Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the first step Wednesday toward reconstituting her cabinet by reappointing six important ministers.
Two weeks ago, the president put her entire cabinet, except for the minister of state for presidential affairs, on a compulsory administrative leave.
President Sirleaf Wednesday reappointed the ministers of agriculture, public works, planning and economic affairs, youth and sports, justice, and the director of the civil service agency.
Rodney Sieh, publisher and editor-in-chief of the FrontPage Africa online magazine and newspaper told VOA the reappointments so far are based on performance.
“I think the key here is the fact that the minister of public works, Mr. Woods (Kofi) has been active in making sure that the government has been able to accomplish some of its goals in terms of construction of roads and construction of several of the buildings that were left abandoned. I think the president must have seen that he was doing something good to bring him back on board,” he said.
Sieh said Minister of Agriculture Florence Chenoweth, though controversial in the past, was probably brought back in the cabinet because President Sirleaf perhaps wanted the minister to continue with the ministry’s plan to bring about domestic rice production.
He said Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs Amara Konneh was probably brought back for his role in getting debt relief for Liberia, something he said is key to President Sirleaf’s re-election plan.
Sieh also said Minister of Youth and Sports Etmonia Tarpeh was also brought back for her active role in making sure that the country’s youth unemployment is brought under control.
Some observers consider Liberia’s current legal system corrupt and the minister of justice, Christiana Tah, ineffective.
But Sieh speculates that President Sirleaf might have brought Tah back for other reasons.
“I think this was mostly based on the fact that the president had probably been unable to find someone to fill that spot, and also there is a vacancy coming up on the Supreme Court bench which many, including the president feel the minister of justice is more suited for. She is more of a technocrat,” Sieh said.
Among the key posts left to be filled are foreign affairs, information, education, and labor.
With Foreign Minister Banke King-Akerele already said that she is not coming back, Sieh said the name of former interim president Amos Sawyer leads the list of possible candidates.
“There are a couple of names floating in the air, but the big name most likely to lend in that spot is former chairman of the Interim Government National Unity, Dr. Amos Sawyer. I understand that he’s been approached and he’s contemplating this post. So that could be a big, big appointment,” Sieh said.
Sieh said Information Minister Cletus Sieh (not related to Rodney) is likely to retain his job because of the political merger between President Sirleaf’s Unity Party and two other parties.
“I think the president’s hands are tied in this position because Mr. Sieh is part of the arrangement of the Liberia Action Party (LAP), the Liberia Unification Party (LUP) and the ruling Unity Party (UP) merger. He represents the Liberia Unification Party, and that position (minister of information) is part of the contribution of that party to this government,” Sieh said.
He said Minister of Labor Tiawon Gongloe who earlier this week criticized the president’s decision to send the entire cabinet on administrative leave as arbitrary and dictatorial is likely to be asked to return but perhaps in a different position.
“The president is being put in a very difficult dilemma. If she decides to get rid of him (Gongloe), she will be seen as acting in line with what Mr. Gongloe had written about, and if she doesn’t get rid of him, she will put in a very difficult position. The lucky money here is, most people say the president will most likely keep him in some capacity. Most likely he will be offered another post but not the ministry of labor. Now whether he accepts that remains to be seen because the content of his letter was very in keeping with someone who was not happy with what took place,” Sieh said.
Sieh said indications are that President Sirleaf will most likely fill the remaining cabinet positions probably by Thursday or Friday or sometime over the weekend.