In the new Liberia, we will at all times endeavor to unmask political traitors who are bent on masquerading as sincere diplomats and some of the best professionals around here. Our reason for endeavoring to expose them through our simple style of writing is to inform and warn incoming leaders who might want to venture into similar wicked and devilish act of political chicanery and maneuvering at the detriment of the nation and its majority poor people.
Notwithstanding, it is good to make it categorically clear that we are not enemies to the Serpents in Diplomatic Garments. We are just group of young progressive individuals with concrete interest in seeing a sustainably developed Liberia being led by honest and integrity driven people. You may as well consider us as historical and political reminders who from time to time, promise to alert the generality of our compatriots about the need to be mindful and circumspect of individuals that do not mean well for them as evidenced by their past uncouth and terrible actions executed against Liberia and Liberians.
Oh yes! We are historical and political reminders, and stand ready to expose hustlers whose objective is to steal the coming political shows for personal gains, such as the difference between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s first and second terms.
Comparative Analysis of Sirleaf’s First and Second Terms And the Motivation for this Piece?
With Ellen’s commitment to emancipate the people through genuine governance and result oriented leadership, she placed high quality individuals in strategic positions in government. She brought in some of Liberia’s best educated and honest people. The first 6 years achievement was unprecedented. The world began to troop in to Liberia for various reasons, and to assist and be part of the burgeoning success story emerging out of Africa’s oldest republic under the presidency of the continent’s first female President.
By that time, the presidency’s ear had good whisperers; a whisper that blew the whistle of human rights, equal distribution of the national budget, infrastructure development and a whisper that reminded the Presidency of the past. With that, Liberians enjoyed seeing and hearing about some of the best decisions a government has ever made aimed at changing the life of people.
The outcomes of those good decisions translated into increase in civil servants’ salaries, particularity teachers, new roads construction, rehabilitation of public buildings, freedom of assembly, regular payment of public debts and justice given to whom it was due, not just the rich.
The answer to the question of who were those whispering in the President’s ear was easy. Tiawon Gongloe, Samuel Kofi Woods, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan and other individuals with history of student leadership, activism and human rights were certainly the characters that were advising Ellen during her first term. Most of these people have been tried and tested and have withstood the test of time, with deep knowledge on the social, political and economic contexts of Liberia.
On the face of it, the masses, who were direct beneficiaries of the good things that happened during Ellen’s first term did not hesitate to reelect her. The support, perhaps unprecedented, caused the footballer turned politician to controversially withdraw from the run-off election in 2011.
Fast forward to 2012, the second term. Unlike those who made significant strides and proved trustworthy during the first term, Ellen changed the team and game plan, allowing the new team to form an empire of self-interest, family and cronies. In one of the politically charged debates on audit reports of the Ministry of Finance, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defending her Finance Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan said: “I put my neck on the chopping board” for him”. At a road dedication ceremony in Bong County, she referred to Kofi Woods and team as “trusted and able lieutenant” who were contributing to her development agenda.
Notwithstanding, as if an unknown force was driving her, the Iron lady changed course and transformed her cabinet from a team of disciplined actors to flashy actors, most of whom were experimenting. The faces of human rights, patriotism and disciplined public officials began disappearing in the mainstream or the President’s kitchen cabinet. Now came the experimenters and PowerPoint presentation masters with her son Robert Sirleaf leading the pack.
First thing first, they introduced a different budgeting system that would soon cause serious problem and eventually died natural death with serious repercussions on national development. The much publicized Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was introduced in 2012/2013, and was meant to be a multi-year rolling budget framework.
Under the new budgeting system, the most active ministries whose deliverables triggered the reelection of Unity Party became direct target of deliberate budget cut for reason to be described as causing obstacles to the head of those ministries/agencies who were seen by Robert Sirleaf and new team as potential presidential and legislative candidates because of their work. I vividly remembered Public Works budget being slashed from $60 million to $26 million for fiscal year 2012/2013, followed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs; two ministries headed by two progressive minded persons who hated thievery and lies as well as other forms of bad public service. I mean no justifiable reasons were provided for these cuts at all because road projects was seen slowing down. In fact the replacement of Samuel Kofi Woods following his resignation, Dr. Antoinette Weeks significantly retarded progress with her new style of leadership. Her two and half year of leadership is still being described as waste.
These two ministers were being talked about as possible presidential candidates on the UP ticket in the foreseeable future. Money slashed from Public Works and other ministries were reportedly placed under Ministry of Finance and other agencies headed by members of the new kitchen cabinet. Soon, a WASH division was established at Ministry of Finance, instead of continuing to support the ones at Public Works, Health Ministry and Water and Sewer Corporation.
Budget shortfall that was never heard of during the first term became eminent and normal; reports of other forms of bad social habits also became prevalent within and outside government’s circle. The cabinet became divided and weak, with gossips and rumors peddling becoming the order of the day. Cabinet and other strategic meetings held weekly or monthly were no longer held according to schedules, while disaffection took root.
Despite the slump in the prices of major commodities such as iron ore and rubber, the allocation of the national budget to suit individuals’ political dreams and self-driven social agendas significantly contributed to budget shortfalls. This is where the name Amara ‘Budget shortfall’ Konneh came in. Payment of civil servants salaries begun delaying by 2-3-4-5 days to the end of the month or sometimes the beginning of the following month; something that was never heard of or witnessed during the first term. Not too long, Kofi Woods and Christiana Tarr resigned, and later Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan. But prior to this, Tiawon the fiery lawyer had already left following dissolution of the cabinet in 2010.
The drama side about it: Road construction contractors began withdrawing their machines and manpower from their project sites due to government’s indebtedness to them. Domestic debt began to increase because government new budgeting system could not meet up with its objective due to the wrongful distribution (waste and abuse) of the budget to agencies headed by friends and political allies. NOCAL became brazenly, mischievously and intentionally bankrupt!
With this, the public grew angry and launched the Ellen’s step down campaign. The economy was now being negatively discussed both at home and abroad. Even with this, there were pockets of media attacks supported and launched by leading members of the President’s new team against members of the cabinet who were in disagreement with the way things were proceeding in government.
I vividly recalled playing a major role in repairing one of the attacks on Kofi Woods, which was allegedly financed with a kicked off package of US5,000.00 with current Grand Bassa Superintendent, Janjay Baipeh, GSA Director General for Operations Edris Bility and Presidential Aide Sekou Kalasco Damaro heading that mission. Can you imagine a key government’s entity sponsoring opposition elements to launch stinging propaganda against one of its own Ministers, not on serious policy disagreement but for flimsy excuse that this gentleman was becoming popular and ambitious?. Thus, in their weird mind, he and his likes needed to be put in check by all means before the win of political favor blows on their side. Can the CDC trust them?
But while pressure was being mounted from the Ellen’s step down campaign due to the bad governance style, Ebola came in as a Saving Grace for Amara Konneh and the entire government. AfDB, UN, US, WB, AU, ECOWAS, IMF and friendly governments sent huge financial support that rescued the failing economy from collapsing. At this juncture, it was hard to attribute anything to Amara’s mismanagement of the budget; everything was now as a result of Ebola.
Following the end of Ebola, it was now about repairing damages and living on life support until the Finance Minister resigned and took on international assignment with the support of his boss Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who shamelessly honored him to the shock and disapproval of most Liberians.
The 11-hour Political Game:
Knowing what they have done to the country and individuals of greater influence, the President and her supporters engaged in an unprecedented political maneuvering against the interest of the party that made them. This initiative, I am told was engineered by Amara Konneh, who led the discussion between CDC and madam Sirleaf. Their support for CDC was out of fear of reprisal from those they have wronged and caused harm to, some of whom were now key players in the new Unity party arrangement under Vice President Joseph Boakai. Weah, who was seen acting reluctant to take part in the 2017 election became energized overnight when Ellen and her new children lend them major financial boost and strategies to defeat their own party.
Unity Party was now a big enemy to its own former Standard bearer Ellen, Amara Konneh, Dr. James Kollie, Sebastian Muah, Eugene Nagbe, Medina Wesseh and scores of Ellen’s supporters. But interestingly, it is the same party that made them rich people and prominent citizens in Liberia and elsewhere in the world. It is even reported that Amara Konneh led the shipment of excess ballot papers into the country in support of CDC.
The Real Game, and Its lingering frustration and unfolding surprises:
Having hoped for protection following huge financial supports, the CDC wittingly now sees Ellen and Amara as traitors who should not be trusted. Of course, the notion is, if these people can deliberately undermined a party (UP) that made them, why not a party (CDC) that fought them for 12 years? In real life, it is difficult to trust someone who fought you, later supported you and now want your support.
It is common sense and rational that ruling CDC in any case, is likely to trust those who supported Joseph Boakai than those from Ellen’s camp who supported them. For CDC, it would be counterproductive to do sincere business with Madam Sirleaf and her group of co-conspirators whose action led to the massive flogging of their own political party (Unity Party).
And so I conclude by adding that even as we reconciled, beware of political serpents in diplomatic garments ahead of 2020 and 2023… If these people could not forgive their party and colleagues, they can’t never easily forgive CDC for opposing them for 12 years. It is just the matter of time when they will be working against the interest of CDC.