paid this money to several GOL officials.

In swift reaction to the Global Witness report, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed her Minister of State Without Portfolio, Cllr. Fonati Koffa, to head an investigative team to probe into the veracity of the allegations.

With equal swiftness, Cllr. Koffa, in collaboration with the Justice Ministry and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, arranged indictments for Speaker Tyler, Senator Sherman and several other officials and former officials of government. Early yesterday morning, the first indictment was served on Senator Sherman at his Congo Town residence. He signed the indictment and went along with the court officers to Criminal Court ‘C’.

Speaker Tyler appeared in the court in the early afternoon where he, too, was served his indictment, along with others, including E.C.B. Jones, former Deputy Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, and one Onanuga.

While these dramatic judicial developments were unfolding, all of them orchestrated by the Fonati Koffa Task Force, reliable sources said President Sirleaf had left the country yesterday for the United States on a five-day visit.
One of the questions on most people’s minds is whither UP as the 2017 presidential and general elections approach. With the now open split between the UP standard bearer and its chairman, Senator Sherman, the party is clearly in disarray. This gives Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, so far the party’s most talked about candidate to succeed President Sirleaf, not a hill, but a mountain to climb in his bid to enter the Executive Mansion in 2018.

Mr. Boakai already comes loaded with a substantially heavy, uncomplimentary baggage–the widespread corruption in government, and not too much to show in terms of national development. Education remains “in a mess” by Ellen’s own admission; the healthcare delivery system is down in terms of medical personnel, equipment, hospitals and health centers; our agricultural performance is dismal; many of the streets, roads and highways–in Monrovia and up country–are in very bad shape; energy is still seriously lacking; and the economy is firmly in the hands of foreigners. What will Candidate Boakai–or anyone else that emerges as a UP candidate–tell voters the party has done for them?

And, with the country desperately in need of national unity, UP will find it very hard, or next to impossible, to assure the Liberian people that it (UP) is the party that can unite them.

Who takes the blame for all this? First, the party leadership, now openly, viciously and bloodily at each other’s throats; and second, Ellen, the candidate that UP fought for and succeeded TWICE in convincing the Liberian people to elect as their President.

And what has she given UP in return? A party plagued with nasty infighting and partisans deeply disappointed and aggrieved (offended, distressed).

On her arrival in Washington, she will be able to boast that some big fish in the alleged corruption web are being prosecuted. But here at home, many are asking what of the National Oil Company (NOCAL) that, under Ellen’s son Robert Sirleaf’s watch, went from healthy liquidity to bankruptcy. Yes, Global witness alleges US$950,000 in the bribery scandal. But what of the US$31 million which Clemenceau Urey left as Chairman in NOCAL’s account, which Robert Sirleaf met when he became Chair and left bankrupt?

We ask, Can UP survive its embattled Chairman, and Ellen’s aloofness (coldness, indifference) as the party sinks and wallows in disunity? @editorial/liberianobserver

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