News / Africa

Corruption Crackdown Dominates Liberian Presidential Campaign

President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf speaks at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization conference in London, June 13, 2011 (file photo)
President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf speaks at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization conference in London, June 13, 2011 (file photo)

Fighting corruption in Liberia is a big issue in the presidential campaign. The head of Liberia's anti-corruption commission is asking for direct prosecutorial powers to go after government officials misusing public funds.

Campaigning for re-election, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says her government's fight against corruption has helped restore investor confidence in a country still recovering from 14 years of conflict.

“We are showing the world that Liberia can become a post-conflict success story," said Sirleaf. "Negative perceptions about us have given way to international respectability. Investors have come in large numbers to invest their resources in our country.”

Political challengers question the president's commitment, saying her government has too much influence over what should be independent investigations. Acarous Gray is the secretary general of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change.

“The General Auditing Commission does not have to wait to audit the executive arm of government upon the request of the president. No.  We want to give them greater autonomy to go in early and not be restricted,” said Gray.

Jerome Verdier led Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He said continuing corruption risks reigniting conflict among a population desperate for the rule of law.

“Corruption is a very, very serious issue. And if it continues, I am convinced the people of Liberia will take matters into their own hands," said Verdier. "Because if they don't trust the courts, they don't trust the elites, the political elites, what next?”

Attorney Frances Johnson-Allison chairs the Anti-Corruption Commission. She said the commission's work is frustrated by a shortage of lawyers and its limited legal powers.

“We don't have subpoena powers. So as we investigate cases, if we ask them to come and bring [documents] and they don't come, we stop there," said Johnson-Allison. "We can't go to court because the court will tell us, 'We can not subpoena instruments unless there is a case pending before us.'”

Johnson-Allison is asking lawmakers to give the commission direct prosecutorial powers.

“When we investigate, we must submit to the Ministry of Justice the findings with recommendations for prosecution. And if they don't within three months, we can go to court. But the obstacle has been that we don't have lawyers to take up our cases,” she said.

Johnson-Allison said Liberia's fight against corruption is limited not only by restrictions on her commission but by what she says is a lack of public commitment, as well.

“The social attitudes of people, I don't know if they are ready to fight corruption. I see ambivalence. Certain people, you prosecute and you bring to book and there is an outcry. Others, it's okay. So sometimes we are confused as to what to do, whether we as Liberians really want to fight corruption,” said Johnson-Allison.

Joe Pemagbi is the Liberia coordinator for a civil society research group, the Open Society Institute. He said that despite the lack of prosecutions, the Anti-Corruption Commission's investigations do make a difference in fighting corruption.

“The fact that people are being investigated, sometimes it just serves as a deterrence in a way, the fact that you have been named and shamed. The minute they name you for investigation, that kind of stigmatizes you in a small community like this, so that is a big achievement in its own way,” he said.

But Johnson-Allison said that is not enough.

“We need to go beyond naming and shaming. We need to actually send stronger signals as in prosecution of people,” she said.

She wants the government to establish a separate court to fast-track corruption cases. Liberian lawmakers also are considering a bill that would prohibit judges from granting bail to officials indicted on corruption charges.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid