Liberia may shortly be in a shift dilemma of survival of on its own if members of the international community pay heed to Protesters petition to them over the Missing 16billions.
Monday September 24, 2018, under the heavy down pour of rain, was a scene of over hundreds of young people, opposition political parties as well as well-meaning Liberians marching the streets of Monrovia in demand of the immediate restitution of 16billions reportedly missing from the country’s coffers.
News of the missing billions have been trending both locally and internationally amid revelation from two of Liberia’s prominent journalists, Philibert Brown and Rodney Sieh of Hotpepper and Frontpage Africa respectively.
There have been mixed reactions from citizens over the missing money and government’s information arm has also been providing information over the money.
Before leaving the country up for the UN General Assembly in New York, President Weah had assure Liberians in his first ever short message to the nation that citizens need to exercise restraints as efforts are mount to ensure that culprits from the investigation into the missing billions are brought to justice.
Monday Morning protesters were seen resolved as they presented petition statements to Liberia’s leading international partners including the European Union, US Embassy and the United Nations.
The protesting Group under the banner, Coalition of Concern Citizens United to Bring Back Our Money (COCUBOMB) stated that their protest mark the beginning of a renaissance to ensure the end of corruption in Liberia under the Weah-led administration. The group consists of over 26 civil society organizations, youth and student groups.
According to the group’s chairman Martin Kollie, the country is bleeding at the hands of corrupt leaders while Liberians are living and dying in abject poverty; parents are unable to send their kids to school among others.
The group petitioned the international community to put hold on every financial support to Liberia until the investigation into the missing money is concluded and those linked are brought to justice and made to restitute the monies.
Accordingly the group believes that the intervention of the EU, US, and the UN is paramount to aiding the chain of investigations especially with the recent infusion of 25million dollars by the government of Liberia to boost the country’s economy,
“this brings more question then answers, let the government tell us where is this 25million dollars coming from what was reportedly infused in the country’s economy to boost it over the period”. The group’s chairman Martin Kollie noted.
Recently, President George Weah stated that in order to rescue the country’s crumbling economy; the government through the central bank will infuse 25million as a boost to strengthen it. By then, the US rate to the Liberian dollar was exceeding high and the cost of living for ordinary Liberian had shapely raised.
The Protesting Group said the constant economic hardship faced by ordinary Liberian must draw the attention of international partners in the face of misappropriation of the country’s money and snare corruption.
“Let the international Community launch an investigation into the giant size estates being built by President Weah and conduct an Asset Declaration of Past and Present officials in the face of the missing billions”, Martin asserted.
“We are calling on you to expedite the establishment of Economic Crimes and War Crimes Court in Liberia which will ease most of the tension and problems faced by Liberians with financial implications and scars of the war”, COCUBOMB Chairman Martin Kollie averred.
The group called on the EU, UN and the US Embassy to upgrade Liberia’s financial management system and institutions; which they believe will strengthen the country’s fight against corruption.
“We also want you to work and ensure corruption in the judiciary system be dealt and help anti-graph institutions grow especially the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, (LACC) Liberia Extractive Industry for Transparency Initiative (LEITI), Internal Audit Agency (IAA) among others., the statement noted.
Petitions were received by various heads of missions with a promise to look into the petitioners’ claims by engaging the government of Liberia on the matter.
Opposition Political parties were seen in the protest as the protesters chanted “Bring Back Our Money” with several placards and battle cry.
During the protest, Mo Ali, a steward of the Unity Party stated that the protest over the missing billions is beyond party lines and individual alignment, adding that it concerns the growth and development of Liberia.
Mr. Ali pointed that
“if Unity Party officials are involved with these missing billions let them prosecuted for it and made to restitute the money because this is about Liberia and not party”.
Fingers have been pointed to the past administration over the missing money but former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has debunked some government officials’ claim that the past administration is responsible. Madam Sirleaf in an interview with the BBC recently stated that the printing of currency doesn’t in anyway link the past administration to any fraud of such but the authorization is made from the National Legislature.
President Weah has constituted a team of investigators from the National Security Service, Liberia National Police, and Ministry of Justice among others to aid the investigation of the reported missing money.
Recently, other civil society, religions and student institutions were named to form part of the investigation, the Council of Churches, Federation of Liberia Youth, and Civil Society Council of Liberia among others.
Relatedly, Speaker Bhofal Chambers of the House of Representatives has asked his colleagues through a written communication to reconvene in order to ensure that the cry of the people over the missing money is probed. The Legislature took its recess recently to resume in early January 2019.