Liberia Airport Authority Attempts to Distance RIA From Equatorial Guniea’s Leader

HARBEL, Margibi – The Liberia Airport Authority has provided clarification to a New Democrat Newspaper lead story linking the Roberts International Airport to the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

The New Democrat newspaper on Thursday, September 15 published a frontpage story captioned “RIA’s Financier Skins Enemies Alive and Eats Their Testicles.”

LAA issued a statement divorcing the airport from Obiang and condemned that story.

The statement said there is currently no arrangement that binds RIA to the Government of Equatorial Guinea for the financing of the revitalization of the airport, as being speculated in the paper.

“The management of LAA, with support from the Liberian presidency, is on course with the revitalization programs of RIA. New projects which target the resurfacing of the runway and a world-class terminal are on course,” it said.

In 2013, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea signed an agreement for the central African country to finance the renovation of the airport.

Following the publication on Thursday, a journalist at the paper, Festus Poquie, was arrested by plainly clothed officers and taken to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police. He was released hours later following police interrogation.

Police Spokesman Sam Collins said Poquie was ‘invited’ by the LNP for interrogation as a result of concerns raised by security personnel in the country following the publication.

The editor of the New Democrat, Abbas Dulleh, said the story did not have any security implications.

“We did not add a word to the story so if the government wants to invite us, we do not have a problem,” Dulleh said about the article, which had been originally published by the British tabloid Daily Mail.

Human Rights Lawyer Tiawan Gongloe, who represented the New Democrat journalist, condemned the police’s action.

Gongloe said the situation speaks volume of the Liberian government’s support of the appalling human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea.

He said the frequent arrest of journalists in the country aims to intimidate journalists and prevent them from writing the truth.

Meanwhile, the airport authority said it is committed to providing quality service for the traveling public and to returning RIA to its pre-war status.

The Liberia Airport Authority was legislated in 2009 and approved by the president of Liberia as the umbrella organization overseeing the activities of all airports in Liberia including the Roberts International Airport. Among other things, the LAA seeks to provide managerial and operational control of all Liberian airports including maintenance, development, and render efficient services to airport users and airlines.

Featured photo courtesy of Jefferson Krua

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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