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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
13 January 2006

LIBERIA: Ex-rebel official, Taylor's former son-in-law to head new parliament

MONROVIA, 13 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Liberia's new bi-cameral legislature on Friday elected key figures from the country's violent past to head the two chambers in the country's first post-war parliament.

Representative Edwin Snowe, former son-in-law of notorious ex-president Charles Taylor was elected as Speaker of the 64-member House of Representatives.

The speaker is the third in rank in the government hierarchy after the president and vice president.

Senator Isaac Nyanebo, a former advisor and Secretary General of the rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, which battled the government from 1999 to 2003, was elected Senate President Pro Tempore.

He won election with a single vote over his challenger Cletus Wotorson, a presidential candidate in 1997 elections held during a break in the civil war. Nyanebo ran on the ticket of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL).

Snowe, an independent candidate, defeated longtime political activist Dusty Wolokollie, of president-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Unity Party, by 48 to 13 votes.

Mulbah Tokpah, from George Weah's Congress for Democratic Change, was elected Deputy Speaker.

"I am glad for my election today and this marks a new day in Liberia's democracy where the ruling party is not heading the parliament," Snowe told reporters after the elections.

Snowe is one of four newly elected parliamentarians who are on a UN Security Council Travel Ban and Asset Freeze List for "on-going ties with Charles Taylor.”

A fortnight ago, the UN enforced the ban on Snowe and three of his colleagues - Taylor’s former wife and two former armed commanders – by stopping them from travelling to Ghana to attend a World Bank-sponsored training session for members of Liberia's new parliament.

Snowe hit the political limelight in 1997 as head of the youth wing of ex-president Taylor's National Patriotic Party.

Both Snowe and Nyanebo represented different armed groups in the current power-sharing transitional government.

Snowe was managing director of Liberia's Petroleum Refinery Company, while Nyanebo is Liberia's financial comptroller general at the ministry of finance.

Incoming government to audit outgoing government

Meanwhile, Liberia's exiting transitional parliament last week passed a law enabling the country's incoming elected government to carry out a financial audit of the transitional government, which has been plagued with corruption.

The current government and parliament were put in place in October 2003 to shepherd Liberia back to democracy after a peace deal in August the same year that ended 14 years of civil war.

The transitional government is to hand over power to Sirleaf’s government. She will be sworn in on Monday, 16 January.

Last week’s legislation mandates the new government "to use state resources to hire national and international auditing firms to audit all revenues and expenditures of the transitional government from its setting to January when it shall relinquish power."

The resolution bars the more 300 members of government and parliament from travelling out of Liberia during the auditing period. "Chairman Bryant and other officials should not be allowed to leave the country until the audit is conducted", the resolution said.

Bryant and his regime have come under increasing public and international outcry for rampant corruption.

In December, a UN Panel of Experts on Liberia released a report saying the transitional government’s financial administration was “weak with an archaic internal control system and a virtually non-existent external oversight system.

“No effort has been made to prepare or audit the accounts of the Republic of Liberia," the panel said. It also pointed to discrepancies in data on government revenues collection.

Concerns about corruption in government prompted Liberia's international partners and donors in September to draw up an anti-graft plan titled, Governance Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP).

GEMAP is intended to ring-fence key sources of revenue, place international supervisors in major ministries and lucrative sites such as the port, airport, customs office and forestry commission and monitor all expenditures for a three-year period.



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