Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, I have invited you here today to respond to U.S. Department of State’s imposition of visa restriction on me, Senate Pro Tempore Senator Albert Tugbe Chie Senator Emmanuel Nuquay on December 11, 2023.
In the morning of December 11, I received a FaceTime call from my 11-year-old daughter and first child Sadel Datiloh Tweah who is in the sixth grade. She was calling to say she had won the writing competition she had started in November. She wrote a 12-chapter short story called The Emerald, about twin sisters whose parents died after giving birth and who went out to use a magical Emerald to save their school and their world. It was the brightest morning I had seen in years. At age eleven, I don’t believe I had my daughter’s imagination, and such achievement can keep dads smiling all day. I was having a really bright day. By seven in the evening, my wife showed me a text from from sister Oretha Pannoh in the U.S, describing what would eventually be visa restriction imposed by the U.S. State Department. The glow of my morning transformed into a gloom of a pitch-black evening: The propagandists and malicious detractors who had sustained against me when I became Minister of Finance in 2018, a prolonged campaign of lies, misinformation, propaganda and disinformation had finally succeeded. This was my initial reaction. I could only feel sorrow for my wife and children.
In a mere 75-word paragraph, the three individuals and their families were both summarily accused and rendered guilty without any due process of law, their respective life-time reputation summarily impaired by dint of misinformation and false allegations given to a powerful country. The allegation and verdict read thus:
“Pursuant to Section 7031(c) [of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2023] the United States is publicly designating Tweah, Chie, and Nuquay, for their involvement in significant corruption by abusing their public positions through soliciting, accepting, and offering bribes to manipulate legislative processes and public funding, including legislative reporting and mining sector activity. As part of this action, their immediate family members are also designated, including their spouses Delecia Berry Tweah, Abigail Chie, and Ruthtoria Brown Nuquay, and Tweah and Nuquay’s minor children.”
The above verdict against us and our respective families is unbelievably unjust, unfair and a fundamental violation of our rights. As a Minister of Finance and Development Planning, I have never abused of my position through ‘soliciting, accepting and offering bribes to manipulate legislative processes and public funding, including legislative reporting and mining sector activities.” I have never done so whether in dealings with the National Legislature or in dealings with any other branches or institutions of the Government of Liberia or with private sector actors. As a Minister, my job is to provide approved resources to the National Legislature upon request subject to the availability of cash. I have never influenced “legislative processes” whatever that implies. Specific reference to the mining sector confuses me but I believe this reference pertains to my involvement to developing a multi-user gateway through the third amendment of Arcelor Mittal’s current concession and and through granting rail access to HPX, an American company looking to transport rail from Guinea through Liberia.
I say so because about a year ago in Washington D.C. I received hint that persons connected with the American company, High Power Explorations Inc., (HPX) were trying to get me on Treasury sanctions because I was allegedly or supposedly “favoring ArcelorMittal Limited (AML) over HPX and preventing HPX from accessing the rail to conduct its investment in Guinea through Liberia.” My informant knew this was unjust and unfair, knowing the role I was playing on the Inter-ministerial Concessions Committee and understanding the difficulties and complexities of the negotiation. I was also informed that persons close to HPX were considering sanctions against me because the company had paid US$37 million to the Government of Liberia through the national budget since 2019 and was yet to have an agreement with the Government.
Legitimate monies received by the Government of Liberia for the development of Liberia through the national budget is never a bribe. That an agreement has been difficult to reach because of complexity surrounding a pre-existing agreement is no reason to threaten government officials with sanction.
I am providing these explanations and contexts because these are chatters that have underpinned threats of sanction against me and my family from powerful individuals. It is important for the public to understand and know these things. We have not discussed them publicly as a government but now have an obligation to do so under the current circumstances.
I was advised that to avoid sanction, I should withdraw my support for ArcelorMittal’s third amendment until after the election. It was on this basis that I advised President Weah to turn over negotiations on the rail to the U.S. Government since too much propaganda and misinformation were threatening to destroy members of his government. The President obliged and the Americans for a brief moment tried to bring both HPX and ArcelorMittal together to reach some understanding on the multi-user rail system. Meetings were held in London and Washington. Unfortunately, these meetings did not achieve anything, and the Americans withdrew and turned negotiations back to the Government of Liberia.
The truth of the matter is that ArcelorMittal has an agreement with the Government of Liberia signed by the Unity Party Government that gives Mittal the right to use the Nimba rail and to be an operator of this rail. In the Government’s vision to develop a multiuser rail system, we have tried to have Mittal relinquish operatorship of the rail to an Independent third-party rail operator for purposes of fairness and equity. Mittal has not been open to this position, and we have been at a deadlock for more than three years. Realizing the impossibility of having Mittal give up rail operatorship, and knowing the Government was not willing to proceed to international arbitration, the Government moved to a position of having Mittal become the User-Operator in exchange for other critical rights Mittal would have to give up under its current concession that would enable fair and equitable access to third parties such as HPX. That would have enabled us reach a compromise. Unfortunately, HPX does not seem open to such a compromise and has insisted that Mittal abandons the rail operatorship. Mittal itself does not want to give up the rail operatorship. As a consequence, Samuel Tweah became the biggest victim in this power play between two billionaires, each of whom aims to undo and outmaneuver the other. This is fundamentally unfair to me and requires correction by the U.S. authorities.
A few months prior to the 2023 elections, the IMCC paid a visit to the Port of Buchanan. Prior to this visit, we had taken a position to press ArcelorMittal harder to share the current facilities at the port of Buchanan with HPX and to accept small shipments, about one to two million metric tonnes of ore through Guinea, preferably from HPX, since under the current concession Mittal is obliged to sharing both rail and port. I narrated all these positionings and repositionings to the Americans to prove that neither I nor other members of the Government of Liberia were biased toward one investor against the other, but that we were bent on finding a practical solution to a very complex problem. Given legal concession right ArcelorMittal has under the current concession, forcing them out of operations of the rail would require litigation or the Armed Forces of Liberia bursting through their premises, violating international law. Since the Government did not prefer any of these two options, we could only concede to Mittal’s operations in exchange for other rights for third party companies like HPX. However, these explanations still evidently did not impress some higher ups in Washington who have continued to use Africa Intelligence, a propaganda media outfit, to rain attacks against the Government of the CDC. The headline of one of Africa Intelligence’s articles published on September 29,2023, reads: George Weah irks Washington and Robert Friedland (he is the billionaire owner of HPX) with mine transfers to ArcelorMittal. Several such false stories have been planted internationally and locally.
As we leave Government, we have left copious transition notes to guide the new administration on these issues. The latest thinking is to find a way for HPX to share the port of Buchanan with ArcelorMittal since it may take a long time for HPX or other third parties to develop separate berths at Buchanan. We wish the new administration luck in these negotiations and look forward to Liberia having a fair and equitable multi-user rail system.
I have related the above factual pieces of information to show that publicly available information on which individuals have been sanctioned or are being placed on visa restrictions are not reliable to use to destroy the lives of decent characters who have worked years to earn and build their reputation. This architecture of disinformation has been deployed to undo the CDC by powerfully connected persons.
These public designations without any due process, without any investigation to which those who are accused are involved, where they have the chance to dispel rumors and counter misrepresentations or misinformation, do not represent the values and norms of the democratic freedom-loving America I have admired since my youth.
I will argue here publicly that these outcomes do not represent the stated foreign policy objectives as conceived and understood by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and by President Joseph R. Biden. I know these outcomes are the work of powerfully placed officials or bureaucrats within the U.S Government who have deep connections and relations here in Liberia and who are sworn and are committed to weakening the CDC.
The recent designations are a mere strategy to disorganize the CDC while the incoming Government struggles to find its bearing and to prevent a powerful, experienced and knowledgeable CDC from mounting the fiercest political opposition.
I will also observe that this is a fundamental unfairness in the conduct of foreign policy in a country and against a government that has shown nothing but commitment to the stated foreign policy objectives and interests of the United States. President Weah has advised his cabinet that in the larger calculus of foreign policy considerations impinging on the interests of the United States Government, he stands with the American people. Liberia has sided with all resolutions against China and Russia even when the rest of Africa took a different position. Most recently in the United Nations resolution to end the war in the Gaza Strip, which would bring peace and end the killing and suffering of Palestinians, Liberia stood with America to say No to ending war. Despite this support, we still see the dismantling of CDC. Yet we are made to believe that these designations are targeting individuals only. With the evidence at our disposal, we beg to disagree.
The post-elections timing and character of recent designations are even more confusing and suspect. After President Weah elevated Liberian democracy in his graceful concession to President-elect Joseph N. Boakai, his government and party are being disintegrated by designations. In the Liberian senate, either Senator Albert Chie or Senator Emmanuel Nuquay stands today the strongest chance of being elected President Pro Tempore of the Liberian senate. CDC can claim at least 15 senators-elect to make this happen. To conceivably eliminate them both and prevent the CDC from controlling both houses, since it is clear the CDC will control the House of Representatives, it became necessary to use State Department designations to summarily squelch their chances. To do this, you have to add Samuel Tweah in, who had already been targeted in the ArcelorMittal saga as related above. By doing this you might strengthen the hand of the Unity party to possibly control the Senate, while achieving the other important goal of decapitating a major intellectual lynchpin of the CDC.
So members of the press, fellow Liberians, members of the CDC have long been targeted. All of you here will bear eloquent testimony to the propaganda of the ‘missing 16 billion,’ the lies of the so-called 25 million, and the attribution of so-called auditors’ deaths to members of the CDC Government. Even though the US funded Kroll reports on the 16 billion have said there was not 16 billion missing — something I had publicly said on a radio show months before the findings of Kroll report were released, and though GAC audit reports on the 25 million have shown that I have had nothing to do with monies at the CBL, members of the opposition made sure this misinformation were kept in files in the offices of US Congressional leaders and in other agencies of the US Government.
In a meeting with Democratic U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern of the State of Massachusetts, I was stunned by the level of detail in the misinformation given to U.S. congressional leaders against the CDC. The Congressman told the Liberian delegation in a meeting in D.C. that President Weah proposed the 2020 national referendum because he wanted to serve for three terms. When we clarified that this was not the case and that he had been misled by opposition surrogates, the Congressman said: “Y’all got to be here in Washington every week to give us correct information because all the information we have about you guys is damaging.” Similar themes were echoed in several other meetings. It was clear to us that while we struggled to stabilize Liberia’s difficult macroeconomic situation and fought the COVID-19 epidemic, the opposition was piling propaganda garbage on the CDC Government in Washington. By the time we turned our gaze to Washington, significant damage had been done and today we are paying a costly price for this neglect.
All the efforts to destroy the international image of the CDC ignore the massive progress the Government had been making on governance, in the fight against corruption and on transparency in public finances. Under difficult circumstances, we raised the biggest slice of domestic revenue to date, increasing domestic revenue by 3 percent of GDP. We brought inflation down from 30 percent to single digit in about a year, arguably, the fastest inflation collapse in history. We regularized the backlog of Government audits we inherited from the Unity Party and more importantly ended disclaimers due to the lack of financial reporting that was the norm of the Unity Party. We stood up a new LACC where commissioners are beyond removal by any sitting president, setting the gold standard for independence. We braved the storm and reformed a broken and dysfunctional wage system without which our government would have collapsed. I double dare and challenge the incoming Unity Party administration to reverse that reform and bring back waste and large pay gaps between Government workers of the same qualification and experience. All these achievements have been confirmed separately in various reports by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and several other international organizations. Over the last two years of MCC scorecards, the CDC administration has produced the best performance on the scorecard since 2007 when it started. President-elect Joseph Boakai I believe should have on his agenda engaging MCC on how we can secure a US$500 million Compact now that the Government of President Weah has laid the groundworks for marked improvements in a range of governance areas.
Yet, after all these achievements, somehow some at the Department of State have never shown a profound appreciation of the gains. The last Ambassador sent here, Mr. Michael McCarthy, became an effective opposition to the Government of President Weah. In meetings at State and Treasury, I have copiously argued there is a disconnect between how State and Treasury were gauging the performance of President Weah and the Government and how other institutions were assessing our performance.
Today, even after the President has graciously conceded, operatives have determined to execute their plan: destroy the CDC; uproot the grassroots mobilization capacity of the CDC; cripple the intellectual center of the CDC by potentially destroying the careers of professionals like me through public misinformation fed to the US government. None of these things was done to officials of the Unity Party, whose Auditor General John Morlu II once said that the “Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Joseph Boakai’s Unity Party Government was three times more corrupt than the Government of former President Charles G Taylor.” Sometimes in life we have to face the dilemmas and challenges of fundamental unfairness. These add to the strength of our character and to our resolve. No matter what, we as respective persons and as a political institution dubbed the CDC will and must prevail.
As a father and a husband, I will fight injustice meted out to me and my family irrespective of the might of the power, of the individual or of the country inflicting that harm. I have always loved the United States and its ideals. I lived close to a decade as a resident of the U.S. and received graduate education there. America is a truly great country and democracy.
However, in as much as I love America, I did not become an American citizen. I have six children, one of whom was born in the United States. Now even this American child is being prevented from entering the U.S. because of this designation. My youngest daughter Salecia is two years old, and I am 52. In ten years, she will be 12 and I pray to be around to have an honest discussion about this designation, its fairness and how she sees its impact on her life.
But this is the world in which we live today. Power can be used to construct and to equally destroy. In this digital Information age, the age of social media, where information moves faster to impact or to destroy, there is a role in the American value regime for corrective justice.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy’s luminous inaugural lit the flame of the moral arc of American global leadership that had been exercised since the dawn of the 20th Century. Kennedy said:
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
Kennedy’s admonition had been in full swing as the beacon of American altruism and would remain in full swing for the more than six decades since his death. No other country has borne the burden of history to right the grievous wrongs of the 20th Century. America played a major role in the defeat of German Nazism and is the bedrock of the Bretton Woods international system, which is why the headquarters of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are located in the U.S. America funded the Marshall plan that rebuilt Germany. America has contributed the biggest aid to all of Africa and to the third world in the last six decades since the demise of John F. Kennedy. America has hugely helped the spread of Christianity and Christian values of love and forgiveness around the world.
So yes, in many ways the United States has sterling claims to the global competition for moral leadership. But the perverted use of American power by bureaucrats in the landscape of international diplomacy has led to rising anti-American sentiments around the world.
Treasury and State Designations have a role in changing behavior in Africa and around the world. Their misuse, or their overuse can pose problems for America. Sanctions cannot and must be used as a tool to destabilize a democracy such as Liberia or to weaken an opposition. Seven persons receiving designations in a space of three years from largely one side of the political divide in a country that is both a democratic and has more recently become a macroeconomic exception in the West African region should tell U.S. Cabinet Secretaries, U.S. Congressional leaders and U.S. Presidents that something is afoul and requires a holistic review.
I hope in fighting to overturn the injustice that has been meted to me and my family, I can contribute immensely to perfecting the use of American power for the greater good of the world and of humanity.
I thank you.
Source: Daily Observer