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Who’s Next? …As Washington’s New Sanctions Loom

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By: Varney Dukuly

MONROVIA: A deliberation on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, on one of Liberia’s leading radio Stations, OK FM, in Monrovia, provided the opportunity for Liberians at home and abroad to hear about the approval of Liberia’s most trusted and reliable international friend, and donor country, the United States, relative to its planned imposition of new sanctions, targeting a chain of current and former Liberian officials who, by their deeds, actions and inactions, proved to have been ‘baptized’ in unbridle corruption including the siphoning of public funds and other resources for personal aggrandizement, as well as desecration of the rule of law and human rights abuses.

The latest revelations made via OK FM by a key US Administration official, by all accounts, seems to have brought to an end months of speculations in the Liberian public domain about Washington’s alleged plan to impose hard-hitting or biting sanctions against additional number of Liberian officials for their roles in sectors across the country where corruption and the desecration of law and order are rampant.

The discussions, held on Tuesday were also focused mainly on corruption that is principally undermining Liberia’s growth and development, and perpetuating the vast majority of its citizens in multidimensional poverty and misery.

The talks were also concentrated on several key recommendations from the United States Government to the Government of Liberia as regards efforts aimed at minimizing public sector corruption which has become ingrained in Liberia.
Richard Nephew, the U.S. Global Coordinator on Anti-Corruption announced major steps that are being taken by the Biden-Harris Administration in Washington ahead of the sanction process in Liberia.

He said, the United States is developing evidence-based cases for additional sanctions in Liberia ahead of the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections in Liberia.

The objective of the announcement, he stressed, was meant to warn public officials who are involved in acts of corruption against the interest of the vast majority of ordinary people in Liberia to stop.

“We are constantly developing sanction cases, we are constantly developing evidence. We have a vigorous evidence-gathering process that includes using open-source materials and other things like the Civil Society and Journalists.
We have all those information coming together and so, we are developing sanction cases and evidence for additional sanctions, yes, absolutely.”

Mr. Nephew emphasized that the US Government will not hesitate to impose additional sanctions on any Liberian officials if the evidence is solid.

In August, 2012, the US Treasury Department put three top Liberian government officials on a sanction list. The imposition of said sanctions, which later led to the resignation of the three officials, according to some political commentators, was an embarrassing rebuke of the current Liberian administration by the United States.

The US Global Coordinator on Anti-corruption however, clarified that the American Government will not impose sanction against any Liberian official if there is no cogent evidence to substantiate any allegations levied against said persons.

In his Inaugural Address to the Liberian Nation in 2018, President George Manneh Weah promised the Liberian people that his administration would put an end to the widespread corruption in public service which is a handbrake on the nation’s underdevelopment.

However, after spending nearly six years in the Liberian Presidency, the US Treasury Department, in August, 2022, slammed three of President Weah’s top government officials with sanctions for political corruption.
The Biden-Harris administration also holds an expectation concerning the fight against corruption, under the Weah-led administration.

Though corruption is not unique to Liberia in Africa, the sanction tools, according to Nephew, is an effort to promote reform in the governance space of the country.
“There are things Liberia can do, first resourcing, staffing and empowering integrity institutions in Liberia so that they can execute their mandates; making it very clear that government is not going to support political inference (suggestions), corruption and money laundering cases; working with the Legislature to make voting record publicly available,” said Nephew.
He stressed that there is a number of different transparent activities that can be done to ensure that public officials are accountable.

Meanwhile, responding to concerns being expressed in the Liberian public bordering on the need to investigate and subsequently prosecute former Liberian government officials who were recently sanctioned by the US including Nathaniel Falo McGill, former Minister of State and Chief of Office Staff of President George Manneh Weah; Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephas, former Solicitor General of Liberia; and Bill Tweahway, former Managing Director of National Port Authority (NPA), the Weah-led Government, through the Minister of Information, Ledgerhood Julius Rennie, told a local radio station, (OKFM), Wednesday, February 22, 2023, in Monrovia that the government, under President Weah, did not say it would have prosecuted those sanctioned by the U.S Treasury Department.

According to Information Minister Rennie, the three designated officials are in no quarries with the laws of Liberia.
“The government did not say it will investigate, it said the three officials should avail themselves for investigation, we cannot ask them to bring evidence against themselves,” Minister Rennie emphasized.

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