Tag Archives: Liberia

Civil War: Finnish Judges ‘fetching’ witness testimonies from Liberia.

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Around a quarter of a million people were killed between 1989 to 2003 in a conflict marked by brutal violence and rape..

Judges from Finland are digging up witness testimonies in Liberia and are touring the north of the country for a landmark trial against a warlord accused of committing atrocities in Liberia’s civil war.

Gibril Massaquoi is accused of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity between 1999 and 2003 including murder, rape, and using child soldiers.

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Massaquoi, 51, a former senior member of the Revolutionary United Front, has lived in Finland since 2008 but was arrested in March after a rights NGO investigated his record during the civil war.

The investigations could set a precedent as few have faced trial for war crimes committed in Liberia.

In a historic move, the Finnish judges are also hearing evidence on Liberian soil — the first time war-crime proceedings have taken place in the country.

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“When we come from a totally different country, from a different part of the world, it’s difficult for us to imagine in what kind of circumstances, in what kind of environment the witnesses live,” said Finnish state prosecutor Tom Laitinen.

“Understanding that better helps us understand the witnesses better: so distances between places, seeing the houses, the places the witnesses have mentioned. So everything comes together and helps us to understand the case.”

Around a quarter of a million people were killed between 1989 to 2003 in a conflict marked by brutal violence and rape, often carried out by child soldiers.

Judges visited the northern village of Kamatahun on Thursday, an AFP journalist saw, and are due to continue on to the nearby village of Yandohun.

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Fighters under Massaquoi’s command are accused of committing atrocities in both places.

In Yandohun, people told AFP that they welcomed the trial. Fighters torched the village in the 1990s, they said, and took away residents for forced labour in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Liberia ‘at alert’ after Guinea Ebola deaths.

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Guinea’s Health Minister Remy Lamah told AFP on Saturday that four people had died of Ebola, the first deaths since a 2013-2016 epidemic which began in Guinea killed 11,300 people across the region.

Liberian President George Weah on Sunday put the country’s health authorities on heightened alert after four people died of Ebola in neighbouring Guinea, the first resurgence of the disease in five years.

Weah “has mandated the Liberian health authorities and related stakeholders in the sector to heighten the country’s surveillance and preventative activities in the wake of reports of the emergence of the deadly Ebola virus disease in neighbouring Guinea,” his office said in a statement.

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Guinea’s Health Minister Remy Lamah told AFP on Saturday that four people had died of Ebola, the first deaths since a 2013-2016 epidemic which began in Guinea killed 11,300 people across the region.

According to Weah’s statement on Sunday, the new deaths occurred in Guinean town of Gouecke close to Liberia’s northeastern border.

“However, no case of the disease has so far been detected in” Liberia, it insisted.

“The president’s instruction is intended to ensure Liberia acts proactively to avoid any epidemic situation, the kind Liberia witnessed in 2014.”

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Weah also instructed the health authorities “to immediately engage communities in towns and villages bordering Guinea and increase anti-Ebola measures,” the statement continued.

“While the health authorities are urged to increase their alert level, the general public is assured that there is no case of Ebola in Liberia and that the government is undertaking all measures to ensure that the public remains safe from the deadly virus.”

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#Newsworthy

Storyline: Liberia votes on George Weah plan to cut presidential terms

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Weah’s chief of staff Nathaniel McGill dismissed the claim the president would seek to extend his stay in office, pointing out in October that the president had yet to even finish his first term.

Liberians voted on Tuesday on President George Weah’s plan to shorten presidential terms, with critics fearing the former football star could use the constitutional referendum to cling to power.

Weah has argued that keeping the same leader for years “is not the way to go” and wants presidents and lower-house lawmakers to serve five years instead of six, with senators serving seven years instead of nine.

But the move has sparked suspicion in the region because other presidents have used constitutional changes to re-set the clock on their time in office, extending their grip on power.

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In Guinea, 82-year-old President Alpha Conde won a controversial third term in October after pushing through a new constitution that allowed him to bypass a two-term limit.

The same month, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, 78, was a elected for an equally contentious third term, after having revised the country’s constitution.

Opposition politicians in Liberia fear that Weah, 54, could try a similar move, although the president has denied the claim.

He was elected in 2018 and is still serving his first of a maximum two terms in office.

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Voters are also choosing whether to repeal a 1973 ban on dual nationality, a move which some hope could be an economic boon in the poor nation of 4.8 million people.

Hundreds of thousands of Liberians are thought to reside overseas, having fled war and poverty.

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If they acquire another nationality they are barred from owning property at home, however, among other restrictions.

There were long queues at polling stations in Liberia’s capital Monrovia on Tuesday, suggesting a high turn out.

“I got here at 5:30 am to vote yes for the dual citizenship,” said Manuela Jackson, a 23-year-old university student voting in eastern Monrovia, whose brother has US citizenship.

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“That is the only interest I have (in) this vote,” she added.

Should the referendum overturn the dual-nationality ban, Liberians with two passports will still remain barred from elected office.

Casting his vote in Monrovia in the late morning, Weah said that Liberia “needs to be peaceful,” in an apparent reference to recent election-related tensions elsewhere in the region.

“We don’t need to tear our country down, so the process is fair,” he added.

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Test for George Weah
Some view the referendum — which is taking place alongside a mid-term senatorial election — as a bellwether of support for Weah.

Born in Monrovia’s slums, the president rose to football stardom and then to his nation’s highest office, making him an idol to many.

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But Weah is facing mounting criticism over poor living standards in Liberia.

The country is still recovering after back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, and West Africa’s 2014-16 Ebola crisis. It also suffers from soaring inflation, and regular cash and fuel shortages.

The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), an opposition coalition, has led the charge against the referendum and has urged its supporters to boycott the poll.

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It argues that there was not enough public discussion about issues, which few fully understand.

“We don’t even know what the implications are when you vote ‘yes’ or you vote ‘no’,” CPP secretary-general Mohammed Aly told AFP recently, warning that Weah could seek further terms.

“It is not good for one man to be president for a long time,” McGill told reporters at the time.

After a peaceful election campaign, fears of electoral violence also surfaced on Sunday when protesters attacked a CPP politician’s convoy in the northwest of the country. Weah has condemned the violence.

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About 2.5 million voters are registered to vote, according to the national elections commission.

Polls are set to close at 6:00 pm, with initial results expected this week.

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#Newsworthy