Civil Society Organizations Critique President Weah’s State of the Nations Address 2021

Eddie Jawolo, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Loretta Alethea Pope Kai (CSO Council), Harold Marvin Aidoo (Integrity Watch Liberia), Lawrence Yealue (Accountability Lab Liberia) and Matthias Yeanay, Institute for Research and Democratic Development

The National Civil Society Council of Liberia along with Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Integrity Watch Liberia, Institute for Research and Democratic Development and Accountability Liberia are deeply concerned with the high level of inconsistencies and misrepresentation of facts in the President of Liberia’s State of the Nation’s Address on Monday, January 24, 2022. Our concerns are the following:

Infrastructure

We are utterly dumbfounded by the share level of dichotomy in the President’s report on infrastructure accomplishments across the country. Following the President’s State of the Nations address, we followed up to ascertain the truthfulness of these completed projects. We were dismayed to learn that most of the reported completed projects in the address were not factual. For example, in Bong County, the President reported 100 housing units’ construction project in Bong County was completed. Our verification shows that only 10 housing units were identified. In Nimba County, the president reported 100 housing units completed, but our verification showed that less than 15 units were identified. In Gbapolu, the president reported that100-bedroom hospital was completed, but our verification showed that the project is not completed but rather has gone 90% completion, the market buildings in Salala and Gbarnga were reported ongoing, but our verification showed that the project has not started just to mention few. Fellow citizens, ladies and gentlemen of the press, the State of the Nation’s address is a constitutional responsibility mandated by Article 58 of the 1986 Constitution and for officials of government to mislead the President to report fallaciously to the nation is an atrocious crime that must not go unpunished – and we condemn this in the strongest terms.

Vulnerable Group (Youth and Women)

We are disappointed that despite the national security threat posed by the growing number of vulnerable youth (ZOGOS) in our country, the president statement failed to lay out a clear strategy to address the menses.  This population is posing increasing threat to the peace and security of the state. As civil society leaders, we believe that no other platform was appropriate enough than the SONA, to lay out a clear vision as to how the Government of Liberia will reduce or end this nightmare. By the same token, we applaud the government’s effort working with her partners to source finance to expend technical and vocational education, but we wish to call on the Liberian Senate to accelerate efforts to have the Drug Law passed as a matter of national emergency.

Security and Human Rights

In 2021 the nation witnessed a series of unexplained deaths across the country, widespread violence against women and children, increased in rape cases, and reported murder of citizens including the death of truck driver Alieu Sheriff in Montserrado County, the death of motorcyclist Modacious Nyema in Maryland County,

The killing of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) agent, Melvin Earley, and the Deputy Grand Gedeh County Police Commissioner, Alexander Saye, Liberia’s Peace Ambassador Dr, Rev. Willan R. Tolbert, II, the Land crisis in Ganta, Nimba County, as well as over crowdedness and unconducive prison condition, etc.

However, despite the gravity of these security and human rights related concerns and issues, the President in his statement did not mention these critical human rights and security issues. We wish to note that the rights of citizens to safety and protection irrespective of gender, ethnicity and class is a fundamental and for these issues shouldn’t be muted in the SONA in our opinion was quite unfortunate.

Election

The holding of credible elections is inextricably linked to advancing democratic principles, peace, and stability. Howbeit, the President did not make mention of elections and series of violence that were meted against women candidates and the increased number of electoral disputes that ended up in the court. We are similarly disappointed that despite all the recommendations made by national and international partners to improve electoral integrity, increase women representation and a clear framework for dispute resolution, there was no mention of the government effort towards electoral reforms and measures to protect women candidates as we move towards the 2023 legislative and presidential elections.

Economy

While we recognize the historic growth in the FY2022 national budget revenue projection and the reported 3.6 percent GDP growth rate from a negative 3 percent in 2020. We are seriously concerned that the economy has yet to translate into the bread-and-butter issues for Liberians. There was no report on major investments that will accrue into employment and poverty reduction for the citizens, thus practically providing the true meaning of “. Liberians will not be spectators in their own economy…” We are also concerned of government’s growing public debt stock which now stands at 1.69 billion U.S. dollars for both domestic and foreign debt and we urge the government to be prudent in its borrowing.  On the other hand, we wish to applaud the President calling on the Legislature to limit tax waivers or tax expenditures – we believe this should extend to the abolition of executive discretionary tax waivers that are offered in concession agreements which both largely undermines the government domestic resource mobilization efforts and does not bring any benefit to the country.

Recommendations,  

  1. We call on the President to take stern administrative action against minsters and officials of government who knowingly and blatantly provided false and misleading information on completed infrastructure projects as reported in the state of the nation’s address;
  1. The Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs must setup independent monitoring framework outside of LACE that is credible to follow up to ensure that the implementation of president’s promises (presidential projects) across the country are fully completed to ensure value for money, transparency, and accountability to the Liberian people.
  1. We call on the government to make a clear commitment to establish rehabilitation centers across the country for vulnerable youths to address the situation with the vulnerable youth (Zogo’s).
  1. We call on the Liberian Senate to pass the Drug Bill as a matter of national security emergency.

We call on the government to publish all the investigation reports, i.e. Niko Ivanka cargo ship sinking, the missing children, the killing of truck driver Alieu Sheriff, motorcyclist Modacious Nyeman, EPS Agent Melvin Earley, and the Deputy Grand Gedeh County Police Commissioner, Alexander Saye, the Lawrence Bropleh Investigative Committee report and all other investigation commissioned, etc.

  1. We call on the Ministry of Gender to publish the full disclosure of the money towards the implementation of the SGBV road map

The joint statement was signed by the following organizations including, Loretta Alethea Pope Kai (CSO Council), Eddie Jawolo, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Harold Marvin Aidoo (Integrity Watch Liberia), Lawrence Yealue (Accountability Lab Liberia), and Matthias Yeanay, Institute for Research and Democratic Development.

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