Liberia

  1. Jail order for corrupt Liberian ex-defence minister

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Brownie Samukai
    Image caption: Brownie Samukai was a long-serving defence minister under ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

    The Supreme Court of Liberia has ordered that a former defence minister be jailed for two years in connection with a corruption case.

    Brownie Samukai and two colleagues were found guilty two years ago of theft and money laundering in a case involving more than $1m (£748,000).

    They were given a two-year suspended sentence at the time and ordered to pay back half of the money within six months.

    The jail term has now been imposed as they failed to make the payments within the stipulated time.

    A judge said the trio must now pay back all the money - and would remain in jail after the two years if they have failed to do so in that time.

    They had organised for money to be routinely deducted from soldiers’ salaries and placed into a private, not public, account, as part of a pension scheme, according to court records.

    Samukai, a former police chief, told the court the money was spent on official programmes on the instructions of his superiors.

    He was a long-serving defence minister under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

    The politician is now part of the opposition alliance challenging President George Weah in next year's elections.

    Last year he was elected senator for Lofa county, but the corruption case has prevented him from taking up his seat.

    As of late on Thursday night the men had not been apprehended.

  2. Liberia outrage over death of 13-year-old rape victim

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    There is outrage in Liberia over the death of a 13-year-old girl after she was allegedly raped by a 47-year-old man in the capital, Monrovia.

    It is the third horrific case of sexual assault involving a minor in the last month - and has prompted protests.

    Blessing Molton died on Monday, a week after she was attacked - and a day before she was to undergo surgery, according to Liberia’s Frontpage newspaper.

    Demonstrators gathered outside parliament on Tuesday to demand that more be done to end sexual violence.

    They held up placards calling for an end to rape and justice for Blessing Molton.

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    In his annual message on Monday, President George Weah said his government was doing everything to tackle the menace.

  3. Liberia mourns those who died in church stampede

    Video content

    Video caption: At least 29 people died in a stampede at an open-air church service in Liberia

    At least 29 people, including 11 children and a pregnant woman, died in a stampede at an open-air Pentecostal church service in Liberia on Wednesday.

  4. Three days of mourning in Liberia after deadly stampede

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    People search through piles of shoes left at a field in Monrovia, on January 20, 2022, where 2

    Liberia's President George Weah has declared three days of mourning following the death of 29 people in a stampede during a church service held on a football field in the capital, Monrovia.

    Mr Weah visited the site of the stampede, and said regulations should be put in place to ensure services, known locally as crusades, were held in a safe environment.

    Hundreds of people were at the gathering organised by an influential pastor known as Apostle Abraham Kromah when the stampede occurred on Wednesday night in Monrovia's New Kru Town suburb.

    Police are questioning the pastor in an attempt to find out what exactly happened.

    The Red Cross has erected tents in the church grounds for family members to go with photos to help identify the dead.

  5. Stampede at Christian crusade in Liberia kills 29

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    At least 29 people, including 11 children and a pregnant woman, have died in a stampede at a Christian crusade in a densely populated area in the capital, Monrovia.

    Police spokesman Moses Carter told the BBC the stampede occurred on Wednesday night when a group of gangsters, some carrying knives, moved on the open-air ground and attacked worshippers.

    He added that one person, who was carrying a knife, has been arrested.

    The crusade - a term commonly used in Liberia to describe Christian prayer gatherings - had been organised by an influential pastor.

    The bodies have been taken to the morgue at Redemption Hospital, close to the crusade ground in a beachside place called New Kru Town.

    The number of street gangs operating on the streets of Liberian cities has increased in recent years.

    President George Weah was expected to visit the scene Thursday, according to OK FM, a private Monrovia broadcaster.

  6. Liberia's agriculture ministry under investigation

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) says it has placed the entire leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture under a full-scale investigation for alleged conflict of interest and financial improprieties.

    The LACC references what it calls the inappropriate awarding of agriculture contracts amounting to millions of US dollars.

    The LACC accuses the officials of “reckless disregard” for “public financial management laws, public procurement laws and the country’s code of conduct for public officials."

    Agriculture Minister Jennine Cooper told the BBC they hadn’t received any communication from the anti-graft body regarding the allegations and investigation.

    All the Ministry of Agriculture had seen from the commission so far is an unsigned statement on social media, she said.

    The ministry was ready to cooperate with any investigation, she said.

  7. Man charged in Liberia with trying to sell his son

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Liberia dollar notes
    Image caption: The man wanted to raise about 146,000 Liberian dollars ($1,000) to replace a stolen motorbike

    Police in Liberia have arrested a 29-year-old Sierra Leonean man and charged him with attempting to sell his 10-year-old son.

    It was apparently a desperate bid to raise money to replace a stolen motorbike.

    After his arrest, the man told investigating officers in the capital, Monrovia, that he needed around $1,000 (£750) as the bike, which had belonged to his friend, had been stolen from his home.

    He was told the only way to raise this much money quickly was to go to neighbouring Liberia to try and find a buyer for his son.

    Back home people had told him it would be easy to do that kind of deal over the border.

    It was arranged through a middleman in December. During negotiations the boy was apparently referred to as a chicken not a human being to avoid detection.

    Nonetheless the police received a tip-off, and the father was arrested as the buyer was reportedly on their way to collect the boy from a town outside Monrovia.

    According to the Liberian online publication Global News Network, the child is currently in the care of the gender ministry.

    Human trafficking is a major issue in West Africa.

    Children sold into modern slavery are not allowed to contact their families and are often made to work as domestic servants or labourers.

  8. Liberian jails run out of food for inmates

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A prison (stock photo)

    All 15 prison facilities in Liberia have this week run out of food for inmates.

    This has caused two prisons, including the main Monrovia Central Prison, to temporarily shut their doors to newcomers, prison officials have said.

    The situation is being blamed on a number of factors including delays in remitting funds for food and upkeep of prison facilities.

    But the director of prisons, Sainleseh Kwaidah, told the BBC on Monday that the government was doing everything to resolve the situation.

    He said that after some interventions the two prisons that had stopped admitting inmates had reopened their doors and food was reaching others.

    A prison warder told the BBC the prisons had shut the doors to avoid putting more people at risk because of the food shortage. He said there was also a possibility that angry inmates could stage jailbreaks.

    A well-known businessman, Upjit Singh Sachdeva who is commonly known as Mr Jetty, has stepped in to provide food to mitigate the crisis. The businessman has often provided cooked meals to inmates in the Monrovia Central Prison.

    Prison warders have in recent days criticised the government’s handling of the affairs of the crowded correctional facilities.

  9. Liberian opposition figure wanted over alleged forgery

    Opposition figure Alexander Cummings
    Image caption: Alexander Cummings ran for president in 2017

    Liberian opposition figure Alexander Cummings says forgery allegations against him in a case filed by a party in an opposition coalition are "unfounded and political".

    The Monrovia City Court has issued an arrest warrant against him to answer to the crime of forgery and criminal conspiracy linked to the alleged forgery of the coalition’s documents.

    The case against Mr Cummings was brought to court by Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP).

    The ALP accuses him of forging the coalition agreement document by editing and replacing a section on how parties can exit the coalition.

    Mr Cummings told the BBC's Focus of Africa programme that the ALP wanted to leave the coalition and accused Mr Urey of being used by the government to create disunity within the opposition.

    "This action will leave us undeterred, we are determined to run our political course and make our case to the Liberian people to make Mr [George] Weah a one-term president," he said.

    But Mr Urey said a crime had been committed and the ALP had to seek redress in court after internal mechanism to resolve disputes failed.

    He said there had been many disagreements within the coalition but most parties were ready to work together.

    "We want to preserve that coalition ... I can assure you that in a few days of weeks we will form another group because the Liberian people want us to do that," he told Focus on Africa.

    President Weah will be running for a second term in next year’s general elections.

  10. Jailed son of Liberia's former president decries conviction

    Marco Oriunto

    BBC Focus on Africa radio

    The son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, says he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice and wants his case reopened.

    Roy M. Belfast Jr., better known as Chuckie Taylor, was born in the US.

    He is serving a 97-year prison sentence in the United States for torture, conspiracy to commit torture and firearms charges originating from the brutal years of his father’s presidency.

    Mr Taylor was the first to be convicted under the US Torture Victim Protection Act, which authorises US Federal courts to arrest and try anyone on US soil suspected of having committed torture anywhere in the world.

    Speaking from his prison cell in the state of Virginia, he told Focus on Africa’s Audrey Brown that he believed his case had been exploited as “an extension of a foreign policy tool in order to stabilise Liberia”.

    A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up after the civil conflict in Liberia; witnesses gave their statements, but the commission could not enlist Chuckie Taylor for prosecution because they did not have access to him at the time.

    The TRC recommended the Liberian government open a domestic investigation, in which Chuckie Taylor could be prosecuted, however, to this day, this has not taken place.

    However he accepted moral responsibility and apologised “for not advocating, or for not being aware that there are people who needed advocating for”.

    Asked if he’s still in touch with his father, Mr Taylor says that he did not wish to speak to him and that “those ties have been severed permanently”.

    Listen to his interview here:

    Video content

    Video caption: Chuckie Taylor, son of ex-Liberia leader Charles Taylor, says he is not guilty of torture
  11. Liberia police charge mother for allegedly selling baby

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    A court in Liberia has charged a mother with human trafficking after she allegedly sold her six-month-old baby to an unknown woman for just $60 (£45).

    She denied ever exchanging the baby for money, according to Liberia's online paper The News.

    She allegedly resorted to the exchange because she had been struggling to care for the child as a single mother, according to Front Page Africa Online.

    There are no sustainable social welfare programmes for abandoned children in the country.

    She has been taken to Monrovia Central Prison, Front Page Africa Online says.

  12. Prince Johnson demands the evidence behind US sanctions

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Former Liberian warlord Prince Johnson gives an exclusive interview with AFP on October 26, 2008 in Monrovia
    Image caption: Prince Johnson, seen here in 2008, is a senator and close ally of President George Weah

    Liberian senator and former warlord Prince Johnson has said he wants the US to produce the evidence on which it based a decision to impose sanctions on him.

    Mr Johnson was on a list of global figures to have so-called Magnitsky sanctions slapped on them, which are directed against people accused of human rights abuses or corruption.

    “As a senator, Mr Johnson has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organisations for personal enrichment,” a US Treasury statement said.

    “As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the Government of Liberia, the involved government ministries and organisations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants. The pay-for-play funding scheme involves millions of US dollars.”

    In response, Mr Johnson said he was waiting for a more detailed explanation from the US government and challenged Washington to explain during which specific administrations in Liberia he had been involved in receiving money for favours.

    “What we want is the fact,” he told the BBC.

    “You can accuse people, but the evidence is what is important; and coming from Uncle Sam’s website - obviously the most powerful nation on earth whose footprint we follow democratically - so you don’t just destroy peoples’ names by accusing them without facts.”

    Mr Johnson was responsible for the slaying in 1990 of President Samuel Doe, who had been captured by his forces during the country’s 14-year civil war.

    He is now a very trusted political ally and supporter of President George Weah.

    As we reported earlier, the US has also imposed visa restrictions on Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president.

  13. Women flock to join Liberia army

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Liberian army soldiers stand during a training excercise as the United Nations Mission in Liberia forces (UNMIL) finally hands back security to Liberia's military and police, in Monrovia on June 24, 2016
    Image caption: Liberia is trying to recruit more women into the army

    Liberia's small US-trained army is recruiting an additional 200 personnel to beef up its strength - half of whom would be women in terms of a new policy aimed at achieving gender equality.

    The number of female applicants was extremely high, with more than 7,000 turning up on Monday at a military barrack in the capital, Monrovia, for pre-recruitment physical training.

    Army chief Gen Prince C. Johnson told the BBC that fitness training was being organised for women from the Monrovia area because research showed they were less fit than women from rural areas.

    Rural women on the other hand, he said, did not do so well when it came to meeting the academic requirements for recruitment, and needed help in that area, he said.

    An applicant must be at least a high school graduate or possess some vocational training to qualify for enlistment.

    Besides their desire to serve in the army, many women see this an opportunity to overcome high levels of unemployment.

    Liberia is still recovering from a civil war which ended almost 20 years ago.

    Around 250,000 people were killed in the conflict.

  14. Chimp in Liberia 'house arrest' after week of treats

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Chimp
    Image caption: The primate has made friends and enjoys three meals a day

    A motorcycle taxi driver in north-eastern Liberia has put a wild chimpanzee he had lured to the local town "under house arrest".

    Gannie Son told the BBC that the animal had started causing trouble by venturing into people's cocoa farms to look for food.

    Mr Son came across the animal near forests on the outskirts of Blorwee town and fed it for days before it followed him to the town.

    It caused quite a stir with locals feeding it and remarking how friendly it was.

    But the locals stopped feeding it and Mr Son says he can't afford the three meals a day he has been giving it.

    "I'm like the main host of the chimp, I have locked it up in one of my rooms so that I don't get into trouble with cocoa farmers," Mr Son said.

    He says he fears that angry cocoa farmers could poison the animal, "and if this happens, I will really feel bad and guilty," he said.

    Mr Son has once again sent out an appeal to the authorities in the region as well as animal rights groups to rescue the animal.

  15. Friendly chimp moves into Liberian town

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    The chimpanzee in Blorwee town
    Image caption: The primate has made friends and enjoys three meals a day

    A chimpanzee has left the forest and spent over a week as the strange "guest" of people in a nearby town in north-eastern Liberia.

    Motorcycle taxi driver Gannie Son, 34, spotted the chimp sitting under a tree on the outskirts of Blorwee town and fed it for days before the animal finally followed him to town.

    Reports say the primate has so far conducted itself peacefully, making friends and playing with children. But Mr Son wants the government to take custody of the animal for its safety.

    Besides, the taxi driver says, he's unable to continue feeding the animal three times a day.

  16. Sirleaf urges men to support women in leadership

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
    Image caption: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia was Africa's first elected female president

    Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has launched a campaign to urge men to support women in leadership.

    Dubbed "Have Her Back", the campaign has already received commitment from the presidents of Ivory Coast and South Africa - as well as from former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone.

    Men are being urged to commit to working to ensure women’s leadership in their spheres of influence.

    The Presidential Center for Women and Development, a foundation set up by the former Liberian president after leaving office, launched the campaign virtually on Friday.

    The centre says these commitments are part of efforts to shift perceptions of African men’s support for gender equality.

  17. High-profile killings send panic across Liberia

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Two sons of former Liberian presidents and an immigration officer have become the latest victims of a wave of killings sweeping across Liberia.

    Police spokesman Moses Carter confirmed to the BBC on Wednesday that the last son of assassinated Liberian president William R. Tolbert, Jr, was murdered on Monday this week.

    The body of Reverend William R. Tolbert, III was found lying in a pool of blood in his bedroom at his Bushrod Island district residence in the capital, Monrovia.

    His father was gruesomely killed and his body dismembered in the Samuel Doe-led military coup that toppled his nine-year regime on 12 April 1980.

    And like his late father, Rev Tolbert was a Baptist preacher and had served as Liberia’s ambassador for peace.

    His death comes a day after the body of a female immigration officer, Maude Elliott, was found with deep cuts and bruises at her home in the Monrovia western outskirts of Brewerville.

    In September, John Tubman, a son of Liberia’s longest-serving president, William Tubman, was killed and his body found at his home.

    The killings have caused panic across the country.

    Earlier this year, President George Weah came under public criticism when he urged citizens to protect themselves by installing security cameras at home.

  18. Family of warlord president demand payment for his service

    Jonathan Paye-Layleh

    BBC News, Monrovia

    Charles Taylor in court in 2013
    Image caption: Charles Taylor is serving a 50-year jail sentence for war crimes

    Those close to ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor are pressing for his constitutional benefits which, the family says, have not been paid by the authorities since he stepped down under pressure and went into exile in Nigeria in 2003.

    Taylor, 73, is serving a 50-year jail sentence in the UK for supporting rebels in the decade-long civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

    His family has filed a complaint at the court of the West African regional body, Ecowas, to ensure that the Liberian government is made to pay up what it owes.

    The former chairman of Taylor’s National Patriotic Party, Cyril Allen, said in a radio interview it was right to turn to the regional court for redress because successive post-Taylor governments haven’t shown interest in paying the ex-president’s benefits.

    "The issue of President Taylor demanding his benefit is law - it is not the value of the money, it is the law. It is an entitlement," Mr Allen, now an ally of President George Weah, said.

    "The best the government could do in this instance is to negotiate," he said.

    "Yes the economic situation in the country is not the best but the person must be given due respect, there must be some negotiation and discussions relative to the law," Mr Allen added.

    Under Liberian law, top former officials are due certain benefits annually.

    A member of the Taylor defence team told the BBC before the family headed to the Ecowas court they had "argued the case before the full bench of the Supreme Court in 2014 and 2018 but there has been no ruling" to date.

    An official of the court said he was going to "check the court docket" to know the status of the Taylor case.