Liberia

'Money stolen' from Liberian ex-leader's son

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Charles Sirleaf (C) under arrest last year in Liberia
AFP
Charges have been dropped against Charles Sirleaf, who was arrested last year

Police in Liberia are investigating a complaint by Charles Sirleaf, son of the ex-president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that a sum of more than $800,000 (£649,000) has gone missing from his accounts at a commercial bank in the capital, Monrovia.

Mr Sirleaf is said to have discovered the disappearance moments after corruption charges were dropped against him last week.

He had been arrested last year when he was serving as deputy governor of Liberia's Central Bank, accused of involvement in the illegal printing and importation of huge sums of local currency.

Last week the government dropped embezzlement charges against him and four others, saying they had been acting under the instructions of Milton Weeks, the former central bank governor. He remains on trial and denies the charges.

Police spokesman Moses Carter told the BBC that officers had gathered statements from tellers of the bank to investigate Mr Sirleaf's complaint.

Mr Sirleaf’s lawyer, Johnny Momo, confirmed there was an ongoing investigation by police.

Weah critic released in Liberia after 'AK-47' comments

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

The Liberian government has released a political activist and critic of President George Weah who was detained on Wednesday for posting an inflammatory statement on Facebook.

"We don’t need free bags of rice. I say we the poor in Monrovia need AK-47s so that our leaders can take us seriously," Menipakei Dumoe had written in the post.

He is fiercely critical of the government’s proposed coronavirus feeding programme.

Police handcuffed Mr Dumoe after the Facebook post was discovered, then forcibly took him to his house for a security search for possible arms but did not find any.

Menipakei Dumoe is pictured to the right of another person
Facebook
Menipakei Dumoe (R) was released on Thursday

Mr Dumoe had previously said in radio interviews that his Facebook comments were "metaphorical".

The outspoken activist belongs to Liberia's opposition Liberty party.

He is also acting head of the large campaign group The Council of Patriots, which has organised two mass protests in the last year against Mr Weah’s handling of the economy.

Joint security teams will continue to investigate Mr Dumoe "which includes examination of materials from Domoe's house", said Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean, who ordered the activist's release on Thursday.

Weah critic arrested in Liberia for Facebook post

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Menipakei Dumoe
Menipakei Dumoe/Facebook
Menipakei Dumoe is a fierce critic of President George Weah

Police in Liberia have arrested a political activist for a Facebook post in which he used inflammatory language to criticise the government’s proposed coronavirus feeding programme.

Menipakei Dumoe, a staunch critic of President George Weah, had rejected the idea.

He wrote on Facebook on Monday: “We don’t need free bags of rice. I say we the poor in [the capital] Monrovia need AK-47s so that our leaders can take us seriously.”

Police say his post amounts to a security threat.

Before his arrest, Mr Dumoe defended himself, saying his message was a metaphor and did not refer to actual guns.

He is acting head of the large campaign group The Council of Patriots, which has organised two mass protests in the last year against Mr Weah’s handling of the economy.

Mr Dumoe’s lawyer Findley Karnga has called for his release, saying he was being held unconstitutionally.

But police spokesman Moses Carter told the BBC that authorities had 48 hours to press charges.

Liberia has been in lockdown since 10 April, with a curfew from 15:00 to 06:00 local time.

But it has been difficult for the authorities to police as people have been going out looking for food.

The government’s $25m (£20m) proposal to feed some of the most vulnerable people in the country affected by the restrictions has been approved by both houses of parliament on the condition that it specifies where the money is being sourced.

Liberia’s patient zero 'felt more afraid of public reaction than the illness'

Nathaniel Blama was the first person to test positive for coronavirus in Liberia
Liberia has confirmed 170 cases of coronavirus and 20 people have died after contracting the disease. The government has mobilised hundreds of contact tracers to identify anyone who has been in contact with someone infected with coronavirus. However, denial and stigma around the virus is making the task of health workers and volunteers on the ground even more difficult.

Coronavirus survivors like Nathaniel Blama have been called in to help spread awareness about Covid-19. Nathaniel is considered to be "patient zero" - the first person diagnosed coronavirys in Liberia. He told us that he felt afraid of the stigma when he was first diagnosed.

(Photo: Nathaniel Blama was the first person to test positive for coronavirus in Liberia. Credit: Nathaniel Blama)

Liberian official avoids question on Weah test

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

George Weah
Getty Images
President George Weah has been seen with his information minister, who tested positive for coronavirus

There was a drama on the radio in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, on Wednesday morning over public concerns that President George Weah had neither gone into isolation nor tested for coronavirus after his information minister had gone down with the virus.

Eugene Nagbe tested positive for Covid-19 just three days after he was seen sitting side by side with President Weah.

But while some expected the president to self-isolate or get tested, he was instead seen in the public distributing face masks.

The head of the National Public Health Institute, Dr Mosoka Fallah, appeared on a radio talk show to update people on the latest coronavirus news and take questions from the public.

One caller asked if he was going to advise President Weah to get tested. In response, Dr Fallah said he thought the question was political and told his audience he was not going to discuss Covid-19 contacts in the public.

Talk show host Clarence Jackson tried in vain to get the official to respond directly to the question.

The president's deputy press secretary, Smith Toby, had confirmed the president had not been tested following his interaction with the information minister.

The radio discussion has got people questioning the sincerity of those leading the Covid-19 effort.

Diamond diggers trapped after Liberia mine collapse

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Map showing Liberia
BBC

At least 25 people in western Liberia who were searching for diamonds have been trapped and are feared dead after a hole that they had dug collapsed, official sources in the area have said.

The incident took place in the town of Masakpa, near the border with Sierra Leone.

Aaron Vincent, superintendent of Grand Cape Mount county, told the BBC he was rushing to the scene to see for himself.

“It is a serious matter but I have to get there first to know what the actual situation is,“ he said on phone almost going out of breath.

There have been conflicting reports of the number of people involved, with some putting the figure at 50.

A relief worker speaking to OK FM, a radio station in the capital, Monrovia, said about 25 people were trapped and about three bodies had been recovered. A search operation was on going, the interviewee added.

Police spokesman Moses Carter told the BBC that he authorities had instructed the regional police to move in and restore order as the search continued.

Grand Cape Mount County is rich in minerals including iron ore, diamonds and gold, but the region is among the most economically inactive and underdeveloped in Liberia.

In 1982, a landslide in an old iron ore mining town, No-Way Camp, killed hundreds of people.

Liberia's justice minister tests positive for coronavirus

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

A police officer washes his hands on a street in Monrovia, Liberia, 20 April 2020
EPA
Hand-washing stations have been set up in parts of the capital, Monrovia

The health authorities in Liberia have announced that Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean has tested positive for Covid-19 and was receiving treatment in a hospital outside the capital, Monrovia.

Mr Dean is quoted in the independent FrontPage Africa newspaper as saying late Sunday night he had been informed by Dr Musoko Fallah, head of the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL), that his Covid-19 test results came back positive

“I am hopeful," Mr Dean is quoted as saying by the FrontPage Africa newspaper.

"The doctors at the 14 Military Hospital are very professional and doing their best. Remember, the virus is posing a challenge to even developed countries with far more sophisticated health systems.

“At the moment no-one knows everything about the virus. We must continue to observe the health protocols, especially as it relates to social distancing.”

Mr Dean tested positive two days after the virus had reportedly killed a government official who had attended meetings with the justice minister.

Three Liberian soldiers investigated for lockdown brutality

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Three Liberian soldiers have been recalled after a woman was stabbed in the arm.

They were enforcing a two-week lockdown put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus in the capital, Monrovia.

Gen Prince Johnson (not the 1990s rebel leader and current senator of the same name) told the BBC the soldiers under investigation include an area commander leading a community patrol.

He said that the current army was "a force for good - we will not compromise when it comes to discipline”.

President George Weah declared a state of emergency on 10 April which included restrictions on movement.

Since the restrictions came into force, social media has been awash with reports of brutality by security forces.

Read more:

Weah declares state of emergency in Liberia

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

A man washes his hands to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus disease in Monrovia
EPA
Volunteers have set up hand-washing facilities in the capital, Monrovia

Liberia’s President, George Weah, has declared that a state of emergency should begin at 11:59pm local time on Friday because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Weah has called for an emergency session of parliament so that MPs can endorse the order that will impose restrictions on movement across the country.

The emergency law will last for three weeks and is renewable “until the threat to Liberia from the Covid-19 virus no longer exists".

“Throughout this period, residents may leave home only for essential journeys like reasons of health and food which should be restricted to your local communities and be limited to a single person per household for a maximum of one hour,” the president said.

Mr Weah said he was taking the measure because Covid-19 had "entered a new phase" and it needed to be contained.

Liberia has recorded 14 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with four people dying.

Liberia riot police deployed against angry hawkers

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC News, Monrovia

Riot Police in Monrovia
BBC

Riot police have been deployed in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, to maintain order as thousands of angry roadside sellers took to the streets to protest the demolition of their stalls.

The demolition was part of government’s measures to discourage gatherings in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The market sellers woke up on Monday morning to find their stalls had been demolished overnight without prior notice.

In reaction, they marched through central Monrovia on Monday afternoon chanting “no tables, no stores,” and forcing foreign-owned stores to shut their doors since they, the locals, were not being allowed to sell.

Columns of riot police were seen marching and taking positions at key intersections as the marketers’ protest entered the city centre.

The health ministry had declared a three-week medical emergency, banning worship services, and urging people to stay home.

But in a country where people live far below the poverty line, many have to flout the order to get out in search of food and basic necessities.