President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s successor had long been discussed by US authorities, way before she obtained her second term mandate from the Liberian people.
It appears former Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan, whose recent resignation in the US sparked debates in Liberia, had long been tipped by leading US government officials to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2018, according to WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks is an international, non-profit, journalistic organization, that publishes secret information such as news leaks and classified media from anonymous sources around the world.
The leaked WikiLeaks documents, which emanated from former US Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Linda Thomas Greenfield, in 2009, said that the US Diplomat, who is now the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs at the US State Department, stated: “Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan could well be seasoned enough by 2018 for a presidential run.”
In the classified report titled, “Who Will Succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,” Ambassador Greenfield told her superiors in Washington that the names of several Liberians have been revealed to replace President Sirleaf, but that the former Foreign and Finance Minister would be well-groomed enough by 2018 to ascend the helm of authority.
In her classified report, which was de-classified by WikiLeaks, Madam Greenfield said she and others at the US Embassy in Monrovia heard rumors that Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai himself was considering running to replace President Sirleaf in 2017.
In her assessment of VP Boakai, Greenfield said: “Boakai, who was chosen by Sirleaf to balance her ticket geographically and ethnically, has not been a true Unity Party insider. He has done a credible job as President of the Senate; he and his wife, Mrs. Kartumu Boakai, are known for their philanthropy.”
She also mentioned the name of Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, who, according to her, should he decide to run, and the VP decides to back off, would get the VP’s support because both of them are related and are from Lofa County.
However, in her assessment report back in 2009, Greenfield singled out Mr. Ngafuan, who was then Minister of Finance, saying that though his ability to take on entrenched interests at the Ministry of Finance was an open question, “During our conversation, he showed a sharp understanding of the importance of improving internal operations and reducing opportunities for rent-seeking.
“Ngafuan’s intentions to improve operations at Ministry of Finance should complement our efforts, from improving tax administration to streamlining customs and the ports. It is likely his appointment reflects the President’s realization that internal housekeeping is necessary if poverty reduction initiatives are to succeed.”
Ambassador Greenfield also stated that the Bureau of Budget, which Mr. Ngafuan headed before being moved up to the Minister of Finance position, had been a Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program’s (GEMAP) “success story” and that “Ngafuan has been a strong proponent and example of greater government transparency.”
It must be noted, however, that these assessments of Mr. Ngafuan and others were made back in 2009 by former US Ambassador Greenfield. It is not certain whether the US government still holds this view of Mr. Ngafuan and others named in the WikiLeaks US Embassy Monrovia cable.
Mr. Ngafuan, however, is still tight lipped on whether he intends to run for the presidency come 2017 or one of the posts of representative. However, in his first radio interview since returning from the US, where he announced his resignation from the Unity Party-led government, Mr. Ngafuan stated: “The only thing that should surprise Liberians is if they don’t see me as a candidate in the election. The only thing that should surprise Liberians is if they don’t see me as a candidate vying for the highest office.” This is the closest he has come to categorically stating which post he wants to run for in 2017.
Ngafuan resigned in the US while attending the United Nations General Assembly early this month. His resignation, which he announced in a press statement on October 2, has sparked heated debates in various sectors of Liberian society. Some have criticized him for resigning while on foreign soil, while others have said it should be up to the individual to resign wherever and whenever the person chooses to.
During the radio interview, he stated that he didn’t resign in Liberia because he never wanted to distract the President’s attention from major activities that she was participating in at the United Nations General Assembly.
According to him, had he resigned in Liberia, the President would have been responding to inquiries from every foreign friend and partner. He clarified that in his discussion with the President, “She understood the rationale and gracefully accepted my resignation.”
His reason for resigning from the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led government is to be a participant in the 2017 Presidential and General Elections and being “a respecter of the law,” which calls for the resignation two years prior to the elections of any official of government who may want to contest in 2017. He has accordingly stepped down from office.