Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has Lost her Stamina and Needs to be Retired 5/19/2011

 First Released 5/19/2011

Over her career, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been a remarkable symbol of encouragement to young women in Liberia. More so, she became a symbol of strength for millions of women across the continent (and the world) when she was elected as the first female President in Africa. Madam Sirleaf started on a high note, full of energy and promises to bring much needed change to Liberia. But after 5 years of her administration, it has become clear that the President has lost her stamina to bring the change she promised the Liberian People. President Sirleaf has not demonstrated her commitment to change the country. Her inability to deal with public corruption, for example, became very evident early during her administration.

Furthermore, her administration’s responses to critical issues at home are slow, ineffective, or non-existent. Police brutality against students during the 2010 LINSU elections is still awaiting redress. Additionally, no one at the Police Department has been put on “administrative leave” or disciplined for allowing the recent brutal beatings of students on the G.W Gibson campus. Most recently in the United States, the head of the Air Traffic Organization, Hank Krakowski, resigned from his post because several of his air traffic controllers endangered the lives of travelers by sleeping on the job. In accepting Krakowski’s resignation, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Randy Babbitt, stated “Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety. This conduct must stop immediately.” (CNN.com)

President Sirleaf may not have direct control over personal choices of those employed in her administration; however, much like the FAA boss, she has control over her responses to public actions of officials serving in her government. If the President begins to take action against the heads of government ministries, agencies and departments for distasteful acts at their entities, Liberia will start to see a new breed of civil servants. Instead, the President continues to tolerate the same acts that helped create the systematic failure of previous administrations and led to the destruction of our country. Corruption is no longer public enemy, rather a nightmare for the average Liberian who is continually forced into poverty as a handful of people amass wealth in a very short time. The promise of bringing electricity in six months is now overshadowed by stark darkness. The average Liberian is still awaiting pipe-borne drinking water, affordable living, properly funded and impartial judiciary, trained law enforcement, clean market places and access to health care services similar to the ones government officials receive when they travel to Ghana, Nigeria and the United States for treatment. 

The prudent thing for a post conflict administration to do is to avoid the symptoms of the root causes of our problems. Instead, our President has chosen to repeat some of the errors of the past. In her memoir, President Sirleaf criticized President Tolbert: “Every step he took towards integration of the country was vigorously and tenaciously opposed by the ruling oligarchy. These people were members not only of his inner circle but of his very family; one brother was minister of finance and one of the nation’s top businessmen, another who was President Pro Tem of the Liberian Senate, a cousin who had served as assistant secretary of the Treasury, and on and on.  All this made it very difficult for Tolbert to pursue his progressive ideas. Later, when the terrible descent began, his brother Frank would accuse him of “opening the gates of hell” by consorting with natives. This was Tolbert’s contradiction: he was a man caught in the middle, willing but unable to move fully forward, unwilling to retreat.” Yet, in her administration, we have had the following (without questioning their qualification): 

President Sirleaf’s son: Robert Sirleaf, Senior Advisor to the President

President Sirleaf’s son: Fomba Sirleaf, National Security Advisor

President Sirleaf’s brother: Carnie Johnson, represents Amlib and other mining companies

President Sirleaf’s sister: Jennie Bernard, known to be a key behind-the-scene advisor to the President.

Charles Sirleaf, Director of Finance at the Central Bank of Liberia

President Sirleaf’s Brother-in-law: Estrada Bernard, Legal Advisor to the President

President Sirleaf’s cousin: A.B Johnson, served as Minister of Internal Affairs. He was left in charge of the country many times when the President traveled. 

The President’s recent appointment of Emmanuel Shaw, who is still on the United Nations travel ban list, defies logic and confirms that this administration is taking the country in the wrong direction by setting the wrong precedence for the next generation of leaders. Mr. Shaw is innocent until proven guilty but his presence on the list means there are still issues to resolve. And to appoint him to a position without giving him a chance to clarify those issues with the UN is not only imprudent, it is wrong and goes against the spirit of the rule of law. The President’s decision shows that she is oblivious to the trauma that Liberians have endured over the last few decades. Some Liberians who traveled abroad after the war will affirm that they still feel threatened when “firecrackers” or fireworks go on display. This is so because the sound of the fireworks reminds them of the carnage of war and the trauma they endured. Likewise, decisions made by this administration remind Liberians of the trauma of enduring failed administrations that led to our Nation’s crisis.

During a football game, a coach stands on the sidelines and sees which player is exhausted. Although such a player may be a known goal scorer, a coach soon realizes that extremely tired legs can impede even the most professional player. A good coach therefore removes his/her exhausted player, replacing him/her with another professional player who brings energy to the team and subsequent victory. We call upon Liberians to perform their duty during this election as good coaches would. Although we are dissatisfied with their performance, we must thank President Sirleaf and Vice President Boakai for their service to our country, cheer them off the field and bring in the energetic legs of Cllr. Charles Brumskine and Senator Franklin Siakor.

Liberians should not confuse respect and admiration for Madam Sirleaf the individual with respect and admiration for her administration. We have an opportunity to set precedence in Liberia that politicians who fail to deliver on their promises to the People will be voted out of office. Let us say “no” to failed promises and “no” to failed policies in October. May God bless the Republic of Liberia as we gracefully deny President Ellen Sirleaf a second term in office.

Philip B. Suah, Jr

Chairman, MoLP-USA

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