A GLOBE AFRIQUE ANALYSIS
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF’S LIBERIA: INTERNATIONAL MYTH vs DOMESTIC REALITY
NEW YORK, NY —Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 as her country was gearing up for its 2011 presidential election in which many thought she would have probably lost. Unexpectedly, the venerated Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and highly respected U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, two good friends of Sirleaf, allegedly nominated her for the prestigious award, and she had to win, of course, given the global status of the people recommending her.
The irony was the nature and category of the award Madam Sirleaf received: “Nobel Peace Prize.”
Looking at Madam Sirleaf’s history with respect to Liberia and further granting her a peace award indicates the value of Alfred Nobel’s vision has become meaningless. Additionally, it appears that the administrators of the Nobel Foundation have also become misguided in carrying out Nobel’s intent.
How could Madam Sirleaf win an award for peace?
Perhaps, the Nobel Foundation should have done their due diligence. Prior to his incarceration, many Liberians were cynically asking if Charles Taylor would be the next recipient? Why not, if Madam Sirleaf, his former boss, could get one with much sensational global news headlines.
Here are the facts based on Globe Afrique’s research and analysis. Liberia was never a country known for civil or rebellious wars. In fact, due to Liberia’s peaceful nature, the country became the leading Maritime-friendly state before Panama and others join the race.
According to sources, a historical review of activities, documentary evidence and Madam Sirleaf’s own testimony, it is cleared that Madam Sirleaf allegedly initiated and supported the start of rebel activities in Liberia and the Mano River Union basin part of the West African sub-region. Yet, she got a Nobel Peace Award.
As she leaves office after 12 years, she is indicating and proving to the administrators of the Nobel Foundation that they were wrong in honoring her with an award that Alfred Nobel had drawn the entire world into believing and cherishing so dearly. The signs are clear, Madam Sirleaf wants to leave Liberia into another conflict. Current events in Liberia justify this assertion. She is set to leave office as president of Liberia without a smooth transition process. Probably, she may not even be the one to hand over power to Liberia’s next democratically elected president. But that remains to be seen in the events of the next few weeks or months.
But that is not really the point here. The issue at hand is corruption in Liberia. This is important because corruption––organized, structured and widespread–– is the persistent Ebola or Ellenbola in Liberia, far more dangerous than cancer and even HIV-AIDS. Unlike cancer and HIV-AIDS, corruption triggers collective and transgenerational poverty, insecurity and national chaos. Its impact is accessible in generating a systemic culture difficult to eliminate. And this is exactly what has happened in Liberia from 2006 to present.
In 2011, John Morlu, then-auditor general of Liberia, speaking to the VOA, accused President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration of being “three times more corrupt” than its predecessors. The accusation was a big embarrassment for the president but it didn’t mean Morlu was wrong either because of events, past and present in the country, proved Morlu’s right.
Morlu also said millions of dollars were unaccounted for in the budget for 2007-2008 (and in subsequent annual budgets), and that there was a serious lack of transparency in the draft budget presented to the Liberian legislature.
But here is laughable ironic: President Johnson-Sirleaf, who previously held senior positions at the United Nations and the World Bank, declared corruption “public enemy number one” after taking power in 2006. With that pronouncement, she claimed she had been waging an all-out fight against graft. But facts and her actions proved otherwise even though her government has called the allegations of corruption in the country unfair and unsupported. Even as the US State Department and Transparency International pointed out in their various reports.
Although the Liberia’s legislature had summoned the auditor general, John Morlu, to appear before it to explain his damaging allegations about government graft, subsequent events revealed that every aspect of the Sirleaf’s administration, all three branches of the government have experienced acts of corruption.
This, however, does not mean that every official or civil servant in the Liberian government is corrupt, it simply means the Sirleaf administration has created, established, nurtured, emboldened and protected a culture of corruption at all levels and in every sphere of government such that even foreigners have joined the bandwagon successfully. One of such foreigners is Tony Praise Lawal, a Nigerian ex-ECOMOG soldier.
Instead of President Sirleaf welcoming the observation of the auditor general, John Morlu, she fired him by not renewing his European Union’s supported contract aimed at building transparency and accountability in Liberia. Below is the presidential statement on why she fired the then auditor general.
Press Statement by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
On the expiration of the employment contract of
Auditor-General John S. Morlu II
March 25, 2011
In my Inaugural speech on January 16, 2006, I declared corruption public enemy number one and promised to fight it. Since then, we have made some landmark strides in this direction:
- We have passed new procurement laws whose effects are felt through the bidding process;
- We are implementing the first ever Public Financial Management Act;
- We have joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), becoming the first African country to be validated as EITI compliant;
- We have established and empowered an Anti-Corruption Commission with full powers to fight corruption anywhere in Government, including at the highest levels;
- We have restructured and funded the General Auditing Commission, making it accountable to the Legislature as it is done in the United States and other progressive countries;
- We have given the GAC sweeping powers to audit any official and/or agency of government, even at the highest levels, at any time, without necessarily seeking approval from the President or anyone else;
- We have required appointed officials to declare their assets to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission;
- We have ensured total freedom for the media to investigate and expose corruption everywhere in the country; we have required every agency of Government to fully cooperate with the works of the GAC and Anti-Corruption Commission. While we have always had qualms about the mode of operation of the GAC, we have fully supported the Commission and cooperated with its work;
- Although overall corruption clearly remains a serious challenge in the country, we have made progress in our fight against corruption as evidenced by our ranking on the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index, which shows that Liberia ranks 13th place out of 47 countries in progress made against corruption in sub-Saharan Africa today compared to 30th place in 2008, an improvement of about 13 places.
As I have always said, corruption is not a new problem in Liberia. It is almost as old as the country itself. Therefore, the fight against it has got to be the responsibility of all Liberians, and it will take time, sacrifices and patience from all of us.
Our current Auditor-General, Mr. John S. Morlu II, was recruited and nominated by me in January 2007, confirmed by the Liberian Senate in February 2007 and assumed the position in March 2007.
On my advice to them regarding this appointment, the European Union concluded an agreement with the Auditor-General to pay the salary for the first four years of the contract, with the understanding that the Liberian Government will assume this responsibility thereafter. We want to thank the European Union for ensuring that the Auditor-General’s compensation was lucrative and for providing other forms of support to the GAC for the past four years.
We did not always agree with the way Mr. Morlu performed his job, including an indictment that our Government was three times more corrupt than its predecessors, even before he officially commissioned his very first audit. However, we continued to support him and want to sincerely thank him for his immense contributions to our fight against corruption. Our disagreements over his mode of operation have never negated the fact that he has established a foundation that his successors can build upon in the fight against corruption.
Fellow Liberians, whatever our differences and opinions, whatever our motives and objectives, the Office of the President demands a certain amount of respect and I can do no less than assuring that this is the case. Additionally, as the fight against corruption will continue to demand a hefty amount of our time, our energies, our thoughts and our resources, we can ill-afford needless distractions and controversies. Therefore, I will not be re-nominating him for the post of Auditor-General of the Republic of Liberia.
Thus, in conformity with the Act, approved May 5, 2005, which changed the status of the General Auditing Commission, the Deputy Auditor-General will act in the capacity of the Auditor-General until, through a professional recruitment process, a new Auditor-General is nominated. This will ensure continuity in the work and independence of the General Auditing Commission.
We will ask for continued financial and technical support of the European Union to the General Auditing Commission. This will enable us to act even more effective in fighting corruption and in pursuing appropriate legal action against those charged with financial malpractice in the 40-plus audit reports that have been concluded.
Please be assured that the change in the Auditor-General represents a mere change in a person. Our commitment to continuing the fight against corruption remains inviolate.
One other significant observation is, Morlu also predicted that “state resources will bleed profusely as Sirleaf and her officials prepare to leave power.” Morlu may not be a prophet, but at least, his prediction seems true. Liberia is being looted massively even by foreigners like Tony Praise Lawal who is colluding with some government officials and people of influence in the country to launder money out of the country through the submission of bogus government’s contracts for road construction activities that were never realized. Thereby making Liberia and Liberian taxpayers to be on the hook.
The second most important observation here is, Tony Praise Lawal, one of the foreigners, a Nigerian, exploiting Liberia with millions of dollars has been emboldened by the Sirleaf’s administration to silence, threaten, intimidate and harass the country’s anti-corruption commission as well as local journalists who report about these dubious activities. Sadly too, the Liberian judiciary is not helping. The actions of some in the judiciary’s lower courts darkens Liberia’s future and the hope of Liberian children.
It is shocking and indeed unimaginable that a Judge Yusiff D. Kaba will summon the Liberian government agency fighting graft and seeking to investigate a Nigerian who has refused to honor the request and demands of the LACC to investigate him and why he has established fake constructions companies that are paid millions of dollars from the Liberian treasury based on political interference from above.
The action of the Liberian lower court, especially the acceptance of Judge Kaba of the Lawal’s baseless lawsuit against the LACC and some Liberian journalists, Joel Cholo Brooks, and others, has the propensity to taint the hard earned reputation of the Liberian judiciary regionally and internationally. Certain things are common sense. Judge Kaba needs to throw Lawal’s frivolous lawsuit out. Judge Kaba also needs to put Liberia’s interest above the interest of corrupt Liberian officials, perhaps including himself, too.
Judge Kaba also needs to know that his reputation is seriously at stake in these matters. Either Judge Kaba chooses to put the interest and future of Liberian children first, or that of his friend, Nigerian con artist Tony Praise Lawal who evidently has no appreciable track record in Liberia.
There is crystal clear evidence that Lawal is not a good influence in Liberia. Globe Afrique, apart from being an investigative media platform and magazine, seeks to uncover, expose and hold accountable corrupt and unruly leaders and individuals in Africa.
Below are documents regarding Lawal’s bogus lawsuit, and evidence proving his exploitation of Liberia.