Press release | March 19, 2018

Global Witness condemns illegal interference in Liberian transparency agency

Global Witness strongly condemns the illegal removal of Konah Karmo, Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). The firing of Mr Karmo by President George Weah, who has replaced him with Gabriel Nyenkan, violates Liberian law and severely undermines the independence of Liberia’s critical anti-corruption agency.

On March 5, President George Weah announced that Gabriel Nyenkan was to assume the post of LEITI Head of Secretariat. One week later, Mr Nyenkan arrived at the LEITI office in Monrovia accompanied by Liberian police officers. They demanded that the current Secretariat Head Konah Karmo leave the building, which he did.

The removal of Mr Karmo and appointment of Mr Nyenkan is illegal. Liberia’s LEITI Act states that only the LEITI Multi-stakeholder Steering Group (MSG) can appoint or remove the Head of Secretariat[i]. This safeguard is critical for the maintenance of LEITI’s independence, ensuring that the agency is not dominated by any of its constituent groups or subject to external interference.

LEITI is an autonomous Liberian agency that ensures transparency in Liberia’s forestry, oil, mining, and agricultural plantation sectors. It has the legal mandate to publish company contracts and the money they pay to the government. LEITI is governed by an independent MSG that is comprised of representatives from the government, companies, and Liberian civil society groups. Together, these representatives can keep one another accountable and ensure LEITI continues to promote and deliver transparency.

“President Weah must immediately withdraw his appointment of Gabriel Nyenkan, allowing Konah Karmo to resume his duties as LEITI Head of Secretariat,” said Simon Clydesdale, extractive industries campaign leader at Global Witness. “LEITI’s independence is fundamental to its mandate and for the political credibility of Liberia, it cannot be the playground of political appointments.”



Notes to editor:

[i] The appointment was in violation of section 6.3d of the LEITI Act which gives powers to the MSG ‘to recruit and dismiss the Head and the Deputy Head of the LEITI Secretariat, and to approve the recruitment of all other staff and consultants’.

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