The Editor,

I wish to write you this letter with the hope that you kindly use your good offices in promoting freedom of speech to publish my reaction to a letter written by a man calling himself the secretary general of our Association of Liberians in Italy of which I am a full member but have never known such a name among us in Italy. I thank you for accepting my letter and pray that you will publish it in its entirety for all those who have read the letter of April 9, 2014.

I am Benedictus Sleweon, a Liberian residing in Orvieto, Italy one of those that travelled on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in response to an invitation from the Ambassador of Liberia (His Excellency Mohammed Sheriff) to meet our beloved mother and President of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Please permit me to state here that I am one of the admirers of your struggle for freedom of speech in our post war Liberia though you continue to encounter many difficulties with high price for this noble cause. I was personally concerned for your fight for the freedom of journalists who are speaking out the truth in Liberia. I applaud you all as a united force for having achieved thus far a greater liberty to be the eye and the speaker against the ills in our country. Sir, in as much as I am your supporter and admirer, I will continue to encourage you to always keep your head high above unprofessional reporting or yellow journalism so that we can stand by you for publishing the truth and nothing but the truth. If you continue in this part, we will not be afraid to join you in your struggle even if the power to be decides to incarcerate you.

Please help us to support you by encouraging your staff to go beyond sensationalizing stories or articles in the reporting and always be careful that what you write in your papers must represent the truth. I prefer to address you as comrade and to tell you that in finding the truth, it may cost you money but please spend that extra to get to the truth no matter what it may take. People who are enemies to your good work will give you trash for publication and may try to entrap you in publishing the rubbish just to embarrass you and your good reputation if you are not careful and mindful. So please be very careful and go to the length and breathe of the truth before you publish any story that has to do with people’s hard earned reputation, character and integrity.

This is my true advice to you Comrade. Many Liberians like myself are wondering why the newspapers did not verify whether or not a leader of the Liberian in Italy with such a name did exist since the individual wrote as Secretary General of a large body such as a Community based in a European Capital. Did he write on an official letterhead of the community? Such act on any responsible newspaper clearly shows some sense of irresponsibility. The young man who claims to be “Festus Nagbe” could have written the letter under his own signature as a citizen but not to write such a letter on our behalf and make false accusations by bringing the name of the entire Liberian Community into a disrepute with other peace loving community members in Italy.

The community’s efforts of reconciliation and peace among Liberians will now take a tough dimension as a result of such an irresponsible publication without any truth said about us as community members. Please Mr. Editor, next time, use your experience and play a neutral role when it comes to people saying they represent a group or a Community Association, first verify the existence of that group and community through the right means and then proceed. This will save your newspaper from being sued for defamation by our own registered organization. Again, as an ordinary citizen anyone has the right to express his freedom of expression representing himself but when he or she says they are speaking on behalf of an Institution, please verify that status and title whether he or she is the spokesperson of the group. I am sure you will continue to get many individual comments and reaction on your publication.   Having made that observation Sir/Madam, kindly permit me to deal with the issues for which I have decided to write as an ordinary citizen “a floor member” not representing the Association but myself. I thank you.

Now, please allow me to comment on the article published in your paper on April 9, 2014 captioned

“LIBERIANS IN ITALY ‘DISAPPOINTED’ IN AMBASSADOR” written by one Mr. Festus Nagbe claiming to be the Secretary General of the Organization of the Liberian Community in Rome, Italy. To the best of my knowledge Comrade, there is no Festus Nagbe living in Italy for the past 18 years that I have resided in this country. I have studied here and now working in the Petrochemical Industry married with two kids. I may not know every Liberian that has entered this country but for such person to have declared in an open letter stating that he is the Secretary General of our Association in Italy, then such individual must be a well known person by many of us. Unfortunately, this name doesn’t exist among us in Italy. This must be a false name or someone trying to destroy other community members. You will do us a great favor to publish his picture or give his true name since he claims to be a known figure within the Liberian community. The real and true Secretary General of the Organization which he claims to be is called Mr. Patrick Tugbe and lives in Rome with his wife and kid. They are fine and good people who try to bring Liberians in Italy together since I have known him. I could give you his phone number but please do not publish it for his privacy (Ph. +39 3476620229). You can call him and talk to him. All the other members who attended the Meeting with Her Excellency Madam President are all genuine and bona fide officials of the Association here in Italy.

Let me clearly state here that I have no personal relationship with Ambassador Sheriff and never had with other Ambassadors who have transited here before (Mr. Weefur, Mrs. Berna, Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Musu, Mr. Nei and others). But I can tell you one thing that all that I have read in your article published is false and misleading against Ambassador Sheriff and any of the other Ambassadors that I have named here. They all have served under difficult financial situations but have always and continue to help us the citizens without giving back any kindness to them even at their own risk most of the time. We need to appreciate their hard work and give them thanks. Since the arrival of Ambassador Sheriff, we have seen our Mission being given praises by many and in fact the retrieval of many fake passports from the hands of foreigners and criminals who are in prisons and don’t deserve to hold our passports. So, we express our gratitude for the good work and for protecting our interest against all odds.

First of all, let me say that our visits to the Liberian Embassy for services is always a cordial one and with respect and fraternal exchange. Whenever we go to the Embassy, we do not interact directly with the Ambassadors. They can be in their offices engaged with their diplomatic functions and the secretaries do handle our problems; they do our paper work and we pay the fees directly to them and not to the Ambassadors and then leave the premises to go back to our places of residence. The only time we interact with the Ambassadors is when we request to say hello to them or when they bump into us at the entrance or in the elevator.

We interact with them also when we meet at our programs when they attend. For this so called “Festus Nagbe” to state that “the Ambassador becomes profusely abusive, using libellous expressions and sometimes calling the police to get individual out of the Embassy, because they openly complained about the delays and difficulties they faced in getting a service rendered” is so untrue and misleading. This may indirectly say that the individual must have started to misbehave or act rudely during the brief visit. It really doesn’t sound right for the Embassy staff or the Ambassador to call a police to put a citizen outside if that citizen is respectful and follows the rule of law; and behaves himself or herself as an ambassador though a common citizen to represent Liberia in a foreign country. We are also representatives of Liberia as ambassadors and whatever we do will represent the image of Liberia so this is also self incriminatory of the so called “Mr. Festus Nagbe”.

People who read his article will know that he is a frustrated individual who wants to personalize his private issues. The community is aware of the former secretary in the Liberian Embassy, Mr. Los Freeman Nathan Barclay who was dismissed some years ago. During a general community at the Liberian Embassy, the Ambassador displayed the evidence against this man who was involved in so many criminal and clandestine activities that led to his dismissal from the Embassy. We also know that he wrote several letters with strong languages and invectives against the present Ambassador by using some fake names and sending those letters to people in Liberia for publication.

The Community has on several occasions warned this criminally minded and frustrated individual and have told others to desist from writing letters using fake names only to bring the name of the Liberian community into disrepute. As members of the community we condemned his actions two years ago when he held hostage the Ambassador and staff members at the Embassy under arms. The Italian police had to be called in to save the Ambassador and the staff members by this terrorist. The police found him armed and was arrested while he was trying to escape the embassy premises. Then story was carried by many Italian Newspapers in Italy. Is this the way to promote our country by disgrace?

I can attest that this was the first time that I have ever witnessed such a callous, terroristic and dangerous act by a fellow Liberian during my stay here in Italy.

This was very alarming because all the local newspapers as I have stated published this criminal act of Mr. Los Freeman Nathan Barclay. Among us as a community, Mr. Los Freeman Nathan Barclay has always boasted that no one can deport him from Italy and he can even kill and nothing can come out of it. On several occasions he boasts that no one can do anything to him because he is married to a sister of the foreign Ministry comptroller general who is the right hand man of the Foreign Minister as his campaign team organizer for 2017. In addition to his boastful and flamboyant behaviour among us as ordinary people, he brags of his brother that he says work in the office of one of the most powerful female senators in Liberia from Margibi County. This man intimidates some of us who really don’t know any big shot in Liberia. Well, I cannot go into what we heard he was doing at the Embassy along with some foreigners, a Kenyan national (also a former employee of the Liberian Embassy) who was involved in passports fraud. Few of our Nigerian friends reported to us that the man who helped them with Liberian documents from Liberian Embassy was dismissed by Ambassador Sheriff and that they will fix him up by tarnishing his reputation and by physically harming him. These are serious threats that people need not to overlook but always see our Ambassador freely visiting Liberian homes without any body guards. Mr. Los Freeman Nathan Barclay during a wedding party at the home of the President of the Community (Mrs. Ghenghei) boastfully said that if the Ambassador came there, he was going to attack and the community advised the Ambassador not to attend after hearing this man’s threats.

For us, the person who has proven to be violent within this community is the dismissed Mr. Los Freeman Nathan Barclay who still keeps malice against the Ambassador for his dismissal. And after that dismissal, Mr. Barclay asked some of his friends to go and vandalise the Embassy premises. Every time we visited the Embassy to transact business, the staff at the embassy will show us the damages and destruction carried out by Mr. Los Freeman Barclay including the damages done to the old vehicle that the Ambassador uses. This man, due to his criminal behaviour was jailed in Austria. As a result of that, he added a Los in front of his name!

The reason of mentioning these points to you is to suggest that a suspect of who may have written such cowardice letter with no name could be this very man who had a manifest intent to destroy the Ambassador. He hates the Ambassador for having dismissed him and he has lobbied with many of us within the community in Rome including our compatriots in the northern Italy to inflict personal bodily harm on the Ambassador but many of us have discouraged him to desist from such a terroristic act. He always says that he will be the “Obi in Rome”. He reminds us of one “Nigerian Obi” that killed the Episcopal Bishop Brown. Well, his answer has always been that the Ambassador took bread out of his mouth and so he will get even with him.

During Her Excellency’s visit, we never knew a thing about her entire trip until the Ambassador sent out the invitation. He never said that the President has requested but said whenever the President travels, she loves meeting with her citizens. And we must appreciate this gesture of Her Excellency for the Diaspora Liberians. It was the Ambassador that wrote us to inform the Organization through the Secretary General Patrick Tugbe (and not so-called Mr. FESTUS NAGBE as alleged) that Her Excellency will be visiting Rome and if the community would like to meet her, the Embassy will facilitate that opportunity since indeed the President likes to meet her people in the Diasporas. The Secretary General communicated with all Liberians that he could reach out to for the meeting of the President and so on Saturday, we went to the Embassy of Liberia. Upon our arrival, we saw a group of hooligans that we have never seen in any of our gatherings with Mr. Barclay all dressed in dirty blue jeans chanting “hell with the Mandingo man” and the secretary general (Mr. Patrick Tugbe) immediately took action to calm some of the rude fellows and asked everyone to put down their names but they refused to comply. He decided that the atmosphere would not have been conducive to receive the President and made some phone calls. I don’t know who he spoke to but we were later told that the leadership was going to the hotel to meet the President and will return to us to give us the feedback of our issues that we have written down: (1). Passport renewal. (2). Ecowas passport issue and (3). Issuance of Visas for Liberians by the Italian Embassy in Ivory Coast.

While the leadership was attending the meeting with the President in the hotel, Mr. Los Freeman Barclay and his group decided to match on to the hotel when in fact this was ill advised by many who were present considering the respect for our President. We tried to persuade him but he and his wife decided to lead a handful of others to misbehave along with an American marine, Mr. Keller who claims to be a Liberian from Vicenza, Italy. The situation was turning to be ugly but the Italian security immediately intervened and brought the matter under control. There was no time that we ever saw the Ambassador during the entire episode. The only person that was seeing talking with some of us was one lady that they later told us was Chief of Protocol. She asked why people refused to put down their names. And also she informed us that the room was small to accommodate a larger number but that the leadership will have the opportunity to meet the President. Many of us appreciated this decision but only Mr. Barclay and his group. In fact, some of the members of Mr. Barclay went into the parking lot to deflate some of the vehicles that were being used by the delegation.

Please believe me that the entire narratives given by this so called Mr. Festus Nagbe is like a Cinderella tale full of fantasies to get public sentiments because we never had any flags to wave in the streets or to take to the Embassy. We never matched nor came in as an organized group of people. We noticed that some people had different intention for the President. And thanks be to God that their plans were never materialized to blame it on the Embassy since it was them who invited us. We were standing outside the Embassy and later went inside to sit. One of the Liberian inside the Embassy even broke the glass door where we were all sitting (Comfort) which they claim was by accident. She apologized to the community for what she did. I personally want to believe that the letter to your newspaper by Mr. “Festus Nagbe” is far from the truth of what really happened and I want to believe is a personal vendetta   and you with your editorial staff have fallen prey to these narrative lies by this so called “Nagbe”. Please beware of such people writing to get their false stories out there using good citizens’ names such as our community.

Also, I want to categorically state here that all the members that went to meet the President were bona fide officials and advisors of the Association including a Catholic Priest that was among them. So for Mr. Festus to claim that these were kinsmen of the Ambassador is totally false and blatant lies to mislead our gullible Liberians who believe anything they read in the printed media.

Another issue alluded to by this so called Festus Nagbe is the delay or waiting period at the Embassy. The Embassy has sent our circulars to all community based associations in Italy who reside outside of Rome communicating the email address and phone numbers so that those coming from outside Rome can call to make appointments before coming to the renew documents. Some of the documents cannot be issued by the Embassy unless an email is sent to Monrovia so where is he coming from with recharging phone?

This again maybe what he used to do to us when he as secretary was then working at the Liberian Embassy. In fact, the fees for some of us who are not working and who are refugees have been waived and at times, the Ambassador pays our way back to our destinations. So what has this man done to deserve such an attack on his personality? Please let this so called Festus leave Liberia out of his personal battle with the Ambassador. We commend the Ambassador that we have seen immense improvements in the services at the embassy which the officers expressed to her Excellency, the President. Liberia is the only common denominator that we have so individual persons like the so called Mr. Festus should not destroy it.

Let us rally around our leaders to help Liberia and promote the best image for Mama Liberia. We all have our political affiliations but what President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has achieved in these years is praiseworthy whether we like her or not. She has done very well and she keeps promoting our wellbeing every where she goes. No other person in this post war Liberia could have done so well to bring Liberia back into the international community where the likes like the “Festus Nagbe” and others who brought mayhem and destruction. She needs every accolade and appreciation for a job done despite the difficulties we still have as a post crises country.

Do you know what happened when it was suggested for all of us who went to see the President to put our names down? Mr. Los Freeman and Mr. Keller (the Marine) objected saying that no one should take down any names! Why should they say that we needed not to put down our names if we wanted to see the President? Can MR. Keller see President Obama without putting down his name? The answer is no! So why should unknown or unlisted persons enter the President’s suite? What was on their mind? I don’t want to be like Mr. Festus dreaming as he stated in his letter that the Ambassador and the President were sitting in the hotel drinking expensive wine. His imagination is beyond any reasonable person. He wants to insinuate that our Ambassador and the President are drunkards?

Mr. Festus statement again contradicts itself. Why will the Ambassador who extended a letter of invitation to the Community refuse for us to see the President if we were behaving as good citizens? I don’t think this was the case that the Ambassador deprived us from talking to the President. WE as Liberians must begin to blame ourselves for our own rude behaviors. We must learn to receive our leaders so that they can help us.

The Organization of the Liberian Community in Italy is not disheartened or disappointed with the Ambassador. We are disappointed with the rude behavior our country men who think they can misbehave with impunity. We are very pleased with the conducts of the Ambassador during the visit of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. We are happy that during the nine years, the President for the first time has met the Pope and has met the Italian President. We also learned that the President received the highest honor from Malta which has never happened in the history of Liberia. And also we were informed of some 40 scholarships that the Embassy was able to obtain for Liberians. How then can we be ungrateful to the Ambassador for a good job done in the name of the Republic? We want to thank our Ambassador and we stand by him for his entire endeavor and please, you as a journalist should not encourage these so called fake people to destroy good people.

I categorically can say that no employee ever interacted with us to state that the President has said this or has said that as stated by MR. Festus. He should not put words into the mouth of the poor staff who was only there as a janitor. How will he say the Ambassador selected his kinsmen and secretly took them to the hotel? Did he see the Ambassador? No Liberian at the Embassy will tell you that they ever saw the Ambassador or ever spoke with the Ambassador Mr. Sieh. These are all fantasies in the minds of evil thinkers and evil doers.

This Ambassador has always made him available and is always down to earth for whoever meets him. Again, the so called Festus Nagbe seems to be fantasying and dreaming of another person but not Ambassador Sheriff who personally pay visit to the homes of Liberians living in Italy. He pays regular visit to individual homes which was never done before his time. He has brought the embassy to the people and has dined and eaten with Liberians. He always responded to participated in activities organized by the community and has personally made contributions to the community.

Mr. Editor, I need not to remind you to re-read your letter published but many contradictions are seen. In some instances, it seems that MR. Festus is thinking for a group and also thinking for him but uses the opinion that this was the thought of the group as a decision. This is very strange my dear Editor. Please re-read his letter. “While we walked consoling ourselves……we also reasoned on a comment the Ambassador often makes……..we saw some level of truthfulness in ….. Silently, we thought to ourselves…….and as we went away occasionally turning back to gaze…” These areas are very inconsistent with a true story Mr. Editor.

Again, Mr. Los Freeman Barclay that we know was deported from Austria, has always boasted of having being a commander in Gbarnga during the 1990s war had a nick name “rampant snake” who tortured the Liberian people and with   mayhem destroyed life and willfully deprived his countrymen of their basic human rights by committing war against humanities.

All that I can say to Mr. Los Freeman Barclay is this: Please, you have a freedom of speech but do not write as a coward and put the names of other people on your fictitious letters. Do not throw the stone and hide your hands. Let him be a man to openly declare what he believes in especially having being a fighter all those years as he Mr. Los Freeman Barclay has always boasted. I can assure you that many of us will not sit by idly for you to destroy our community by writing such letters to attack personalities that you are afraid of facing them. Cowards die many times before their death so please come out of your shell. The last time you did this was when you used another fake name called “Bedell”. We have known your tactics so please stop this cowardice behavior.

Mr. Editor, I hope you will be impartial and print my letter in its entirety as you have done for Mr. Festus Nagbe who has expressed his views by saying what he has said. Please, render me the same opportunity as a neutral party. Thank you very much.

Benedictus Sleweon, Concerned Citizen
Orvieto, Italy