President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sitting with some trusted aides, including ex-finance Augustine Ngafuan, far right.
By J. Tuan Wesseh
Over the past few months, while Liberians have been overwhelmed with the elections; postponement of the runoff and the short time to campaign, there was ample time for the outgoing president of Liberia and her officials to implement what has been an interim plan to loot the financial coffers which is now a stunning reality when the new administration takes over.
This well-devised and designed plan, in the waiting for several months, took effect during the usual uproar that comes with a campaign. Once the victory and concession speeches were sounded came first rumors and then the realities that, in 12 months, over $400 million had been funneled out of the country as confirmed by the central bank. Further statements were confirmed that the central bank only had a depository of $500,000. Quite unusual but the impending financial crisis that the new administration faces is truly indicative of the true footprints of the outgoing administration.
Unsubstantiated remarks are being made by the international community that there will be a level of hesitancy by donors, and Liberia’s partners to continue to fund projects and provide monies to Liberia when there is no accountability and transparency to the prior funds provided but even more insultingly, the reckless looting of the country’s treasury without impunity. Besides, inside sources within the Trump administration insist that Africa must be a continent of accountability.
With the planned or potential pushback from our partners, one wonders why the current president is so actively involved in the campaign; openly pursuing initiatives; pressing for the return of the legislature; signing Executive orders; passing policies when her administration should be whining down, and insisting that certain members of her cabinet remain a part of the new administration either as tenured appointees or as regular presidential appointees. The question many shrewd observers have been asking is, is this normal or a disguise by this president to cover up for the very plan she and her cronies had put in place to loot the country and all the posturing by this president to distract the public’s perception of the true reason for the actions by President Sirleaf to cover up the financial misery that awaits the new administration.
The real challenge the new administration faces is to strike a balance between an earlier statement to protect the outgoing president (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) and how to deal with her record of reckless looting of the financial resources of the country.
When President Sirleaf taking office in 2005, she requested that all outgoing officials of the NTGL, the outgoing administration of interim president Charles Gyude Bryant, remain in the country until they received permission from her office to travel out of the country; a very remarkable stance by the then President-Elect Sirleaf as she was touted as, Iron Lady; declaring corruption as public enemy number one.
To reiterate, President Sirleaf in 2005 banned all outgoing officials of the NTGL, Gyude Bryant’s administration, from leaving the country prior to an audit and permission from her office. President Sirleaf took the action because she knew that once corrupt officials left the country, they could divert their stolen wealth into artificial accounts with other people’s names and the government of Liberia will be legally unable to recover the stolen funds. This move was a good precedence set by President Sirleaf.
Such is a welcomed precedence and the first test of a George Manneh Weah’s Presidency. Whether or not he follows President Sirleaf’s precedence or he permits or bears responsibility for the recent flight of capital’ risk donors’ backlash and defend the corruption meted by the outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remains something that our newly beloved president-elect will have to answer to his voters––the Liberian people.
About the Author:
J. Tuan Wesseh is a Liberian scholar and professional residing in the United Kingdom. He studied finance, economics and political science.