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Liberians ‘July 26’ Independence Day celebration held in the state of Minnesota over the weekend , marking the 166th years of their country’s birth did not go down well as the celebrations were undercut by protest, controversy, and fraud.
At the center of the Minnesota ‘July 26’ celebration celebrations was demonstration against the Finance Minister of Liberia, Mr. Amara Konneh who was invited to serve as orator of the official programs marking the 166th Independence of Liberia, Africa’s oldest Republic but was opposed by a larger share of the Liberian community in the State of Minnesota. According to key organizers of the protest, including Mrs. Tarloh Quiwonkpa, an instructor of Rasmussen College in Minnesota, Kirkpatrick Weah, a long time activist and Mr J. Kerkula Foeday, a former student leader in Liberia and a candidate for PhD, said they were protesting against the Liberian Finance Minister because of his involvement in a US$13 million corruption scandal, funds provided by the European Union for the health sector of the country but is gone unaccounted for as well as the unabated wholesale corruption rippling President Sirleaf ‘s government.
The organizers said “we will not provide a red carpet welcome for corrupt Liberian officials who steal the country’s money and mortgage the resources but will instead shame them”.
Some of the banners and placards protesters carried read, “Ellen is a disgrace to our nation, Liberia”, “Stop looting our country resources”, Amara Konneh, where is the US$13 million?”Others read, “Ellen must resign now among others”.
Organizers of the protest said officials of the Liberian community organization under which all Liberians clanged, are using institution as a piggy bank and cash-cow by to extort money from the Minister, the very corrupt money he has stolen from the Liberian people to serve their greed. Expressing their anguish, the organizers said officials of their community were warned and told not to invite the Finance Minster because of his involvement in a corruption scandal and yet they unilaterally invited him , and effectively throwing a wedge between the cohesiveness of the community and dividing it rather than cementing the unity that has characterized the community on a day of their country’s Independence where every Liberian could be breaking bread together.
The Organization of Liberians in Minnesota has also been accused of fraud, false advertising and extortion for failing to provide the worth of the tickets attendee bought, promising dinner and ball none of which was provided. Tickets were sold for $20.00, $35.00 and $50.00 respectively. The program was attended by the Governor of the state of Minnesota and City Mayor of Brooklyn Park
Mr. Abdullah Kiatamba, Chairman of the Publicity Committee of the July 26 Day celebrations, according to attendees, deceptively told them to watch a video documentary on developmental programs undertaken by the Sirleaf administration and after the orator had finished his speech as they sort out the technical difficulty they were encountering in bringing in the food to serve.
After the video was exhausted and the food not yet available, the MC informed the audience that due to some unforeseen circumstances, the dinner would no longer be served but a finger-food would be served instead but the finger-food was never server either, a dilemma which upset attendees and left the hall in dismay.
According to a Liberian online news outlet, “The Independent Eye”, the purported caterer of the dinner, Ms Fatu Davis, proprietor of Royal Cuisine Restaurant, disclosed that she was approached by the organization on July 19, 2013 to cater for the July 26 celebrations and told her they would get back to her with the funds for the catering but didn’t not hear from them until she called the organizers by 10 am, on the morning of the program inquiring whether the program was no longer to be held since she had not heard from them since they left. To her surprise, Ms. Davis told the online news outlet that they told her the program going on as scheduled and informed her they still wanted her to do the catering and someone was coming to her with the funds for the catering.
The Royal Cuisine Restaurant proprietor told the Independent Eye that, the funds was eventually sent to her and she took it to the bank but the bank could not cash it because it was written in the business name and not her name. Ms Davis said she called the organization informing them of the impediment and they informed her someone was on the way to her bringing a replaced check written in her name.
Mrs Davis further narrated that one of the officials came at the bank where she waiting but took so long to arrive, ultimately making it impossible to prepare the dinner. The Liberian proprietor told the Independent Eye that knowing that her business license was on the line, she told the official it was too late to do the catering but told her he got caught up in traffic and insisted she do anything she can to cater.
Ms. Davis, according to the Liberian online news outlet, told the emissary it was too late to do anything but he instead gave the check and left hurriedly. Ms Davis, the Independent Eye, said she called the organization informing them to come and collect their money because as she told them earlier it was not possible to do the the catering because of the time frame which by then was approaching evening hours. The Liberian proprietor said the organization came and took back the money the next day.
Appearing before a Liberian meeting on Sunday, Mr Zubah Gayflor Kpanaku, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota apologized to his community for the inconvenience and failure of the organization to provide the services promised attendees.