Liberia: Suspensions and resignations are welcomed but where are the investigations?


His Excellency President George Manneh Weah promised all Liberians in his inauguration speech that he believed that ‘the most effective way to directly impact the poor, and to narrow the gap between rich and poor, is to ensure that public resources do not end up in the pockets of Government officials.’ He also acknowledged that the ‘overwhelming mandate’ that he ‘received from the Liberian people’ was ‘a mandate to end corruption in public service.’ He said, and I quote ‘I will deliver on this mandate.’ And so, when Liberia’s longstanding partner in the fight against graft and government corruption sanctioned 3 senior officials of the government that had promised to liberate the people of Liberia from said government corruption, His Excellency, the President must have been, as were most well-meaning Liberians, angry that people within his government who should be helping him to fight corruption were in fact alleged perpetrators of the act. I will pause here to clarify that when I say alleged, I do mean alleged; it is not a typo. This is because it is still only an allegation.

By Dr Fidel C.T. Budy, Liberian academic and author.

I, as a diaspora Liberian who craves Liberia’s advancement and the provision of opportunities for all within the borders of our country welcomed the immediate actions taken by His Excellency the President in suspending the 3 officials accused of corruption. The fact that it happened within 24 hours as reported by this paper was pleasing to me. For me, and I would like to think many other Liberians, those words of His Excellency the President during his inauguration speech were sounding realistic for once. I believed that his actions were justified and hoped that the 3 accused officials understood why he had to do it.

Reading, on Tuesday 13 September 2022 that the 3 officials had tendered in their letters of resignations from their respective government offices, were also actions that I welcomed and applauded them for. Whether or not you agree with the roles that they, the 3 accused officials, have played in this CDC-led government is a matter for another discussion. In most civilised democracies, individuals will resign from a government not because of the factual nature of the accusations levelled against them but because of their awareness that their continuation in their respective offices would continue to bring distractions to a government and president struggling to deliver on the many promises made to the Liberian people during campaigning in 2017 and that famous inauguration speech in January 2018. For me, I commend Mr McGill, Cllr Cephus and Mr Twehway for their patriotic examples for resigning from their posts to spare this government and the people of Liberia further distractions from the momentous task of governance.

Having said that there are 2 main reasons why I believe that His Excellency MUST go further and commission an independent investigation led by neutral stakeholders into the alleged corrupt practices of the now 3 former government of Liberia officials. Firstly, we, as Liberians, still live in a democracy where an individual is presumed to be innocent until they are proven beyond all reasonable doubts to have committed the offense that they are being accused of. As such, the investigation will give them opportunities to clear their names. It would be, once His Excellency commissions the independent investigation, up to the government of the United States of America to present such evidence that can be used by the investigators to determine whether the 3 former government of Liberia officials are in fact guilty as alleged. Failure on the part of the U.S. government to do so and for the independent investigation to find them guilty, these 3 should be allowed, if His Excellency so choose, to return to government to help move our country forward. However, the second reason that we need an investigation is for actions to be taken against the former officials if the evidence suggests that there are questions for them to answer. If it turns out that the evidence provided by our development partner is deemed by the investigation to be overwhelming against the 3 former officials, then the government must make a statement of intent by forwarding the individuals to the courts to be prosecuted as they did with former Minister of National Defence Brownie Samukai. Every leader will get opportunities like these to reset public opinion and demonstrate to the world that they mean business; this is that opportunity for His Excellency the President of the Republic of Liberia.

To conclude, suspensions and resignations are welcomed as steps in the right direction, but if these are not followed up with an investigation, then they are mere smoke screens and lip service to all Liberians who trusted this President with the authority to lead us.