2 November 2012

Liberia: Ellen - We Have Fallen Short of Punishing Corruption

Photo: AllAfrica
2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners: L-R Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has admitted at a forum in London the UK, that her administration in Liberia has fallen short of instituting punitive measures to address rampant corruption in the country. Speaking Thursday, 1 November 2012 at a meeting at Simson's-in-the-Strand, London, to promote investment in her country, the Liberian leader asserted that although her administration has made progress aimed at addressing corruption, but said the government have fallen short of instituting punishment against corruption.

She however stated that Liberia is making progress in tackling corruption by working on prevention and punishment of crimes, indicating that she has removed or fired people whom she believed had a "lack of integrity", although she was limited in what she could do until the justice system functioned better.

"I hope that I will leave Liberia on an irreversible course of peace and prosperity based upon the proper use of its natural resources," said President Johnson-Sirleaf.

The Liberian chief executive, who was specifically responding to recent criticisms from fellow Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee regarding corruption in the Liberian government averred: "Our judicial system is just beginning to be reformed," adding, "Until there is prosecution to send a strong message of deterrence, we know that we won't have the full effect."

It can be recalled that recently while in Paris, France promoting the French edition of her book, "Mighty Be Our Powers", Nobel Laureate Gbowee resigned as chair of the nation's Peace and Reconciliation Commission; on grounds that the Johnson-Sirleaf led government has made no sufficient progress in promoting reconciliation, also blaming the Johnson-Sirleaf administration of not only condoning corruption but also of practicing nepotism.

Madam Gbowee , who stated that she stands guilty of betraying the people's trust by working in a government that is guilty of closing its eyes to corruption in high places, views her resignation as an act of forgiveness from a raging conspiracy that President Sirleaf has awarded "lucrative jobs" to her sons in a blatant act of nepotism.

She lamented that the president's appointment of one of her sons, Charles, as central bank deputy governor, another (Fumba) as head of the National Security Agency, and the third (Robert) as senior adviser and chairman of the state-owned National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) was unacceptable.

Regarding President Johnson-Sirleaf's son Robert Sirleaf, Nobel Laureate Gbowee averred: "This is wrong and I think it is time for her to put him aside." "He's a senior economic adviser and that's well and good - but to chair the oil company board - I think it's time he stepped aside."

Said Laureate Gbowee: "I've been through a process of really thinking and reflecting and saying to myself 'you're as bad as being an accomplice for things that are happening in the country if you don't speak up." "And when tomorrow history is judging us all let it be known that we spoke up and we didn't just sit down."

She acknowledged that the Johnson-Sirleaf led government has done a good job in rehabilitating the country's infrastructure, but was quick in pointing out that the rehabilitation of the country's infrastructure was not good enough for a country in which poverty was fast determining the social status of most Liberians.

Listen to Madam Gbowee: "What good is infrastructure if people don't have enough to eat?" "In her [President Johnson-Sirleaf] first term she developed infrastructure. But what good is infrastructure if people don't have enough to eat? Development in a land of hungry, angry people is nothing. The gap between the rich and poor is growing. You are either rich or dirt poor, there's no middle class."

But at the London meeting, President Johnson-Sirleaf replied her co-Nobel Peace Prize Winner indicating that: "My fellow Nobel laureate is too young to know what we've gone through to achieve peace and security in my country, to reach the level of democracy that we all are experiencing today."

President Johnson-Sirleaf turned 74 few days ago, while Madam Gbowee is 40-yeras-old. President Johnson-Sirleaf also told the Royal African Society in London that she still wants to work with Laureate Gbowee, adding, "She agreed to be a part of the reconciliation process. Subsequently she has decided that she does not want to be a part of it. We respect that decision." "I suspect that, as we move on, working with others, that she will change her mind and she will become a part of that process because the nation needs all of its people."

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