Although 2014 was a challenging year for Liberia where deaths and human rights violations emerged as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), however, it started on a good footing with the signing of the Mount Coffee Hydropower Dam Agreement.
The Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) and Dawnus International Ltd., an international civil engineering and construction company based in the United Kingdom in January signed a contract for the Mount Coffee Hydropower rehabilitation project.
The contract included the urgent civil works to be accomplished on the project in advance of the main construction works, which include the construction of two dams, construction of the advanced camp, removal of vegetation from the project infrastructure and cleaning of the powerhouse.
During the year under review, two men, Dib Edmond Kassabli and Anthony Kassabli were indicted for illicit human trafficking and gang raping. They were subsequently adjudged guilty after the jury returned a unanimous verdict against them following the trial. The trial of 18 citizens of Grand Gedeh County for alleged mercenary activity in neighboring Ivory Coast was a news breaking event in 2014. However, five of the defendants were later released as a result of lack of sufficient evidence to link them to the crime, while the remaining 13 were found guilty by the jurors, a decision that was also upheld by the Presiding Judge of Criminal Court D.
Liberty Party (LP) during the year broke silence on the 2011 failed merger between it and the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) alleging that it bought plane tickets twice for Ambassador George Weah of CDC to attend negotiation talks in Ghana. The party's Secretary General, Jacob Smith said whenever meetings were called Amb. Weah would ask the LP to purchase him plane tickets because he could not afford to buy tickets.
Another event that rocked the Liberian media was the suspension of Justice Minister Christiana Tah from the practice of law for six months. Minister Tah, who resigned as Justice Minister following the lifting of the ban was suspended along with Cllr. Beyan Howard. Their suspension grew out of the action of libel involving former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe and Frontpage Africa's Managing Editor Rodney D. Sieh. Former Justice Minister Tah's dilemma was prompted by a decision in which she granted Editor Sieh 30 days compassionate leave for severe pneumonia. Sieh was detained at the Monrovia Central Prison for his failure to pay US$1.6 million to Dr. Toe.
In the first half of 2014, Maryland County Representative Dr. Bhofal Chambers called for an audit of the National Legislature. He said as the body that has oversight responsibility, it is equally important for the Legislature to be audited. Another incident that occurred in 2014 has to do with the electrocution of a man believed to be in his late twenties in New Kru Town. The victim, identified as Aquoi was electrocuted when attempting to steal current from LEC transmission line.
It was also reported that the Supreme Court of Liberia sentenced Pastor Power Massaquoi to 50 years imprisonment for raping an 11 year old girl. At the time of the incident, convict Massaquoi was said to be about 38 years when he committed the act in 2009.
In 2014, President Johnson-Sirleaf announced the submission of series of bills to the National Legislature that will seek to decriminalize all anti-free speech laws in the country. She noted that following the signing of the Table Mountain Declaration, it was necessary to take steps toward repealing all laws that tend to hinder press freedom and free speech in the country.
Johnson-Sirleaf called for an audit of the National Legislature and Judicial branches of government. She called on the General Auditing Commission to go beyond auditing the Executive Branch and audit the two other branches.
The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) commissioned two of its officers as full colonels at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia during celebration of Armed Forces Day. Those commissioned included Lt. Col. Eric Dennis and Lt. Col. Daniel Ziankah as Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff respectively.
Several armed robbers were in 2014 arrested by the Liberia National Police following an armed robbery incident which took place on Benson Street in Monrovia. Those arrested included Sam Genplay alias G-Unit, Saah Joseph and Ansu Sannoh.
The United States Government donated US$2.2 million in equipment and facilities including two pursuit boats to the Liberian Coast Guard to enable it better patrol and protect Liberia's coastal waters. The country was also rocked with news about a protest at Arcelor Mittal by citizens of Gbapa and its surrounding towns and villages in Nimba County. The citizens took to the streets to protest the alleged failure of the company to pay compensation for crops and farmland destroyed during its operation.
Interestingly, a former female Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry Aletha Brown Cooper alarmed over what appears to be infidelity of her husband, James Cooper allegedly having oral sex with a lady in their bedroom. The former Deputy Minister made the statement to reporters when police charged her with Menacing and Terroristic Threats. “I have her picture on her knees having oral sex with my 65 year old husband for money. I suppose to take her to court because she has disturbed my home,” Cooper claimed.
2014 also witnessed the arrest of seven suspected armed fighters who crossed into Liberia from neighboring Ivory Coast. The men, believed to be Ivorian citizens, entered the country through River Gee County.
Another issue that dominated the news was the amendment made in certain provisions of the Act that created the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), which now bars CBL Governor Dr. Mills Jones from participating in elections. Despite criticisms from several individuals and groups across the country, the House of Representatives concurred with the Senate to amend certain provision of the CBL Act.
A notorious Nigerian convicted for armed robbery broke jail in Kakata, Margibi County. Maxwell Emmanuel and two others identified as Amara Musa Kamara and Sam Gray were found guilty in connection with an armed robbery attack on Ecobank-Liberia Branch in Kakata.
As the year moves on the issue of Ebola surfaced. It first showed its face in March but subsided to apparently regroup for a massive onslaught on Liberia.
Health and Social Welfare Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale confirmed in April this year the death of two persons from the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, bringing to seven the number of suspected deaths from the virus at the time.
The Country was shocked in April over news of the death of former Chairman of the Transitional Government of Liberia Charles Gyude Bryant.
It was also reported that a United Nations Helicopter, Marked CRA 22426, crashed outside Monrovia leaving the pilot critically wounded. The helicopter, according to aviation authorities at the time, took off from the James Springs Payne Airport in Sinkor with at least 14 passengers on board.
The arrest of the former defense spokesperson of the erstwhile National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Tom Woewiyu broke news here during the year. He was arrested and charged by the United States government. Mr. Woewiyu was charged for lying on his application to become a U.S. citizen about his past role in the Liberian civil war.
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger in Philadelphia who announced the indictment said Woewiyu responded in his U.S. Citizenship application that he had neither advocated the overthrow of any government by force or violence nor persecuted anyone on the basis of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
As part of our coverage in 2014, it was reported that nurses abandoned the Redemption Hospital. They said their decision to abandon the health facility was due to fear of more deaths from the Ebola virus after the death of one of their colleagues, Esther Kesselly. 2014 also witnessed the indictment of former Board Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Clemenceau Urey and some members of the 52rd Legislature by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC). Urey and others were accused of siphoning over US$50,000 from NOCAL.
As we began the month of July, Ebola woke up and continued its onslaught on doctors and nurses as well as citizens and residents. The virus which returned with reinforcement on health workers killed 10 health workers as announced by the Ministry of Health. Health authorities said the 10 health workers contracted the virus while attending to patients in the absence of protective gears.
As Ebola ravages Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, an American doctor, Kent Brantly contracted the virus in Liberia and was flown to the United States for treatment.
The Government of Liberia in August 2014 declared Lofa, Bomi, Bong and Cape Mount Counties as no go zone because of the outbreak of the Ebola virus in those counties and also declared a state of emergency. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf also ordered the quarantine of West Point in Montserrado and Dolo Town in Margibi County
The Armed Forces of Liberia was immediately deployed in West Point to quarantine the area but protesters took to the street in the township to resist the quarantine.
As residents went on the rampage, armed soldiers opened gun fire which left three persons wounded with 16-year-old Shakie Kamara who bled to death.
Little Kamara and others were shot when residents in the township reportedly resisted Commissioner Miatta Flowers from leaving the township in the wake of the quarantine. Gun fire was heard across the Township of West Point early August 7, 2014. When little Shakie Kamara died from profuse bleeding, Defense Minister Brownnie Samukai denied that little Shakie and others were shot.
Samukai claimed that the bullet victims sustained injury from barb wire they tried to back-pass. The Ebola outbreak resulted to the postponement of the October 14, 2014 senatorial election. The poll was rescheduled for December 16, 2014 but some citizens filed a petition for a writ of Prohibition at the Supreme Court of Liberia.
The High Court halted the election until a hearing was heard. Following the hearing, the court lifted the stay order allowing the election to go ahead, which has taken place.