Liberian President George Weah suspended three officials Tuesday after the U.S. government announced sanctions on them for public corruption. The officials include the president’s chief of staff, the country’s chief prosecutor, and the managing director of Liberia’s National Port Authority.
The suspensions were made less than 24 hours after the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on three senior Liberian officials for alleged corruption.
Nathaniel McGill, Liberia’s minister of state and the president’s chief of staff, is accused of a variety of corruption schemes, including directing warlords to threaten political rivals, bribery, and the misappropriation of state assets.
Sayma Cephus, Liberia’s solicitor general and chief prosecutor, is accused of shielding suspected criminals, blocking investigations into government corruption and interfering with evidence to ensure the conviction of political rivals. Bill Twehway, managing director of Liberia’s National Port Authority, is accused of funneling money from the port into private accounts.
Ibrahim Nyei is a Liberian political analyst based in Monrovia.
“These individuals have been very close to him — members of his kitchen cabinet. And they’ve been everywhere the president has been. And so, his move to suspend them is a tactical move to personally save his integrity, his public image, and to demonstrate that he's intolerant of corrupt activities,” he notes.
He says he's seen mixed public reaction to the suspensions with some calling for a criminal investigation.
Under the sanctions all U.S. property and interests in U.S. property of the three officials must be blocked, a Treasury Department statement said. Those who engage in certain transactions with the officials are subject to sanctions themselves.
Several Liberian government officials have been sanctioned in the last two years, including two senators and a passport director.
“The corruption runs deeper than just those three people. America wants to send a message of toughness, but they don't want to hurt the administration badly. They want to make a statement but nothing so damaging,” Othniel Forte a Liberian historian points out.
The U.S. Treasury Department did not respond to a list of questions, including whether the officials own property that would be affected.