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In Liberia, Report on Executive Mansion Fire Rules Out Arson

On July 26th, a fire on the fourth floor of Liberia’s Executive Mansion destroyed the offices of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The fire broke out during celebrations marking Liberia’s 159th independence anniversary – ceremonies that were attended by three West African presidents. The government called in foreign experts to investigate, and their final report has been released. Liberia’s minister of information, Johnny McClain, spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter James Butty about the cause of the fire.

“The studies or investigations were done by three neutral bodies, one from the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone, the other, a joint Liberian and American group, and the final was done by a South African group which took the three investigations and findings to Johannesburg in the laboratory. It has been conclusively said in the report that it was not arson, but rather electrical fault. You will recall that this building, the Executive Mansion, is 42 years old. It was built in 1964, and therefore the possibility of a faulty electrical installation is very high,” he said.

The minister of state for presidential affairs, Morris Dukuly, resigned soon after the fire, leaving the impression that perhaps the fire was the work of saboteurs and that Dukuly knew about it. But McClain says Dukuly’s resignation had nothing to do with possible involvement in starting the fire.

“I don’t think that there was any question of him knowing about it or being responsible for it. If he took responsibility it is because he was head for the ministry for presidential affairs, and something as devastating as that, he felt obliged to take responsibility, and it’s upon that ground that he resigned. He was not dismissed,” he noted.

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