Liberia’s George Weah Makes Football Comeback At 51

(FILE) Photo of George Weah

 

 

Liberia president and former world footballer of the year George Weah made a surprise return to international football Tuesday at the age of 51 in a 2-1 friendly defeat by Nigeria.

The international match in Monrovia was organized to ‘retire’ the number 14 shirt worn by Weah, who was voted world, European and African footballer of the year in 1995.

Weah, who scored a landslide victory in presidential elections last December, is the only African footballer to win the world and European awards.

Instead of watching the match against Nigeria from the grandstand, he captained his country and showed glimpses of former skills before being substituted 12 minutes from time.

Weah received a standing ovation when leaving the pitch in the capital of a West African country where football is the most popular sport.

Team-mates of Weah wore shirts with “Thank you King George” on them as a tribute to the legend who retired from international football 16 years ago.

Libera is ranked 47th of 54 African football nations and 158th in the world. The last of their two Africa Cup of Nations tournament appearances was 16 years ago.

Weah played in Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and Cameroon before moving to Europe, where his clubs included Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Marseille, and AC Milan.

He also had brief spells with Chelsea and Manchester City before finishing his career in the United Arab Emirates playing for Al Jazira.

In the friendly match, Nigeria built a two-goal half-time lead thanks to Henry Onyekuru and Simeon Nwankwo and Sherman Kpah converted a late penalty for Liberia.

AFP

Liberia’s Central Bank Governor Resigns

 

Liberia’s Central Bank Governor, Milton Weeks, has resigned midway through his five-year term, the president’s office said.

President George Weah had received and accepted Weeks’ resignation and a successor would be appointed shortly, it said late on Tuesday in a statement that gave no further details.

Weeks was appointed by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in April 2016.

Former soccer star Weah, who took the helm of the West African nation in January, has said he inherited a broken economy and government, and a currency in free fall.

Liberia’s Sirleaf Receives $5m Mo Ibrahim Prize

 

Former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday accepted the prestigious $5 million Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

“As the first woman to receive this Mo Ibrahim Foundation Prize award, it is my hope that women and girls across the continent are inspired to break down barriers,” said the 79-year-old who left office earlier this year.

“Where there is a first, there will be a second.”

The world’s richest individual prize is given to a democratically-elected African leader who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, served their mandated terms and left office within the previous three years.

The award comes with $5 million (4.1 million euros), which is paid over 10 years, and $200,000 annually for life from then on.

“I stand before you today an imperfect leader, from a complex, post-conflict society, on a continent of uneven progress, during a time of global uncertainty,” she told an audience of African and foreign officials in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Sirleaf is no stranger to international acclaim having shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize as a champion for women’s rights.

The Ibrahim prize, founded by Sudan-born telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim, has only been awarded five times since its inception in 2007.

The philanthropist has said in the past that making no award sent just as strong a message on African leadership.

When Sirleaf’s win was announced earlier this year Ibrahim praised her leadership of Liberia.

“In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow,” he said in February.

“I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond.”

The prize’s four previous laureates are: Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007); Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008); Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014).

AFP

Liberia’s Success Is Important To Nigeria – Osinbajo

File photo: Yemi Osinbajo

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has assured the people and government of Liberia of Nigeria’s support, noting that the success of their country is very important.

Osinbajo stated this while receiving the country’s Vice President, Mrs Jewel Taylor, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the nation’s capital, according to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Mr Laolu Akande.

“Nigeria is committed to working with Liberia, we are certainly committed; the success of Liberia is important to us.”

“You can expect that we shall continue to support and even do much more for Liberia,” Osinbajo said. “We have invested considerably in Liberia and our support for the Sirleaf administration is also in that respect.”

Mr Osinbajo further reiterated the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in seeing to the success of the West African country, formerly known to be war-torn.

Both Vice Presidents also spoke on the significance of their youth population, the role of technology in development and the need for greater intracontinental trade among African countries.

The Liberian VP, who arrived Nigeria a few days ago, spoke on Friday at the Inaugural African Women Summit for Peace and Development.

 

US Court Jails Liberia Ex-Warlord ‘Jungle Jabbah’ For 30 Years 

 

A Liberian former warlord whose forces committed atrocities including murders and cannibalism during the country’s civil war was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in US prison — for immigration-related fraud and perjury.

Nicknamed “Jungle Jabbah,” 51-year-old Mohammed Jabateh commanded the “United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy” (ULIMO) and later ULIMO-K rebel groups, which engaged in killings, rapes, multilation and cannibalism during Liberia’s 1989-2003 civil war, according to prosecutors.

Jabateh was arrested in March 2016.

It is not the atrocities that will send the former warlord to prison, but rather lying about his past to American authorities as part of his 1998 asylum application and his subsequent bid for permanent residency, which saw him convicted in October of “two counts of fraud in immigration documents and two counts of perjury.”

Prosecutors did, however, summon 17 Liberians to testify during the trial about the actions of Jabateh and his men, which allegedly included killing a village leader and bringing his heart to his wife with orders for her to cook it for them.

“This defendant committed acts of such violence and depravity that they are almost beyond belief,” US Attorney William McSwain said in a statement.

“This man is responsible for atrocities that will ripple for generations in Liberia. He thought he could hide here but thanks to the determination and creativity of our prosecutors and investigators, he couldn’t,” McSwain said.

‘Our only option’

“This prosecution was our only option under the law and his sentence achieves at least some measure of justice for his victims,” he said.

The fact that Jabateh is being held responsible at all is exceptional, as many people involved in the civil war still hold important positions in Liberia.

The establishment of a court for war criminals involved in the conflict, which left about 250,000 people dead, is an extremely sensitive topic.

Fearing for his safety, BBC journalist Jonathan Paye-Layleh recently decided to leave the country after a question about the subject prompted an angry response from Liberian President George Weah.

Journalist Hassan Bility, head of the Global Justice and Research Project, which works to document war crimes and see those responsible brought to justice, said Jabateh’s sentencing was “a happy day” for the victims of atrocities in Liberia.

Now it is up to “the Liberian government to make sure other perpetrators are brought to court. We have been pushing for all perpetrators in the Liberian civil war to have their days in court, but the Liberian government has not yet had the courage to do so,” Bility said Thursday.

“We will continue to push for that until the government can bring the perpetrators to account for what they did during the war,” he said.

AFP

Liberian President, Weah Accused Of Suppressing Press

FILE COPY Liberian President, George Weah                                       Photo Credit: AFP

 

With one Liberian newspaper facing a $1.8 million defamation case and a BBC journalist fleeing the country, there has been no honeymoon period for the press under the new government of President George Weah.

Accused of wanting to muzzle the media, the former footballer-turned-politician has attempted to reassure journalists saying they would have a “200 percent freedom of expression and press freedom under my government”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), however, has expressed concern over the $1.8 million in defamation suits against Front Page Africa, a Liberian newspaper that has carried critical coverage of successive governments.

“Liberia has a troubling history of libel lawsuits where applicants ask for exorbitant damages simply to harass and intimidate journalists, resulting in their imprisonment or the closure of news outlets,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa programme coordinator.

“The government should move swiftly to reform Liberia’s libel laws to guard against their abuse in this way,” Quintal added.

During a visit to Monrovia in March, the UN’s rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye expressed concern over the consequences of large financial penalties in civil libel suits against Liberian journalists and newspapers.

The Ministry of Information has denied any government involvement in the law suits against Front Page Africa which relate to a private dispute following the publication of an advertisement.

But the newspaper’s management and the CPJ blame the situation on its criticism of those in power, highlighting the presence among the complainants of a former member of Weah’s party and the absence of legal action against other media outlets.

 Fear of reprisals 

In another media drama, the BBC’s correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh left the country saying he feared reprisals by supporters of the president after Weah accused him of being against him.

“My fears go beyond the possibility of the president ordering my arrest some day and formally unsealing the indictment that he has already hinted (at) by his verbal attack,” Paye-Layleh said in a message to colleagues.

“I fear more that some of the tens of thousands of Mr President’s supporters… could understand his allegations against me to mean that I am his enemy. And you can imagine what could happen to me in some corners without it necessarily being by his directive,” he added.

Weah’s accusation against the journalist in March followed a visit by UN deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and a question from the journalist on the sensitive subject of the setting up a court for the perpetrators of crimes committed during the 1989-2003 civil war.

A large number of figures directly implicated in the civil war still occupy important positions in the political and economic spheres in the country.

A few days later, Weah said he did not harbour any animosity towards the correspondent and protested his commitment to press freedom.

But at a meeting last week, press bosses said they were “alarmed” by the recent escalation of threats, intimidation and harassment of journalists, according to The Press Union of Liberia (PUL).

“With the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Government is the biggest player in the media economy,” the PUL noted, highlighting the difficulties faced by the sector due to a slow economy and the desire of some officials to “strangulate” the media by limiting advertising.

Weah tried again to allay the sector’s fears last week when he met the heads of all the country’s media.

“I want to promise you… 200 percent freedom of expression and press freedom under my government. How can a man like me with soft heart, humble background as well as scores of friends in the country clamp down on free speech. There is no way I can use my position to hunt people for expressing their views to criticise me,” he said.

“While it is true the media and journalists are at liberty to write and criticise in whatever way they see, it is also incumbent of the media to mention the achievements of the government,” he added.

AFP

Liberia’s Justice Minister Steps Aside In Oil Probe

 

Liberia’s Justice Minister on Wednesday announced he would step aside from a probe into a contested oil deal, as he used to be head of the country’s national oil company.

Frank Musa Dean had been appointed to head the probe just six days earlier by Liberia’s newly-elected president, George Weah, who has vowed to crack down on corruption.

In a statement, Dean said he had decided to step aside from the probe — initiated by an undercover investigation by the NGO Global Witness — in the interests of transparency.

“The decision to recuse myself is based on the fact that I served as President and Chief Executive Officer of NOCAL [the National Oil Company of Liberia] between 2004 and January 2006,” he said.

The controversy stems from a deal in 2013 when the US oil major Exxon Mobil paid $68.5 million (55.73 million euros) for a licence to exploit a Liberian oilfield called Block 13.

It bought Block 13 from a company called Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast (BCP), which had initially been awarded the licence from NOCAL in 2005.

In a report released on March 29, Global Witness said it had evidence that in 2005 BCP was part-owned at the time by Liberia’s minister for mining and a deputy minister — a breach of Liberian law.

Corporate documents, it said, show “Exxon knew that Block 13 was originally awarded through bribery and that its purchase of the oil block could enrich former officials who might have been behind BCP.”

Global Witness’ report also said “bonuses” of $35,000 were made to senior Liberian officials after Exxon acquired Block 13.

President Weah had immediately ordered a probe into the scandal and named Dean as lead investigator.

But Global Witness on Monday said his appointment was “a clear conflict of interest.”

“President Weah has promised Liberians that he will tackle Liberia’s endemic corruption. This is his first major test in office to see if he will make good on that promise,” said campaigner Jonathan Gant.

“Calling for this investigation is a good start. Now the president should ensure it is independent and fair -– and it cannot be as long as it is led by Justice Minister Dean.”

AFP

‘I Inherited A Broke Country’ – George Weah

I Inherited A Broke Country, Says George Weah
Liberian President George Weah gestures as he speaks with students as he visits the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, in Paris on February 20, 2018.
FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

 

Liberia’s new President George Weah on Tuesday pledged to fight corruption as he spoke about conditions in his “broke country” on the first day of an official visit to Paris.

The former international football star who, took office on January 22, is faced with a dire economic situation in Liberia following two civil wars and a deadly Ebola epidemic in 2013-2015.

“I inherited a country that is very broke, depleted by political malfeasance. We have to make sure that the things that happened will not happen again,” Weah said during a conference.

“I ordered a complete audit to make sure that what belongs to the government goes to the government.”

Weah also spoke about another top priority, education for young people who represent 60 percent of Liberia’s 4.7 million inhabitants.

“I believe in education. Yes, I didn’t have the opportunity in my early days but after my career I went back to school. Today I can boast of a master’s degree,” said the new leader, who grew up in a Monrovia slum.

Founded 170 years ago by freed slaves, Liberia is “the oldest African country but we don’t have an engineering school. We don’t even have a diagnosis centre to tell if someone has Ebola,” Weah said, vowing to do more to get children in school and “to leave the street”.

On his first foreign trip as president, Weah on Wednesday will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, along with several sports figures, and the vice president of the World Bank for Africa, Makhtar Diop.

 

AFP

I Inherited A Broke Country, Says George Weah

I Inherited A Broke Country, Says George Weah
Liberian President George Weah gestures as he speaks with students as he visits the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, in Paris on February 20, 2018. FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

 

Liberia’s new President George Weah on Tuesday pledged to fight endemic corruption as he spoke about conditions in his “broke country” on the first day of an official visit to Paris.

The former international football star who took office on January 22, is faced with a dire economic situation in Liberia following two civil wars and a deadly Ebola epidemic in 2013-2015.

“I inherited a country that is very broke, depleted by political malfeasance. We have to make sure that the things that happened will not happen again,” Weah said.

“I ordered a complete audit to make sure that what belongs to the government goes to the government.”

Weah also spoke at a conference about another top priority, education for young people who represent 60 percent of 4.7 million Liberians.

“I believe in education. Yes, I didn’t have the opportunity in my early days but after my career, I went back to school. Today I can boast of a masters degree,” said the new leader, who grew up in a Monrovia slum.

Founded 170 years ago by freed slaves, Liberia is “the oldest African country but we don’t have an engineering school. We don’t even have a diagnosis centre to tell if someone has Ebola,” Weah said, vowing to do more to get children in school and “to leave the street”.

On his first foreign trip as president, Weah on Wednesday will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, along with several sports figures, and vice president of the World Bank for Africa, Makhtar Diop.

AFP

Sirleaf Wins Prestigious African Leadership Prize

Former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday won the rarely-awarded Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership — the world’s biggest individual prize.

The prize only goes to a democratically-elected African leader who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, served their mandated term and left office within the last three years.

The award comes with $5 million (4.1 million euros), which is paid over 10 years, and $200,000 annually for life from then on.

Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, left office on January 22 after a maximum 12 years as president, served in two terms.

The 79-year-old won the 2017 Ibrahim Prize, only the second time it has been awarded in six years. In 2011, she shared the Nobel Peace Prize as a champion for women’s rights.

Former African Union secretary-general Salim Ahmed Salim, chairman of the prize committee, said Sirleaf had changed Liberia’s fortunes.

“Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institutions,” he said.

“Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia. Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings and, today, Liberia continues to face many challenges.

“Nevertheless, during her 12 years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build.”

– First female laureate –

The prize, founded by Sudan-born telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim, has only been given five times in its 11-year existence.

The philanthropist has said in the past that making no award sent just as strong a message on African leadership.

Ibrahim said he was delighted by Monday’s decision.

“In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow,” he said.

“I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond.”

The prize’s four previous laureates are Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007); Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008); Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014).

Former South African president Nelson Mandela was made an honorary laureate in 2007.

The London-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation produces an annual index of African governance, allowing citizens to measure how well their countries are being run.

Since 2006, Liberia was the only country out of 54 to improve in every category on the index. Liberia moved up 10 places in the overall African ranking to 28th since then.

Former football star George Weah, the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year, won last year’s Liberian presidential elections and took over from Johnson.

The handover has been seen as a milestone in Liberia’s transition from a civil war that killed around a quarter of a million people between 1989 and 2003.

Other major awards are the Fundamental Physics Prize, worth $3 million; the Templeton Foundation for spiritual contributions, worth £1.1 million ($1.53 million); and the Nobel Prize, which in 2017 was set at nine million Swedish kronor ($1.11 million) for each award.

AFP

George Weah Bows To Pressure, Replaces Controversial Justice Minister

(FILE PHOTO) Liberia’s President, George Weah

Liberia’s new President, George Weah has bowed to intense pressure and replaced his choice for justice minister after local media reported lawyer Charles Gibson was stripped of his licence for embezzling a client.

A statement withdrawing the nomination “with immediate effect” was issued late Wednesday following the first serious hiccup for the ex-football star since being sworn in for a six-year term on January 22.

Gibson, a high-profile legal figure, was once suspended by the Supreme Court for duping a client out of $25,000, and was ordered to repay the costs.

He will be replaced by Musa Dean, previously a lawyer with the National Elections Commission (NEC), who battled Weah’s political opponents in the Supreme Court as they tried to delay the presidential vote that the sportsman won in a landslide.

The new nomination must be approved by the senate.

Weah has given posts to a mixture of inexperienced but loyal figures from his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, along with some key members held over from the former government.

The former AC Milan and Paris St Germain star has slashed the price of rice and taken a personal pay cut of 25 percent since his inauguration, after campaigning on a platform to raise living standards and tackle corruption.

AFP

Liberia’s Weah Makes First Cabinet Appointments

Liberia’s president-elect and former football star George Weah delivers a speech during his swearing-in ceremony on January 22, 2018 in Monrovia.

ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

New Liberian President George Weah has appointed the first members of his cabinet, all of them men, largely naming party allies but picking a foreign minister close to former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Ex-international footballer Weah was sworn in on Monday at a stadium surrounded by ecstatic supporters, and filled some key ministerial posts later the same day.

In his inaugural speech, Weah vowed to crack down on entrenched corruption and encourage the private sector.

But the picks from his party come from outside the establishment and do not have significant government experience, potentially setting up a struggle with entrenched interests in the national congress.

The lack of women so far in the cabinet may also raise eyebrows after 12 years under Sirleaf, who pushed for women to enter public life and strengthened protections against abuse and female genital mutilation as her final act in office.

Weah’s right-hand man is the chairman of his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, Nathaniel McGill, who becomes minister of state and chief of staff.

He guided the president through a bruising electoral campaign last year and was already his top aide.

Senior CDC figure Samuel Tweah becomes finance secretary, while Liberian lawyer Charles Gibson, a friend of Weah’s, becomes Justice Minister.

Sam Mannah, the president’s press aide from his years as a senator, becomes his press secretary.

Outgoing president Sirleaf has left her mark, however, with the appointment of former Unity Party senator Gbehzohngar Findley to the key post of foreign minister.

Findley began 2017’s presidential campaign supporting Sirleaf’s vice-president, Joseph Boakai, who lost to Weah in December.

But he switched allegiance in August, resigned from the party and began openly backing Weah as it became clear that Sirleaf would not campaign for Boakai.

Sirleaf faced accusations she secretly supported Weah, eventually leading to her expulsion from the Unity Party last month.

Elsewhere, the chief of staff of Liberia’s armed forces, Major General Daniel Ziankhan, becomes defence minister, while his deputy, Brigadier General Charles Johnson, succeeds him in the position.

Johnson captained the army team that played Weah’s veterans’ side in a friendly game on Saturday, when he told AFP that Weah was “already started to hear some of the challenges that we are experiencing.”

Meanwhile, members of Sirleaf’s transition team including Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, Education Minister George Werner, Sirleaf’s stepson Varney Sirleaf, and the heads of the police and government services, remain in their posts for now.

The handover from Sirleaf to Weah represents Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power since 1944, and cements impressions Liberia has finally moved on from a war that killed around a quarter of a million people between 1989 and 2003.

AFP