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TGA Op-Ed Mondays 9/05/2021
State Capture of Unwonted LTA, Brazen Infractions: Illegalities, Irregularities, and Transgressions
Sarr Abdulai VANDI PhD
Member of Global African News Editorial Board
ITU Senior Expert
University Professor Emeritus
Washington DC USA
The outré LTA Protectionist Floor Price in favour of the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) has created an Oligopoly in the domestic Liberia MTN and Orange mobile operators and service providers; and thus, colluded and negatively Floors, the sector.
Additionally, the recent and controversial and corruptible LTA and the MFDP 5% Covid-19 Slush funds surcharge, rejected by the World Bank Group, under whose auspices and support of the ITU; that establishes the LTA. The wretched Covid-19 taxation is an abomination, and the MNOs correctly and adequately reject it.
The MNOs have ITU and WBG unconditional endorsement and support. Notwithstanding the perverse and boldness, the Supreme Court of Liberia has ratified and sanctioned the irregular and illegal LTA taxation!
This new version of an earlier edition addresses the impolitic LTA and the MFDP corrupt slush funds of five per cent (5%) Covid-19 pandemic surcharges; against the GSM operators. The costs have a trickle-down effect on the poverty-stricken Liberia publics. Thus, challenging and unable to access telephony and Internet services in the Homeland.
Both the World Bank Group (WGB), in Washington DC, USA, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in Geneva, Switzerland, have confuted the irregular and irrational taxation amidst the pandemic and the provocative and outrageous State of Emergency (SoE) declaration by the clueless and useless CDC Régime.
The two Mobile Networks and Services Operator (MNOs) have unilaterally declared a non-compliant posture. They have filed an injunction motion with the Supreme Court of Liberia (SCOTROL) to annul the irregular and illegal LTA surcharge(s). However, the drooping Supreme Court has rejected the MNOs injunction against the LTA in its August-September 2020, sitting terms of the Court.
In the wake of Tuesday, September 03 2020, ruling from the Supreme Court of Liberia against Orange Liberia, the GSM Mobile Phone Company, notes the decision and shall now execute surcharges on voice telephony and Internet data services.
Unfortunately, and consistent with the controversial LTA, Order No. 0016-02-25-19, upheld by the Supreme Court of Liberia, Orànge Libéria Telecoms, shall implement the new and higher prices régime for voice and data services for the public and users is costly and significant; effective Monday, October 05 2020, and beyond.
The WBG and the ITU build and initially assist in funding, managing, and providing technical assistance to the LTA, 2003-2007.
This author's innovation is the ongoing Liberia telecommunications (telecoms) and infocommunications (infocoms) reforms and policies. He constructed the project proposal document (PPD), solicited funding and technical assistance, and seconded to Liberia (GoL) early 1999-2007 to initiate and implement the highly needed Liberia telecoms and infocoms reforms and policies.
The MNOs non-compliance stipulated that the new illegal Covid-19, 5% surcharge, is a dubious LTA order. The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) slush funding is in the fashion of State Capture. Incidentally, the MNOs have threatened to shut down and terminate their respective operations and services, in the Republic, with immediate effect!
Ironically, the corrupt and incompetent five-member LTA board of commissioners (BoC) is littered and comprises loyalists and siblings to Samuel Doe TWEAH, Nathaniel Falo McGILL, and Lenn Eugene NAGBE. The troika is pejoratively dubbed the Notorious, TAP; aka Three Amigos of the President.
The three Amigos are dangerous, régime rogués, immoral hawks, and predators. Who weaponise their influence and proximity to the President against perceived enemies and opposition to the recidivist CDC, régime. The troika and other CDC operatives flaunt in reckless luxury and corruptible opulence, with State Exchequer and unconditional theft of foreign and donor funds.
State Capture and the Oligopoly
An Oligopoly is a market dominated by preferred and preferential Mobile operators, as it is currently in Liberia. It is a classic case of State Capture!
State Capture is a form of corruption in which businesses, individuals, entrepreneurs, public servants and politicians conspire to influence a country's decision-making process to advance their investments and adventures.
State Capture also involves weakening laws and neutralising any agencies that enforce them.
State Capture is a type of systemic political corruption in which private interests significantly influence a State's decision-making processes to its advantage.
State Capture refers to "a situation where influential individuals, institutions, companies or groups within or outside a country use corruption to shape a nation's policies, legal environment and economy to benefit their private interests" (Transparency International Plain Language Guide, 2009). It is one of the most pervasive forms of corruption on an industrial scale.
The arrest and imprisonment of former Azania and South Africa President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa ZUMA, 2009-2018, and the corruption and racketeering saga against him is a classic example of State Capture!
State Capture can also arise from the subtler close alignment of interests between specific business and political elites through family ties, friendship, and economic assets' intertwined ownership.
"State capture has also been related to the post-communist region where it described a policy process dominated by powerful oligarchs that belonged to the old nomenklatura elite."
World Bank experts have defined state capture as a situation in which decisions are made to appease specific interests through illicit and non-transparent private payment to public officials rather than suit the national interest aggregated and mediated through a democratic process. State capture occurs when the game's basic rules are shaped by particularistic interests rather than the aggregated national interest.
There is rampant nepotism and reckless cronyism in the UP and CDC administrations, reminiscent of the True Whig Party (TWP) oligarchy and administrations.
Corruption prevailed and normalised on a massive and industrial-scale throughout the Government and legalised by the Madame President, especially when her sons and imported cronies and Diaspora Liberians were the offenders and perpetrators and willing participants.
The main risk of State Capture is that decisions no longer consider the public interest but instead favour specific groups. Laws, policies and regulations benefit a particular interest group, frequently to the detriment of smaller firms and groups and society. State capture can seriously affect economic development, regulatory quality, the provision of public services, quality of education and health services, infrastructure decisions, and even the environment and public health.
Unfortunately, Oligopolies reduce competition, inhibit innovation and infrastructure advancement, provide low-quality services, and trade at higher prices for consumers and the nation.
Imposing Floor Prices and unjust taxations hampers competition. It is an irregular and illegitimate intervention in an open market sector. Furthermore, it is against international best practices and acceptable standards.
The colluding and the levying of Floor Prices by the LTA on mobile voice and mobile data services and the arbitrary levy of an unwarranted new Government 5% regulatory fee on the MNOs are abnormal and reckless, and inimical!
One of the core requirements of an open market is minimal Government intervention. The LTA injunction is an overreach and has violated this fundamental ordinance. The incumbent sector players, aka MTN Liberia, and Orange Liberia, are reluctant culprits and collaborators and must oblige politely to denounce, abrogate or be non-compliant.
Both the Regulatory Régime, the Sector Operators, and the Services Providers remain the Usual Suspects to this cruel public caper and a scandalous rip-off of valued and vulnerable customers and publics.
An Overreach Executive Mansion and a Recalcitrant LTA
Of turbulence between the Executive Mansion and the LTA is corruption and State Capture, including the former LTA chairman's intransigence to cede the autonomy and financial independence of the Regulatory Authority to the Executive and the Exchequer.
State Capture is the most pervasive form of corruption. Companies, institutions, or influential individuals use bribery, such as buying laws, amendments, decrees or sentences, and illegal contributions to political parties and candidates to influence and shape a country's policy, legal environment, and economic interests.
Public institutions such as the legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary, and Regulatory Agencies are captured at the national and local levels.
The régime is characteristic of CORRUPTION, MALIGNANCY, ENTANGLEMENTS, INCOMPETENCE, SARCASM, DEVOLUTION, and REVISIONISM!
They have become habitual, unusual, and persistent predators of the public coffers, national sovereign wealth, and natural resources.
A series of metrics and optics, including essays and inquiries, focused on the administration's rampant corruption, celebrations of violence and mysterious deaths, gross negligence with the public's welfare and wellbeing, and incompetent statecraft.
President George Manneh WEAH is functionally illiterate. He can hardly read, write, and speak correctly in English, French, and Italian. Notwithstanding, he resided and played professional soccer in France, Italy, and England.
He barely completed high school, and his irregular DeVry University online Bachelor of Arts Degree (B.A.) in Business Administration is useless and inconsequential.
Moreover, his inner circle and close advisors are incompetent, unfit, and highly intimidated by qualified, capable, and expert Liberians who wish to boost the public services sector and serve the administration and the Republique.
The mortgaging and selling of the Republique's national sovereign wealth and natural reserves are reckless State Capture and Economic Crimes against the Homeland and the Rest of Us!
Mr President demands absolute loyalty from government officials without regard to the public interest. He is openly contemptuous of expertise, experience, and loyal public and civil services commitments.
According to the Executive Mansion, Website <URL>, Mr Ivan BROWN is suspended for his conspiratorial and unethical activities as Chairman of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), valid Friday, June 05 2020, and indefinitely; and without salary.
The former LTA Chairman shall turn the overall properties of the Authority in his possession to his successor, Edwina Crump ZARKPA, the interim Chairperson of the LTA Board of Commissioners (BoC). President WEAH summarily dismissed the LTA chairman, in the disguise of indefinite suspension from the Board of Commissioners (BoC), because he refused to resign his portfolio and defended the LTA's independence and financial autonomy before the House and Senate Committee on Telecommunications and Infocommunications on Friday, June 05 2020.
Both Ivan BROWN and Samuel Doe TWEAH, Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), were summoned before the House of Representatives chambers and the Committee on Telecommunications and Infocommunications Wednesday, June 03 2020.
The Legislative Conference centres around the Executive's agreed proposition to amend and re-enact the financial autonomy and the independent budgetary services of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), clause, enshrined World Bank Group (WBG) assisted 2007 National Telecommunications and Infocommunications Act. The Act's vested sovereignty ensures financial autonomy of the Independent Regulatory Régime of the sector and State enterprise.
The Senate Resolution, No.001/2020, Article 1-6, reads as follows:
"That for the centralisation of the collection of all Government revenues, there shall be a revision of existing Laws to the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), respectively. To ensure that One Hundred Percent (100%) of all revenues accruing to these entities for taxations and licences fees shall be deposited into the GoL Consolidated accounts"; under the supervision of the Exchequer and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).
Understandably, and, yet, unfortunately, the suspended, or more correctly, the dismissed LTA chairman; somersaulted and vigorously defended and refused to invalidate the Constitutionally protected financial autonomy and budgetary services of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), in favour of the most twisted, Liberia, Exchequer and the cumbersome and unmanageable Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).
Against this background, President George Manneh WEAH became indignant and requested the LTA chairman to resign. He declined and then summarily dismissed in the disguise of indefinite suspension, with immediate effect.
The régime snob successfully shoved out James Forkpah KOLLIE Jr and repossessed the lucrative Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) funds in another embodiment of disruptive and turbid governance. All LMA revenues are subsequently in the crooked Central Bank of Libéria (CBL), consolidated account, with the twisted Exchequer, Samuel Doe TWEAH, the significant signatory and custodian. The LMA Executive Commissioner-General is on an irregular and indefinite leave of absence without pay. A replacement is named, and he is the notorious Lenn Eugene NAGBE. He is an asset and an infiltrate, a ruthless opportunist, a dangerous carpetbagger, a fanatic zealot, and a Teflon and shadows NPFL operative.
He is dubbed the Bone Collector, notorious for collecting the remains of the executed RUF Rebels and depositing the carcasses in Monrovia funeral homes. Sam BOCKARIE, aka General MOSQUITO et al., was the infamous RUF Commandanté from neighbouring Sierra Leone. The RUF was NPFL collaborator.
Also, as warring factions assigned Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in the NTGL régime, Lenn Eugene NAGBE recklessly trafficked hosts of conflicting GSM frequency and operating licences to ghosts of inexperienced mobile and cellular telephony operators. The blatant technological malady occurred between November and December 2003 and January and February 2004 at the early inauguration of the 2003 Accra Peace Conference (APC), which brokered the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL, 2003-2005).
James Forkpah KOLLIE is a renége founding member of the CDC and the LMA chief executive commissioner, in absentia or unwilling and infinite leave of absence. Both Samuel Doe TWEAH and James Forkpah KOLLIE are William V S Tubman High Schoolmates, long-time personal friends, and the originators of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), in a Minneapolis suburb of the U.S. State of Minnesota, in 2004-2005.
Incidentally, the troika, Samuel Doe TWEAH, James Forkpah KOLLIE, and Ivan BROWN, are founding members of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the incumbent ruling party of George Manneh WEAH, the accidental, 25th POTROL (President of the Republic of Liberia).
Both LMA and LTA are Cash Cow institutions that the wicked Plutocrat, Liberia's 24th Chief of State, and Madame President, Ellen Johnson-SIRLEAF, used to reward extravagantly payoff her cronies, patrons, and kith and kin; with reckless abandon. During her twelfth-year reign, such has been the pattern of nepotism, deception and capriciousness, lousy governance, State Capture, and repulsive and crude terror against perceived and suspicious detractors and opponents.
Madame President also lavishly and illegally expend about US$500M, or half a billion dollars of LISCR and the Maritime funds, to lobby powerful and influential U.S. officials, and prominent International lobbyists, and global power brokers. To gain colonialist international recognition, frivolous awards, and favour in her administration and policies during her twelfth-year reign of terror, the domestic nightmare in the Homeland, and, against the Rest of Us!
Preceding Liberia governments and succeeding régimes in crises, transitions and interim, et al., have all abuse and mismanage the lucrative Liberia maritime and vast international shipping registry funds and revenues; and INMARSAT dividends.
INMARSAT is the U.K., based International Maritime Satellite Organisation. Thousands of vessels cruising the oceans and high seas rely on its unrivalled end-to-end service availability and operational communications and safety services coverage.
Government Divestiture of LIBTELCO
The so-called national operator, LIBTELCO (Liberia Telecommunications Corporation), is obsolete and dysfunctional. Prospective new entrants in the telecommunications and the infocommunications sector will find it challenging and unable to operate.
Perhaps the Government of Liberia (GoL) should divest itself and privatise LIBTELCO, effective immediately, to desist from financing the potentially lucrative and self-reliant entity as private-sector administered.
The POTROL's last January 2021, State of the nation's address (SONA), puts the national debt at almost two billion United States Dollars (USD1.8M). A whopping USD750M of that amount is to finance the LIBTELCO's ACE fibre optic cables, which dropped anchor in the Monrovia-Atlantic Ocean coast in early 2013. Still, the so-called high-speed Broadband and Internet connectivity by LIBTELCO is yet to be fully functional and entirely and efficiently and effectively operational!
The World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recommended private sector investment in the revised draft and blueprint of the 2007 National Telecommunications Act, which created the LTA and diversified the Liberia telecoms infocoms sector.
The proposed LTA privatisation project of LIBTELCO was rejected by the Plutocrat and the nepotismo Madame President, Ellen John-SIRLEAF, favouring her godson, a certain Benjamin WOLO, to manage the Ancien and deteriorating state enterprise in the fashion of a State Capture!
Under dubious circumstances, Mr Benjamin WOLO, the conflicted and unfit and the indecorous LIBTELCO chief executive, was later dismissed by his godmother in 2016.
His successor is Sebastian MUAH, a long time régime collaborator and Praetorian Guard. He allegedly attempted to mortgage and trade-off LIBTELCO's scarce resources and deteriorating assets to acquire the defunct and crisis-prone NovaFone; and crooked shares in a notorious Racketeer Casino in Bangui, the Central African Republic (CAR). FrontPage Africa openly exposed Sebastian MUAH and criticised the imminent state capture in the press. He was rebuked and unceremoniously dismissed by Madame President Ellen Johnson SIRLEAF.
The rest is history, including the current and sorry status of LIBTELCO, the legislated moniker: the National Operator; an anomaly and a misnomer in the new and emerging telecoms and infocoms environment!
Deconstruct the Dysfunctional LTA, and Decommission the Praetorian and Inexpert Board of Commissioners (BoC)
There is an urgent need to deconstruct and decommission the useless LTA Board of Commissioners (BoC) and transform it into a lean, skilled, and technological directorate consistent with modern trends in the telecoms industry and infocoms sector.
The modified 2007 National Telecommunications Act and new statute for the BoC appointment are political and partisan and devoid of the sector's calibre of expertise and experience.
The salary régime at the LTA is astronomical. As early as 2008, in the second year of the UP administration, the LTA began to leverage its financial sovereignty and to collect enormous revenues for a range of telecoms and infocoms operating services, including the highly forecasted and successful Universal Global Satellite Mobile (GSM), and cellular telephony, and frequency bandwidth, managing licences and other lucrative spectrum and frequency fees for radio, television, cable, and DSTV broadcasting. A host of other electronic devices and equipment fees, and Internet services, etcetera.
Irrespective of the CDC administration's so-called salary harmonisation régime, individual Board of Commissioners (BoC) monthly payments and incentives and extra amenities, including residential rentals, and luxury automobiles, are insanely extravagant. Also, there is a massive per diem for a series of orchestrated and insignificant overseas trips and conferences on a rotating basis to benefit each commissioner and preferential staff.
Madame President designated the LTA as a safety net and a secure and wealthy haven of employment opportunities for her Diaspora clan and political tribe. President WEAH follows the LTA appointment tradition of his chief patron and architect of 2017, controversially general and Presidential elections. A spectacular, 14 of the 15 Counties, nationwide Liberia Presidential elections victory over Vice President Joseph Nyumah BOAKAI Sr. The loyal Vice President was doomed when the Madame betrayed his favour, the international soccer icon and national football playmaker and a Neocracy politician.
The incumbent CDC, the executive board of directors (BoC), at the LTA, like its predecessor, Unity Party administration, has no prior telecommunications and infocommunications regulatory qualification and experience. Similarly, the draft World Bank legislation for the 2007 National Telecommunications Act was downgraded and reduced to mediocrity to accommodate Madame President's greed, control, and personalisation of the telecoms sector infocoms industry.
Ironically, the five-member Executive BoC for small telecoms and infocoms market, in a nation of fewer than five million inhabitants, are an exception to the rule and neither the norm in the sector.
Most countries in the Africa region and worldwide have a casual and a majority non-executive Board of Commissioners/Directors but with the full-time directorate and a singular or two executives BoC to manage and administer the daily affairs of the Regulatory Régime.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with its vast population, over 300M, and lucrative telecoms and infocoms market, is the exception. It has a five-member executive board of commissioners (BoC), chaired by a partisan and ranking commissioner, nominated by the incumbent POTUS, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
LTA Transgressions of the International Gateway Monitoring System (IGMS)
The IGWS, aka IGMS, creates the LTA and manages the gateway through a Telecommunications International Alliance LLC (TIA) proxy. An LTA commissioner, Zotawon David TITUS, has oversight authority and responsibility of the IGMS.
Zotawon TITUS, the rest of his LTA board of commissioners and colleagues, have neither training nor appropriate telecoms and infocoms regulatory, governance and policy competence and capabilities. He undermined and subverted his telecoms sector mentor, Sékou KROMAH, who lobbied and facilitated his assignment in the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (2003-2005) as an assistant minister portfolio. He is an ingrate and very treacherous.
Sékou KROMAH, former LIBTELCO, managing director, was relieved of his Deputy Minister of Posts and Telecommunications portfolio favouring the saboteur and his underling, Zotawon David TITUS. Frederick B NORKEH, his ethnic and Nimba County kinfolk, was Minister of Posts and Telecommunications.
The offensive and tribalist, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, managed and transacted the ministerial internal structural changes against Sékou KROMAH. The Honourable Minister orchestrated the removal of Sékou KROMAH and facilitated the appointment of Zotawon David TITUS, which paved the way for his eventual selection to the LTA board of commissioners in 2017.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines an international gateway as:
"Any facility through which electronic communications (voice, data, and video) is or sent between the domestic networks of one country and another".
Understandably, telecoms and infocoms International Gateway System (IGW) is any facility that provides and monitors an interface to send and receive electronic communications (i.e., voice, data and multimedia images/video) traffic between one country's domestic network facilities and those in another country.
In practical terms, the IGWS can link-local networks to an international (often submarine) cable system or the earth station facilities that link internal structures to a satellite system.
The IGMS facilities may differ depending on whether the international facility is terrestrial or space-based. Despite these differences, however, the purpose is identical. To monitor, aggregate, and distribute incoming and outgoing global voice and data traffic. The traffic is increasingly accessible only through broadband networks.
Brazen Illegalities and State Capture Entanglements of LTA-TIA-LISCR
There are LTA-TIA and LISCR in the shadows and cooperation with the irregular conflict of contractual interest agreement for the operation and administration of the international gateway services by the TIA (Telecommunications International Alliance LLC).
Yoram COHEN, the administrator of LISCR (Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry LLC), is the shadow founder and President of the TIA. His son, Adam COHEN, runs the TIA from the U.S. State of Florida, U.S.A. The COHEN family, loyal fixer and bouncer Avi ZENDENBERG manages the TIA external operations.
William Fayiah SAAMOI Jr is fronting TIA, a local Liberia administrator and a former Cellcom Libéria, formerly owned by Yoram COHEN, the incumbent LISCR administrator.
Giant France, Orange Global Telekom, subsidiary; Orange Cote d'Ivoire, acquired Cellcom Telecom Libéria in April 2016. The sale price is One Hundred and Fifty Million US Dollars ($150,000,000). A required Government of Liberia (GoL), 20%, capital gains tax credit is negligible or State Captured.
The ownership of Cellcom Liberia Telecoms (2003-2016) has been concerning. The abrupt and unusual sale to Orange Telecoms (2016), including the 5G permission of the LTA and the Madame, President, remains opaque and highly suspect.
A Grand Kru County, Representative, Deputy House of Representatives Speaker, and U.S. convict felon, Honourable Jonathan Fonati KOFFA, is LISCR and TIA, Counsel; and Shadow influence peddler and state capturer.
The rogue legislator and masquerading telecoms lawyer, Jonathan Fonati KOFFA, has sponsored and Shepherd an irregular amendment of the 2007 National Telecommunications Act favouring the anomalous National Operator, LIBTELCO. The new Bill transforms LIBTELCO, into a private sector, telecoms operator, and infocoms services provider, with National Operator; strategic, competitive, advantages, loyalties, and benefits.
Ironically, and against international best practices, in the telecoms and infocoms sector, LIBTELCO acquired a universal GSM operating license from the LTA in September 2020.
Jonathan Fonati KOFFA is a disgraced felon, and U.S. disbarred lawyer who extorted his clients' money and deception to the U.S. Judiciary system. He has lost all credibility, and it is unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off corruption and dishonesty.
LISCR offices in the Tubman Boulevard Building, Monrovia, houses TIA administrative offices and Mr William Fayiah SAAMOI.
President Ellen Johnson-SIRLEAF's Maritime and LISCR Millions of Dollars Jamboree, 2006-2017
The U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act lists LISCR, LLC as a registered lobbyist of the U.S. Congress. Each of their bi-annual reports shows that the Republic of Liberia is sending around 30 million annually to LISCR, LLC for what the Foreign Agents Report lists as "Lobbying Services".
In addition to several other lobbying firms lobbying on behalf of the Government and spending hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars.
2006-2008 documented over $69,000,000 (Million USD) for such "Lobbying Services" on behalf, AND PAID FOR BY the Republic of Liberia in two years. Also, the second half of 2010 shows LISCR, LLC received $29,459,294.00 for "Lobbying Services" in six months alone!
Does the Ministry of Finance's reporting back up this expenditure? Should these fees be considered part of LISCR, LLC's statutory agreement to run the Liberian Maritime Program?
Understandably the incumbent CDC régime has concluded a lucrative lobbying agreement, effective January 24 2021, with the former U.S. Congressman Edward R ROYCE and compensated by LISCR and the Libéria Maritime Authority (LiMA) at the estimated exorbitant rate of $2.5K per day.
En passant, LISCR, LLC is a small, Vienna, Virginia based limited liability corporation. With offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Hamburg, Zurich, Piraeus, Monrovia and Hong Kong that have the rights secured by Liberian statute of the highly lucrative Liberian Maritime Programme. Few people are aware of this Programme and its existence. Most are aware only by one of their businesses; the infamous "Flags of Convenience".
"The credit for Liberia's prominence in this field belongs in considerable measure to the Greek shipping tycoon, the late Aristotle ONASSIS.
In 1947 Edward Stettinius, a former U.S. Secretary of State, set up the Liberian Trust Company to encourage U.S. investment in what had initially been a colony for freed American slaves, approached him. Onassis proposed that Liberia should issue flags of convenience. Onassis took full advantage when the idea was taken up by placing a good proportion of his fleet of oil tankers under the Liberian flag.
10% of the United States Oil supply is brought in by such cargo ships carrying the Liberian flag - and this total is just a mere fraction of the boats that use the Liberian Maritime Program. Vessels fly the Liberian Flag "conveniently" to avoid regulations, taxes and prying eyes.
A program that was up until recently the number one Maritime programme in the world - falling to number three with the further shady dealings of President Charles TAYLOR and the current CEO Yoram COHEN - a U.S.-Israeli national. Flags of Convenience are just one aspect of this business."
An Epilogue: The Propitious and Appropriate U.S.- Liberia Corruption Intervention and the Establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC)
Liberia is the oldest Republic in Africa. Liberia was created by the American Colonisation Society (ACS), a quaint U.S. foundation founded in 1816.
The only country on the continent was never a colony or part of a European empire; a staunch American friend with the most substantial possible cultural and financial ties to the United States.
The emerging U.S. administration's focus on Liberia's war-profiteers-turned-politicians is a telling indication that the POTUS is focused on both the architects of the war as well as its perpetrators. Moreover, such intervention is welcoming, promising, and encouraging.
On the U.S. conflating in Liberia's domestic affairs, both countries share a unique history and rare international relationships and privilege; and the international community takes its cue from the U.S. on Liberia.
The US-originated the Republic of LIBERIA and remains its principal patron and guiding Angel!
Liberia shares a unique history with the United States. Originally a colony founded by former slaves from the United States, the Americo-Liberian settler class dominated and excluded the indigenous majority for decades.
By 1989, simmering ethnic and tribal tensions exploded into years of brutal civil conflict that killed thousands, displaced millions, and spilt into neighbouring countries.
The war also generated a vast black market of arms, diamonds, timber and other natural resources, catering to everyone from rebel militias to former and liquidated Libyan commandanté, Col Muammar GADDAFI and notorious Al Qaeda.
Though Liberia has transitioned to a stable democracy, many of the actors who participated in the conflict managed to parlay their wartime power into political and business careers.
For example, a certain Benoni Wilfred UREY and Emmanuel SHAW, partners of a bogus PLC, Inc., somehow expropriated and embezzled President Charles TAYLOR's shares of Lonestar Cell, Liberia's vastest telecommunications network, after President TAYLOR was convicted of war crimes in 2007.
In 2008, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice privately recommended not removing UREY from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions list because of the ongoing threat posed to peace and security in Liberia and the region.
However, Benoni Wilfred UREY and Emmanuel SHAW were one of several who benefited from what amounts to blanket amnesty for former Liberian warlords and war profiteers under OFAC sanctions in 2015.
Both SHAW and UREY are Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), War and Economic Crimes indictees. Ironically, Emmanuel SHAW is CDC's presidential economic adviser, and Benoni UREY is now a possible vice president in 2023.
A US hands-off attitude and strategy in Liberia is an outright moral abdication of U.S. responsibility for its colony.
Unfortunately, the U.S. shepherd and a chaperone to Madame President Ellen Johnson-SIRLEAF and her ACDL architects and financials for the twelfth years were in power, 2006-2017.
Madame Johnson-SIRLEAF's tenure as President is marked by scandals, mysterious and unresolved killings, corruption and mismanagement. The civil war was an anomaly and a betrayal of its bond with Liberia and its vulnerable inhabitants.
The latest U.S. position to investigate and prosecute the architects and the perpetrators of the war and establish the WECC, contained in the TRC report, is welcoming; and in the right direction.
These human rights violators and brutal killers must be held accountable for their wretched transgressions and carnage to the Homeland and the Rest Of Us.
President BIDEN's departure from President OBAMA-era policies, especially the 2015 mass de-listing, is a good signal of his commitment to human rights and corruption.
Nonetheless, the deciding factor is whether President BIDEN's Africa policy will meaningfully improve on his predecessors; it will be his willingness to question outdated thinking on U.S.-Africa policy.
Incidentally, the idea that giving gunrunners and warmongers a place in Government will make them anything other than gunrunners and warmongers is now outdated and never was realistic.
Endemic corruption and entrenched inequality have fed internal conflict and held back development in countries throughout the continent for decades. In Liberia's case, the United States' special relationship with the country adds extra weight to addressing the conditions leading to fresh instability and remobilization of ethnic divides along wartime lines.
Balancing security interests with accountability in Africa need not be a zero-sum binary. Past presidents have often employed reactive policies toward the continent rather than proactively engaging with the root causes of conflict and corruption while neutralizing known bad actors before they have a chance to wreak havoc.
As the incumbent Joseph Robinette BIDEN administration prepares the U.S. diplomatic machine to re-engage with the region, it must be equally aware of the danger of inaction.