Liberia

  1. Liberia fines steel firm for bad labour practices

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Liberia has found a multinational steel company guilty of bad labour practices and ordered it to pay more than $300,000 (£220,000) in compensation to close to 500 former workers.

    They had accused the bosses of Arcelor Mittal of unfair treatment including illegal redundancies.

    The ruling ordered the firm to start making payments on 23 September and complete them by 1 October 2021.

    The company was also instructed to pay an additional $15,000 to the managers of the aggrieved former workers “to cover their overhead during the prolonged struggle for workers’ right, despite not being a registered workers union,” the ruling said.

    To ensure compliance, government ministries will serve as observers “to ensure that this instruction is carried out to the letter.”

    Arcelor Mittal has not yet commented on the ruling.

    The establishment of the firm in Liberia was the first foreign direct investment in the country after 14 year of civil war ended in 2003.

  2. University of Liberia suspends classes amid strike

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    University of Liberia signpost

    Classes have been suspended at the University of Liberia as a result of a strike by teaching staff.

    They are locked in a dispute with management over salaries and other working conditions.

    The crisis worsened on Monday when police tear-gassed students protesting against the absence of their teachers and poor sanitation.

    The university's financial difficulties have worsened since President George Weah announced three years ago that tuition will be free.

    But the government insists it has increased financial support to the university since then.

  3. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf condemns Guinea coup

    BBC Focus on Africa

    Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has condemned the coup in Guinea.

    She told the BBC that she had great confidence in the West African block Ecowas to resolve the situation.

    "I'm sure that Ecowas, which has successfully responded adequately to similar crisis will do so in keeping with the constitution and the rule of law in Guinea," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa.

    Ms Sirleaf said the setting up of transitional bodies would ensure that the provision of services to the public continues.

    The former head of state expressed concern at how Guinean President Alpha Condé was treated by the military.

    "He was not properly dressed and for somebody who has served his country for so many years, he was put in a very unsettling position," Ms Sirleaf said.

    She said the coup trend in West Africa was "worrying" and attributed it to the "changing ways" and urged governments to "ensure their institutions are consistent with the national agenda".

    Listen to the interview:

    Video content

    Video caption: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Liberia's president until 2018
  4. Guinea coup: Liberia's president worried about regional impact

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    The president of Guinea’s neighbour, Liberia, George Weah, is calling for the “immediate” release of President Alpha Condé by the military following Sunday’s coup.

    A presidential statement quotes the president as calling on Guinea's new military leaders to “adhere to the tenets of civilian rule and democracy”.

    He reminded all concerned of the need for peace and security, adding that “violence and political instability in Guinea will have negative ramifications for the entire region”.

    Mr Weah was due Monday to hold a meeting of the National Security Council “to discuss the evolving events in Guinea”, the statement said.

    Many Liberians reacting to the military takeover in Guinea have used the situation to warn the president and the government to put their house in order.

  5. EU envoy calls on Liberia to allow same-sex marriage

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Laurent Delahousse meeting George Weah
    Image caption: Laurent Delahousse (L), who was welcomed to Liberia by President George Weah last October, said civil liberties were being suppressed

    The European Union’s representative in Liberia, Laurent Delahousse, has called on the authorities here to “take immediate action to issue an executive order” banning female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices.

    Speaking at a human rights forum, the EU envoy also asked the government to relax laws that he said suppressed civil liberties such as a ban on same-sex marriages.

    He said “the penal code of Liberia continues to criminalise” consensual sexual relationships by same-sex couples, something he argued violates international laws protecting the social rights of LGBT individuals.

    There has been no reaction from the Liberian authorities but sodomy is a crime under the law.

    Governments coming to power in Liberia have always avoided tackling deep-rooted traditional practices such as FGM for fear of getting into a confrontation with rural populations involved in those practices.

  6. Hospital named after George Weah's football shirt

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    George Weah of Liberia runs with the ball during the World Cup 2002 Group B Second Round Qualifying match against Nigeria played at Port Harcourt, in Nigeria
    Image caption: George Weah was one of the world's greatest footballers until his retirement

    Liberia’s president and former football star George Weah has dedicated a newly built military hospital in honour of the number 14 shirt he wore for the national football team.

    Constructed at the largest military barracks south of the capital Monrovia, the 150-bed hospital has been named The 14 Military Hospital.

    He promised to build the hospital in 2018.

    “I am proud and happy today that my dream has been realized in record time,” Mr Weah told guests at a ceremony.

    There’s also a newly dedicated 14 Market in Monrovia. The project was initiated by Mr Weah's predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

    Mr Weah captained the national fooball team until his retirement from the game in 2004. He played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe - including AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea - and was the only African to win the Fifa World Player of the Year.

    After he retired from football, he entered politics and was elected president in 2017.

  7. US anger over Liberia's power theft and unpaid bills

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A technician checks an electric pole in downtown Monrovia on February 21, 2017
    Image caption: Liberians pay more for electricity compared to people in neighbouring countries

    Liberia’s power distribution firm has lost $220m (£160m) in the last five years alone thanks to a cartel stealing electricity and unpaid bills, US ambassador Michael McCarthy says.

    The US is post-war Liberia’s biggest donor in the energy sector.

    Six years ago it spent more than $250m on the rehabilitation of the country’s hydroelectric plant that had been destroyed during a 14-year civil war.

    The government, which is the biggest customer of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), was often behind on payments, Mr McCarthy said.

    "We have been told by multiple sources that there is a well-organised electricity theft cartel that benefits well-connected businesses and even government officials,” Mr McCarthy said

    “We care about the development of Liberia and its people, and corruption and power theft are standing in the way of that development.”

    He said compared to other West African countries, Liberia was charging too much for its electricity:

    • Ghana: $0.06 per kilowatt hour
    • Guinea: $0.10 per kilowatt hour
    • Ivory Coast: $0.12 per kilowatt hour
    • Liberia: $0.49 per kilowatt hour (and until fairly recently $0.54).

    “Why are Liberians paying four or five times more for less reliable electricity?” asked Mr McCarthy.

    “The answer is because for each person that illegally connects to a powerline - they are making everyone else underwrite the cost of power and making it harder to reduce the cost for those who pay.”

    Privatising the sector has been suggested as a way of solving the crisis.

  8. Liberia probing low Covid jab uptake by women

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A nurse dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) looks on in a COVID-19 ward of the Redemption hospital in Monrovia on July 1, 2021.
    Image caption: More men have been taking Covid jabs in Liberia

    Health authorities in Liberia have expressed concern over the low uptake of Covid-19 vaccines among women.

    Liberia's head of immunisation, Adolphus Clarke, told the BBC that they would investigate the reasons for the gender disparity.

    “To date we realise that of the 16,821 persons that have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, 11,098 are male and 5,723 are female,” he said.

    He said they noticed the same difference in those vaccinated by the AstraZeneca vaccines.

    On Thursday, Liberia Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah announced the was seeing some success in the fight against Covid.

    She told a news conference that treatment centres only had "a few patients" who were set to be discharged.

  9. Liberian 'free surgery' week begins amid fee fears

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Free surgery is being offered for the next week to men in Liberia with urinary or prostate-related complications.

    A team of Spanish urologists from the non-for-profit group Surgery For All has started work at St Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in the capital, Monrovia.

    The corridors of the hospital were busy for weeks before their arrival as patients poured in to register.

    The organisation raised 50,000 euros ($59,000, £42,000) to fund the trip to Liberia.

    But while the surgery itself is free, the hospital hosting the team has been charging patients around $350 in screening and lab fees - to cover its expenses for staff and equipment.

    This has been the source of some controversy, though the hospital has sought to assure those whose screening has not resulted in surgery that their money will be refunded.

    In an effort to further allay criticism, the hospital delivered a circular over the weekend, including to churches in the city, to assure people that no patient would be turned away if they could not afford to pay the fees.

    The head of the Spanish mission, Dr José Rubio-Briones, told the BBC that during this week at least one surgeon from the hospital would be chosen to go to Spain for further training.

    Two nurses from the same hospital have benefitted from a similar scheme organised by the group.

    “We say it is better to teach fishing than to fish for people,” Dr Rubio-Briones said.

    Liberia lacks specialists in almost all areas of healthcare and its hospitals often lack basic supplies and equipment.

  10. Activists detained for stunt against MPs' expenses

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    The head of a Liberian pressure and advocacy group called the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia, Emmanuel Gonquoi, plus two others have on Monday been arrested, handcuffed and sent to the Monrovia Central Prison.

    Government prosecutors told the BBC the men had been charged in connection with their action last month - when they forcibly locked the gate of the parliament building.

    In a video, the group said they were acting to prevent lawmakers from entering the building until they have returned to national coffers the $30,000 (£22,000) each of them had received for something called "legislative engagements".

    A magistrates' court in Monrovia issued an arrest warrant for the men on Friday after they had been charged with, among other things, "disorderly conducts, simple assault and terroristic threats".

    The group said it took the action against parliament because in its opinion, it was inappropriate and insensitive for lawmakers to receive such an amount of money when the country was going through hardships with Covid-19 killing people and hospitals running out of medical supplies.

    But lawmakers have denied wrongdoing, saying the money in question is captured in the annual budget.

    The head of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia, Emmanuel Gonquoi, told the BBC from hiding on Friday that he had been advised by his lawyers to stay away and report himself in court on Monday.

  11. Video content

    Video caption: Telfar Clemens: Designer creates Tokyo 2020 Olympic outfits for Team Liberia

    American-Liberian designer Telfar Clemens created Liberian team's outfits at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

  12. Liberia university suspends classes after clashes

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Undergraduate classes at the University of Liberia have been suspended indefinitely following Monday's clashes between demonstrating students and police.

    The students were protesting against the university's decision to cancel in-person classes for online classes, a move they said would limit the spread of coronavirus.

    But the students said that the e-learning programme had not been formalised and that the platform it was hosted did not work.

    The university has not commented on the allegation.

    Local media have been showing images of blood-soaked students being treated at hospitals after Monday's confrontation.

    The authorities at the university have expressed regret for the injuries and the damage to property.

  13. Minister invokes the Bible to defend lavish burial

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A Liberian minister has reacted to mounting public criticism, following his decision last month to bury his mother in an expensive mausoleum while the country battles economic hardships and the pandemic.

    Nathaniel McGill's critics called it a show of extravagance and wasteful spending.

    But in a Facebook post the influential minister of presidential affairs defended his decision.

    He said there was nothing wrong with giving his mother a befitting burial because, as number five of the Bible's Ten Commandments commands, one must "honour thy mother and father":

    View more on facebook
  14. Liberian minister criticised for lavish mausoleum

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Social media in Liberia is awash again with criticism of politicians after the most senior minister in the office of President George Weah buried his mother in an expensive mausoleum this week.

    The structure, which resembles a house, was built by Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel McGill. It has a pyramid-style roof, columns and all the attributes of a modern royal home.

    The specially designed tomb is placed in the middle.

    Talk show host Henry Costa - a vocal critic of President Weah - shared a video of the mausoleum under construction on his Facebook page:

    View more on facebook

    Many have taken to social media to condemn the move as wasteful spending in a poor country.

    “The extravagance I saw today shocked me to my core,” said Benjamin Yeagar, a critic, writing on Facebook.

    “This was a complete insensitive display of wealth.”

    Another commenter Stanley Cooper added: “With all that opulence, did the madam wake up from the grave? Useless showmanship!”

    But Abdul Kanneh, who supports Mr McGill, said that “only heartless individuals will bully someone who is grieving for the loss of his/her love one. This is no politics, it is called EVIL.”

    Just last week, a junior minister working under Mr McGill came under spotlight when he was seen in a video splashing champagne on an expensive SUV he had bought for his wife as a birthday gift.

  15. Impounded Liberian boat sinks after evading port

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A cargo vessel has sunk after managing to sail out of the port in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, despite being impounded for safety reasons.

    The Liberian-registered Niko Ivanka got into distress after sailing about six nautical miles off the coast of Monrovia, according to a statement from the Liberia Maritime Authority.

    Reports say it was carrying between 20-30 passengers when it sunk.

    Army chief General Prince C Johnson III told the BBC that 11 passengers had been rescued

    Maritime officials said in a press statement they were “hopeful of recovering everyone”.

    Some officials from the Liberian chapter of the West African Examinations Council were among the passengers but it is not clear if they were rescued.

    But as a result of the accident, the annual exams they were supposed to supervise have been indefinitely postponed across the country, education ministry officials said in a statement on Monday.

    It's unclear how the boat was cleared to leave the port and carry passengers.

    The Niko Ivanka routinely transports goods between the ports of Monrovia and Harper in the south-east.

    It was traveling to the south-eastern county of Maryland on the border with Ivory Coast.

  16. Liberian MP gets Covid jab abroad and blames president

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A controversial opposition Liberian MP said he flew to the United Arab Emirates to get a Covid jab because he did not trust the one available locally.

    He also said he did it because President George Weah was yet to be vaccinated.

    The outspoken legislator, Yekeh Kolubah, said the president had not led by example, which was discouraging and making other Liberians afraid and reluctant to be vaccinated.

    President Weah's office has told the BBC that his decision on the vaccine is private and should not stop others from taking advantage of the campaign to save their own lives.

    Mr Kolubah was recently suspended from parliament for allegedly insulting President Weah in a series of outbursts.

    The lawmaker has denied wrongdoing and is fighting the suspension in court.

    Liberia is among countries that have been reporting an increase in daily coronavirus cases attributed to the Delta variant.

  17. Anger as Liberian minister splashes champagne on car

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A video of a junior minister in Liberia splashing expensive champagne on a luxury vehicle that he had reportedly bought for his wife as a birthday gift has sparked anger, especially among young supporters of the governing Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party.

    The CDC's youth wing describes James Emmanuel Potter’s action last week as “a reckless display of wealth”.

    It says it contradicts the principles and ideology on which the party was established.

    It accused the official - who is in charge of logistics at the presidency - of being insensitive to the realty of the time, in one of Africa’s poorest countries.

    But the assistant minister hit back at his critics, saying in a Facebook post that he was a working person earning a salary to enable him do whatever pleased him.

    Here is the video that the junior minister shared on Facebook:

    View more on facebook

    One Facebook user criticised the assistant minister's actions saying: "[Mr] Potter bought his wife an Audi SUV and sprayed it with expensive bottles of champagne while the masses suffer. Is this pro-poor?"

    Another user commented: "That’s one reason they’re poor after government job. They live in luxury at the expense of the suffering poor people!"

    Others have defended the state official.

    "There is no big deal about a husband buying a car for wife. He is working and I truly believe his income can afford this little vehicle. Stop this hate," one said.

  18. Liberia gets tear gas to enforce Covid restrictions

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    The Liberian government has received a donation of teargas and other riot control equipment to enforce Covid restrictions.

    The donation comes at a time when security forces are enforcing regulations against mass gatherings.

    The consignment came from France and follows President George Weah's recent trip to Paris.

    The security forces in Liberia are complementing the efforts of health authorities to combat the spread of coronavirus.

    The public has ignored warnings to avoid mass gatherings and crowds are still seen in entertainment and market places.

    Liberia has been recording increased virus cases and recently received thousands of testing kits from France to boost its testing capacity.

  19. Liberian drugs officer apologises to MPs

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A top Liberian drug enforcement officer has apologised for making allegations that an MP was caught transporting drugs.

    The officer told a drug awareness forum about her encounter with an MP who, she said, was seen carrying marijuana, cocaine and heroin in his official vehicle.

    She declined to name the MP at the time.

    But the allegation was published widely in local dailies and on social media, prompting the 73-member parliament to summon the officer to disclose the name of the MP in question.

    When she appeared before the house, the officer admitted making the allegation but refused to point out the MP and instead asked for forgiveness.

    The hearing was adjourned as the officer was rushed to hospital after suddenly falling ill.

    Substance abuse is a huge challenge in post-war Liberia, where the under-funded Drug Enforcement Agency struggles to tackle the drug trade.