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Mixed Reactions Over President Sirleaf’s Claim of Family Not Wealthy

Mixed Reactions Over President Sirleaf’s Claim of Family Not Wealthy

“When the President says that her family is not wealthy, in my mind, it sounds ill-fitted. It is barbaric, it is draconian, it is disdainful and it is a mockery to our people because to have a President who has always accommodated corrupt people, to come and mock at the Liberian people simply because her tenure is ending. I think she slipped; I think this President must apologize to the Liberian people”- Jeremiah Barclay

Monrovia - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been in power for ten years now and continues to come under criticisms for nepotism where her sons and other relatives have been serving in lucrative positions in government.

Robert Sirleaf served as head of the National Oil Company of Liberia while Charles Sirleaf is still in top position at the Central Bank of Liberia and Fombah Sirleaf serving as head of the National Security Agency (NSA). Other members of the Sirleaf family are serving in other positions in government while some are part of the kitchen cabinet directing key decisions by the Liberian leader. This had led to public perception that the Sirleaf family has amassed wealth overnight during the last ten years especially with Robert becoming a humanitarian, forming a football club and providing assistance to communities. In some quarters there are claims that Robert is now a billionaire but President Sirleaf in a recent interview with FrontPageAfrica denied rumors that her family has become wealthy overnight. Said President Sirleaf in an FPA interview: “I feel so sad because this is one of the greatest lies that the future will debunk. This family does not have excessive wealth; this family lives by certain principles of my mother." "We do not steal, we do not steal, do you understand, we have no shares in companies, we have nothing, I personally do not own a piece of property in America where I owned houses before and sold them before coming to Liberia”. But some Liberians believe the comment by the President is simply meant to mock the Liberian people. In separate interviews with FPA some Liberians expressed that the Liberian leader is only trying to identify with the suffering population and make her family appears like an ordinary one. Jeremiah Testimony Barclay an activist says the Liberian leader comments are ill-fated. “When the President says that her family is not wealthy, in my mind, it sounds ill-fitted. It is barbaric, it is draconian, it is disdainful and it is a mockery to our people because to have a President who has always accommodated corrupt people, to come and mock at the Liberian people simply because her tenure is ending. I think she slipped; I think this President must apologize to the Liberian people” says Barclay. Barclay says past report of James Sirleaf, son of the President owning a hospital in South Africa and the Robert Sirleaf being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not an April fool. Barclay adds: “Some may refer to it as speculation but I hold it as it is. When I look at Madam Sirleaf’s attitude here in Liberia and matches it with the so-called speculation, you will realize that it is fair enough to believe that this President’s son has a hospital in South Africa and she contributed to that hospital in South Africa”. President Sirleaf in the FPA interview also admitted that outgoing Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara Konneh is her favorite Minister and Barclay says such statement indicates that the President is only concerned about her welfare and not the Liberian people especially praising a Minister that served four years with consistent budget shortfalls. “This statement she made here about her favorite minister has clearly landed her in a paradoxical situation or better still has contradicted her because she says this family is not a wealthy family." "If you say so, then you have a finance minister now that you favor, who served for four consecutive years and there were budget shortfalls. So, if you say that your family is not rich and then you favor the budget shortfall minister, that means it was through him you got rich because to have budget shortfall consistently three times is not easy in this country”, Barclay says. Marcus P. Wlue, another Liberian believes the President is not sincere in her comments.  “I will differ with the President — she will say that because she does not want the people of Liberia to know that over the past time her government has been a corrupt government. First of all, she has three of her sons in government that steered the affairs of key positions in this country that has to do with funding; then she says her family is not a wealthy family; I have a serious problem with that”, says Wlue. Wlue is questioning the rise to prominence of Robert, the son of the President such as owning a football club. He says: “First thing Robert Sirleaf, a son of President Sirleaf; where was him in the past years? He has never owned a football club; the only time he decided to own a football club was when his mother began President after three years”. Wlue believes the situation at NOCAL that led to the collapse of the entity indicates that the Sirleaf’s have accumulated wealth over the years. “Robert Sirleaf served as the chairman on the Board of NOCAL for three good years. They had honorable Christopher Neyor who was there as President. Because Robert Sirleaf wanted to play his own game to generate funds, he decided to tell his mother to kick Christopher Neyor out because he never wanted to be exposed. Where is NOCAL now? NOCAL has been bankrupt; then she telling us that her family is not a wealthy family”, Wlue laments. Hilton Jackson, another Liberian agrees that the Sirleaf family is not wealthy. “I agree with the President. The Sirleaf family is not a wealthy family. They can afford because they all were educated before the Sirleaf family could even come into power in Liberia. She was working, her sons were all working and they were all saving. They were not spoiling their money, they are all professional people. I believe that they can afford. They are not a wealthy family, not to even think of a billionaire family”, says Jackson. He believes Madam Sirleaf is still a strong leader. “The President is still an iron lady for one point. For the past ten to eleven years now, since this President took over, she has maintained the peace and stability. You find out that there are lots of developments going around the country. We know before 2006, if you were going see this country you were going to cry”, he praised the Liberian leader. Jackson says he will remember Sirleaf for changing the country for a better. “I will remember this President for a lot of things because she took us from nowhere—let say from a dust or ashes and brought us to somewhere. She took this country when there was nothing at all. When she became President for this country, the budget was low and she took this country up to somewhere. I will remember her for one thing, freedom of speech; she is giving us the right to speak our minds out. So, freedom of speech is the one thing I will really remember her for”, he noted. Melvin Doweh, says he believes the comments by the Liberian is factual because the Sirleaf family has professional people. “I read FrontPageAfrica on her revelation that her family is not rich. It is her own view and is something I believe is the fact because she will not come to say what is not true. Over the years, madam Sirleaf has worked and earned salary. They have other investments; her children are educated and are career people” says Doweh. According to him the Sirleaf’s have earned have earned some money by virtue of their professions and other businesses, something he says should not only be attributed to some corrupt practices or embezzlement “I think that will be a disservice. If she had not excelled to the post of presidency they would have been not even living in Liberia. Maybe they would have still been outside there trying to strive to make life. But taking over the presidency gave them an edge. There are lot of privileges and opportunities so this is why you see their livelihood have changed over the years. If she said they are rich, there is a benchmark of being rich—one can get ten thousand, one million, they cannot consider themself to be rich”, he says. Cyrus Reeves, disagrees with the Liberian leader. “I disagree with the President when she says her family is not rich. Over the past years this President has ruled our country for like almost eleven years now”, says Reeves Reeves noted that President Sirleaf has failed to fight corruption therefore her family has been benefiting from the corrupt system. “She is now serving her second term. Still, we have budget shortfall in our country economy. Over the past time, our madam said corruption will be her worst enemy. Now we got budget shortfall; why should we get budget shortfall when the madam told us that she will fight corruption to the fullest? I can tell you that the Madam and children have taken our money to benefit themselves. Let me say this and leave it to the almighty God, the madam will pay back to what she is doing to the Liberian people”, says Reeves.

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