‘No Apologies’- EJS Defends Family Appointment in Government


Monrovia – The regime of Africa’s first democratically elected female President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has lasted for nearly 11 unbroken years and is expected to come to an end in 2017 immediately following general and Presidential elections.

President Sirleaf from all indications will be given some level of credit for taking Liberia from its shattered state after more than a decade of civil war to its current condition. Upon taking office for the first term in 2005, she promised to leave behind an unforgotten legacy but by the end of her second term, completing 12 years in power, some vices will tend to blemish her much anticipated legacy.

Amongst them corruption which she described as public enemy number one in 2006 and the issue of nepotism where she appointed her three sons to top positions in government at the same time and also appointed other family members to senior positions will all impact her legacy.

When Sirleaf was constantly criticized for nepotism she described her critics as ‘a noisy minority’ and she maintained all her sons-Robert, Charles and Fombah in top positions until Robert resigned a few years later after presiding over the lucrative national oil company of Liberia for a long period where the company collapse right after his departure .

In an interview with the Financial Times Sirleaf says she owes no apology for the appointment of her sons in high positions. “I will make no apologies for any of them,” she says, after giving the Financial Times a detailed explanation of why each was suited to the job. “I don’t have a long list of qualified people. I trusted them. They had the skills. And I knew that they shared my values,” she says, unrepentant.

Corruption is systemic

On Corruption, Sirleaf says she has dismissed a number of officials and some are being prosecuted for alleged corruption. She described issues of integrity in Liberia as systemic. “The integrity issue is systemic,” said President Sirleaf. Stories about corruption are rife in Liberia and President Sirleaf admitted in the interview that news of corruption can be heard all around.

“We hear it and we know it,” she says. “We’ve dismissed a lot of people. People are being prosecuted now”, she added. On whether people have gone to jail for corruption, President Sirleaf responded in the affirmative but admitted that those who have gone to jail may not be Minister. “Yes, people have gone to jail. There may not be a Minister as yet, but people have been to jail.”

She conceded that mind set of Liberians has not changed a lot. “We have not changed the mindset. We have not changed attitudes toward honesty, integrity, hard work. Maybe our educational system has failed us,” she says.

“I don’t know. Maybe we’ve had too much turmoil. It’s a history of boom, bust,” she says of an economy whose fortunes have been almost entirely dependent on the vagaries of the weather and commodity prices. “Things are moving up. All of a sudden, boom.”

President Sirleaf continued: “Something happens. Whatever, it is, boom. Then, we start to climb again, boom.” Also speaking on her involvement in the Liberian civil war and support to former rebel leader Charles Taylor, President Sirleaf said she does not believe US$10,000 financed the war.  “I don’t think $10,000 is what financed the war,” she told the Financial Times, referring to the size of her donation.

Ready for succession

Before now, there were speculations that Sirleaf could hold unto to power to contest a third term of office even though unconstitutional, something she says the Liberian people will not accept “Our constitution forbids it,” she replies.

Although this has not been much of an impediment for other African leaders President Sirleaf said Liberians will not take it. “Our people wouldn’t take it. And my age wouldn’t allow it,” she replies. “I think we’re ready for succession. We just must try to do it right.”

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