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.

Critical Condition: Liberia’s Hospitals Battle Deadly Shortages

 

A young woman lies in intensive care at Liberia’s Phebe Hospital.

Her mother comes running in with the drugs she needs, but the doctor shakes his head. It is too late.

“When patients come, we are obliged to send (family members) out to get drugs. Sometimes by the time they get back (the) patients are dead,” laments Dr. Jefferson Sibley, the hospital’s medical director.

“People are dying in front of our eyes, and we cannot do anything.”

Battered by years of civil war and then in 2014-16 by the worst Ebola epidemic in history, Liberia’s health sector is on its knees.

The crumbling infrastructure lacks almost everything — medicine, beds, equipment, ambulances, even a reliable electricity supply.

Phebe, in central Bong county, is the second largest hospital in Liberia, with 200 beds and seven doctors on its staff.

Despite chronic shortages, it still manages to treat at least 2,500 patients every month.

“We are supposed to get supplies from the ministry of health and the National Drug Services (NDS) but we haven’t received supplies for almost a year,” Sibley told AFP.

“We can’t do anything about it.”

Malaria was the cause of death of the woman in the intensive care unit.

She was 25.

‘Only the mercy of God’

According to the World Health Organization, total health expenditure per person per year is about $100 (87 euros) in Liberia, among the lowest in the world.

There is fewer than one regional or district hospital per 100,000 people in the country of about 4.7 million.

In 2010, accordiong to the latest available data, there were eight hospital beds per 10,000 people.

In Jenepeleta, a village 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the hospital in Phebe, Regina Kollie, 45, is trying to lower the fever of the youngest of her five children, a four-year-old girl.

Like many in the region, Regina sought help in traditional medicine and gathered leaves with which to wash her daughter, following the advice of a healer.

The treatment is not working and the child’s fever has raged for days. But going to the hospital is not an option.

“I don’t have the money to take my daughter to Phebe. The ambulance used to help us in these cases, but we don’t see it any more,” Regina says, weeping.

“The two ambulances we had are broken down,” Sibley confirmed, noting the vehicles had been “instrumental when it comes to saving lives”.

The ambulances “used to go for pregnant women, children and other people who are seriously ill in the villages… and bring them to us,” he said.

But now if there is an emergency case, “only the mercy of God can help.”

Surgery by storm lantern

“We have so many problems, but the key problem is that no funding is coming to the hospital,” said Sibley.

“We find ourselves indebted to vendors. People we take fuel from, people we take drugs from, all of them refuse to supply us because we owe them lots of money. The hospital owes $300,000 (265,000 euros) to vendors.”

The hospital’s electricity is frequently cut off, plunging it into darkness at night and forcing the lone surgeon to carry out operations by the light of storm lanterns.

A shortage of medicines is also crippling Liberia’s largest national health facility, the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia, says its medical director Jerry Brown.

“There are some drugs you can’t find in local pharmacies and government regulations prohibit us from procuring drugs currently from pharmaceutical companies outside the country,” the chief doctor told AFP.

“Our next source of drugs is the National Drug Services,” but it provides only enough to treat the most vulnerable, including children.

The hospital was negotiating with the ministries of health and finance for authorisation to buy directly from manufacturers, Brown said.

Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah said the problem stemmed from the previous government, under which hospitals ran up big debts by obtaining drugs and fuel on credit.

“We have inherited all these debts, and the vendors no longer want to give us credits,” she said. “We have to pay some of these debts so that we can open the credit lines.”

In a sign of progress, eight container-loads of drugs had arrived, and these will help to ease shortages, she said.

AFP

Liberia’s George Weah Suspends Minister For Fuelling Ethnic Tensions

 

Liberian President George Weah on Monday suspended his junior press minister for stoking ethnic tensions in a country ravaged by tribalism and two civil wars which killed some 250,000 people.

Weah suspended Eugene Fahngon over comments that a call for a big anti-government demonstration on June 7 was engineered by the so-called “Congo Liberians,” or descendants of freed slaves who returned from the United States to found Africa’s first independent republic.

Weah, who overcame childhood poverty to become an international football legend, is not from this class, which has dominated politics in Liberia for 170 years.

READ ALSO: Tanker Explodes, Kills 58 In Niger

Weah and his government were “committed to a ‘one country, one people’ policy with zero tolerance on divisive politicking or tribalism,” a statement said.

“I will not go for the June 7 demonstration,” Fahngon had said on Facebook. “It is the Congo people who are behind the June 7 demonstration.”

The US embassy on Monday said it was “concerned by recent comments made in various forums which could impede Liberia’s progress.

“Those who promote through their words or deeds a Congo-Country divide do not have Liberia’s best interests or that of their constituents at heart, but rather appear motivated by personal ambitions or fears,” a statement said.

AFP

 

Snakes Chase Liberian President Weah From His Office

An official says Weah’s office must be fumigated to chase out the reptiles, which showed up near the ground-floor elevator on Wednesday.

 

Liberian President George Weah has been barred from his office for five days by two black snakes that slithered into the building this week, authorities said Friday.

The foreign ministry where Weah, a former striker with the Paris Saint-German and AC Milan football clubs, has his office must be fumigated to chase out the reptiles, which showed up near the ground-floor elevator on Wednesday.

A ministry statement said that all operations including the issuance of passports and visas were suspended until April 24 owing to the presence of toxic fumes.

“Indeed, the fumigation exercise was triggered by the presence of the snakes,” presidential spokesman Smith Tobay told AFP.

The sole African to win the top Ballon D’Or award, in 1995, Weah became Liberian president in January 2018, succeeding Ellen Johnson, the continent’s first woman head of state.

The impoverished country suffered from a 1989-2003 civil war, and a deadly Ebola epidemic from 2014-2016.

AFP