President Sirleaf’s Reason for Withdrawing Shaw’s Appointment A Cover Up for Act of Poor Judgment

President Sirleaf’s Reason for Withdrawing Shaw’s Appointment

A Cover Up for Act of Poor Judgment


In an article posted on the Liberian Journal web site last week, Members of Liberty Party (MoLP) USA called into question President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s decision to appoint Mr. Emmanuel Shaw as Chairman to the Board of Directors of the Liberia Airports Authority (LAA) when his name was still on the United Nations travel ban list.  Last week, the Executive Mansion issued a press release withdrawing Mr. Shaw’s appointment. The President’s decision, according to the release, was based on a realization on the part of the President that Mr. Shaw was listed on the UN and United States sanction lists.  They wrote: “However, given details regarding sanctions imposed against Mr. Shaw by the United Nations and the United States Government that have been brought to her attention, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has withdrawn the appointment.”


Let there be no mistake about what this decision by the President demonstrates.  This decision was a clear display of poor judgment.  The President’s reason for withdrawing Mr. Shaw’s appointment must also be seen as a confirmation of her chosen approach to dealing with her mistakes.


Firstly, the United Nations and US sanction lists were public information before the President’s election in 2005. Considering that the lists have been widely circulated, it is inconceivable that the President of Liberia or her senior advisors did not know who is included on them.  If the President is truly ignorant of the names of those on the lists, one has to wonder about what she knows, considering the importance of the lists to the international community, her primary constituency.


The other possibility for this very obvious blunder by the President would be that she knew about the lists but forgot or just did not take the Liberian people seriously.  As a matter of fact, this is not her first blunder.  It can be recalled that in 2010 the President went on national radio and told the Liberian people that prostitution “was not illegal [in Liberia] but a moral problem” only to be corrected by her Minister of Justice following a public outcry.  Again, it is inconceivable that the President, a woman and an activist for many years, did not know that prostitution was a crime in Liberia.  She probably simply forgot.  And so, perhaps the President forgot again about the UN and US sanction lists or just did not care about what Liberians and the international community felt about appointing someone on the sanction lists to a position of trust in the government.


If either of these scenarios is the case, the President’s supporters should be concerned.  They should be concerned because they are now asking the Liberian people to give 6 more years to a President who has not been attentive to the duties of the presidency.  The problems and needs of the country are increasingly becoming complex.  As we build partnerships and alliances in order to deal with these problems, it is obvious that our engagement with international partners will continue to require vigilance and prudence.


Another rational explanation for the President’s action is that her press release was simply a cover up.  Realizing that appointing Mr. Shaw was indefensible, the President and her people sought to cover her blunder.  Their chosen method was to simply concoct a story.  And this will not be the first time either. Earlier this year the President threatened to arrest and charge presidential hopeful Simeon Freeman with treason if he went ahead with his planned demonstration against public corruption.  Following a public outcry because her promised action would be a violation of the constitution, the President told the Liberian people that her statement was meant to be an April fool joke.  The President and her people expected the Liberian people to believe, as they do now about the Shaw debacle, that a threat of arrest and charge of sedition was something that the President of Liberia would joke about.  Keep in mind that Liberia has a history of imprisoning opposition politicians under bogus charges.


This pattern of covering up obvious blunders by simply not telling the truth even dogged the President during the last election in 2005 and the TRC hearing.  The issue at that time was her directive to Charles Taylor during the civil war to burn Monrovia down.  Many Liberians still remember today where they were when Madam Sirleaf made that statement on the BBC.  But she denied making the statement.  She said, “I did not say burn down Monrovia, I said burn down the Executive Mansion”.


Let’s be clear that the President’s decision to withdraw Mr. Shaw’s appointment has nothing to do with the outcry of the Liberian people, as some would have us believe.  “The mark of a good leader”, these people say, “is that she/he listens to the people, and that was exactly what President Sirleaf did”.  This is simply not true.  Those who delude themselves in thinking this way only need to remember that the outcry from the Liberian people was not that the President’s decision was a violation of the UN and US sanctions.  The outcry was that Mr. Shaw’s past record disqualifies him for the job.  He’s one of those who have been accused of pillaging our country.  This was what President Sirleaf’s own organization, Associational for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), wrote of Mr. Shaw in 1989:
They have converged to pillage the wealth of Liberia. Shaw [and several ministers and public officials] have joined Doe in forming a parasitic cabal that is dedicated to the plunder of Liberia’s resources. The kleptocrats in Monrovia engage in nothing of productive or long-lasting value to the nation’s economy. They simply skim off the top of whatever remains. Emanuel Shaw is simply the most representative figure of this social category.” (See last 5 paragraphs)


According to the President’s own press release, she did not withdraw Mr. Shaw’s appointment because all of a sudden she remembered his alleged past of which she and her colleagues wrote in 1998 and because of which there was an outcry from the Liberian people.  No!  She withdrew Mr. Shaw’s appointment because it was brought to her attention that he was on the UN and US sanction lists.

President Sirleaf’s action, in fact, has nothing to do with complying with the UN and US sanction lists otherwise she would have also withdrawn the appointment of Mr. Benoni Urey who name is also included on the UN and US sanction lists.  The President appointed him Mayor of Careysburg.


President’s Sirleaf’s recent action should be a concern to the President’s supporters in that it is consistent with a pattern of cover up.  Furthermore, like this recent action and her reason for it, she has shown insensitivity to the wishes of the Liberian people. Liberians will be electing a new leadership for the country in October.  When that time comes, let’s retire President Sirleaf and give our country a fresh start.


Philip Suah


Members of Liberty Party-USA

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