Tag Archives: Liberia

Ouattara paying Liberians to stop cross-border attacks

Africa Confidential has a gated article on Liberian mercenaries who fought in Cote d’Ivoire:

Although groups of Liberian mercenaries and Ivorian militia loyal to Gbagbo remain active in the lush forests of the Great West, the area has been quiet since the last series of cross-border attacks from Liberia in March 2013. A December report by the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia concluded that the Ivorian authorities have been paying Liberian mercenaries and FLGO members to stop their attacks.

In May 2013 Liberian forces detained an Ivorian government delegation in Grand Gedeh which was carrying funds for the pay-off. The Ouattara government denounced the report as a fabrication but sources consulted by Africa Confidential confirmed that regular payments have been made.

Also, apparently some of the mercenaries are on trial in Monrovia:

They are defended by a prominent Krahn lawyer Tiawon Gongloe, who was Johnson-Sirleaf’s Solicitor General and is now a fierce critic of the President.

Site to search Charles Taylor trial transcripts

SayIt (a website that I’m not completely sure I understand) has a page where you can easily search the entirety of transcripts from the Charles Taylor trial. H/t to Matt.












From the “About” section of the site:

Warning – the transcripts contain large volumes of graphic, harrowing testimony about war crimes. We encourage readers looking for a casual browse to try the Leveson Inquiry or Shakespeare Plays instead.


Canadian investor goes public on frustration with Liberian Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy

FrontPageAfrican has an article on Len Lindstrom, CEO of a Canadian mineral corporation with subsidiaries in Liberia. Lindstrom got so fed up with interactions with the Liberian Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy that he wrote a book documenting all of the ways in which he says he was wronged. H/t to Matt.

Lindstrom: “What is the difference when the name of the game is to keep reselling the same properties and licenses over and over to the next gullible international investor who thinks he can beat the system because he has good connections to someone in government[.]“

Cyril Allen: “If [the British] try to make Taylor uncomfortable [...] we can make Liberia very uncomfortable for [them] through our traditional values.”

Below is an excerpt from an AFP article on Charles Taylor. Taylor’s wife says he is upset both about daily strip searches and being treated the same as everyone else at a British maximum security prison. (h/t to Johnny Dwyer)

But the leader of [Taylor's] NPP party in Liberia this week threatened Britons living in the west African nation with reprisals over his treatment.

“If they try to make Taylor uncomfortable where he is, we can make Liberia very uncomfortable for some of their citizens through our traditional values,” NPP chairman Cyril Allen told journalists in the capital Monrovia.

“They are roaming around our interiors, they are roaming around our country, and this government cannot protect them.

“You cannot take our traditional leader and treat him like a common British criminal. If they don’t stop treating our (leader) in a manner that is unacceptable to us, we are going to fight back.”

Interpretations of aiding and abetting

Analysis from Alpha Sesay on the Charles Taylor appeal ruling, via the Trial of Charles Taylor blog:

Before today’s judgment, there was a lot of anxiety among observers about whether the recent decision of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the case of Momčilo Perišić would have an impact on Taylor’s case. In the Perišić case, the ICTY Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber’s decision that convicted Perišić for aiding and abetting the commission of serious crimes. The Appeals Chamber in Perišić decided that for a person to be convicted for aiding and abetting, it is not sufficient that his conduct had “substantial impact” on the commission of crimes, but rather, that his conduct was “specifically directed” to the commission of said crimes.

The Trial Chamber in Taylor’s case had also dismissed a “specific direction” requirement and had said it was sufficient that Taylor’s conduct had a “substantial impact” on RUF/AFRC crimes in Sierra Leone. In today’s judgment, the Special Court’s Appeals Chamber judges said they were not persuaded by the ICTY’s finding that “specific direction” is an element of aiding and abetting.

A cabinet reshuffle that backfired

From a report on religious freedom in Liberia in 1999:

In early 1999, President Taylor dismissed all but one of his cabinet ministers after they failed to accompany him to a church service. Explaining this action, Taylor initially stated that anyone who did not know God could not serve in his Government. Subsequently, Taylor stated that religion is a private matter, but that Cabinet ministers are required to be present at public ceremonies that the President attends. A few weeks later, Taylor rescinded this action and reinstated the ministers at the urging of diverse individuals and organizations. Many informed observers interpreted Taylor’s actions as a miscalculated attempt to find a generally acceptable pretext to reshuffle his Cabinet.

No justice for American nuns killed in Liberia

Johnny Dwyer writes about why the US has not prosecuted anyone for the murder of five American nuns in Liberia in 1992. In the 1990s and early 2000s the case was dependent on US policy toward Liberia, and was not a priority. More recently it became a priority, but still there have been no prosecutions:

In April of 2010, [FBI Special Agent Christopher] Locke met with Justice Department attorneys in Washington to learn whether the nuns’ case would be brought before an American court. The Justice Department prosecutors, however, had come across an arcane legal roadblock. The case law surrounding the statute of limitations on federal murder charges was ambiguous. The statute of limitations on federal murder charges had been five years until it was eliminated altogether in 1994. It was unclear, however, whether this change applied retroactively, opening the door to a prosecution’s case becoming invalid if a judge decided the change could not be applied to the 1992 murders. Any indictment ran the risk of extraditing a suspect they believed to be a war criminal to the United States, only to see him let go on a technicality.

Monrovia rain

Excerpts from an article by Fin Young in the Economist:

In the month of July alone, Monrovia sees almost double the rainfall that London does in a year. It is the wettest capital city in the world, fighting back the floods from May to November. During this period, those who drive to work in UN or Liberian government cars complain of patchy internet service and the increasingly pot-holed roads. But as ever, it is Liberia’s poor majority who really bear the brunt.

Monrovia is a tropical, seaboard city with many communities built on Mangrove swamp. Mosquitoes multiply as the water level rises. On higher ground, wells overflow with the run-off from the city’s open sewers. Water-borne bacteria thrive; typhoid and dysentery spread. Worse still, the capital’s controversial mayor, Mary Broh, has chosen this rainy season to demolish many of the city’s squatter settlements. With this looming threat, new roofing seems a poor investment for Monrovians. [...]

Nine years after the end of the civil war, the lack of decent roads to places like Sinoe County seems a damning indictment of the government’s approach to rural development under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Sinoe, after all, has attracted large international concessions agreements for Palm oil, gold and timber. Many locals, who were told the presence of these companies would improve their lives, now blame the swift degeneration of the roads on the weight of foreign firms’ lorries laden with the Liberia’s bounty.

On land and executive dominance in Liberia, and Global Witness awesomeness

Last week Global Witness, the Save My Future Foundation, and Sustainable Development Institute released a report on how foreign companies in Liberia are using Private Use Permits to clear forests without abiding by laws meant to protect the environment and communities.

Private Use Permits are awful in practice. They require no competitive bidding and companies with these permits are not forced to comply with regulations meant to make logging sustainable. Further, the report documents forged deeds, including one that is dated 1924 and signed by President Edward Barclay, who was not yet president. In some cases community members are convinced their land has no deed, yet a Private Use Permit has been sold through a  deed ostensibly held collectively by the community. The land is sold sometimes at less than 1% of what its value would have been through a competitive bidding process.

Many people are to blame, including Minister of Agriculture Florence Chenoweth, who ordered a moratorium on Private Use Permits earlier this year, but then continued to issue them. Companies tied to Samling, a Malaysian logging firm with a horrible track record, now control 10% of Liberia’s land.

Sirleaf has responded, and has ordered an investigation into the permits. In fact one tangential takeaway from this report is that government officials have been fired for corruption related to logging. This is of course positive. But my suspicion is that Sirleaf is always the one to make this decision, a hunch based on many, many interviews on government accountability in Monrovia this summer. The power of the presidency in Liberia is stunning. Executive dominance is of course a problem in many African countries, but it is so extreme in Liberia. To give just one example from this report: “In Liberia, most [land] deeds must be signed by the President.”

This report, like all reports that involve Global Witness, is incredible. I am amazed at how researchers for this report wrote each sentence. Getting information in Liberia is so difficult, and yet they get so much of it. Short little sentences like, “Our investigation has identified 16 different companies holding Private Use Permits” mask what must be many interviews, much travel, and lots of digging.