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Former Liberian Interim Leader Faces Corruption Probe

Former Chairman of Liberia's interim government, Gyude Bryant, faced an investigation committee Monday on accusations that his administration stole state funds. The investigation is part of a probe into the disappearance of millions of dollars from the transitional government between 2003 to 2005. Analysts say that if the process is efficient and fair, it could strengthen the current government's efforts to combat corruption. Kari Barber reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Gyude Bryant, who led Liberia's transitional government after decades of civil war, was questioned at the Justice Department about millions of dollars in funds that went missing during his time as chairman.

The investigation is part of a probe commissioned by the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. Bryant has said he is disappointed in the investigation and that he fears it could lead to a political crisis.

Local journalist Prince Collins says Liberians are watching the case closely, eager to know more about the missing money.

"The public in general is concerned and wanting to get a final outcome of this entire investigation because it has sort of spread like wildfire across the country," Collins said. "People want to know why a former head of the state of Liberia is accused at the Criminal Investigation Board at the Justice Ministry of stealing money."

Collins says many in the country still support Bryant, while others blame him for the stolen funds.

Analyst Carolyn Norris with International Crisis Group in Dakar says while the investigation could be pivotal in the fight to rid the government of corruption, mishandling this case could set the government back.

"I think that whatever investigations are carried out, it is important that these are going to be done in a spirit of accountability and transparency and that the procedures toward the investigations are fair and that the results are seen to be fair and not to be seen as just vindictive recrimination against the former government," she said.

An ECOWAS report that formed the basis of the current investigation has also led to the arrest and questioning of several other top officials from the transitional government. The United Nations and other international bodies have been trying to help Liberians end years of conflicts, corruption, and misrule.