Monrovia – In 2006, Liberia and Africa’s first female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, inherited a nation still reeling from two decades of dictatorship and brutal civil war which left Liberia in ruins.
Liberians, tired of war, were desperate of a new leader that would steer them to peace and prosperity.
So as she took the stage in her maiden inaugural address in 2006, President Sirleaf, a former banker and United Nations official, among other things, promised to use all her experience and contacts in the world’s top financial institutions and the international community to rebuild her war ravaged country.
She also promised to take a strong stance against corruption, describing it as public enemy number one.
Said President back then: “Fellow Liberians, we know that if we are to achieve our economic and income distribution goals, we must take on forcibly and effectively the debilitating cancer of corruption of corruption…
“Throughout the campaign, I assured our people that, if I am elected, we would wage war against corruption regardless of where it exists, or by whom it is practiced.”
“Today, I renew this pledge. Corruption under my administration will be the major public enemy number one. We will confront it.”
“We will fight it. Any member of my administration who sees this affirmation as a mere posturing, or yet another attempt by yet another Liberian leader to play to the gallery on this grave issue should think twice.”
“Anyone who desires to challenge us in this regard will do so at his or her personal disadvantage,” she declared.
After serving two consecutive terms, Liberia, under her leadership is undeniable a difference place. The country has seen lots of improvements in terms of infrastructures, governance and freedom of speech.
However, it is still poor. There is still a lot to do to develop its education and health systems and provide jobs. And despite resuscitating and establishing several anti graft institutions, corruption is still a major issue.
So, as the nation is about to witness its first transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another in over seven decades, many Liberians are calling on the new government, headed by Africa’s greatest football star turned-politician, Senator George Manneh Weah to learn from the outgoing administration’s mistakes if it is to succeed.
Notable among them is the Deputy Internal Affairs Minister and stepson of President Sirleaf, Varney Sirleaf.
In an interview with the BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet recently, Mr. Sirleaf warned President elect Weah not to repeat President Sirleaf’s mistakes by employing family members and be complacent in the fight against corruption.
Lyse Doucet: “If you are to give advice to George Weah, what would you tell him?”
Minister Varney Sirleaf: “Be little vigilant; those setbacks that Mrs. Sirleaf faced learn them, putting family members in government, being lenient when it comes to prosecuting people."
"If someone is found in corrupt act and they are indicted and the court is slow in prosecuting them, of course then it’s like the government is not doing much when it’s come to prosecuting people,” Mr. Sirleaf avowed when asked by the BBC’s Lyse Doucet on what would be his advice to Mr. Weah.
When asked whether he feel disappointed by what President Sirleaf has not been able to achieve in 12 years, like the fight against corruption, the Deputy Internal Affairs Minister, who have served the administration for 12 years, said yes, he feels a bit disappointed because it is the major yard stick people use to criticize the government
“Yes I am little bit disappointed because that is the wipe that people use to wipe on the government."
"Of course sometimes it’s just mere criticism. We may not have reached our mark in that area Lyse.
He further asserted that the public’s criticisms of President Sirleaf’s practice of nepotism heightened after she appointed her son Robert Sirleaf as Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and because of Robert’s strong stance on employees opting to engage in corruption at NOCAL.
Said Varney Sirleaf: “That criticism actually came up when her son became Chairman of the Board of NOCAL.”
“What I heard is that the criticism was based on the fact that he was much firmed on stopping people that may have wanted to carry on corruption.”
“And People made politics out of it as well. I think that when you are a President Lyse, you have to be careful as to where to place that person.“
“For example, I am working very hard to bring basic services to the people. I am qualified. I have been audited several times and I came out okay.”