Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – A popular social and political activist was on Wednesday, September 7 incarcerated at the Buchanan Central Prison for making corruption allegations against a member of the Liberia Business Association (LIBA) Grand Bassa chapter.
The Buchanan magisterial court charged Du-Ben Cleon for criminal coercion after a law suit was filed by Alex Zayway, a Buchanan based businessman.
Du-Ben Cleon, popular for his movement Grass Root Advocacy for Social Justice (GRAS0-J), says his group has been providing education and information to locals in Buchanan and its environs about a LD$1 million loan made available by the Central Bank of Liberia to members of LIBA in the county.
“We observed that the loan fell in the wrong hands of political actors in Bassa who are making the loan scheme a political tool,” Cleon said on Wednesday after he was released on bill. “When we embarked on awareness on the local media, one Mr. Alex Zayway felt offended and took a lawsuit against us.”
Zayway, a member of LIBA and affiliate of a local businessman and politician Matthew Joe, in early June filed a lawsuit against Cleon for criminal coercion. But on Wednesday, September 7 the tough talking advocate was jailed by magistrate Richard Brown for what the court termed as ‘contempt of court’ since he appeared a day later than he was schedule to appear before the court.
Cleon claims he had earlier informed the court that he could attend as schedule due to complexities relating to family problems which he had to solve in Monrovia.
“I told the judge that I could not attend court on Tuesday because I had family problem but when I appeared on today (Wednesday) I was held in contempt,” he explains after a bond was filed on his behalf. He had spent five hours behind bars at the county’s central prison.
“For me, this decision to sue me and jailed me has some political under-tune because I was ridiculed by my accuser and his sympathizers because they don’t want us to speak against the political ills.”
Cleon argues that LIBA and its members in the county are using taxpayers’ money given as loan for business people in the county to propagate the political agenda of the Movement for Economic Empowerment and its political leader, Dr. Joseph Mill Jones – former Executive Governor of the CBL.
GRAS0-J says it is demanding clear explanations of the loan saying, ‘We want to know who all are benefiting from the loan, because the money is a public money so we will put our mouth where public money is’.
For businessman Zayway, Cleon’s action was ruining his character and he told FrontPageAfrica via cellular phone on Wednesday that although he’s a member of LIBA he has not benefited from the loan scheme. He also denied being a member of MOVEE saying, “I have not joined any political party, all I do is vote”.
With LIBA Bassa Chapter head, Matthew Joe, now aspiring to contest for the Buchanan District seat in 2017, Cleon and the GRASS Movement say they are concern about helping electorate make inform decision ahead of crucial general and presidential elections.
“CBL gave LD$5 million loan to LIBA and they are now politicizing the money because the head of LIBA in the county is a political aspirant,” he asserted.
In 2014, Du-ben and his movement led an unsuccessful protest calling for the resignation of former Superintendent Etweeda Cooper and Development Superintendent, Adonis Greaves after the increased assertions that the pair was mismanaging funds intended to curb the spread of the Ebola virus in the county. In 2015, they reignited their protest against the Cooper citing corruption again.
Criminalizing speech is being a nationwide debate with legal and media experts pointing to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government for backsliding on its promise of creating an environment for free speech after it signed the Table Mounting Declaration.
In May this year, the Liberia Law Society called on the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the Government of Liberia to make a joint declaration to finalize the reform process that will decriminalize libel and defamation in Liberia by the end of the year.
It can be recalled that popular activist Vandalark Patricks was jailed early this year for sedition by the government of Liberia, a situation which sparked outraged in Monrovia.
Despite the lawsuit against him, Cleon insists the advocacy to ascertain details about the CBL loan scheme in the county will continue.