Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Thursday made the first cabinet nominations for her second six-year term.
Defense Minister Brownie Samukai was nominated to retain his post, while Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan was recommended to be the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Planning and Economic Affairs Minister Amara Konneh was appointed as the new Finance Minister, while presidential press secretary Cyrus Badio was replaced by Jerolinmek Piah.
Rodney Sieh, publisher and editor-in-chief of FrontPage Africa. said some Liberians are disappointed by these new cabinet nominations.
“To be frank, some people were very disappointed initially because they were expecting to see some new faces in the government and what they got was a rerun of the same faces. So, there is some skepticism about what to expect in coming days,” he said.
Sieh said the president praised Ngafuan for his negotiating skills as finance minister which she said resulted in a “significant reduction” in Liberia’s external debt.
He said the president hopes Ngafuan will bring his financial management skills to the foreign affairs ministry.
“She was full of praise for Ngafuan who, she said, engineered the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) benchmark, which led to the waiver of a $4.9 billion debt burden. And, she said she was nominating him because he will bring to the table the probity in financial management that is so well needed in Liberia’s diplomatic missions,” Sieh said.
Representatives of both the opposition, including the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the ruling Unity Party, have been holding consultations for a possible government of inclusion.
With more cabinet posts still to be announced, Sieh said it is likely the president will include some members of the opposition in her new government.
“I understand there will be more names released Saturday and Sunday because she has to name the government before she delivers her State of the Nation address. I understand, by Sunday, the new cabinet would be in place. I understand also that there will also be room for some members of the opposition,” Sieh said.
Sirleaf said her government’s fight against corruption was hampered during her first administration by a weak legal system.
Sieh said it is likely there would be changes in the justice ministry.
“I understand there is going to be a change at the justice. I don’t know who is going to go there. I understand there was some discussion with the current associate justice, (of the Supreme Court) Kabineh Ja’neh, for that position, but [I] understand that he declined,” Sieh said.
He said Sirleaf is most likely to focus on domestic issues in her second term.
“The first term of the president was mostly trying to re-establish Liberia’s foreign policy and get the international community to have trust in Liberia again after more than a decade of civil war. I think she succeeded in that. Now, the second term, I think, she has a very, very difficult task of implementing a lot of her domestic policies. That is one the criticisms she received in her first term,” Sieh said.