Liberia Bans Travel From Affected Countries After First Coronavirus Case

FILE PHOTO: Liberia’s president George Weah. PHOTO: ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Liberian President George Weah on Monday said that all travel from countries with over 200 coronavirus cases would be banned after the West African state recorded its first infection.  

The impoverished country on Monday announced that head of its Environmental Protection Agency, who recently returned to Liberia from Switzerland, had tested positive for the virus.

Following the confirmation, Weah gave a televised address in which he said “all travels from all countries” with over 200 cases were henceforth banned.

“All citizens or residents are urged to avoid public gatherings and large crowds,” he said, adding that people should also minimise travel within Liberia.

Liberia is still recovering from a deadly Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016 that claimed over 4,800 lives.

On Monday, Weah said that the spread of coronavirus “represents the greatest threat to the health and the wellbeing of the people of Liberia since the Ebola epidemic”.

He urged regular hand washing and avoiding unnecessary physical contact with strangers.

“There should be no handshaking whatsoever. Use a nod of the head for greeting each other,” the footballer-turned-president said.

Travellers caught bypassing mandatory health screenings will also be arrested and placed in compulsory quarantine, he said.

Weah added that “an intensive tracing exercise” was underway to identify people with whom the coronavirus patient had come into contact.

AFP

Liberia Confirms First Case Of Coronavirus

 

Liberia announced its first case of the novel coronavirus on Monday, becoming the 27th African country to confirm the illness.

The patient is the head of Liberia’s environmental agency and had recently returned from Switzerland, the information ministry said in a statement.

“The country has registered its first case of coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19,” it said.

“The government urges everyone to remain calm. Health officials continue to search for all those who came in contact with the infected person in order to place them in quarantine,” it added.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Ghana Closes Schools, Bans Gatherings

Liberian President George Weah will address the country on Monday “to announce important new measures that the government will put in place to prevent transmission” of coronavirus, the statement added.

AFP

Fuel Scarcity: Liberia Suspends Petrol Import Licenses

Liberia is a country in West Africa.
Liberia is a country in West Africa.

 

Liberia has suspended all petrol import licenses and will conduct performance reviews following a crippling fuel shortage in which importers were accused of inflating their reserves. 

The government said it had sacked a deputy managing director of the state-owned company charged with ensuring consistent oil supplies on Friday, as well as suspending import licenses.

The West African country’s weeks-long petrol shortage ended last month, after having caused considerable disruption as commuters queued for hours at petrol pumps and businesses struggled to transport goods.

Fuel distributors and importers were accused of overstating their reserves to the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) — in charge of fuel supply — leading to shortages.

The problem was also compounded by an undredged port which prevented large tankers from docking and alleviating the crisis, government officials said at the time.

Liberian President George Weah said on Friday that the government was creating a special task force to investigate what went wrong.

Bobby Brown, the LPRC deputy managing director for operations, has been dismissed for “gross negligence and fraudulent activities,” the statement said.

Likewise, all petrol import licenses have been suspended pending case-by-case reviews, according to the statement.

The fuel shortage represented another blow for Weah, who has faced protests over poor living conditions in the impoverished country of some 4.8 million people.

The footballer-turned-president inherited an economy already devastated by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, and by the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak.

 

AFP

George Weah’s Critic Released In Sierra Leone

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019 Liberian radio show host and opposition leader Henry Costa (C) gestures to supporters after landing in Monrovia.  Zoom DOSSO / AFP

 

Sierra Leone said it had released a leading opponent of Liberian President George Weah after he had been briefly detained at Liberia’s request.

Opposition figure Henry Costa left Sierra Leone for the United States, where he usually resides, an immigration official in Sierra Leone and Liberian media said.

Sierra Leone authorities had stopped him from leaving the country on Tuesday, local media reported, in an affair allegedly related to problems with his travel documents.

READ ALSO: George Weah’s Critic Arrested In Sierra Leone

Costa, chairman of a youth activist group called the Council of Patriots (COP), is a fierce critic of footballer-turned-politician Weah and often attacks him on his popular radio show.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019 Liberian radio show host and opposition leader Henry Costa (C) gestures to supporters after landing in Monrovia. / AFP

Sierra Leone Information Minister Abdurahman Swarray told local radio on Thursday that Costa had been detained and released.

“There was a call from our counterparts in Liberia to investigate him and we did the due diligence,” Swarray said.

Costa had returned to his native Liberia from the United States last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6.

He was prevented from boarding a flight in Liberia last week for allegedly possessing forged travel documents, media in Liberia said earlier.

He was supposed to present himself to Liberian authorities on Wednesday but instead turned up in Freetown, capital of neighbouring Sierra Leone, where he was detained at the airport.

COP co-chair Mo Alie confirmed that Costa had been released and was on his way to the United States.

Liberia’s government did not comment on Costa’s detention on Wednesday, and it was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

The president is under growing pressure to revive the West African country’s economy, which is struggling after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.

AFP

George Weah’s Critic Arrested In Sierra Leone

Liberian President George Weah

 

A leading opponent of Liberian President George Weah on Wednesday said he had been detained in neighbouring Sierra Leone, amid allegations of passport irregularities. 

Few details of the case have emerged but local media have reported that Monrovia requested opposition figure Henry Costa be  extradited over problems with his travel documents.

Costa, chairman of youth activist group the Council of Patriots (COP), posted on Facebook on Wednesday that he was in the hands of Sierra Leone authorities.

“Don’t worry. I will be okay. The Sierra Leone authorities are being very professional and nice to me,” Costa said.

Local media said he was stopped from boarding a plane in Liberia on Friday for allegedly possessing forged travel documents.

Costa was meant to present himself to Liberian authorities on Wednesday, but was detained at the airport in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, media reported.

Liberia’s government was not immediately available for comment.

A Sierra Leone immigration official confirmed to AFP that Costa was in the country but did not comment further.

Costa is a fierce critic of footballer-turned-politician Weah and often attacks him on his popular radio show.

The president is under growing pressure to revive the West African country’s economy, which is struggling after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.

Normally resident in the United states, Costa returned to Liberia last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6.

AFP

Opposition Postpones Anti-Government Rally In Liberia

Supporters of the Council of Patriots (CoP) confront policemen in Monrovia on December 30, 2019. 
Zoom DOSSO / AFP

 

Liberian opposition leaders announced a week-long postponement of an anti-government rally planned for Monday after mounting confrontation with the government.

The rally was meant to protest at the West African country’s deepening economic crisis, but its organisers said there was lack of protection for protestors.

The government had accused the opposition of calling for President George Weah’s “unconstitutional eviction” and on Saturday warned all protests before the end of January would be blocked.

On Monday, the Council of Patriots (COP) opposition said it had called the rally off after the government said it was unable to provide security and after international observers recommended postponement.

COP Chairman Henry Costa, who helped footballer-turned-president Weah come to power, insisted the protest would take place nonetheless.

A new date has been set for January 6, after mediation from international observers.

The streets of the capital Monrovia were extremely quiet early Monday, an AFP journalist saw.

Police officers erected checkpoints across the city and were systematically checking vehicles and passengers.

Opposition MP Yekeh Kolubah, who is also a COP member, told AFP that police officers had stopped him from transporting protesters to a rallying point in the city.

Costa told reporters later on Monday morning that representatives from the UN, EU, US and the West Africa bloc ECOWAS had complained to the government about blocking the protest.

Still traumatised by back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis, Liberia is struggling to revive its failing economy.

Inflation is rampant, according to the World Bank, and civil servants regularly go unpaid.

 

I’ll Do Everything Possible To Ensure A Stable Liberia, Buhari Vows

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to do everything possible to bring stability to the Republic of Liberia.

In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, President Buhari, while receiving Ms Mawine Diggs, Special Envoy of President George Weah and Liberia’s Acting Foreign Affairs Minister in the State House, said that ensuring stability is a key part of his vision for peace, stability and prosperity in the West African sub-region.

READ ALSO: Buhari Launches Revised National Security Strategy

President Buhari commended the Liberian leader for making efforts to maintain good relations with Nigeria.

“I will continue to do everything possible to ensure the stability of Liberia.”

The Special Envoy said Nigeria’s support and assistance over time had “impacted positively” on Liberia and its people, adding that she brought a special message from President Weah to President Buhari following a recent conversation between both leaders.

President Buhari promised to respond positively and promptly to the written message.

Liberia Shuts Radio Station For Criticising George Weah

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 25, 2017 shows former football player and candidate in Liberia’s presidential elections, George Weah posing during a photo session in Paris.
AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET

 

Liberian police on Thursday closed a radio station critical of President George Weah, accusing it of inciting violence, and used tear gas to disperse people protesting against the move.

Roots FM, owned by Henry Costa, is one of the leaders of a group that organised a large anti-government street protest on June 17, paralysing several areas of the seaside capital Monrovia.

Costa is a fierce critic of Weah, a former international football star who became president of the country in January last year.

Heavily armed police riot units ringed the radio station building on Thursday morning, making it impossible for workers to move in and out.

They also fired tear gas on the station’s supporters gathered outside.

Costa, who is in the United States from where he usually produces a show for his radio station in Liberia, was defiant.

“It is indeed a very sad day, but I can assure you that we will never be silenced,” Costa told AFP in a telephone interview.

Liberia’s solicitor general said the station was  blackmailing people and instigating violence.

“They have begun criminal acts of extortion and blackmail. They use their media to spread inflammatory messages against Liberian citizens, and engage in incitement.

“Beginning today there will be no public demonstration that is not … sanctioned by the government of Liberia,” Cyrinus Cephus told a press conference.

The Press Union of Liberia last week denounced Roots FM and Freedom FM, another radio that is owned by a government official, for “always insulting people on radio.

“That is not journalism. You cannot ask people to give you money or you talk bad about them. That is destroying the image of good journalism in Liberia. I call on the government to take action against Roots FM and Freedom FM,” its president  Charles Coffey said.

AFP

26 Children, Two Teachers Killed In Liberia School Fire

 

Dozens of children were killed on Wednesday in a fire at a Koranic school near the Liberian capital Monrovia.

At least 26 children and two teachers died in the blaze overnight, the president’s office said, citing information from the emergency services.

President George Weah visited the site in Paynesville, on the outskirts of the capital, and said the cause was still unknown.

“We are here to encourage parents of the victims to have strength, because it is painful to lose your kids in this manner,” Weah told reporters.

“We extend our sympathy to the bereaved families. We don’t know the cause of the fire yet, but we will encourage our investigators to find how it happened,” he added.

Rescuers in white masks and surgical gloves carried the children’s bodies in bags from the burnt-out building as crowds of people and relatives crushed together outside.

The sheet-metal roof of the building, which housed a school and boarding school, was destroyed.

“I was sleeping when I heard noise outside. My wife opened the back door and we saw smoke coming from the front. We came out and saw heavy fire at the back,” said local resident Zazay.

Another resident, Ballah, whose home is near the school, said they helped in the rescue efforts.

“We went for water, trying to put it out. We were putting water up to 2.30 am. When the fire fighters came, the fire was already going down.”

“We do not know the cause of the fire,” he said.

The fire struck while the children were asleep, said Fulani community official Amadou Sherrif.

In an earlier tweet, Weah offered condolences to the families of those affected.

“My prayers go out to the families of the children that died last night in Paynesville City as a result of a deadly fire that engulfed their school building,” he wrote.

“This is a tough time for the families of the victims and all of Liberia.”

AFP

Liberian Opposition MP Attacked On Campaign Trail

 

An opposition lawmaker in Liberia on Monday accused supporters of President George Weah of trying to assassinate her while she was campaigning for an election re-run.

Tellia Urey, the candidate for an opposition bloc for an upcoming election re-run in the capital Monrovia, told journalists her vehicle was also badly damaged by members of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party.

“I was in a meeting with my partisans on Saturday when supporters of the CDC started to throw stones at the building, breaking glasses. I was sent to a room without window for my security.

READ ALSO: Foreigners Arrested With Ivory Bracelets At Kenyan Airport

“We called the police, they came 20 minutes later but to stand and look… We were indoors for one and a half hours. People were getting injured. There was no other option but to try and get me out,” she said.

When they emerged, they found Urey’s car badly damaged and her driver injured. One man “came in with a knife trying to get me,” she added.

“Our campaign for the re-run in District 15 will not be possible this time because we cannot put our partisans at risk. I want to beg the international community to help us save the lives of our people,” Urey said.

By-elections were held on July 29 to fill two seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The National Election Commission announced a re-run of voting at six polling stations in the district after a dispute hearing in which Urey claimed electoral fraud.

The Collaborating Political Parties coalition to which Urey belongs slammed the attack as “another bloody day in our country’s history.

“Unfortunately, our government under the leadership of George Weah is the promoter of violence against our citizens whose only crime is to exercise their political franchise, the same process from which George Weah and his political followers have benefited.”

Weah said the violence was perpetrated by both the CDC and the CPP and launched an investigation.

“Electoral violence in all its forms will not be tolerated, and individuals who disrupt the peace will face the full weight of the law,” a statement from the presidential office said.

FIFA Bans Ex-Liberia Football Chief

Fifa, World Cup Draw

 

FIFA on Wednesday banned the former head of the Liberian Football Association from football for 10 years over corruption, including misuse of funds intended for an Ebola awareness campaign. 

Musa Hassan Bility, an executive committee member at the Confederation of African Football (CAF), was also hit with a 500,000 Swiss franc ($507,000, 455,000 euros) fine by judges at FIFA’s independent ethics committee.

FIFA’s investigation targeting Bility, launched in May 2018, “related to the misappropriation of the funds granted under FIFA’s ’11 against Ebola’ campaign,” the world football’s governing body said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Moves 12 Spots Up On FIFA Ranking

The campaign that saw top football stars promoting Ebola awareness measures was formed in November 2014, near the peak of a pandemic that killed more than 11,000 people across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In addition to stealing Ebola prevention funds, FIFA judges found Bility guilty of misusing others resources sent to the LFA and diverting money to businesses controlled by him or his family.

Bility had attempted to run as a candidate to replace FIFA’s disgraced former president Sepp Blatter in a 2015 campaign ultimately won by Gianni Infantino.

But he was barred at the time from contesting after failing to pass integrity tests.

AFP

Buhari To Attend Liberia’s 172nd Independence Celebration

 

President Muhammadu Buhari  will on Friday leave Abuja for Monrovia, Liberia to attend the 172nd Independence Anniversary Celebrations of the country.

President Buhari who will be the Special Guest of Honour at the event will also receive “The Grand Cordon of the Knighthood of Venerable Order of the Pioneers,” Republic of Liberia’s highest national honour.

In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu says the award will be presented by the government for outstanding and distinguished service in international affairs, government, religion, art, science or commerce, and also for singular acts of philanthropy and deeds of heroism and valour.

President Buhari will be accompanied by Governors Kayode Fayemi, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and Mai Mala Buni of Ekiti, Kwara and Yobe States respectively, as well as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mustapha Sulaiman, and other top government officials.

The President is expected back in the country later on Friday.