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Liberia's New President Announces Partial Cabinet

A few hours after being sworn in as Africa’s first female elected president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia has announced a partial cabinet. Frank Sainworla is radio director of our Voice of America affiliate Radio Veritas in Monrovia. He tells English to Africa reporter James Butty that the nine initial cabinet positions announced include both familiar and not-so-familiar names. “In the line-up is a very prominent security expert in Liberia, Brownie Samukai. He was one-time deputy minister of defense during the former interim government of Amos Sawyer in the early 1990s. And the minister of finance is a new face in government, a former international staffer at the International Monetary Fund, Antoinette Sayeh.” Frank says the new cabinet appointments also include long-time civil rights attorney and activist Samuel Kofi Woods as labor minister. In his most recent interview with the Voice of America last month, Woods called on the new government to review all previous concessionary agreements.

The former director of the Phebe Hospital in Bong County, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, was named minister of health and social welfare. “And another opposition figure, Joseph Korto, one of the 22 presidential candidates in the first round of the elections, has been rewarded with the position of minister of education.” Frank Sainworla says President Johnson-Sirleaf has named one of her staunch supporters, Willis Knuckles, as public works minister. “That is another key minister because of the high level of demand in the country for reconstruction.”

President Sirleaf also named Morris Duckuly as her chief of staff. Dukuly served as former minister of post and telecommunications under Samuel Doe and speaker of the House in the 1990s during one of the transitional governments. “These individuals, except for the woman who has been named finance minister, are all well-known figures in Liberia.” President Johnson-Sirleaf also named Eugene Shannon minister of Lands and Mines and Varvah Gayflor minister of gender and development. Shannon is a former director of the Liberian Geological Survey, while Gayflor held the same post in the Gyude Bryant transitional government. Frank says given the openness of the media in post-war Liberia, the public is likely to closely analyze the nominees and their public service records.