President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf live up to her moniker, “Iron Lady” recently when she dismissed or asked all but one member of her cabinet to “take administrative leave effectively immediately,” not too long after she left the country for her annual medical check-up in the United States.
Yes, it was a bold move. It was also a risky move because it got us all talking now about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the unprecedented nature of her decision, and the threat it could have possibly posed to the nation’s national security, and how that reckless act alone could have also created chaos and a shut down of the Liberian government, in the absence of a president who was leaving the country at the time.
It is true that the president left in place during her absence Vice President Boakai, Minister Edward McClain (the only cabinet minister who kept his job), and the deputy ministers in the various ministries to run the country. In an event of this kind when there is a shakeup in the government that could possibly have an adverse effect on the nation, the president who was elected by the people to lead, and is head of the government should have remained in the country to lead.
Pres. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President Sirleaf could have done the nation and the Liberian people a huge favor if she had just postponed her mass-firing decision until she returns to Liberia from her medical check-up in the United States. Since this was a mass firing that could have had a ripple effect on the nation, President Sirleaf could have painfully sought the advice and consent of the spineless and no-good Liberian legislature if they could help, since it was the same Legislative branch of government that confirmed the individuals to work alongside the president to help in the running of her government in the first place.
President Sirleaf obviously did not do a good job of communicating the firing of her cabinet ministers (some of whom were recently returned to duty by the imperial president) to the nation, and also overplayed her card probably because she’s reminded of the old and oft- recited and tired constitutional provision: “The cabinet serves at the pleasure of the president,” which has been thrown around like a football by her die-hard supporters in the aftermath of the crisis.
According to the administration’s talking points, President Sirleaf carried out her firing “to start with a fresh slate” because the administration was entering a critical stretch. How fresh can the slate the president speaks of be when she continues to tolerate business as usual in an administration that protects its cronies and family members from termination, prosecution, and the confiscation of stolen government’s funds only to be recycled to another government position as if a crime was never committed in the first place?
Whatever the rationale is behind this misguided decision has yet to be articulated with clarity and believability, even as we dig frantically for meaning – any logical meaning behind such a breach of democracy; especially when her ascendancy to the presidency is attributed to the adherence of those cherished democratic values and principles the people of Liberia hold dear.
Some already have suggested after the cabinet ministers were dishonorably fired as an attempt on the part of Ms. Sirleaf to perhaps reenergize her embattled administration, and her fledgling base in the final days leading to the national and presidential elections slated for 2011.
Let it be crystal clear that President Sirleaf was never elected President of the Unity Party, and president of her political cronies and relatives; but was elected President of all of Liberia, to provide steady and visionary leadership to the nation and its people.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the “Iron Lady” was elected not to prove how iron a lady she is or can be, but to provide steady and competent leadership at a time when the nation desperately needs a leader who can offer a contrast between the past and the present during these troubled times.
However, every time this president engages governance the way she goes about it has been cocky and uninspiring; always exposing her ever-present vulnerability not as a democratic leader who is accountable to the Liberian people, but one who seems to be an incarnation of the nation’s previous corrupt and despotic leaders who wreaked unspeakable tyranny on a defenseless population.
These are the same reasons why the poverty line is currently below 80 percent; while the Liberian nation, for over a century has been at the bottom of every leading poverty indicator, which is exacerbated by bad leadership, overwhelming uncertainty about the future, skyrocketing unemployment, corruption, inflation, nepotism and fears of another senseless civil war that could once again destroy the confidence and hopes of the Liberian people.
With her admiration aiming high globally, which is not trickling down into tangible economic/employment opportunities for the Liberian people, proves that the goodwill towards her from her international patrons only paints a rosier and unrealistic picture of President Sirleaf, which is a far cry from the dimmed realities on the ground.
So the question remains: What are these people, (President Sirleaf’s international friends) continued to see in her leadership that the Liberian people are not seeing or feeling on the ground? Are these individuals capable of living in the skins of the Liberian people to feel their pains and suffering, or are they just intellectualizing as academics and paid consultants to continually glorify their friend’s symbolic and historic role as “Africa’s only elected female president” and “Harvard-trained “economist?” This is unproductive!