FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

14 February 2014

Liberia: Robert Sirleaf Back in Mom's Govt - Envoy On Kuwaiti Oil Talks

Monrovia — Few months following his exit from government, the controversial son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , Robert Sirleaf has resurfaced in government.

Sirleaf, former Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia has been tipped by his mother to lead negotiations with the Kuwaiti government for cheap petroleum products for Liberia.

Making the announcement on Thursday at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing, Information Minister Lewis Brown said that the President was giving Sirleaf the lead role to help speed up a process that has been in the pipeline for the past two years.

"They will take off some of the prices associated with getting it and give it to us at prices below what others are buying," said Minister Brown.

Continued Brown: "Mr. Robert Sirleaf is in Kuwait as special envoy of the President. Many of you have heard that for at least two years, the government of Liberia has been negotiating with the Kuwaiti government, for the supply of petroleum product (what better time) at concessionary prices to be used in our overall sustainable economic growth and development initiatives; but also to assist the government in lowering (if we can get petroleum product supply in our country at concessionary prices-concession means, that's not the normal price they will give it to us for)."

The information minister said the government is pushing ahead with the negotiations because it wants to accelerate its energy priorities and bring cheap power supply to poor communities.

"Then what this will do is to enable us supply hospitals, LEC. Most of the LEC customers as many of you may not know are from the lowest income sectors of the economy," he said.

"This is deliberate. How do you fight poverty, if you can't provide power to some of the struggling communities? That is why we are prioritizing villages and towns; that is why in Monrovia, some places where the big shots live don't have power. "

The government is on the mends of its energy program and believes that with its Kuwaiti partners coming onboard most of the issues associated with petroleum supply in the country will be addressed and a huge segment of its people will get relief.

"We want to wish the special envoy well in these negotiations," he said.

"We are hoping that Mr. Sirleaf can conclude these negotiations in time, so that we can get these petroleum products at very low rates to begin to affect more peopleand begin to improve more lives."

President Sirleaf came under heavy criticisms in the past for the appointment of this particular son, even though she had two other sons serving in the government in persons of Mr. Fomba Sirleaf head of the National Security Agency and Charles Sirleaf deputy governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.

Executive mansion sources say the President appointed Sirleaf to speed up a process that had been at a snail pace for very long.

President Sirleaf's appointment of her son to chair the board of the NOCAL resulted in cries of nepotism and corruption, something that culminated to him resigning both posts held including Senior Advisor to the President.

At the lucrative oil company Robert claimed that he was working as pro bono to help put Liberia's virgin oil sector on track. Sirleaf acknowledged that her son contributed immensely to the reform of the oil sector.

"To make sure that there was a competitive process in the bidding for oil resources; to separate the commercial and the regulatory functions of the oil sector; and to make sure the benefits of the oil sector are passed on to all Liberians, as well as to future generations," said President Sirleaf.

Continued the President: "Those documents are now before the Legislature: the Senate has acted on it the House of Representatives will act upon it when they return in January. We have thus concluded that with these reforms now in place, or about to be in place, once the Legislative process is over, that his assignment has ended."

President Sirleaf,said she and her son made a promise that he was there for a specific reason and when the assignment was done, he would leave.

"It's a promise we made; people perhaps didnot believe us and criticized, but we have kept that promise. His work is over. He can now move on and become a private citizen."

But the president's statement that her son can now move on and become a private citizen has short-lived with his reappointment in government.

Robert reappointment in government is once again a lucrative sector, the petroleum sector and he will be working with one of the largest producers of oil in the world.

Critics will view Robert's appointment as another means for the lovely son of the Liberian leader to amass more wealth as the petroleum industry is one of the most money making industries the world over.

Last November President Sirleaf led a high power delegation to Kuwaitduring which time she met with authorities of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to discuss the current state of Liberia's infrastructure deficit, with specific attention on ports and roads development. There are no other details about this new venture with the Kuwaitis but the GoL said it will release more details subsequently.

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