Latest appointments foreshadow COVID-19 strategy
As Liberia records 14 coronavirus cases so far, President George Weah is expected to address the nation today at noon to provide updates on the country’s fight against the coronavirus.
The President, who has not spoken to the nation since March 16, when he announced the country’s first index case, will speak at a time when health authorities have failed to adequately track those who came in contact with infected COVID-19 patients, owing to lack of robust political, logistical and financial support.
So far, of the 14 cases recorded, 12 are locally transmitted and six of the twelve have no epidemiological linkage to the country’s index case.
However, these numbers are expected to rise soon as health authorities await second tests on nearly a dozen already tested positive after one test. Two positive tests are required before an announcement is made.
According to Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, the President’s remarks which will be broadcast live today, will address “the nation on the status of the country’s fight against the Coronavirus disease” and explain about “the different efforts of our national response strategy.”
Min. Nagbe’s remark came less than two days after a group of influential Civil Society Organizations working on democracy, governance and accountability called on the President to show leadership if Liberians are to emerge victorious out of this crisis.
“At the moment, we are not seeing the level of leadership, coordination; community engagement and timely information sharing that characterized the fight against Ebola,” the group, through its spokesperson, Anderson Miamen, said. “Therefore, we wish to call on the government to build on existing structures and resources used during the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to save resources and timely eradicate the virus.”
The President expected speech also follows reports that the government is planning a to impose a state of emergency as an additional measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease and the lockdown on Montserrado and Margibi counties, the current hotspots of the disease, to break the chain of transmission that is surging at a seemingly uncontrollable rate.
Appoint Mary Broh to Enhance Gov’t Coronavirus Response
And in a bid to allay public fear and show his government’s seriousness to fight the coronavirus, the President has appointed the Director-General of General Services Agency, Mary Taryonnoh Broh, to serve as the National Response Coordinator for the Executive Committee on Coronavirus (ECOC) in Liberia.
In this role, according to a release from the Executive Mansion, Madam Broh will provide supervision toward a single set of national strategic objectives for defeating the Coronavirus disease and coordinate the National COVID-19 multi-sectorial response plan, in coordination with the United Nations (UN), donor partners, Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL).
Madam Broh, who is widely respected for her effectiveness in public service and is no stranger to controversy, has transformed many functionaries of government including sanitation in the city of Monrovia, administration of passports and birth certificates, the National Port Authority, as well as the General Services Agency, where she is in charge of national fixed assets. In all these positions, Madam Broh was hailed by Liberians for performing her task with due diligence and efficiency.
However, the President has also appointed Finda Bundoo, who is the current Presidential Chief of Protocol, as National Compliance Manager of ECOC, a position which many Liberians have said was created for the President to have his eye on Madam Broh, who is a close associate of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the erstwhile ruling Unity Party.
According to the release, Madam Bundoo, “is charged with the responsibility of monitoring the overall allocation and disbursement of the response logistics and resources and, in consultation with the National Response Coordinator, she will ensure timely delivery and accounting for supplies directed to the fight against Coronavirus in the country.”
“Both appointments, which have a term of nine months, became necessary following recommendations made by the United Nations, in particular the World Health Organization, which were aimed at further enhancing the national response as cases begin to spike,” the release said. “It is also based on a decision from a consultative meeting held between the Special Presidential Advisory Committee on Coronavirus and partners.”
Madam Bundoo once worked as an aide to former President Charles Taylor. Since her appointment as chief of presidential protocol, she has been involved in a lot of controversies, one of which led to the suspension of Jones Blamo, Deputy Director of the National Security Agency for “time indefinite” by President Weah, for arguing with the powerful and influential Chief of Protocol.
Also, Madam Bundoo, whose financial management background and experience is unknown, has had as many run-ins with people in and out of government, including having been accused of land grabbing and harassment.
These are no doubt two strong-willed women and it remains to be seen how they would get along. According to the Executive Mansion, Mesdames Broh and Bundoo are required to liaise with health authorities on the Incident Management Team and heed their counsel, where necessary.
“The appointees will report directly to the President,” the release said. “During the discussions, a decision was made to move away from the current system of advisory and consultative meetings to operational and community-oriented outreach. Both persons have the full support and backing of the UN.”
Editor’s note: Robin Dopoe contributed to this story.