>Liberian Gov’t Spends US $53M For 3 “White SSS Officers”

January 11, 2011

>Source: Public Agenda Liberia

-For Ellen’s Protection



National Security Advisor
to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,
Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh



-But Dr. HB Fahnbulleh Describes It “Utter Rubbish, Patently Nonsensical”

“….. others got the same response from me and were convinced. They did not publish the story because they saw the absurdity of the story. Why would U want to publish something that is patently nonsensical. “ Text Message from H.B. Fahnbulleh

Self-preservation, proverbially said, is first law of nature. But self-preservation or protection at the detriment and cost of national coffers could open debates over sincerity and honesty among people who complain of living in perpetual hardship. Of course, as a post-war situation, what Liberia needs most, first is security stability; but brows now have already begun to raise over reports that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and government did spend US $53 million dollars to contract three white American security experts for a period of six years that covers her first term only. Well, with civil society organizations demanding that government justifies reason for spending such huge amount on just three men when reports are that it cannot adequately cater to the AFL and other security apparatuses; and with government denying that it spent such amount on the three white SSS guys, the debate is left to the public to dichotomize the truth. Samuka V. Konneh Of Our Staff reports.

Countries living the aftermath realities of conflicts and wars usually consider security a priority, notwithstanding, other sectors are not of less concentration. Almost six years after her ascendency as president of Liberia, the country continues to enjoy a lot of international recognition and respect as well as plausible internal peace and security.

But recent reports filtering in to this paper say that a considerable factor of the relative peace and security Liberians enjoy today under this political regime is a result of huge capital expenditure of state funds in contracting “international security” personnel for the individual protection of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and plus guidance on international security threats.

The report says the government has used fifty three ($53) Million US Dollars of tax payer money to contract just three white American security experts on a six years contract which possibly covers the entire first term of President Sirleaf’s six year constitutional presidency.

Mr. Emmanuel C. D. Gonquoi, Executive Director of a local civil society organization, Peace Interaction Network, who revealed what he calls, well-secreted information, says it was a misguided waste of national resources by government in spending over fifty million US Dollars on three persons in the name of presidential security when salaries of teachers, doctors and soldiers cannot cope with present day realities of hardship.

Mr. Gonquoi says a deal to spend such a huge amount of the nation’s monies signals the President’s distrust in citizen securities; yet, government continues to confuse citizens with its continued recruitment of more Liberians in the security sectors when it cannot, in his words, contain their upkeep.

Well, amidst claim of wasting public funds to hire just three white security men, the National Security Advisor to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, has come in the defense of his boss and government; describing the report as “utter rubbish.” When quizzed about the frankness of his description of the report, Dr. Fahnbulleh told this paper that the information was “patently nonsensical” and did not deserve consideration.

But it seemed this paper may not have been the first to have got hand-on information about the US$ 53 million dollars security deal, as the National Security Advisor to the President told this paper that “……others got the same response from me and we convinced. They did not publish because they saw the absurdity of the story.”

With less than a year for the 2011 elections, news that the President and government of Liberia did contract three white American SSS officers to protect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on a six years contract could raise public debate, especially so when insistent reports that almost half the numerical strength of the Armed Forces of Liberia has defected and yet the report of defection has not been settled by security management authorities.

Last week, US Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield maintained that the US Government no longer considers its Liberian Mission a “danger post”; a reflection of the positive changes that have occurred in Liberia since 2006.

Commentators and security experts say it is no surprise that the three SSS men, valued at US $53 million in six years, are but Americans; considering the re-strengthened ties between Liberia and the United States of America at a time when global terrorism is unprecedented against American interests.

At a July 17, 2003 panel discussion on America’s intervention in Liberia, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Amb. Herman Cohen, said US intervention in Liberia was justified because, as a failed state, Liberia could serve as a terrorist “breeding ground” and platform for attacks on America as well as the rest of the world.

The forum, under the theme “Liberia: The Bush Doctrine Comes to Africa,” held at the American Enterprise Institute was also attended by U.S. Special Forces officer Major Roger Carstens, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer and New Republic magazine writer Ryan Lizza.

Amb. Cohen, who helped negotiate and resolve several conflicts on the continent, said that “in a time of globalized peril…the failed state is a breeding ground for all sorts of problems.”

As for Liberia, Cohen said, “It should be the neighbors taking care of the problem. But the track record of West Africans in Liberia has not been good. We have spent a lot of money supporting West African troops who did not solve the problem.”

US Special Forces officer, Maj. Roger Carstens, agreed with Cohen that the stakes are high for Liberia and that its stability is a part of America’s greatest battle to date, the war against terror. He added that the events of September 11, 2001 changed the way the U.S. administration looks at its security interests — everything now was viewed through terrorist-colored glasses. “Constitutionally speaking, intervention in Liberia may be providing for the common defense of the U.S. — not this year, not next year, but probably five or ten years from now when a failed state could become a problem just like Afghanistan did,” the soldier told the panel.

According to New Republic magazine write, Ryan Lizza, al-Qaeda bought large quantities of diamonds from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group supported by Taylor, in exchange for weapons and cash. The operation, which peaked in the months before September 11, 2001, is believed to have offered Al-Qaeda a way to convert its assets into a form that could be moved across borders more easily.

Lizza said, “This relationship has been carefully documented by the Washington Post’s Douglas Farah, by a year-long European intelligence investigation, and most recently, in a 100-page report the nongovernmental organization Global Witness released in April.” He added, “Liberia’s links to al-Qaeda, in other words, are far more well-documented than Iraq’s.”

Sometimes during the inception of this administration, the United States African Military Command, AFRICOM, had announced Liberia as its Africa base; which decision was later reversed as political debate mounted in Liberia for fear that the country could be used as a target by terrorists groups, such as Al-Qaeda. Developments still unfolding


>Libya Recommits to Development Projects in Liberia

January 11, 2011

>Source: allAfrica.com

Muammar Gaddafi of Libya

Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf returned home over the weekend following a two-day visit to Libya where she held discussions with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and high-ranking officials of the Libyan Government.

The two leaders reviewed Libyan-funded projects in Liberia and overall bilateral cooperation between the two countries. They both expressed concern at the slow progress and bureaucratic hurdles in implementing the projects which include the Ducor Palace Hotel, a rubber processing plant, a rice project in Lofa County, and Libyan-donated tractors. The Liberian President also held detailed discussions with the Prime Minister and members of the Libyan Cabinet.

Following the various discussions, Libya agreed to speed up the implementation of its funded projects in Liberia. A delegation of senior officials of the Libyan African Investment Company (LAICO) and the Libyan African Development Fund will arrive in Liberia within a week to conclude talks on the projects. In addition, a 10-man Libyan team has been dispatched to work with Liberian farmers in the use of donated tractors, which will help improve agricultural productivity in the country.

Libya also gave assurances of its willingness to support Liberia’s infrastructural development, including roads and bridges, through multilateral development finance institutions in which Libyan presence is meaningful, such as the African Development Bank and the CEN-SAD Investment Bank.

The Liberian and Libyan leaders also consulted on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and its implications for the West Africa region. They agreed that if there is no early resolution of the problem, Liberia will face a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions. Libya promised to send humanitarian aid to Liberia within one week, to assist with the more than 20,000 refugees who have flooded into Liberia from neighboring Ivory Coast.



Ellen Johson-Sirleaf

 President Johnson Sirleaf extended an invitation to her Libyan counterpart, Col. Gaddafi, to join her at this year’s July 26 celebrations in Lofa as her special guest. Details of the Libyan leader’s visit will be arranged through diplomatic channels.

The Liberian Head of State made two stopovers in Niamey, Niger, en route to and from Tripoli. She was warmly greeted by the Head of the Interim Government, the Prime Minister and high-ranking officials. The Nigerien Head of State informed the Liberian leader that Niger’s electoral process was on schedule, and reiterated his government’s commitment to turn over power peacefully to the elected government.

The Liberian President expressed satisfaction at the progress being made in Niger’s electoral process. She commended the Head of the Interim Government for his commitment to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to democratic rule. The Liberian leader had headed the ECOWAS Mediation Team on Niger, prior to the military takeover in that country.


>Côte d’Ivoire: Malinké tribe attacks Guéré tribe in Duékoué, Man and Danané controlled by pro-Ouattara Forces

January 11, 2011

>Source: allAfrica

“Everyone agrees that the population should not become hostages of Côte d’Ivoire’s political problems,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator Ndolam Ngokwey told IRIN after returning to Abidjan from a two-day mission to the west with the UN’s Humanitarian Country Team (HCT).

The mission’s main focus was on assessing the needs of thousands of Ivoirians who have abandoned their homes in the face of rising tensions in the west, particularly around the town of Duékoué, the scene of fierce inter-communal clashes earlier this month.

Ngokwey said at least 35 people had been killed in the confrontation between Malinké and Guéré communities in Duékoué, with the local Catholic Mission now playing host to thousands of displaced.

Ngokwey said Duékoué appeared to be calm for now, but warned against complacency. “The conflict may have died down and one can talk about a relative peace. I didn’t hear any gunshots in the time I was there. But you can definitely sense the tensions. The situation remains volatile.”

Ngokwey pointed out that the recent violence, reportedly triggered by the killing of a trader, had deep roots, with local tensions exacerbated by the political stand-off in Côte d’Ivoire. He said the humanitarian needs in Duékoué were stark. “People need food. They need water and sanitation. They need medical care. Until recently, we were looking at a figure of around 4,000 people requiring help in the west, then it suddenly shoots up to 16,000.”

The west remains divided. Guiglo and Duékoué, important urban centres long seen as major strongholds for Laurent Gbagbo remain under the control of an administration that recognizes Gbagbo’s rule. Man and Danané are in territory controlled by the pro-Ouattara Forces Nouvelles. But Ngokwey stressed that, despite the difficulties of the political context, authorities on both sides, at national and regional level, understood the humanitarian priorities and were being supportive, trying to facilitate access. He noted that the road between Duékoué and Man was open.

Ngokwey acknowledged that the post-elections crisis had forced a serious change of thinking within the humanitarian community. “Until recently, the focus was on early recovery, construction, even development. There were some residual humanitarian problems: food shortages in the north, displaced persons in the west. A lot of NGOs left or reduced their activities. But things have changed.”

Ngokwey said it was crucial that current concerns were addressed and contingency plans put into action. “We must manage this crisis effectively so it does not become a catastrophe.” While noting that NGOs and others had “legitimate concerns” about security and other issues, he said the humanitarian presence in the west was expanding again with NGOs sending new personnel into places like Man. He emphasized that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which had heavily reduced its staffing levels and activities over the past year, was again playing a key role in the west.

Despite the visible tensions in Duékoué, Ngokwey said he had been encouraged by the response of the local population. “You see that people are not bowed down. They want our help, but they are asking with dignity. You also see an impressive level of community support and organization, civil society volunteers, priests getting involved, imams using their own means to support those in need. Confronted by crisis, you see people pulling together, working hand in hand to ensure that everybody gets the minimum needed.”

Ngokwey said it was crucial that funding was made available. “We are counting on the generosity of donors”, he told IRIN. “The humanitarian imperative is not a theory but an obligation for all of us.” Ngokwey said he would be returning to the west later in the week to re-evaluate the situation and “check that obligations were being met.”


>Number of Ivorian refugees in Liberia tops 25,000 – UN agency

January 11, 2011

>Source: 

A group of refugees
from Côte d’Ivoire
 waiting to be registered
in eastern Liberia



UN News Centre 11 January 2011 – The United Nations refugee agency said today that there are now some 25,000 Ivorian refugees in neighbouring Liberia, with around 600 people arriving daily after fleeing the post-electoral crisis in their homeland.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has started work on a new camp for refugees in the eastern Liberian town of Bahn which will be able to initially house about 18,000 people.

“The camp is urgently needed to better protect the refugees and to ease pressure on Liberian communities that have been hosting people in some 23 villages along the border with Côte d’Ivoire,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.

The political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire began after incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after being defeated by his challenger, Alassane Ouattara, in the November run-off election.

The polls were meant to help reunify the West African nation, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.

Instead, has sparked fears of a return to civil war and has led to a new crisis, marked by incitement to hatred and violence, human rights violations, attacks against civilians as well as peacekeepers serving with the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and increasing displacement.

In addition to those that fled to Liberia, some 16,000 people have been forced to leave their villages and take refuge in the towns of Duékoué, Man and Danané in western Côte d’Ivoire, according to UNHCR. Calm has returned to Duékoué in the past three days, which is allowing UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to assist the displaced.


>At least 4 dead following Ivory Coast raid

January 11, 2011

>Source: Yahoo News

AFP – People look at the body
of man killed by gunfire
 on January 11, 2011
 in the Abobo neighborhood
of Ivory …

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – An Associated Press photographer saw four dead bodies in a neighborhood of Abidjan where security forces loyal to the incumbent leader carried out an early morning raid.

They appeared to have been shot dead. There were also at least two unexploded grenades on the ground.

Forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who is refusing to leave office, surrounded the area early Tuesday. The area voted overwhelmingly for Gbagbo’s opponent Alassane Ouattara, who is recognized internationally as the winner of the Nov. 28 ballot.

Residents loyal to Ouattara say they killed two policemen. Those deaths could not be independently verified.

United Nations peacekeepers were forced back by Gbagbo supporters as they attempted to enter the area.

Also see AP’s earlier story is below.
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Security forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader, who refuses to cede power, on Tuesday fired volleys of gunshots as they cordoned off a large section of a neighborhood known to be his rival’s stronghold.

United Nations peacekeepers arriving in a convoy of 13 vehicles were quickly forced back as they attempted to enter the area. Young men allied with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo amassed on a road leading to the area and threw large objects in their path.

PK 18, where the incident occurred, is part of Abobo, an Abidjan district that supported Alassane Ouattara, who is internationally recognized as the winner of the presidential election. Results verified by the U.N. say he won the Nov. 28 poll with a margin of more than half a million votes. Gbagbo accused the U.N. of bias after it endorsed the results and is refusing to leave office.

Marco Boubacar, head of the New Forces rebels who are allied to Ouattara, said police awoke them between 4 and 5 a.m. and wounded several people.

Boubacar, a resident of PK 18, spoke while brandishing a long kitchen knife as he stood on the bridge leading into the neighborhood. He said a group of neighbors belonging to the rebel group retaliated, killing two policemen.

“We were able to take down two men in uniform,” he said.

The deaths could not be independently verified, but other witnesses said they saw the bodies. Ambulances were also seen speeding into and out of the neighborhood.

Shots could be heard at regular intervals and large police trucks were seen zooming into the area, loaded with armed policemen and helmeted soldiers.

Last month, a bloc of neighboring nations began mulling a military ouster. A militant youth group allied with Gbagbo last week began leading daily rallies to warn the international community against interfering in Ivory Coast.

The rally that was planned for Tuesday afternoon is not far from PK 18. Adama Toungara, the mayor of the area, said the early morning raid was an intimidation tactic intended to keep Ouattara supporters from disrupting the rally.

Human rights groups have criticized the U.N. for bowing to Gbagbo’s security forces and allowing abuses to occur under their watch. The head of the U.N. human rights section received reports of two mass graves containing as many as 80 bodies of people shot or killed after the election, but his convoy was turned back at gunpoint when he tried to enter one of the sites in a suburb of Abidjan.

U.N. patrols have also been intimidated and forced to retreat on other occasions, including an incident last month in which ruling party loyalists torched a U.N. vehicle. State TV controlled by Gbagbo has shown footage of U.N. convoys stopped in front of crowds, or made to turn around, reasserting an image of U.N. powerlessness.

The U.N. was invited to observe the election and to certify the results following a 2005 peace deal signed by all political parties after a civil war. The certification was intended to create an independent mechanism to ascertain the winner and prevent fraud. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara signed the accord, but Gbagbo has since discounted the international body’s findings and has called on the 9,000-strong peacekeeping mission to leave the country.

After three high-level delegations of African leaders failed to persuade Gbagbo to cede power, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States last month warned they were considering an armed intervention.

The move is controversial, though, because Ivory Coast has been a magnet for immigrants from other African nations including Nigeria, where troops would likely come from. And the Gbagbo regime has insinuated that any military action would lead to reprisal attacks against immigrants from the countries sending soldiers.

Experts say the risk of a return to civil war is real because Gbagbo is backed by the hardline Young Patriots, a group led by Charles Ble Goude, who was placed on a 2006 United Nations sanctions list for his role in inciting violence.

Goude has been leading rallies almost every day — including one that was to take place Tuesday near PK 18, but which was canceled just before it was to start because of tension in Abobo. He has warned there will be no peace if Gbagbo is forced out.

“They shouldn’t kid themselves and imagine that they can come and remove him … Because in every Ivorian there is a Gbagbo,” Goude told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday. “Do they want to govern an Ivory Coast cemetery?”

Already at least 25,000 civilians have already crossed the border into neighboring Liberia in anticipation of possible clashes.

Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva that 600 more are arriving in Liberia daily and are being housed in a teeming refugee camp.
___
Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.


>Ivory Coast unity cabinet possible, says UN ambassador

January 11, 2011

>Youssoufou Bamba: A unity government can work

Source: BBC

Ivory Coast’s ambassador to the UN says a unity government could be possible if incumbent Laurent Gbagbo drops his claim to the presidency.

Youssoufou Bamba told the BBC that Alassane Ouattara was prepared to work with Mr Gbagbo’s followers in the wake of November’s disputed election.

Mr Bamba was appointed by Mr Ouattara, whom the international community recognises as the winner of the vote.

Mr Gbagbo has resisted pressure to acknowledge defeat.

Speaking to the BBC’s Hardtalk programme, Mr Bamba said the only thing that could not be negotiated was the result of the election.

Mr Gbagbo “has been defeated,” he said. “He has to admit that, he has to step down and… the rest is negotiated.”

“Mr Gbagbo is not alone,” he added. “He has followers, he has competent people in his party. Those people, we are prepared to work with them. In the framework of wide composite cabinet.”

Mr Bamba repeated opposition claims that Mr Gbagbo’s supporters had carried out “a massive violation of human rights”.

“But you know in politics, life goes on,” he said. “You have to, at some point, envisage how you are, because you are condemned to live together.”

The UN says some 200 people have been killed or have disappeared in the past month – mostly supporters of Mr Ouattara. It says security forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo have twice blocked peacekeepers from visiting the site of an alleged mass grave.

The Gbagbo government has repeatedly denied the existence of any mass graves.

The BBC’s John James says the idea of a unity cabinet had already been hinted at when Mr Ouattara named a small cabinet in December, filling only the essential posts and leaving others vacant.

He says that even before the election Mr Ouattara said his cabinet would be open to all talents – an admission of the reality that there are a large number of Ivorians who find the idea of him as president hard to swallow.

Mr Ouattara remains behind a blockade at a hotel in the main city Abidjan, protected by UN peacekeepers and New Forces former rebels who control the north of the country.

November’s election was intended to reunify the country, which has been divided since a 2002 conflict.

Mr Ouattara was initially proclaimed the winner by the country’s election commission – a verdict backed by the UN, which helped organise the poll.

But the country’s Constitutional Council, headed by an ally of Mr Gbagbo, later ruled that he had won, citing voting irregularities in the north.


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