13 August 2014

Liberia: Travel Ban Dragnet - Who Falls in Trouble With Sirleaf's Mandate?

Photo: Abbas Dulleh/New Democrat
Sirleaf appointing her first set of cabinet officials (file photo).

Since the increase in cases of deaths, including confirmed, probable and suspected from the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, several individuals and government officials have hastily left the country for fear of contracting the virus.

Liberian officials who are amongst key decision makers for the overall governance of the country are amongst some of those who have left the country during this crisis period.

The number of government officials who have left and some still leaving the country increased after the United States Embassy in Monrovia called a meeting of all US citizens cautioning them to decide whether to remain in the country or leave. Several Liberian government officials are said to hold dual citizenship, mainly US and Liberian and as such may have to heed to medical advisory from one of their countries of nationality.

The debate on dual citizenship has been raging in Liberia for years with some calling for a legislation to be enacted supporting Liberians to become citizens of more than one countries while others on the other side of the coin are against such law. The majority of senior Liberian government officials resided in the United States prior to their appointments in government and as such have their families and relatives living abroad prompting their regular visitation, but President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also a usual traveler to the US and other countries abroad Monday dropped a bomb when she declared travel ban for all officials of government working in the Executive Branch which she heads. The president also instructed that those officials already out of the country should return within a week.

"President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has suspended all travel by government officials who are part of the Executive Branch of Government with immediate effect", stated a presidential statement from the Executive Mansion. According to the Executive Mansion, these include, government officials of all Ministries, Agencies, Public Corporations, commissions, and parastals that are under the Executive Branch for a period of one month.

The statement furthered: "The Liberian leader has also instructed all government officials currently out of the country, whether on government or private visit, to return home within a week or be considered as abandoning their jobs". In the wake of the Presidential mandate, several officials are already out of the country and it is not known if these officials will adhere to the Presidential mandate since many of them are buddies to the Liberian leader.

As the travel ban and one week ultimatum comes into play, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that some officials are already out of the country, amongst them the head of the country's Supreme Audit Institution, the General Auditing Commission of Liberia, Yusador Gaye, the Director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO), Sabastian Muah, the Board Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia, Cllr. Seward Cooper, the Chairman of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, Angeline Weeks and others.

According to investigation Auditor General Gaye on Monday posted a memorandum at the GAC where she disclosed that she has requested for 20 days compulsory leave to travel to the United States of America.

Auditor General Gaye's travel coincided with the presidential mandate on the same Monday and it is unclear whether she sought the permission of the President before her departure. The Director of LIBTELCO who admitted approving the travel of Patrick Sawyer known for transferring the deadly Ebola virus to Nigeria, Sabastian Muah is also said to be out of the country.

During a visit at LIBTELCO Monday one security officer said he is out of office, but did state how long, but other sources confirmed to FPA that Muah is currently out of the country. Muah in an online chatroom admitted approving Sawyers' travel days after his sister was confirmed dead from the Ebola virus.

With Arcelor Mittal, a steel company operating in the country where Sawyer also worked as an employee too preventive measures upon being told by Sawyer that his sister had died from the disease but Muah approved Sawyer's travel to Nigeria, a situation that has led to anger from the government and people of Nigeria, the action of the Liberian government to allow Sawyer to travel there.

"The man was on NO watch list. I approved his travel. He emailed us several weeks earlier that his sister had died from the disease and that he had asked that his blood be taken for testing. That test result did not come back positive."

"So to say someone made him travel and exposed him to others is pure hate and misuse of a tragedy that have somehow brought the message home to the many who are in denial of this deadly disease, which by the way has NO CURE", said Muah. He argued that he was not a Medical doctor and as such could not deny Sawyer his wish to travel challenging another discussant in the chat room to take him to an international court for approving the travel.

"I am a medical Doctor? I will respond when angry Liberians try to make an uncalled for statement about a tragic situation. They old people say empty drum can't make noise. So you will be talking by yourself as I see you don't know what you are talking about and as a matter of finding the solution you DO NOT HAVE any but trying to find blame. WOW. Someone must have frustrated the hell out of you in Liberia O.... Take me to the international court since I am guilty of approving a travel", Muah challenged his fellow discussant.

The head Commissioner of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority is another official from the Executive branch of Government who is said to be currently out of the country.

Madam Angeline Weeks is one of President Sirleaf's confidantes as a while ago, she consummated a rental deal committing the LTA to US$1. 5 million lease with a Chinese Landlord, an action the President described as not necessary and called on the Ministry of Justice to nullify the agreement, but that is yet to be done and the LTA is currently occupying the building in question.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of NOCAL, Cllr. Seward Cooper is another senior government official who is also believed to be out of the country. There are several other junior and senior officials of government who are out of the country and it remains to be seen whether the President will act against these officials.

In time past, President Sirleaf has been accused of making makeup pronouncements with no concrete actions. The Liberian leader recently suspended several officials of government for failure to declare assets which were applauded but the outcome of her suspension is yet to be seen as many of these officials are staying performing their duties.

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