FPA’s 2016 Grades Out: Who Passed, Who Failed, Who Made the Curve?

FPA’s 2016 Grades Out: Who Passed, Who Failed, Who Made the Curve?

Monrovia - With the clock ticking toward the end of her second and final term, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is racing against time and limping near a tidal wave of daunting legacy intricacies likely to define her twelve-year presidency.

Key development issues like road development, the much-anticipated hydro revamp at Mount Coffee and a somewhat complicated domestic agenda has Sirleaf work cut out for her as she prepares to leave the stage in January 2017. 

he challenge for any leader in Sirleaf’s shoes remains how much can she accomplish in the final lame-duck year when legislators in both houses are themselves getting the jitters about their re-election prospects in the backdrop of a gloomy economic outlook.

At the start of the year, the World Bank projected that while the Sirleaf-led government enjoyed international support for her economic and political reform agenda, her domestic approval ratings have been undermined by a popular perception that her reform agenda lacks substantive results.

This was even more complicated by the 2014 deadly Ebola virus outbreak from which the country’s economy is yet to recover.

For the eleventh and final year of the UP-led government, FrontPageAfrica presents our final annual assessment of the Sirleaf presidency, gauging the pros and cons of key government ministries and agencies and in the coming days leading to the ushering of the New Year, taking a look at the judicial and legislative branches of governments as well.


THE LOWDOWN:  The year 2016 climaxed on a somewhat disappointing one for the Liberian Presidency. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s preferred choice for the US presidency, former Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton lost to the GOP candidate Donald Trump.

Sirleaf’s disappointment was reflected in a response through an interview with the BBC in which she said she was extremely saddened by the missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States to join smaller democracies in ending the marginalisation of women.

The President averred that her administration was concerned as to whether President-elect Trump will have an African agenda, will be able to build bridges with Africa. We can only hope that he will do so in due course.

Although, the Liberian leader later recanted and suggested that she was misunderstood, her closed ties to the Obama presidency and the Clintons have put Sirleaf in a rather complicated dilemma.

Despite her limitations, Sirleaf has been the first to acknowledge the plate before her: The process of reconstruction, infrastructure, building institutions, getting laws and policies right, settling large external debts to open up the fiscal space, getting kids back into school and a somewhat fragile health and educational systems was always going to be a daunting proposition from the get go.

Equally so, emerging from a post-war nation, the enormous priorities have been unsettling complicating by the unexpected Ebola virus outbreak and governance lapses over the course of the past eleven years.

2016 HIGHS: Sirleaf’s swansong year climaxed with her election as the Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the first by a female head of state. She replaced Senegalese President, Macky Sall whose tenure ends after he took over from Ghana's President John Mahama in 2015.

President Sirleaf pledged to work towards achieving the objectives of the regional community's vision 2020 after her announcement. Her leadership was crucial in resolving the political crisis in Guinea Bissau leading to the appointment of a new prime Minister based on her negotiations.

But perhaps her administration’s most pressing showing during the year was the breaking ground for the construction of a new passenger terminal building and the rehabilitation of Runway 04 and 22 at the Roberts International Airport in Unification City, Lower Margibi County.

The airport and the hydro revamp have been two key major challenges for Sirleaf providing massive ammunitions for her critics and disappointment for many Liberians at home and abroad as well as businesses still struggling to run operations solely on generators in the absence of consistent electricity.

Additionally, the year finally marked the start of construction of the Ministerial complex in Congotown which has also been dogged by controversy over whether the building hosting the former unfinished Defence Ministry should be broken down in favour of the complex.

The administration was instrumental in the restoration of pipe-borne water in Bassa and  Margibi with Zwedru about to come on. Ongoing road work from Harper to Kalokan, reconstruction of sinkor streets and avenues are also among key deliverables likely to improve Sirleaf’s domestic woes.

The year 2016 also marked a key moment with the decision of the Security Council of the United Nations to undertake a drawdown of its peace keeping mission in Liberia. For Sirleaf, the drawdown bears proud testimony to how far Liberia has come, since the end of our protracted conflict in 2003, we have kept the peace and conducted of two successful democratic elections.

2016 LOWS: Sirleaf is the first to acknowledge that while there has been progress over the course of the past eleven years, her administration continues to grapple grapple with the negative perceptions regarding her stance on corruption which has dogged her presidency from the start.

This was evident during the course of the year when a damning report by the London-based watchdog group, Global Witness rocked the government. The GW report titled “The Deceivers” detailed how the British company Edmond and Groves bribed their way into huge acquisitions in Liberia, Mozambique and Guinea.

President Sirleaf was forced into action with the setting up of a Special Task Force to investigate the allegations. The force has been issuing arrest warrants and court subpoenas of financial statements to help with the investigation.




2017 OUTLOOK: Sirleaf in an interview with the Financial Times in April expressed her readiness to for a democratic handover. “We [need] to make sure we have a peaceful and credible succession process and that we get a successor who will carry on and consolidate what we’ve done — and improve upon it.” The President also stated that she is not unduly worried by security as peacekeepers with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown.

“UNMIL has moved from so many places around the country already, in keeping with their drawdown plan,” she says. “Our security forces have taken over and those areas have gone on with their normal activities.”

Love her or hate her, when Sirleaf sails into the sunset in January 2018, she would join a short list of modern-day African heads of state to step down from power after her tenure is over. Questions over her legacy would likely linger over her government’s ability to ensure an environment that promoted democracy, ensured freedoms and enormous-post-war reforms.


THE LOWDOWN: Vice President Joseph Boakai has without a doubt been one of the most successful vice president in recent memory. On a continent where many in that position have been known to at one point or another fallen out of favour with the president, Boakai has played the quiet and unambitious role to perfection, rarely getting in the President’s way and biding for his time, in the same vein as late President was under Tubman. With elections now only a few months away, Boakai, realizing the essence of separating himself and defining his style from that of Sirleaf has already begun drawing the line.

He pleaded to Liberians in an interview on Prime FM last week to give him a chance – on his own terms. “I want to believe that she(EJS) and I understand that whatever we have done in this administration, we all have different ways of implementing whatever obligation we have.

And I believe, like I told her, her style of implementation is different from my style of implementation. I myself have been an administrator in many capacities with success, so I want to prove to Liberians that I have my own line of doing things that are proven successful and I am committed to that.”

2016 HIGHS: Boakai came out of the woodworks a bit more during the course of the year as he embarked on his presidential quest and enhanced his profile ahead of the 2017 elections. The vice president Vice President has been vocal that the future of Liberia lies in the agriculture sector, urging Liberians to make maximum use of the sector to improve the economy, stressing that the agriculture sector holds the greatest potential for employment, noting that it is the primary livelihood source for more than 60 percent of Liberia’s population.

“Agriculture is also the most significant sector of the local economy, providing sustenance for many families who engage in farming of rubber, rice, oil palm, cocoa, and sugarcane at smallholder and subsistence levels,” he said recently when he addressed graduates of the Klay Vocational Training Institute in Klay District, Bomi County.

2016 LOWS: Ahead of the 2017 presidential race, many of Boakai’s critics have been clamping down on his lack of assertiveness although he has of late sought to make a play to distance himself a bit from Sirleaf on the bases of leadership style.


2017 OUTLOOK: Boakai’s campaigning skills will be put to the test as the race for the Liberian presidency heats up in the coming months.


THE LOWDOWN: Agriculture is no doubt the bedrock for Liberia’s future. President Sirleaf acknowledged recently that although the Liberian economy has depended on iron ore and rubber, recent drop in the prices of those commodities has prompted a return to the drawing board with agriculture seen as the alternative to salvaging the economy. The President is now advocating for investment that will diversify agriculture mainly in the areas of cocoa, coffee and oil palm sectors to replace the two traditional engines of the Liberian economy.

2016 HIGHS: During the course of the year under review, the Ministry of Agriculture wrapped up the first phase of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program in which it reported significant gains. While much remains to be seen the Ministry has been expressing confidence that the program is making substantive on ordinary Liberian farmers and that Liberia may be close to at least addressing its burning food security issues.

But challenges still linger, industry observers say emphasis is still very much required on focussing on how to help farmers improve their farming activities, increase productivity and create new ideas.

The Ministry also during the course of the year worked with development partners to harvest some 164 hectares of farm, during which foundation seeds were multiplied into certified rice seeds under a Ministry of Agriculture, WAAPP Liberia, Africa Rice and  Dokodan Farmers’ Cooperative arrangement.


The Harvest which took place in Gbedin, Nimba County, signalled a new momentum for a Ministry that has been struggling to position itself as the key engine for Liberia’s transformation to an agro-based economy.

Also during the year, the Special Presidential Task Force on Agriculture and Agro-Processing yielded important results that are set to transform the agricultural sector through the development of the Liberia Agricultural Transformation Agenda (LATA). The high-level forum has helped to address major policy and regulatory problems and challenges that were limiting the development of agricultural value chains in Liberia.

As part of the initiative, Liberia now has an Electronic Registration (E-Registration) of farmers across the country after a pilot program for the first time, finally allowing MoA to know its customers.

During the pilot phase of the E-registration from March to July 2016 about 183,000 farmers in all 15 counties were registered and detailed information on each farmer is recorded (such as Name, Gender, County, District, Farm size and location, telephone number, marital status, areas of farming (cereal, tree, roots and tuber crops, legumes, livestock, vegetables, cereals, fisheries/aquaculture).

The Ministry has also instituted a Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme for farmers. Through an Electronic Wallet (E-Wallet) Payment System, vouchers will be provided directly to farmers’ mobile phones. This will enable them to purchase inputs at a subsidized rate directly from agro-dealers with support from the African Development Bank. This will become fully operational in early 2017 planting season.

With technical and financial support from AfDB and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), MOA is working closely with MFDP and CBL to design and set up an incentive-based agricultural finance de-risking system to be known as the “Liberia Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agriculture Lending (LIRSAL)”.

This de-risking system will help in providing sustainable medium to long term customized financing products to farmers and private entrepreneurs across the prioritized agricultural value chains.

The Liberian National Legislature has positively responded to the Liberia Agricultural Transformation Agenda by approving the increment in MOA’s budget by almost 300% from US$3.0 million in the 2015/2016 Fiscal Year to US$8.9 in the 2016/2017 Fiscal Year (including US$3.6 million for salaries and compensations and US$4.9 million for field activities in the counties and US$400,000 for other agricultural related activities). If funds are made available this will significantly move the agriculture sector forward.

A plan for decentralizing MOA’s services has been prepared so that it can respond better to farmers’ needs.  I the early part of 2017 the 15 counties will be subdivided and grouped into 3 to 5 regions for better monitoring and evaluation of the provision of agricultural extension and advisory services.

Rehabilitation of the Mesurado Fishing Pier is underway and the construction of the industrial offloading fisheries jetty is about 75% completed. 

Construction of the new Bureau if National Fisheries (BNF Prefab office at Omega is 90% completed.

In the Rice Value Chain Sector, 300 metric tons of paddy rice and 240 metric tons of certified lowland seed rice and 20 metric tons of certified upland seeds have been multiplied and harvested by beneficiary farmers of some of our projects with a yield estimate of between 2-4 metric tons per hectare across farming communities, representing over 200% over baseline data of 0.9 to 1 metric ton per hectare. The certified seeds will be made available to farmers during the next planting season to boost their production.

In the Rubber Sector, under the management contract signed with MoA in 2014 by MARCO, 400 ha of recommended rubber stumps have been planted by 200 members of the Todee Farmers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperatives, Montserrado. All project farmers have either deed or tribal certificate to the land as a pre-condition for participation in the project.

In Margibi, where Salala Rubber Corporation has a MoU with MoA, 150 smallholder farmers in Weala, Margibi County have planted 200 ha of rubber.

In the Cocoa/Coffee Sector, about 3,000 cocoa/coffee farms have been geo-referenced in Bong, Nimba and Grand Gedeh for the first time in Liberia. This exercise has provided accurate information on cocoa plantations in Liberia. This will be up-scaled for all cocoa farms in the country.

Additionally, 15,000 hectares of cocoa/coffee have been rehabilitated by 7 cooperatives in Lofa County under GoL’s revitalization of cocoa and coffee plantations; they sold 422.9 MT of cocoa beans amounting to US$720,164.00 to LAADCO, a private partner.

In the Oil Palm Sector, significant progress has been made to set up a pilot Outgrower Scheme for 3,200 hectares within the GVL and Sime Darby concession areas. This new type of partnership has been approved by the Cabinet and will enable smallholders to develop their plantation sustainably and benefit from the opportunity of processing their oil for export markets.

In the Fisheries/Aquaculture Sector, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) between Liberia and the EU has been adopted by the European Union, providing an opportunity and a framework for European vessels to be licensed and fish in Liberian waters in a sustainable way.

This agreement has already generated the sum of EUR 715,500 (including EUR 357,500 in GoL General Account for Access Fee and EUR 357,500 in Special Fisheries Account for Fisheries Sectorial Support Fund. The draft Fisheries and Aquaculture Act has been completed and approved by the Cabinet and is due for submission to the National Legislation for review and ratification.

2016 LOWS: Food security remains a daunting challenge for the Sirleaf administration. But despite millions spent on the industry, the gains here have been slow. Criticisms have been overwhelming toward the lack of roads for farmers to transport their produce.


2017 OUTLOOK: Will this be the year that the Ministry finally begins engaging partners to begin to look into not just supporting small scale farming, but also to help Liberia graduate to mechanized farming that will reduce labour and increase yields?


THE LOWDOWN: Trade and Industry has been a key priority for the Sirleaf-led government since it came to office in 2006. The realization that this sector is key to inclusive and sustainable economic growth, was the centrepiece for the Ministry during the course of the year under review.

Under Minister Axel Addy, the Ministry aggressively embarked on several targets as it sought to build on the gains of the past two years, in a bid to enhance the business climate to reposition the economy as a more transparent and predictable investment destination while maintaining an adequate supply of major commodities including rice and petroleum.

2016 HIGHS: The high point for the Ministry during the year under review was Liberia’s accession to the World Trade Organization which underscored the WTO’s commitment to supporting the participation of least developed countries in the multilateral trading system.

While some have been critical of the importance of the accession, the WTO membership is expected to help Liberia benefit from the international trade and investment that is essential to build the economy and improve people’s lives.

Mr. Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the WTO was full of praise for the Liberian leadership   during what he described as an extremely challenging period for the country. “I hope that this achievement will help the country to continue on the path of hope, progress and development,” he said.

The Ministry was also heavily involved in Liberia’s Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact push, challenging our scores to ensure that for the two major indicators we were responsible for, trade policy and business start-up that those indicators were above the threshold.

According to the Ministry, Liberia aggressive pursuit of the WTO accession gave the much-needed boost to keep us in the “green” for the Trade Policy and Business Start-up indicators.

During the course of the year under review, the Ministry launched the Expansion of the Liberian Marketplace Trade Store Project which involves the relocating the existing (3rd Street) site to the top floor of the Nancy Doe Market in Sinkor, Liberia. This expansion provides the opportunity to showcase Made in Liberia products and introduce entrepreneurs and SME’s to a global market.

The Ministry also successfully hosted the SBA 2016 MSME Conference, which brought together over 1000 participants including 110 Liberian-Owned Businesses who exhibited their products and services, ranging from Catering, Processing, Textile, agribusiness and Rubber Wood Furniture. This created market opportunities, business linkages, and experience sharing among MSMEs.

But the Ministry’s biggest gains during the year, other than the WTO accession, was throwing its weight behind the sole Liberian ice cream business, Sharks. Under Liberia’s investment laws, foreign companies are not allowed to venture into a business that the law prohibits a foreign business from doing.

Despite the Ministry’s effort, an order to shut down Nice Ice Cream by the Magisterial Court was overturned by the Civil Law Court, and the company is back in business.

Sharks owner, Mrs. Eyvonne Bright-Harding was involved in a similar battle with ERA Supermarket. Under the law, any business that wants to manufacture ice cream has to obtain the Import Permit Document (IPD) before they can import ice cream equipment.

2016 LOWS: Despite some efforts to curb prices of major commodities like rice, gasoline and cement, some local dealers continue to maintain high prices, presenting a serious dilemma for the Ministry.

Sadly, the Ministry continues to whine that Liberia lacks the resources to monitor every part of Liberia as it relates to prices, but is hoping that the availability of information to the public will help address some of those concerns.


2017 OUTLOOK: Liberians continue to feel the pinch as prices of locally produced foodstuffs hit the bread and butter consumers like housewives, restauranteurs, cook shop owners and some shopping entities who continue to complain of the rising prices. Additionally, major businesses have started to complain about the serious scarcity of foreign currencies that they need to import goods. Will the coming year provide some relief?


THE LOWDOWN: President Sirleaf is always the first to acknowledge that the education system is a mess partly due to the massive brain drain that hit the country when scores of its brightest lost their lives or fled into exile during the civil war.

This has been reflected in the low performance of Liberian students in the West African Examinations Council Exams which witnessed an unprecedented controversy during the year when exams had to be postponed because of theft. The test materials were stolen from the stored location at the Konola SDA high school campus in Margibi County.

2016 HIGHS: The Ministry during the year under review touted its 2016/2017 academic calendar which now runs from September 5, 2016 to July 20, 2017 as a sign of an aggressive approach to transform the sector.

Minister Werner and his staff have been stressing that placement tests should not be pre-requisite for children's admission to Grade One, noting that this policy is to be respected by all public, private and mission or faith- based schools in the country.

It also stipulated that placement test should not impede a child's admission to Grade One, noting that its new policy is meant for all schools - public, private, and mission or faith-based. The MOE has also said that students completing the ninth grade in a senior high school must not be given new admission in another school, and only students from exclusively junior high schools would be exempted.

2016 LOWS: The MoE endured a turbulent year amid controversy over its controversial plan to outsource the country’s entire education system to private companies, described my many critics as the largest and most ambitious privatisation attempt in Africa’s recent history.

Minister George Werner announced early in the year that the entire pre-primary and primary education system would be outsourced to Bridge International Academies to manage. The deal will see the government of Liberia direct public funding for education to support services subcontracted to the private, for-profit, US-based company. After initial controversy, other academies were brought on after a selective bidding process that also raised eyebrows.

Under the public-private arrangement, the company will pilot the programme in 50 public schools in

2016, as well as design curriculum materials, while phase two could have the company rollout mass implementation over five years, “with government exit possible each year dependent on provided performance from September 2017 onwards,” the report from Liberia’s FrontPage Newspaper said.

The plan drew Werner into a war of words with Mr. Kishore Singh, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to education, who described it as “unprecedented at the scale currently being proposed and violates Liberia’s legal and moral obligations.”

The UN official and human rights expert noted that provision of public education of good quality is a core function of the State. “Abandoning this to the commercial benefit of a private company constitutes a gross violation of the right to education,” said Singh.


2017 OUTLOOK:  The jury is still out on Werner’s outsourcing plan and with Uganda and Kenya having second thoughts, attention will likely turn to Liberia and test its patience over how much longer it can stomach the building controversy.

Gbarpolu County – Gbarpolu County Education Officer (CEO), Mr. Dawolo B. S. Katawo said the Ministry of Education (MOE) has layoff 65 teachers from its payroll while also disclosing that the contracts of 28 teachers on a Plan Liberia International project for schools in the county will shortly end.

The news of massive layoffs of teachers in the county comes after a recent poor performance of senior high students in the 2016’s West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) exams, when only one senior high student made a passed in the whole county.

And Mr. Katawo said the redundancy of these teachers is happening as the county craves for more teachers.

“When I got the document, I perused it and found out that out of the 65 teachers’ layoff, 43 needed to be reinstated and 12 were actually floating teachers,” Katawo told a LocalVoicesLiberia reporter in Bopolu City.

Katawo said he made immediate recommendations, suggesting that 43 of the 65 teachers remain in their respective classrooms stressing that if his request is not consider, some of the district’s schools will be closed and people in the rural areas will have limited means of education.

The CEO also disclosed that Plan Liberia International contract with seven schools in both Gbarma and Bopolu Districts will officially expired at the end of September.

He named the Plan International sponsor schools as K.K Gonah Elementary and Jr. High, located in Yangayah Town; Weamawo public school in Vaye Town and Gbarma public school and Hilton & Duodee public school all in Gbarma District.

For Bopolu district, he mentioned Gayinmah public school, Jallah Lone Town Public School and Lowoma public school.

“Plan International was paying four teachers each from their sponsor schools in the county, accordingly, these 28 teachers will have to be absorbed by the MOE through the county school system to close the gaps in their schools,” Katawa said.  He also recommended that these 28 teachers are absorbed into the public school and included on the payroll of government.

“For me if government does not put me on payroll, when Plan leaves I will also be leaving”, Zoe Q. Binda, a female teacher of Hilton & Duodee public school said.

According to Zoe, her decision to quit the classroom in the absence of the NGO comes from a bad experience she faced in the community from parents, while accusing PTA members of not being willing to help volunteer teachers.

For Nathan K. Zinnah, a teacher of Gaynimah Public school, the situation is a ‘threat to Gbarpolu County’s education’.

“Only government can give us long term job not NGO like Plan,” Zinnah said, while calling on the MOE central office through the CEO to work hard in restoring their hope which will help keep them in the classrooms.

Currently, there are 135 schools throughout Gbarpolu of which three are senior high schools with over 600 teachers.

The decision to lay off teachers in the county appears to be a part of recent decision by the Liberian cabinet after mandating what it termed as ‘a realistic implementation of actionable targets’ to improve the quality of learning in the country.

The Cabinet, this month announced that the reforms in the education systems will include the elimination of ghosts’ names on the payroll in collaboration with Civil Service Agency (CSA), identifying unqualified teachers, hiring and training of trainable teachers through the Rural Teacher Training Institutions.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2013 branded Liberia’s education system “a mess” and she requested a complete overhaul of the system that is significantly behind most countries in West Africa in nearly all educational statistics.

But her appointment of Education Minister, George Warner has sparked several controversies as the system continues to struggle. Mr. Warner was recently demanded to step down from his post when six associations including the National Teachers Association of Liberia accused him of several missteps that are impeding progress in the sector.


THE LOWDOWN: At the end of the civil war and with the ushering of a post-war democratic government in 2006, Liberia was deemed a low income highly fragile country that would heavily depend on foreign assistance for its very existence.  Nearly twelve years later, not much has changed.

Although the economy grew by an average of 7 percent from 2006-2013, due to automaticity of reconstruction activities, including housing construction and revitalization of key sectors, but since the appearance of the Ebola Virus Diseases on the scene, the Liberian economy has been struck mostly in neutral. 

Moreover, the country’s two important primary commodity exports, rubber and iron ore have seen their prices greatly reduced on the international markets. As a result, the economy grew less than 1 percent in 2014 from 8.7 percent in 2013, and has remained stagnant in 2015, with zero growth. 

The IMF projects that GDP growth would increase to 2.5 in 2016 due to higher gold production and an expected rebound in services and construction, but recent figures point to a dismal performance in economic output, making it impossible to reach the IMF’s projected growth targets. Slower economic growth is impacting government revenues and is expected to put a dent in the budget with more shortfall for 2016-2017. 

Departed former Minister former Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh is blamed by experts for much of the meltdown, which has seen Liberia’s economy slumping to its lowest in recent memory. 

2016 HIGHS: During the course of the year, the Ministry participated in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) at the 25th APRM Summit in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss the revised road map for Liberia's program and its implementation at national and sub-national levels. The Road map was endorsed following critical reviews, discussions and inputs on activities and timelines of the revised road map by the technical team.

2016 LOWS: Liberia continues to be hampered by a significant number of non-performing loans, the IMF pointed out in May, a factor that is said to be causing serious problems for the banking sector. Said the IMF: "The economic outlook is set to remain challenging. Downside risks are high, particularly in light of the possible deeper-than-estimated second-round effects of the commodity price shock."

Another new year did very little to curb the marginalization of Liberians from the economy which from all accounts has been a national tragedy. From budgetary allocations to the lack of adequate programs to train Liberian entrepreneurs at all levels—primary, secondary and college institutions, the Ministry has been unable to put in mechanisms to ensure that the pie is equally divided and impacting a broad section of Liberia.

During the course of the year under review, inflation hovered around 7 percent prompting President

Sirleaf to declare in September that it would take two years for Liberia's economy to recover from the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 4,800 people in the country and hurt the agricultural and mining sectors. The year 2016 marked the two-year mark but much remains up in the air.


2017 OUTLOOK: Liberia is facing lower revenue growth and tighter borrowing limits and The Economist concluded in a report this year that while the country’s Real GDP growth is forecast to pick up as consumer confidence recovers post-Ebola and as the worst of a global commodity slump passes, low iron ore prices will still keep government revenue and foreign earnings under pressure, and Liberia will run a twin deficit over both 2017 and 2018.


THE LOWDOWN: Marjon Kamara’s appointment as Minister during was a welcome relief for many in Liberia’s foreign service. She was only the first Ambassador in recent memory to be elevated as a Foreign Minister.

That being said, many have been anticipating a different approach to the problems facing Liberia’s embassies abroad. Over the years, complaints have been piling up that regarding the lack of communications between the Ministry and the foreign service. Issues of low pay for diplomats abroad living in near-poverty conditions have also dampened morale of the foreign service staff.

Today, while some in roads are being made, budgetary allotment remains low and many diplomats are finding it hard to meet their financial obligations, including salaries, rent and living conditions.

2016 HIGHS:

2016 LOWS: As the Sirleaf administration enters its 12th year, critics are baffled that the Ministry has failed to use Sirleaf international profile and image to convince more and more countries to set up visa consulates in Monrovia.

Liberians continue to spend thousands of dollars annually on travel and accommodation just to get visas to Europe and other countries. Today, only the US, China and South Africa issue visas in Monrovia.

A sore spot in the year was when the Ministry was forced to suspend the issuance of passports in April due to technical issues in a bid to clear a backlog of passports being processed that was created due to the technical problems.

The Ministry has also failed to address numerous complaints against the consulate in New York which has been accused of poor relations and dealings with Liberians and other nationals seeking visas and travel documents or extensions.

Some Liberians and foreign nationals have complained about red-tape bureaucratic procedures which has forced them to cancel travel to their homeland.


2017 OUTLOOK: A sizeable number of countries have been presenting letters of credence over the past few years but very few of them have presence in Liberia while sitting in nearby Ghana. With the clock ticking on the Sirleaf government, will the remaining few months offer hope for Liberia to press then to start issuing visas in Monrovia and saving time, money and hassle for scores of Liberians? Future looks gloomy on that front! 


THE LOWDOWN: Sexual and gender-based violence is at an all-time high in Liberia. With the Sirleaf presidency nearing its end, many fear that if Liberia fails to nail down an answer to the growing problem, it may be difficult after she leaves.

Two high-profile themed visits in the past year suggest that Liberia’s dilemma has received the attention of the world. In October, US First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let Girls Learn, an initiative to help adolescent girls worldwide attend school as part of a major new effort by the U.S. government to promote girls' education in Africa.

 In Liberia, the program aims to  empower programs, work to end gender violence in schools, and supporting new, second-chance schools for girls who were forced to drop out because of pregnancy or rape.

Then last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a trip to Liberia trumpeting a similar theme. 

“When you try and settle a conflict that doesn’t involve women in the solution, it’s not going to last,” Trudeau said in the capital of Monrovia during a panel discussion on the leadership roles that women can play in peace, security, governance and sustainable development.

But more importantly, Liberia is party to a number of international human rights treaties and instruments, under which it has the obligation to fight rape and gender-based violence. But several international reports have frowned on the government’s inability, despite efforts made, to ensure criminal accountability for perpetrators of rape shows “that Liberia is not in compliance with its human rights obligations.”

2016 HIGHS: Liberia took a giant step during the course of the year under review with when the House of Representatives concurred with the Senate in September to pass the Equal Representation and Participation Act of 2016, establishing seven ‘Special Constituencies’, among which five seats would be reserved for women, one for youth and one for the disabled.

The passage of the law marked a milestone achievement, following a series of consultations and public hearings supported by UN Women since 2009, and advocacy by civil society and partners.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) also during the year launched the fourth round of its Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) Project, highlighting the inclusion of boys.

Minister Julia Duncan-Cassell announced the inclusion of adolescent boys for the first time in the EPAG Program, assuring that the Ministry intends to expand to other parts of Liberia with the recruitment and inclusion of more boys. “It is and will be to Liberia’s benefit when our girls and boys are educated and contribute as equal partners in government and in the private sector,” she said.

2016 LOWS: Liberia endured yet another turbulent year for violence against women when a UN report released in October documented the high incidence of rape in Liberia as well as the widespread impunity enjoyed by perpetrators.

The report, released by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is based on information gathered by UN human rights officers between January 2015 and March 2016 and indicates a very high number of rapes reported in all the 15 counties across the country, with 803 cases in 2015.

“Rape is the second most commonly reported serious crime in Liberia,” according to the report.

Liberia’s high incidence of rape is in part a legacy of its 14-year civil conflict, from which the country is still rebuilding, says the report. According to the World Health Organization, “between 61.4 and 77.4 per cent of women and girls in Liberia were raped during the war.” Despite this, there has been no criminal accountability for perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia, including perpetrators of wartime sexual violence.

Impunity also prevails for recent rapes, with only two per cent of rapes and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases reported last year resulting in a conviction in court.


2017 OUTLOOK: The dilemma of rape victims remains a major problem for Liberia. Will the coming year mark a shift? Will victims finally find justice amid multiple challenges, including institutional weaknesses, corruption, lack of due diligence by government as well as logistical and financial constraints?


THE LOWDOWN:  Liberia is still far behind in the elimination of some of the worst forms of child labour despite, according to the US Department of Labour, making some moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the practice. The Decent Work Act of 2015 establishes a legal framework that ensures respect for, and the protection of the fundamental rights of both employers and employees in Liberia.

Although the passage of the Decent Work Bill in 2015 was seen as a triumphant moment for Liberia, the bill which contained a list of hazardous work prohibited for children is still not being implemented to the core.

According to the US Labour department, children in Liberia are still engaged in child labour, including in the production of rubber and mining diamonds, and in the worst forms of child labour, including in forced labour in domestic work. The Liberia National Police’s Women and Children Protection Section continue to lack sufficient resources to conduct investigations and enforce child labour laws.

In its defence, the MoL have cited limited budgetary support and logistics to conduct an exhaustive inspection nationwide and the need for e-profiling and e-registration to enable the Ministry carryout targeted inspection, collection of data and monitoring of entities. Restricted access to Port facilities and the Maritime sector for routine inspections have also been an issue keeping the Ministry from carrying out its functions.

2016 HIGHS: During the period under review, the Ministry as part of its function to promote social dialogue at the work place, witnessed and attested to the signing of three (5) Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) between managements and worker’s unions. These agreements set the platform for constructive bipartite discussions between the two social partners (employer and workers) to provide decent work amongst others consistent with the new law.

The Ministry also during the period under review, and pursuant to Regulation No. 17 B of 2009, introduced the ECOWAS Bio-metric work permit for ECOWAS citizens in the informal sector. In partial fulfilment of this exercise, a joint enforcement team (LRA, BIN, LNP and MOL) is currently in the field ensuring compliance. It is also continuing with the Liberianization policy with a 10% reduction in the issuance of work permits.

The Ministry also expeditious hearing and conclusion of labour related case within six month from the date of filing.

In an effort to increase access to justice in the labour sector, aggrieved indigent workers were provided legal representation by Labour Solicitors of the Ministry of Labour. A total of 86 aggrieved indigent workers were represented on a pro-bono basis

Additionally, the National Bureau of Employment during the period under review, conducted career awareness and sensitization programs for 800 senior high school students in Grand Bassa and Nimba counties.

The singular objective of these training exercises was to mold the minds of the students about effective career planning and selection. It focused on demand driven jobs, so as to gradually reduce youth unemployment. The Bureau also conducted Employment Service Training for 400 senior high school students and potential job seekers in Bong and Margibi counties.

2016 LOWS: A dark spot for the Ministry during the course of the year under review was in June when Trade Unions in Liberia stormed the Ministry carrying placards and calling on government to respect and protect workers' rights across the country. The protest coincided with the 2016 International Labour Conference convened in Geneva; the Swiss capital which explored was at safeguarding human rights in the international supply chain; while the Government of Liberia is tramping on trade unions through the censorship.

Among the issues raised by George Poe Williams of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL), was the government’s refusal to grant NAHWAL its union certificate of recognition and the suspension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement of the RIA Workers Union.

OUTLOOK:  Brace yourself for a new policy in the New Year that is expected to restrict all entities except Diplomatic missions to seek permission from the Ministry of Labour before requesting entry visa for those coming to seek employment. This will be done in consultation with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. Press Statement to be release before the 15 of December after last coordination meeting.


THE LOWDOWN: Liberia has an ambitious plan to achieve the electrification rate for the population outside of Monrovia of 10% in 2020, 20% in 2025 and 35% in 2030. But if the past few years, particularly 2016 is anything to go by, many expect a very bumpy ride along the way. Today, the access rate to public electricity is roughly 1% but many point bureaucratic nightmare at the Ministry tasked with administering activities relative to land, mineral, water and energy resource exploration, coordination and development for stalling key government projects.

Since 2006, the Ministry has awarded numerous mineral rights, instituting reform in the land sector by adopting policies to control the illicit trafficking of deeds, but to date, there appears to be no control as multiple owners continue to pop up in numerous property wars across the country.

2016 HIGHS: A high point for the year for the Ministry was the launching of a program codename, ‘Growing the National Grid Program’ (GTG) aimed at enhancing the strength of the Liberia Electricity Cooperation (LEC). The GTG Program has a total investment of US$550 Million and will enable the electrification of 164, 000 homes for 830,000 people and the addition of 100 MW of renewable based generation to the National Grid.

The GTG Program investment will occur mostly in Phase 2 and 3 where most clients will be connected. Currently, except for generation, most of Phase 1 is funded with total secured funding estimated to be US$550 Million in several on-going projects, notably the Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone & Guinea Interconnection project (CLSG) related electrification and grid extension around Monrovia.

2016 LOWS:  The Ministry was rocked with a major scandal during the course of the year engulfing an earnest effort by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to electrify rural Liberia. A FrontPageAfrica’s investigation found that the government is poised to lose millions of dollars amid allegations of theft and mysterious bank accounts regarding the operations of the Cross -Border Electricity Supply project of ECOWAS from Prollo, Cote d’Ivoire through its specialized organization, West African Power Pool (WAPP).  As part of the project, some eighteen (18) communities in rural Liberia have begun benefiting from electricity for the first time since the end of the civil war.

The Cross-Border Electricity Supply project is divided into three (3) lots for the supply and installation works. Lot 1, Maryland County, Lot 2, Nimba County and Lot 3, Grand Gedeh County.  But an FPA’s investigation has found that a number of accountability and transparency issues is complicating Liberia’s ability to fulfil its end of the bargain.

The investigation also found that Liberia has been delinquent in fulfilling its part of the bargain, a report which was confirmed by the LEC. “It is true that we have not met our obligation to the Ivorians,” Mayah acknowledged. The LEC boss explained that obligations to the Ivorians were delayed due to bad roads and the outbreak of the deadly Ebola.


2017 OUTLOOK: Will this be the year the bureaucratic bottlenecks end at the Lands, Mines and Energy Ministry?


THE LOWDOWN: With so much discussions surrounding Liberia’s post-war security, the 2017 presidential and legislative elections could prove to be the final test of Liberia’s readiness to take up the security mantle post-UNMIL. But the country’s still-fragile environment and anticipated fears about the elections aftermath is placing extra burden on the local security network.

The Ministry of National Defence, tasked with ensuring the protection of Liberia’s national interest and territorial integrity, and to protect the citizens and residents within the borders of Liberia from internal and external aggression, has its work cut out in proving to the world that its troops are ready. But shortage of logistics and unforeseen circumstances from recent history has many holding out verdict.

Just last week, the head of peacekeeping in Liberia, told the UN Security Council that the country remains stable although  there has not been any incident serious enough to warrant an armed response from the UN mission in the country, since the security transition in June this year.

Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said:  “Sustaining the gains made will require continued and greater investment in the security services, as well as commensurate improvements in the justice and corrections sectors”.

Mr. Ladsous further reported that the political environment in Liberia remained dominated by preparations for presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for October 2017. The next President’s inauguration in January 2018 would mark a historic milestone for Liberia’s democracy.

“What happens next year, therefore, will be critical: it will demonstrate whether the foundations of peace built since the conflict ended 13 years ago are strong enough to be sustained,” he said, underlining the need to ensure that measures are put in place now to deliver a free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

2016 HIGHS: The Defence Sector of Liberia during the last 12 months or period under review, effectively carried out the following striking achievements which impacted the lives of the Liberian people in different regions of the country in keeping with the AFL’s statutory mission during peacetime as enshrined in Section 2.3 (a) of the National Defence Act of 2008. The Defence Sector maintained its core statutory responsibility of protecting the territorial integrity of the country.

Military engineers all over the world are tasked with the wartime role of mobility, counter mobility and survivability in support of all other arms of the armed forces. In peacetime, they are actively involved in increasing infrastructure and national development.

Accordingly, since its activation in 2007, the First Engineering Company has continuously supported other arms of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the Government of Liberia in infrastructural development.

The AFL Engineering Company, in its civil outreach strategy,  did strategic intervention  of 32 kilometres of road along the  Nyanford Town to Greenville City corridor thereby allowing easy vehicular movement using the southern belt into the south-eastern counties for the resuscitation of flourishing economic activities in  trade.

The AFL Engineers renovated the military barracks (Camp Whisnant)  located in Grand  Gedeh County and did strategic positioning of troops in the camp for monitoring and manning Liberia’s south-eastern  security corridor.

The AFL as a ‘force for good’ deployed its earth-moving equipment to Lofa County, Northern Liberia in early 2016 in its continued support to civil authority and intervened in a total of between 150 to 200 kilometers stretch of road. While in Lofa County, the AFL Engineers were assigned specific tasks to grade, fill and compact critical spots of primary roads which needed immediate intervention at the peak of harvest in the county.

The intervention by the Engineers significantly impacted trade and economic activities in the county. The rehabilitated critical spots included the Voinjama to Foya inclusive of Kolahum stretch of road, the Foya to Yassadu corridor and the Foya to Worsongor corridor towards the Sierra Leonean border.

The authorities of the City Council of Foya reached a negotiated settlement with the AFL Engineers for intervention works on the 800 meters stretch of road which leads to Radio Tambataykor and the one kilometer stretch of road leading to the Foya Boma Hospital within Foya City.

In a joyful appreciation to the AFL, a female small scaled-trader; Mary Flomo, in Vezela Town, Lofa County in remarks said, “Our market was gradually ‘dying’ because cars were not bringing the people as a result of the bad road. Only motorbikes used to come here and you cannot bring all your goods on the bike.

If even you have to ride bike the cost is very high. We really thank God for the AFL Engineers for this kind of good job  they did for us on this Voinjama-Foya road and hope it will extend to other parts of the county.”

The road’s rehabilitation has upped the flow of traffic, (vehicles, motorcycles) reduced travelling hours and greatly diminished the risks earlier associated with vehicular movement as a result of the once life-threatening route. Additionally, the AFL is heralded for its community relations which has given impetus to the incremental rise in the exchange of goods and services within Lofa County generally, thereby, contributing to improving the economic condition of traders and consumers.

Within the environs of Monrovia, the AFL Engineering Company, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Works, completed a total of 19.3 kilometers of critical roads to give unhindered access to dwellers of the beneficiary communities.

The communities which benefitted from the road intervention included Kebbah-Diggsville stretch(10 km), Chicken Soup Factory Community(1.6km), the LPRC Road(1.8km), the Neeklace Town Community Road(2.6 km), the Swagger Island Community Road (1.9 km) and the St. Francis Community Road (1.4 km).

The preparations and  participations of the Liberian Military in various civil related works demonstrate a paradigm shift in the future of the  Liberian Defence Sector and a strait adherence to the Commander-in-Chief’s mandate for the restructured AFL to have a role to play in the reconstruction of Liberia.

At the international peacekeeping front, the AFL maintains its presence in the MINUSMA Mission in Mali. The AFL carried out its fourth rotation and subsequently seconded three military staff officers at the UN Mission with assignments in Gao, Sector West and Central Headquarters in Timbuktu.

During the period under review, the AFL carried out a successful military expedition, travelling nearly 3000 (three thousand) kilometers through the forest region of the Republic of Guinea to Bamako, Mali and back with no report of incidents.

At the 36th meeting of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff held from 22-24 November 2016, in Lome, Togo, witnessed the transfer of authority. The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Major General Daniel D. Ziankahn, stepped in as the new chairman of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS, replacing the Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Senegal, Lieutenant General Mamadou Sow.

The ascendency of Major General Ziankahn to the top notch regional position makes him the first Liberian Chief of Defence Staff to assume such appointment as the chairman of the Committee of ECOWAS’ Chiefs of Defence Staff.

During the last twelve months, two new appointments were effected in the hierarchy of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Colonel Prince C. Johnson, III, former Commander of the 23rd Brigade was named Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL and promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, while Lieutenant Colonel Davidson F. Forleh, former Commandant, Armed Forces Training Command, was named the Brigade Commander and was also promoted to the rank of Colonel.

Kudos to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for building the capability of the AFL to reach a milestone  to safely assume responsibility for the destruction of  explosive remnants of war.

Accordingly, during the period under review, the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team of the AFL effectively responded and mitigated threat posed by unexploded ordnances (UXO). The team successfully disposed several unexploded ordnances within the immediate environs of Monrovia, particularly along the Gardnerville Freeway, where road construction works are being carried out.

On 2 July 2016,  the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as a ‘Force for Good ‘ restored  hope to the hopeless when the  force embarked on Humanitarian Operations in hardly hit flooded areas  in Margibi County. The intervention areas included Power Town, New Dolo Town, Joblo Town, etc. The AFL moved in with assorted items, including food and non-food items.

During the period under review, the Armed Forces of Liberia lost its Deputy Chief of Staff, Colonel Eric Wamu Dennis, in his 48th year. The sad event occurred on Monday, August 8, 2016 at the hour of 2:25 ante meridiem, at the Duside Hospital in Harbel, Firestone, Margibi County, after a period of illness. 

As a mark of last respect and tribute to the late Col. Eric Wamu Dennis, the National Ensign of the Republic was flown at half-mast from all public buildings in Montserrado and Maryland Counties, from eight O’clock ante meridian to six O’clock post meridian on the day of his internment, Friday, August 26, 2016.  While his mortal remains were being borne to the cemetery for interment, thirteen cannons were fired at intervals as a symbol of personal salute to the fallen Dedicated Soldier.


2017 OUTLOOK: Post-2017 election could prove pivotal for the UN involvement in Liberia. But many are keen to see how UNMIL’s future evolves, especially amid discussions surrounding a planned successor mission.  The election result is also pivotal as many international stakeholders are anticipating a strong political leadership to fully and comprehensively address reconciliation in Liberia. This is where the Ministry could face its biggest test yet.


THE LOWDOWN: Liberia’s health sector was exposed by the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 remain a daunting circle of major debacle for many.  Inconsistent supplies of diagnostic and treatment commodities at the facility level, despite availability in county and central stores, remain a major obstacle to access to diagnostic testing.

As a result only those who can afford travel outside Liberia for medical check-up and treatment have the edge.

In the aftermath of Ebola, Liberia experienced dramatic declines in public health indicators and in the delivery of basic health care, reversing years of progress in improving the health of Liberians, particularly women and children.

For example, measles vaccination rates dropped from 77.8% in January 2014 to 44.8% in January 2015. During this same time frame, health facility deliveries declined from 65% to 27.8%, deliveries attended by skilled providers dropped from 61% to 30.6% and pregnant women having the recommended four or more antenatal care visits declined from 78.1% to 31.3%.

2016 HIGHS: During the year under review, the World Health Organization (WHO) gives Liberia high marks for continuing to take precautions over Ebola.

The Ministry also took steps to train workers in different disciplines from the Emergency Medical Person Services (EMS) Division of the Ministry Health. EMS is considered as a pre- hospital, and is aimed at providing hospital first- hand medical assistance to patients while in route to the hospital on Ambulances in an effort to further enhance the healthcare delivery services in the country. However, financial constraints according to the Ministry made it impossible to provide employment for those trained.

2016 LOWS:  A damning report by the World Health Organization during the year under review raised alarm that as many as 1 in 5 Liberians suffer a mild to moderate mental disorder, yet the country has only one registered psychiatrist and, until recently, the vast majority of health workers had a limited understanding of mental illness.

Despite efforts by international stakeholders and partners to equip health workers across the country with the skills to provide front-line care for people with mental illness, many are still denied access to treatment and care.


2017 OUTLOOK: It will be interesting to see how the Ministry make advances on its development of a Mental Health Strategy for 2016-2021. The Strategy reportedly includes detailed plans for a strong and comprehensive system of mental health care, with robust community-based services, clinicians, nurses, social workers and community volunteers trained in mental health, and a sustained supply of psychotropic medicines.


THE LOWDOWN:  The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) of the Republic of Liberia has made tremendous strides since its creation to establish operational systems which enable it to achievement its mandate. The Ministry is structured around five core program areas/departments including Technical Services, Information Services, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Foreign Missions, and Administration/Management.

2016 HIGHS: MICAT during the period under review had been vigorous in its information dissemination function. The Ministry had been able to decentralize its information dissemination by inviting County Superintendents, District Commissioners to address the press in Monrovia on the developments in their areas. 

The Ministry was also able to consolidate the information sharing strategy of various line ministries by providing one single broad platform at the Ministry where almost all presses conferences of line ministries are held.

2016 LOWS: The tourism sector seems not to exist in Liberia. Much is not heard of or seen going on in the tourism sector which, when properly exploited, help the country could raise millions of dollars to add up to the National Budget. The sector is so dormant that many are now pushing for the establishment of an independent bureau for tourism.


2017 OUTLOOK: Timely and adequate sharing of information is very vital in sustaining peace and reducing tension in any election year. The Information Ministry must work audaciously with all partners to ensure the prompt release of information. The Ministry must also tighten its relations with the media for smooth cooperation.


THE LOWDOWN:  Since taking over from former Minister Morris Dukuly, Dr. Henrique Tokpah has been looking to get traditional leadership to play a more vibrant role in maintain the peace, describing the roles of chiefs and elders as critical to the process.

On numerous occasions during the course of the year under review, Dr. Tokpa urged traditional leaders to take up the mantle of authority in their communities to buttress effort of government in ensuring peaceful in the nation even as UNMIL leaves.

But the most pressing issue for the Ministry in the past year and more has been the importance of decentralizing central government which includes de-concentrating public services and giving administrative powers to county superintendents and local chiefs.

In particular, the implementation of the Local Governance Policy has divided chiefs and elders in counties across the country.

A contentious issue remains the restructuring of cities in various counties according to the require standards and the election of superintendents, as some of the locals and lawmakers see the process as a witch-hunt. Many chiefs are wary about maintaining their statutory responsibilities and respect from locals in their control areas once the bill is enacted.

2016 HIGHS: One of the high points of the year was a rare stance by traditional leaders who united to voice calls for harsher punishments for those found guilty of rape and compromising rape cases, particularly in rural Liberia. In a resolution in October, the chiefs called for the execution of anyone found guilty of raping a minor, while at the same time recommending the reinforcement of the laws on Sodomy with stiffer penalties.

Chiefs have also been keen on the issue of elections, as they prevailed on the National Legislature to institute laws for the election of local authorities such as County Superintendents and chiefs during the year under review,

The Ministry touted its much-heralded Access to Justice or Chiefs' Program launched in conjunction with the Carter Center which aims to highlight the role of customary chiefs in the judiciary, peace, security, health promotion, law reform, and citizens' ownership of government.

2016 LOW: A major challenge for the Ministry continues to be keeping local governments and farmers engaged in the farming debate. The Ministry has been encouraging elders and Paramount chiefs to restore their self-respect by engaging in agriculture in their various chiefdoms throughout the county. Cooperative farming and agri-business are viewed as a key aid to development and to foster food security.


2017 OUTLOOK: With UNMIL already clearing out, the coming year could prove to be daunting for the Ministry as traditional leaders could be expected to take up the mantle of authority in their communities in a bid to buttress effort of government in ensuring peace.


THE LOWDOWN: The Ministry with the most turnover rate for a Minister welcomed its fifth Minister at the helm in May when President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf tipped veteran lawyer, Frederick Cherue to replace the controversial Benedict Sannoh.

2016 HIGH: During the period under review, the Government constructed two separate Fire Service Stations and turned them over to the County Administration and the people of Nimba and Margibi Counties.

The construction of the fire stations in two of Liberia's more populated cities gives the National Fire Service the necessary capability to reduce the risk of fire damage to life and property in those cities.  Ganta and Kakata were selected, following needs assessment conducted by the Fire Service.  Over the years, the two communities have been characterized by fire incidents resulting in the loss of lives and properties - incidents that could have been prevented.

The Ministry also received a huge consignment of communication equipment to improve service delivery, coordination within and amongst national security institutions.

The consignment was purchased with direct funding from the Liberian Government through a competitive bidding process. The equipment include V/HF radios, communication cables, solar panels, batteries, repeaters, communication towers along with accessories, earphones, mic amongst others.

2016 LOW: In August, Minister Cherue announced that a government probe determined that the August 7 2016 shooting incident in Sass Town Community, Bomi County link to a shooting precision practice by an unidentified individual.

Releasing the report, the Minister noted that the investigation was conducted by a team of professional national security and legal personnel from the Liberia National Police (LNP), National Defence, the National Security Agency, and the Ministry of Justice amongst others, monitored by international partners. Based on evidence gathered, it was concluded that an unidentified individual was practicing, using and targeting beer bottles. 

Five 9 millimetres empty pistol shells were found at the scene and there was no report of injury. An eyewitness (a male farmer) told the investigation that he saw three men at the scene moment before the shots were heard.

Contrary to rumours that had been circulated, Minister Cherue who heads the Joint Security Taskforce of Liberia reported that the investigation did not gather any evidence of a helicopter hovering, a movie being shot or a group of armed personal in the community at the time of the shooting.

The Minister assured the public that government will continue to employ its intelligence to apprehend the perpetrator to further investigate and understand the motive behind the act.

Public confidence in the justice system is still staggering. Autopsies conducted on the late Harry Greaves whose remains were found a local beach in Monrovia, Victoria Zarza who allegedly hanged herself while in Police custody, all remain controversial only seemingly accepted by Liberians to let sleeping dogs lie.

The Justice Ministry is also reproached for its failure to provide handcuffs and means of transportation for suspects were are committed to the Monrovia Central Prison by the Monrovia City Court.


2017 OUTLOOK: Being the umbrella of all security apparatus in the country has a daunting task to undertake in 2017. Most emphasis should be placed on the Liberia National Police and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization not only in making their presence more visible but also stepping up Police-community engagement as a means of restoring public confidence in the local security.

Also, the prosecution arm of the Justice Ministry needs to buckle up in 2017. It must anticipate and prepare for the eventualities, the tension and vices that come with an election year. 


THE LOWDOWN: The Ministry charged with handling the postal services of the nation and providing oversight for the Information and Communications Technology sector has been a lame duck for several years now. If you don’t believe us, take look at their website which has not been updated since January. In a modern day of technological advancement, very little has been done to keep the Ministry on par with the rest of the world.

Despite the government’s commitment to improve and expand the ICT sector, very little is being done to adapt to the changing world of social media, emails and modern information technology and sharing.

For example, in its submission to the mid -term report of the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of action (IPOA) for Least Developed Countries (LDCS -2011-2020), the Ministry used its ink to advocate through a proposed postal expansion plan for low-cost postal, telecom and ICT services nationwide at a time when very few Liberians, like the rest of the world use post offices to send mail.

“The postal expansion and quality of mail delivery service program is designed to provide increased accessibility to postal services as a basic human right for Liberians. Under the program, the following has been achieved: completion of seven post offices across Liberia.”

2016 HIGHS: The Ministry has been trumpeting a lot of projects, it says are predicted upon mounting demands from postal related customers and ICT users. These include: The Digital Migration Initiative, Internet Exchange Point (IXP), Project Management Office, Universal Access (UA) Program, Chief Information Office, Postal Expansion Project, and Capacity Building.

The Ministry is also said to be working to create a paperless working environment in government and facilitate easy access to information in consonance with the Freedom of Information act. In addition it says it is in the process of formulating a new Telecommunications and Internet Communication Technology (ICT) Policy that will guide the sector for the next five years although much remains to be seen.

The public has also been in the dark about what is believed to be a “priority project” for the Ministry involving E-Government, the Internet Exchange Point, Universal Access Program, Postal Financial Service, the National Postal Addressing System as well as expansion of postal services in rural Liberia.

2016 LOWS: Any Liberian who have travelled lately can identify with the embarrassment when asked to fill out a form and put in your residential or business address. Good luck there.

For years now the Ministry has been assembling a National Postal Address System project (NAPAS) toward ensuring that every Liberian and other residents have a unique address to provide easy access to postal delivery service, socio-economic activities, security, health assistance, as well as solid waste management. To date, not much has been heard about the plan which was also cited in the IPOA document.

Even more troubling, years after the landing of the Fiber Optic Cable, which was tipped to pave the way for major sectors to be connected and increase national internet speed as well as provide accessible communications to the entire populace; very little has been done as Liberia continues to lag behind the rest of world.


2017 OUTLOOK: Many are still waiting for the Fiber Optic Cable impact. May it will happen in our lifetime – or sometime in the New Year if we’re lucky.


THE LOWDOWN: The infrastructural development of post-war Liberia remains a daunting challenge. But much of the lapses have been blamed on significant budget constraints as numerous potholes pile up across the city. The Ministry’s response: Re-establish MPW asphalt teams, Import cold mix asphalt and run trials, Manufacture cold mix and repair potholes in Monrovia.

Critics continue to pound the Ministry for the patch-patch approach which appears to be failing to address road woes in the long term. The short-term fixes especially the ones intervened during the raining season has greeted with mixed reviews from the public.

2016 HIGHS: The Ministry during the year under review finally unveiled the Redlight-Gbarnga Highway. Rehabilitation of the long stretch of road began in 2012 when the Government of Liberia through its infrastructure agency broke ground for the construction work. 

The project, inanced through the Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund (LRTF), which is jointly managed by the Government of Liberia and World Bank, is lot 1 of the Redlight-Gbarnga to Ganta-Guinea border road and was contracted under the Output and Performance-Based Road Contract (OPRC).

The road link is one of Liberia’s best international highways, which connects Liberia to Guinea and Ivory Coast.  In addition, the road also connects Montserrado, Margibi, Bong and Nimba Counties. 

The Ministry also during the year launched in partnership with the EU, the first post-war maintenance program for asphalt paved road. The maintenance program was launched on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at Klay Junction, Bomi County. The program is expected to last for 5-year and its objective is to perform routine maintenance on the Bo-Waterside Highway after more than two decades of intensive utilization without maintenance.

The road maintenance project is being funded by the European Union and United Kingdom under a project called “Build-Up Capacity and Preparedness of the Ministry of Public Works” through a European Union Grant. The total cost of the project is put at US$1,502,295.48, and a local contractor, West Africa Construction Incorporated is the implementing contractor.

2016 LOWS: The Ministry’s dark spot during the year involved questions about contracts and a defiant Minister refusing to budge. Minister William Gyude Moore declared during the year that he is prepared to live with his recent decision to cancel a bid awarded to a Liberian firm for the construction of a feeder road project, saying he has made tremendous changes at the Ministry but those against change are behind what he is describing as negative and misleading information coming from the Ministry.

Minister Moore’s comments come in the wake of Senator Sando Johnson (NPP, Bomi County) allegations that a lot of corrupt practices are taking place at the Ministry. Senator Johnson vowed that he is preparing a letter to the Liberian Senate to inform them about happenings at the Ministry of Public Works.

“The Senate is going to get involved. We are not going to let these guys to destroy our people and this country. I am personally going to get involved in this”, the Bomi County Lawmaker promised.

But Moore, in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica, said he’s not going to ignite an argument with Senator Sando Johnson of Bomi County who is also a member of the Senate Public Works Committee, adding that ‘government cannot be run on the radio’ or in the public.

The Minister was also forced to address allegations of nepotism, stating that he inherited several problems including over a hundred million dollars’ worth of contracts awarded to contractors through the single source bidding process, something he said showed that negotiations were done between the MPW and a constructor.

“Since we have been here at the Ministry of Public Works, we’ve never issued a work contract by single source,” he said.

“Every single works contract we have issued has been competitive – strictly bidding; we invite six, eight or ten (bidders) and the last time we invited 18 companies,” Minister Moore vows that the Ministry wants bidders to have a confidence in the process.

Reacting to accusations that he has employed his friends and families at the Ministry, he said the Ministry has 654 employees and refuted claims of influencing the appointment of any one of the employees revealing that since he took over; all promotions are done in-house on the basis of competence and experience.

“We did not bring anybody from outside to come and take those positions because those people have been here (and) they have the capacity; they have the experience. Out of one of the 654 persons working with the Ministry is a person I shared classroom with when we were refugees in Ivory Coast.”


2017 OUTLOOK: October 2017 is well known for its heavy rains that mostly leave our laterite roads in very bad states. While there are fears that bad road conditions may affect the conduct of the 2017 elections, it behoves the Ministry of Public Works to be more robust in their construction, repairs and maintenance of roads in the country ahead of the 2017 general and presidential elections. The conduct of the elections will be a flop if the roads are not swiftly moved upon for maintenance or rehabilitation.


THE LOWDOWN: Operating directly under the supervision of the President for the President, the Ministry of State hardly comes to the limelight, but with the key function of attending to the wellbeing of the President, the Ministry of State had done a great job in maintaining and protecting the integrity of the Liberian presidency.

2016 HIGHS: Within the period under review, the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry has received and catered to a number of foreign high profile dignitaries including the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, among others.

2016 LOWS: The Executive Mansion – the home of the President still lies in ruins. Who’s responsible? – The Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs. Recent GAC report shows series of unscrupulous spending without any progress on the renovation of what once stood as Africa’s most beautiful presidential edifice.


2017 OUTLOOK: Many are still looking to see the Executive Mansion standout again.


THE LOWDOWN: President Sirleaf made a change toward the end of the year at the helm with Mr. Samuel Wlue making the trek from the Liberia Housing Authority to head the Transport as Angela Bush-Cassell made her way to the Minister of State Without Portfolio.

2016 HIGHS: The Ministry responsible for adMinister and implement the Transport law as well as regulate the compulsory Third Party Liability Insurance Law of 1972 as contained in Volume VI of the Liberian Code of Law Revised Chapter 4 of Title 38, found itself facing numerous challenges during the year under review.

According to the Ministry, during the reporting period (January – December 2016), it generated a total revenue of US$5,532,146. An amount is in excess of 29% of the projected revenue of US$3.8M.

The Ministry also successfully ensured the approval of the Axle Load Regulation on August 1, 2016 to protect the investments made in roads infrastructure. It instituted mechanisms and programs for the conduct of public awareness on road usage, training and other capacity building activities for stakeholders, all of which are ongoing up to date.

The Ministry during the period under review, effected several reforms efforts aimed at ensuring the Ministry addresses contemporary realities and other challenges affecting the wholesome functioning of the institution.

Key among the reforms were the New Draft Act, a Car Dealership Regulation to ensure that all vehicles sold are fully registered and insured before leaving their respective dealership sales premises and a Road Worthiness Inspection regulation promulgated and brought into force to officially license stations operated by qualified garage inspectors to conduct mandatory motor vehicle safety and structural inspections to certify that vehicles meet minimum safety requirements.

As part of its decentralization drive, the Ministry unveiled service centers in Kakata, Margibi and Buchanan, Grand Bassa County for the first time in decades, to commence full scale operations of transport related services (driver licenses, vehicle registration, eligibility certificates, etc.)

Early Warning System Project (MET Training): A total of 50 civil servants from the Ministries of Transport, Lands, Mines & Energy, Agriculture and the Liberia Airport Authority are currently undergoing meteorology and hydrology training at the Nigeria Meteorological Center in Abuja, Nigeria.

The goal of this training is to prepare these civil servants to take the lead in the establishment of a National Meteorological Center (NMC) in Liberia. The NMC will strengthen Liberia’s capacity to monitor, forecast, analyze and communicate hydro-meteorological data and climate information. 17 weather stations are expected to be hosted across Monrovia during this period.

During the year, the Ministry relocated its offices from the Parker Building on Broad Street to its current location on Carey and Warren streets in the former CBL building. This move created the platform for a one stop shop that now accommodates the LRA, International Bank and the CBL to facilitate and fast track registration of all transport related businesses and also it has enabled the Ministry to now have a vault in which all instruments are safely secured. Reduces cost of rental.

2016 LOWS: Public transportation remains a nightmare for many and while the Ministry has cited a number of measures to enforce safety and road-related issues, it has also been blamed for causing early morning traffic. The prime hour when many are on their way to work is when the Ministry chooses to stop vehicles to check on stickers. For many commuters, mornings can be a cold day in hell.


2017 OUTLOOK: The incoming Minister is pledging to usher in a custom based service delivery institution and ensure that services offered by the Ministry to the public such as the issuance of license plates, driver’s licenses and other services are delivered in a timely and expeditious fashion so as to bring the needed relief to the weary public.  Time will tell whether he can accomplish much in a lame-duck year.


THE LOWDOWN: As controversial as it may appear, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission had been in the vanguard in the fight against corruption. Having sought and won the power to prosecute individuals indicted of corruption or named in the reports of the General Auditing Commission report, the LACC embarked on a number of corruption cases during the period under review.

2016 HIGHS: The LACC was able to arraign before court several individuals including Former Minister T. Nelson Williams, former Deputy LPRC Managing Director for Operations, Aaron Wheagar, former Commerce Minister Miatta Beysolow, and Ministry of Commerce Director for Price Analysis, Steve Flahn Paye and the Managing Director of the Aminata Gas Company Siaka Toure for the alleged mismanagement of the Japanese Oil Grant.

2016 LOWS: Despite arraigning all these individuals before court, the LACC was unable to win any of its cases. Legal pundits have aligned the LACC’s failures to win cases to their lackadaisical attitude when it comes to investigating cases and gathering evidence for prosecution.

They lost the corruption case against Aminata & Sons and now being accused by Aminata & Sons. The alleged corruption case involving former Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA) is yet to come to judicial conclusion.


2017 OUTLOOK: The Matilda Parker, the T. Nelson Williams-LPRC cases are expected to end successfully. There are anticipation of seeing more collaboration between the LACC and the Special Presidential Task Force prosecuting the indictees of the Sable Mining saga.


THE LOWDOWN: Youth Development Unemployment, especially for youth, is one of the most intractable challenges in Liberia. The issue is a high priority for the Government of Liberia (GoL) both because of the links between employment status and poverty and because of the importance of employment in fragile, post conflict situations.

In addressing this critical challenge, the GoL identified youth empowerment a major priority in the Public Sector Investment Plan (PSIP).

In furtherance of its commitment to addressing the problem of high youth unemployment, the GoL through the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) launched the Liberia Youth Employment Program (LYEP) targeted at vulnerable out of school youth between the ages of 18-35 years, with a minimum quota of at least 30 percent women participation and four percent to people living with disabilities. The goal of the LYEP was to provide employment opportunities to around 10,000 youths over 3 years with support from the government and development partners. The specific objectives of the program were as follows:

  1. Strengthen youth participation, leadership development and harness the potential of youth as partners in the development process;
  2. Promote job creation for youth through community labor intensive works and services.
  3. Provide vocational skills training and entrepreneurship skills development that promote self-employment and wage employability amongst targeted beneficiaries.
  4. Provide life skills to create the sense of self-esteem and self-management amongst targeted beneficiaries.

The closure of the LYEP ignited government intervention in a follow up program of Liberia

Youth Opportunity Program. This program is to improve access to income-generation opportunity for the target Liberian youth and strengthen Government of Liberia’s capacity to implement its cash transfer program as a way of mitigating high potential for unequal growth; existence of human capital externalities.

2016 HIGHS: MYS managed to get several youth programs running again after almost a year of dormancy when Ebola struck the country. The National Vocational Training Center (NVTC) reopened with the highest intake of students.

An estimated 2,800 students enrolled in NVTC. Fifty-six trainees, who completed a six-month intensive tailoring course received certificates of achievement at the occasion, held in Julijuah Town, Tehr District, Bomi County.

These points toward improvement and determination of MYS to empower youth through capacity building. Also, the Ministry hosted a Stakeholders’ Conference on Demographic Dividend under theme: “Demographic Dividend – Catalyst for Youth Mainstreaming towards Harnessing Economic Growth”.

This was intended to develop a national road map for reaping demographic dividend in Liberia. The conference brought together about 150 representatives of youth and youth-led organizations, national and international agencies, institutions of higher learning, heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Liberia and other stakeholders from key sectors, including health, education, and governance.

The Ministry of Youth & Sports also crafted and presented to the Legislature the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) policy which tend to create the learning atmosphere for the Liberian youth to be marketable for any job.

2016 LOWS: Though the NTVC was reopened in a transformed state-of-the-art facility, the MYS came under pressure from enrolled students after the NTVC was delaying to reopen. There were also threats of strike action from instructors at the NVTC over delayed salaries.


2017 OUTLOOK: The youth are eager to reap the benefits of the TVET policy. This means MYS must engage Legislature and push its passage.


THE LOWDOWN: The Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization is charged with the primary responsibility to implement and enforce the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia. Beside the Alien and Nationality Law, it is also governed by the Constitution of Liberia, the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movements of persons, goods and services within the sub-region, international conventions and laws, among other instruments.

The Bureau has the statutory mandate to safeguard and protect the borders and boundaries (air, land and sea) of Liberia against the illegal entry of aliens into the country. The Bureau also screens and examines travel documents; admits aliens at sea, air and land borders (ports of entry); grants aliens resident status and provides border management and control.

BIN is a major player in the transition plan of UNMIL's drawdown and handing over of full security responsibility to the government. It continues to work with government security sector and international partners to initiate reforms to maintain the country's peace.

2016 HIGHS: During the course of the year under review, the Bureau increased its patrol of the Liberia-Sierra Leone border along the Mano River to avoid illegal entry into the country. The measures were geared toward monitoring “illegal crossing points” used by drug dealers and other criminals that have been discovered by the security, adding “these are security measures that will avoid penetration.”

2016 LOWS: Two major incidents put a damper on the BIN during the year under review. A 35-year-old detainee identified as Augustine Nyumah reportedly died in an immigration cell in B’hai Jozon Border, Grand Gedeh County, southeast Liberia, leaving behind his girlfriend Dekoutee Banto and two kids.

The deceased was reportedly asked to pay 500 Liberian Dollars as bond fees to be set free until the following day. But the deceased allegedly argued the case had nothing to do with immigration, insisting that he should be taken to the Police.

Also during the year, two officers of the bureau were sentenced to five and three years imprison after they were found guilty of robberies in the Grand Kru County. BIN Officers Jackson Gaye and Benedict Farr were sentenced to prison for five years and to three years.

The two officers were arrested, disrobed and dragged to court for allegedly gashing a businessman, identified as Augustine Paye, after robbing him of LD$280,000.


2017 OUTLOOK: BIN will play a crucial role when the United Nations Mission in Liberia departs and Commissioner Cllr. Lemuel Reeves has expressed confidence that his officers are fully prepared to handle the country's security as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) draws down by June 30. We guess time will tell.


THE LOWDOWN: The Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) is a semi-autonomous agency under the supervisory authority of the Ministry of Justice, responsible for effective and efficient enforcement of laws pertaining controlled drugs, substances and precursors, including essential chemicals.

The LDEA plays a drug-crime focused role in national law enforcement. The Agency implements measures to protect the territorial borders of Liberia from the importation and exportation of drugs and controlled substances.

2016 HIGHS: During the year under review, the LDEA was busy battling trafficking and its officers were on top of the game when a detachment assigned at the Roberts International Airport arrested a national of Guinea Bissau for attempting to bring narcotic substances into the country.

Antonio Gomes was arrested with four kilogram of cocaine valued at US$ 34,000 equivalent to LD$2,240,000.00 That arrest came less than three weeks following the arrest of a Nigerian national-Chukwu Samuel Onuoha with a huge quantity of drugs at the Roberts International Airport.

The suspect, according Director General Anthony K. Souh, boarded a Kenyan Airways flight number 5539 to Accra, Ghana, from where he transited at the Roberts International Airport. He emphasized that when suspect Gomes was quizzed by both DEA and Immigration Officers at the RIA about his occupation, he stated that he was a diplomat.

2016 LOWS: During the year under review, five DEA senior officers were dismissed for allegedly engaging in "acts incompatible with the code of conduct of the Agency and Criminal Law of Liberia." The officers were forward to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for court prosecution.


2017 OUTLOOK: The underfunded agency continues to deliver. Expect more of the same with limited resources.


THE LOWDOWN: In May, 2016, the Special Presidential Task Force was established by Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Minister of State without Portfolio, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa was appointed to chair the SPTF and given a multi-purpose mandate to tackle corruption cases, prepare an effective anti-terrorism plan for the country and draft, in close coordination with the Ministry of Justice, Legislations implementing key portions of the Code of Conduct and proposing the enactment of Liberia’ national reconciliation scheme based on the Truth and Reconciliation Report and recommendations.

Within weeks of its creation, the SPTF set out to investigate the Sable Mining Corruption and bribery case as alleged in the Global Witness (GW) report involving key current and former government officials and to also ensure compliance with the implementation of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and Public Account Committee (PAC) reports by inviting all individuals linked to financial mismanagement for questioning.

2016 HIGHS: For the first time in a recent Liberian history, the most powerful people have been brought to book without a single shot been fired; a major accomplishment of the Task Force showing the viability of the democratic gains and protection  that Madam Sirleaf has provided during the last ten years.

 Robust investigations were conducted and indictment handed down against alleged culprits in the Sable Mining corruption saga as reported by the GW. Those indicted includes; former Speaker Alex Tyler and former Chairman of the ruling Unity Party and now Senator of Grand Cape Mount County Cllr. Varney Sherman among others. Motions filed opposing the indictments by the defendants have all been successfully defeated by the SPTF and preparations are now underway for the initial batch of trials to begin in December, 2016, but appeals by the defendants to the Supreme Court are currently stalling the start of trial.

2016 LOWS: The robustness of the SPTF would have been appreciated more by Liberians had it indicted Fumba Sirleaf and Morris Saytumah who were also mentioned in the report. Their delay in indicting certain individuals while dragging others to court in the view of some shows partiality in the process.


2017 OUTLOOK: Liberians wait with eagerness to know the real names of ‘Big Boy 1 & 2’ who the Taskforce claim they already know.