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Major Reshuffle at Liberia's Justice Ministry

There have been major changes at the justice ministry of Liberia. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has relieved Justice Minister Philip Banks of his post, replacing him with Christiana Tah, a professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice at Montgomery College in the U.S. state of Maryland.

National Police Inspector General Munah Sieh was also relieved of her post but not reassigned. The president also fired the minister of national security and the director of the bureau of investigation.

Solicitor General Tiawon Gongloe was moved to the ministry of labor, replacing Samuel Kofi Woods who is now the new minister of public works.

Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh said President Sirleaf made the sweeping changes because the justice ministry has not done enough to execute the president’s war on corruption.

“The Justice Ministry is the prosecutorial arm of government. Those who are suspected of corrupt activities in government and are dismissed are forwarded to the justice ministry for further investigation and be prosecuted,” he said.

But Bropleh said the justice ministry has not been able to fully get up to capacity in order to do its prosecutorial job.

As a result, he said many cases have been stuck at the justice ministry and have not been brought to court.

He said President Sirleaf made the changes in order to reinvigorate the justice ministry to move corruption cases forward.

Bropleh denied the delay in prosecuting corruption cases had been due to the lack of political will by President Sirleaf to refer alleged corrupt officials for prosecution.

“To the contrary, the President has dismissed many, many persons, from deputy ministers on down in government. But the president cannot automatically forward them to the court for prosecution,” Bropleh said.

He said corruption allegations must first be investigated and only then can the chief prosecutor and the solicitor general prosecute the cases.

Inspector General of Police Munah Sieh was also relieved of her duties but not reassigned.

Bropleh said the changes were necessary because the police have done a poor job in fighting crime.

“I have to say…that the police department has not fare very well. The main reason for that has been the vetting process. But the police also lacked leadership,” he said.

Christiana Tah, the new minister of justice-designate was once nominated by President Sirleaf to the Supreme Court but rejected by the Senate.

Bropleh said this time around Tah would be confirmed. He said her rejection to the Supreme Court was not due to her lack of qualification but rather a political decision.