Former President Sirleaf Administration’s Alumni creeping back in Liberia’s governance

MONROVIA, Liberia – As Liberia prepares for its 2020 mid-term legislative elections, with dozens of current senators up for re-election, ex-officials in the government of ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are creeping back, seeking seats in the Liberian Senate by challenging a number of current senators.

Globe Afrique has learned that about 12 members of the current Liberian senate namely Peter Coleman (Grand Kru), Matthew Jaye (River Gee), Henry Yallah (Bong), Thomas Grupee (Nimba), George Tengbeh (Lofa), Sando Johnson (Bomi), Armah Jallah (Gbarpolu), Oscar Cooper (Margibi), Dallas Gweh (River Cess), Augustus Chea (Sinoe), Alphonso Gaye (Grand Gedeh), Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (Grand Bassa), and Dan Morais (Maryland) are seeking re-election for their seats in a country known for not re-electing senators in most cases except in the case of current Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor who was re-elected in Bong County, the stronghold of her ex-husband former President Charles Taylor.

George Warner, ex-Minister of Education and closed friend of Robert Sirleaf, the beloved son of ex-President Sirleaf

Former President Sirleaf, working behind the scene, has prepared the stage to launch the senatorial and eventual presidential bid of some of her loyal followers and ex-officials, many of who became extremely wealthy during the 12 years of her stay in power while serving key government portfolios.

Those seeking to participate in the mid-term senatorial election from the Sirleaf administration include Brownie J. Samukai, a former director of police under Interim President Amos Sawyer and minister of defense under President Sirleaf, George Warner, a former head of the Liberia civil Service and minister of education under President Sirleaf, and of course Amara Mohamed Konneh, a former minister of finance dubbed “super minister” under former President Sirleaf.

All three candidates bring name recognition and great wealth.  They also enjoy the confidence and support of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is seeking undue influence in Liberia, something that has dwindled from her in recent months under President George Manneh Weah.

Brownie J. Samukai, ex-Minister of Defense and long time associate of ex-President Sirleaf

In some circles, it is believed that ex-President Sirleaf is angling to ensure that some of her ex-officials pose a challenge to President Weah and the CDC-led coalition in the Presidential election of 2023 that is why she has tried to regain control of the Unity Party from which she was expelled when she opposed her then-Vice President Joseph N. Boakai.

Meanwhile, there is mixed reception in the return of Sirleaf’s unchecked influence via her surrogates, especially so after 12 years’ ineptitude and excess corruption, and loot carried out her watch. 

Other Liberian political pundits say the Sirleaf alumni could gain a solid foothold because the Weah’s administration incompetence has given room for that, and the fact the CDC-led government is unprepared for change, they could be kicked out in 2023, audited and perhaps brought to justice if a Sirleaf’s supported candidate wins the presidency.

Samukai, a Kissi is running in Lofa County, Warner a Kru is running in Grand Kru County, and Konneh, a Mandingo is running in Gbarpolu County.

Amara Mohammed Konneh, ex-Minister of Finance and closed friend to Robert Sirleaf, the beloved son of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Unconfirmed sources revealed that political consultations are currently underway by loyalists of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  The aim is to begin putting together a presidential campaign team of Sirleaf’s preferred candidate to challenge President Weah and the CDC-led coalition in 2023.

Sources within the team say one of the first acts should a Sirleaf’s preferred candidate wins the presidency in 2023, or any other candidate wins in 2023, will be to audit the Weah government and bring its officials that will be found liable for corruption and public theft to justice. The source said a key focus will be on the US$25 million dollars that the Weah team claimed it infused into the Liberian economy and the vast amount of assets the CDC-led officials are accumulating in no time.

With the return of Sirleaf’s proteges, some in Liberia are saying Robert Sirleaf’s influence could return and even grow larger than before in the country. And with vast wealth that the Sirleaf’s team has campaign funding would be a non-issue.

Robert A. Sirleaf, son of ex-President Sirleaf
and former chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia

NOTE: In subsequent months, Globe Afrique will be profiling the services of these three former officials during their time in government and the sectors they led.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.
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