Liberia

Liberia's foreign minister to stand against only female senator

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Gbehzohngar Milton Findley
Getty Images
Gbehzohngar Milton Findley will stand for the position of senator in Grand Bassa

Liberia's influential minister of foreign affairs has resigned in order to take on the lone female member of the senate in December’s senatorial elections.

Gbehzohngar Milton Findley will stand against Nyunblee Karnga Lawrence, the only woman in the 30-member senate.

Mr Findley has been hurriedly selected as the choice of the ruling party of President George Weah.

Representing Liberia’s second oldest county, Grand Bassa, in the senate, Mrs Lawrence lost her husband, a Member of the House of Representatives, two years ago in a road accident.

Equal rights activists are concerned there's a possibility Liberia will return to the tradition of having an all-male senate - something they say will not bode well for Mr Weah’s claim of being a "feminist-in-chief" fighting for women’s political participation.

Weah lifts Liberia Covid-19 restrictions

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

A soldier screening people for coronavirus
AFP
Soldiers who have been enforcing the Covid-19 restrictions have been ordered back to the barracks

Liberia's President George Weah has lifted the state of emergency he declared in April to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

He has ordered soldiers who were deployed to enforce the restrictions to immediately return to barracks.

The controversial restrictions came to an end on Wednesday, days after the president told worshippers at his private church that he could not continue to keep the country in lockdown.

Mr Weah, however, warned the public “not to construe the cessation of the state of emergency as a licence to engage in behaviours that may lead to a further spread of the virus”.

But while the move has brought some relief, coronavirus infections continue to surge with the restrictions showing little sign of halting or reversing the spread.

Charles Taylor's ex-wife back in Liberia from UK

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Agnes Taylor (R) during the Liberian civil war
Getty Images
Agnes Taylor (R), pictured here in 1990 during the Liberian civil war, was released for lack of evidence

Agnes Reeves-Taylor, the ex-wife of Liberia's former President Charles Taylor, has returned to the country after a UK court dismissed war crimes charges against her seven months ago.

She was charged in 2017 over a string of offences - some involving children - during the West African country's civil war. She denied wrongdoing.

Her ex-husband is currently serving a life sentence for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone.

Supporters of Mr Taylor’s National Patriotic Party have been expressing their joy on her return to Liberia on social media.

She is still regarded as “the founding mother” of the former ruling party.

It is unclear whether Ms Taylor, a former university lecturer, intends to get involved in Liberian politics.

Read:

Liberian MP and former supermodel dies aged 36

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Munah Pelham-Youngblood
Munah Pelham-Youngblood
Munah Pelham-Youngblood was one of only 10 women in parliament

Tributes have been paid to Liberian MP and former supermodel Munah Pelham-Youngblood, who has died at the age of 36.

She was one of only 10 women in the West African nation's 103-seat parliament.

A member of President George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, she died in Ghana after a protracted illness.

President Weah described her as a pillar of the CDC and a great stateswoman.

Her active leadership had "contributed enormously to nurturing the country's democracy", his statement continued.

"She was also a strong advocate for women leadership and empowerment," he said.

When she was elected in 2011, she was Liberia’s youngest MP.

Liberia businessman calls for Monrovia to be renamed

A Liberian businessman has written an open letter calling for the nation's capital city Monrovia, named after 19th Century US President James Monroe, to be changed.

J Patrick Flomo, who lives in the US state of Ohio, told BBC Newsday:

For us to honour him, naming our capital after him, it is an abomination to our heritage and to ourselves."

Liberia was founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves in 1822.

Two years later, the capital was renamed in honour of President Monroe, who supported the American Colonization Society that had been created to return freed American-born slaves to Africa.

But Monroe was also a slave owner himself.

Listen to the full interview with Mr Flomo here:

President Monroe supported the return of freed slaves to Africa but was himself a slave owner

'Rice price hotline' launches in Liberia

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

A man sifts rice through his hands
Godong
Rice is regarded as an essential part of a daily diet in Liberia

Liberians are being asked to call a government hotline if they spot any unfair increases in the price of rice over and above the approved rate of about $13 (£10) per 25kg (55lb).

Trade officials have also been out on the streets to ensure there are no artificial shortages, following complaints from consumers who say they have struggled to buy enough rice.

Officials believe importers and retailers could be hoarding the commodity to hike prices.

While consumers appreciate the decision to control prices, the current government, just like previous administrations, is under criticism for doing very little to prioritise local food production.

Liberia relies on foreign businesses to import rice.

The food is not just a staple in the West African nation, but is regarded as an essential in the daily diet - the price and its supply has brought down a government in the past.

Liberian businessman calls for his country to rename its capital

Monrovia was named after James Monroe, the 5th president of the United States
As well as sparking demonstrations, the killing of George Floyd has also revived soul-searching about Africa’s colonial legacy.

It's led a Liberian businessman living in the US state of Ohio, J Patrick Flomo, to write an open letter asking for the name of the Liberian capital of Monrovia to be changed. It was renamed in 1824 after the then US president, James Monroe, who supported the American Colonization Society, created to return American-born former slaves to Africa.  But he was also a slave owner himself. 

"For us to honour him, naming our capital after him, it is an abomination to our heritage and to ourselves."

Liberian education minister and deputy in hospital

Liberia’s education minister is undergoing treatment for Covid-19 as his ministry prepares to reopen schools next week.

Ansu Sonii and his deputy Latim Da-thong are both in hospital.

The deputy minister was flown to Ghana after his condition worsened, Liberia's FrontPage Africa newspaper reports.

Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told the newspaper that Mr Da-thong was in a stable condition. He denied reports that Mr Sonii was also in Ghana for treatment.

Liberia has confirmed 652 coronavirus cases with 34 deaths.

The country on Monday announced that schools will reopen next week for Grade 12 students who are preparing for examinations.

Liberia to reopen airport and hotels in a fortnight

Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

A group of people hang out on a beach in the capital, Monrovia
VW Pics
The country is increasingly popular with tourists

Liberian President George Weah says the country has made enough progress against the coronavirus to allow the reopening of the international airport and hotels in two weeks' time.

A state of emergency which is due to end next Tuesday will not be renewed.

To date 345 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Liberia, with 30 deaths.

Due to very low levels of testing, the full extent of the disease is uncertain.

Correspondents say although schools have shut and an overnight curfew is in place, most people have carried on with their lives as normal during the state of emergency, with markets still busy and shops open.

Food over face masks, say Liberians in survey

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Man with a Liberian flag face mask
EPA
Not everyone can afford a face mask

A survey by Liberia's National Public Health Institute, which heads the country’s Covid-19 fight, has revealed that only between 10% and 15% of people in overcrowded slums can afford to purchase face masks.

The vast majority of people in those informal settlements are more concerned about what to eat than what to wear on their faces, according to the institute's head Dr Mosoka Fallah.

The findings haven't come as a surprise in an impoverished country where many people live on less than $1 (£0.80) a day.

The government’s much-publicised decision to distribute food to vulnerable populations in places like those surveyed is still in final planning stages, with some obvious challenges.