On Recent Political Appointments

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A list of political appointments recently surfaced from the Executive Mansion featuring some very odd choices.

Many of the President’s appointments have been described as yet another round of musical chairs, with Ministers being moved around from one post to the other.  This  particular round of appointments, however, has left observers utterly perplexed, wondering whether these appointees actually have the experience, knowledge, or even the fungibility to serve effectively in their appointed positions.
James Debbah, a soccer player who once advised his cousin, George Weah, against political ambitions, has been nominated to the board of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA). One wonders what qualifies him to advise on matters concerning one of  the nation’s top income generators.

Our point here, before we go down the list, is not that he or any other Liberian should not serve in government, even as a political appointee or favor. Our point is that political appointees should be appointed strategically, in the best interest of the nation first and foremost. That means ensuring that they have the right motives for serving in government; making it clear that performance is expected even from friends; putting them in positions commensurate with their education, experience and passions, where they will be most effective in their service to their country.

The citizenry, in turn, should have their concerns about political appointees laid to rest. Their questions about the qualifications of said appointees should be acknowledged as legitimate and in fact anticipated. This means that political appointments should be accompanied by an excerpt about each nominee and why he or she is qualified for the position to which he/she has been appointed. And if said appointment cannot be justified to the nation, then it should not be enforced exclusively as a matter of sovereignty.

Yes, the President has the right to appoint and dismiss as she chooses, just as a husband has the right to come and go as he pleases. But if he keeps his wife informed, respects and cherishes her opinions and feelings, the marriage will thrive. But if he leaves her to speculate that his secrecy suggests infidelity, even if it does not, he drives a wedge between his wife and himself.  

In the same way, if the people’s questions, opinions and suspicions concerning political appointments fall on deaf ears or are dismissed, they are left with only one conclusion — that such secrecy suggests corruption.

Political appointments with no official explanations are a distraction from the real issues, especially where there are questions of qualifications and conflicts of interest. The Robert Sirleaf saga comes to mind.

Let us turn to Scripture, as we often do, then, to help us reason this out. Liberia is not a theocracy; but Scripture does hold a wealth of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, particularly with regard to matters of governance and justice, and is accordingly held in high esteem by our people. It is the one authority with which we all agree.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say; but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything,” but not everything is constructive (1Corinthians 10:23).

Yes, the President has the right to appoint whomever she pleases; her appointments are technically lawful. But some appointments are not constructive if all they do is raise questions.

“Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” (v.24).

The greater good should supersede the interests of a few. If an appointment raises too many unanswered questions, the greater good has been sidelined.

But let us go further to find Scriptural corroboration, lest we be accused of running with the one-verse interpretation.

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). and…

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).

We move on down the list.

At such a critical time in the country’s history, how will the men of God speak truth to power if they are accepting gifts and board positions from the powers that be? We call upon Bishop George Harris to decline the position to which he has been appointed in order to maintain his integrity.

Likewise, the public needs to be made aware of the qualifications that Rose Stryker brings to the Liberia Aviation Authority; that Cole Bangalu brings to the Deputy Directorship of the GSA; and what all has been done to ensure that the Ministry of Finance is truly ready for a smooth transition into the merged entity to be headed by Minister Amara Konneh, especially as it concerns personnel; and all of these appointees MUST declare their assets BEFORE taking office — not after.

Last December after President Sirleaf suspended the entire LIBTELCO board, one board member, Ciata Victor, alleged foul play. She alleged that the stage was being set for the Muah brothers (one of whom worked for the Ministry of Finance at the time) to take over the Cable Consortium of Liberia via LIBTELCO, a very lucrative position. The government of Liberia vehemently denied the allegations made by Ms. Victor. Six months later, Mr. Sebastian Muah has been appointed Managing Director of LIBTELCO. Even if Ms. Victor’s allegations were not true, they certainly look true now.

Many things are permissible; but not all of them are constructive, beneficial or expedient. Transparency, especially in the interest of peace, is a hallmark of good governance.

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