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Liberia’s Former Foreign Minister Enters 2017 Presidential Race

  • James Butty

FILE - Augustine Ngafuan, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia, speaks to the media. Ngafuan also served as finance minister under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,

FILE - Augustine Ngafuan, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia, speaks to the media. Ngafuan also served as finance minister under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,

Former Liberian foreign minister Augustine Ngafuan formally declared Tuesday his candidacy for president in the West African nation's 2017 general election, joining a growing list of candidates, including incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai, football legend George Manneh Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change party, Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, and businessman Benoni Urey, a former associate of former President Charles Taylor.

Held many offices

Ngafuan, who also served as finance minister under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told VOA's Africa Service he has a track record of competence and integrity in both public and private leadership capacities.

“Over the years, I have contributed to my country. I have acquired the necessary competence both in leadership position, out of government, in government, from the Central Bank, from the position of budget director of the Republic of Liberia, from the position of finance minister, from the position of foreign affairs minister, I have been delivering for my country and I intend to continue a track record of deliverance for my country at the level of the presidency,” he said.

Ngafuan said the 2017 election comes at a critical junction in Liberia’s history, and the next leaders must be of integrity and credibility.

New party affiliation

“If you follow the news, I have transitioned from the Unity Party. I will in the coming days announce my new political home, but I can tell you I will not be an independent candidate,” Ngafuan said.

He said he left the Unity Party (UP) because he felt he was being marginalized.

“I had to transition after years of introspection. I can tell you this, we started to notice, whether by design or not some strategy of exclusion, to the extent that people out there would have thought that I was a stalwart respected at the level of the Unity Party, given the role I played in the Unity Party. But since after the 2011 election, this man has not been invited to any formal or informal meeting of the UP. I haven’t sat in any meeting,” he said.

Ngafuan hails from the same Lofa County in northern Liberia as incumbent Vice President Boakai, who is also a candidate for the presidency. Asked if he and the vice president will not be competing for the same Lofa County votes, Ngafuan said the presidency is not primarily a Lofa County contest but rather a national contest.

“My county, Lofa, deserves all of its best to be put forward and that the choices should be left with the Liberia people. So I am not in this competition as an opposition to the vice president. I am creating a choice. Ultimately the judge will be the Liberian people,” Ngafuan said.

Fighting corruption a major platform

Last week, the London-based Global Witness organization released a new report in which it alleged that over $950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments were made to top Liberian officials by the British mining firm Sable Mining Company and its Liberian lawyer, Varney Sherman.

According to the report entitled – The Deceivers – Sable wanted to get the concession rights to Liberia’s Wologizi iron ore. Sherman, who is also chairman of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s ruling Unity Party, allegedly told the company that in order to get the contract, Sable Mining must first offer bribes to senior officials to change Liberia’s concession laws.

Ngafuan said the report was concerning to him, and he called for a free, fair and equitable process in investigating the allegations contained in the report. He outlined practical things he would do if elected president in order to deepen the fight against corruption. He credited President Sirleaf for already putting in place the Anti-Corruption Commission, but said he will do more if elected president.

“One of the things that I will do is to ensure that these entities are adequately funded so that they can recruit many professionals and remunerate them well and to reduce their vulnerability to compromising on any case. The other thing is that we need to hugely fund the prosecution arm of the Ministry of Justice such that they can recruit more lawyers and they can remunerate them very well,” Ngafuan said.

Ngafuan also said he will push for a reform of the judiciary and the establishment of fast-track courts.

“The other thing would be to insist on an annual audit of critical institutions beginning with the ministry of state under which the Executive Mansion is, and then the legislature, and then the judiciary. It will surprise you that since 2015, there are entities of branches of government that have been audited. I will tell you that the judiciary has not been audited, the legislature hasn’t been audited,” he said.

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