As US Gov’t Announces Wonplu’s Public Designation: The Beginning of Liberia’s Trouble!

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US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

What seems very limp in the eyes of many government officials could just be the beginning of the Liberian government’s trouble with the United States of America. On Thursday, September 10, 2020, the US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, announced the public designation of the former Director of Passport and Visas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrew Wonplo, due to his involvement in significant corruption when he served the passport bureau.

   Senior officials of the George Manneh Weah administration have over the years been accused of economic crimes and crimes against humanity. A few months after President Weah was inducted into office as President, he demolished his home on 9th Street and began to reconstruct a villa on the premises, which seemed awkward in the face of a stricken economy with a people living below US$1 a day. A few months later, the National Legislature allocated US$1 million in the 2018/2019 fiscal budget for the First Lady, Clar Weah, and hugely cut the allocation of the little token regularly placed there for the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU), Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), the Group of 77 and other democratic actors.

   In the same year, the Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Tamba Koijee, was accused of brutalizing members of the opposition when the CDC Youth League went to campaign in district #13 during the by-election held after Senator Saah Joseph was elected to the Liberian Senate.

   By the last quarter of the year, the allegation of missing L$16 billion added to President Weah’s woes, which is still considered the biggest corruption scandal in Liberia in recent times. The following year was marred by inadequate funding to pay civil servants’ salaries, demonstrations, counter-demonstrations, alleged assassinations and so on. Many wondered what was the official stance of the nation’s traditional friend and ally, but the US apparently was watching the unfolding from the hilltop of Mamba Point.

   Now that President Trump has announced a corruption fighter to be the replacement of former US Ambassador, Christine Elder, it is being speculated that the American government is ready to go after the corrupt officials of its traditional ally nation. The appointment of the new US Ambassador, Michael A. McCarthy, seems like the first step towards the endeavor, as the Ambassador-Designate McCarthy, a seasoned diplomat with cordial ties with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has told the Trump administration that he is prepared to help minimize, if not curb, corruption in Liberia. The statement of the ambassador-designate cannot be underestimated given Trump administration’s stance against corruption and crimes against humanity. 

Just a few weeks after President Trump nominated McCarthy, the US has taken the first major step against corrupt Liberian officials since the inception of the Weah administration.

 In the Thursday press statement of the Department of State, US Secretary of State Pompeo said, “Today, I am announcing the public designation of the former Director of Passport and Visas at the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrew Wonplo, due to his involvement in significant corruption.  In his official capacity at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2018 to 2019, Mr. Wonplo was involved in passport fraud that undermined the rule of law, reduced the Liberian public’s faith in their government’s management of identification and travel documents, and compromised the integrity and security of immigration processes.

   “This designation is made under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. G, P.L. 116-94). Under Section 7031(c), once the Secretary of State designates officials of foreign governments for their involvement, directly or indirectly, in significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.  The law also requires the Secretary of State to either publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members.  In addition to Mr. Wonplo, I am announcing the public designation of his spouse, Dennice Wonplo, and their minor children.

Former Director of Passport & Visas, Andrew Wonplo

“This designation reaffirms U.S. commitment to standing with the people and government of Liberia in their fight against corruption.  The Department will continue to use these authorities to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally.”

   A security expert who has worked with international security agencies and personnel told the Hot Pepper that the US government has received a list containing the names of a number of corrupt government officials, in additional to the declassified report of Kroll and Associates on the alleged printing and missing Liberian dollars.

   According to the expert, this is just the tip of the iceberg of how the US government intends to chase after economic criminals in Liberia, as there is more to come in the upcoming months. To be continued. 

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