The battle against graft is at the top of Liberia's agenda, says President Johnson Sirleaf. But every second Liberian believes corruption has got worse over the past two years.
When Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power in 2006, she promised she would crack down hard on corruption. Seven years later, her fight against graft has left many disappointed.
Frances Johnson-Alison, chairman of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) accuses her of being too lenient when dealing with the problem. "She has even admitted that when she has caught somebody and wants to suspend or dismiss that person, then relatives or friends will ring her up and try to change her mind." She needs to act far more decisively, said Johnson-Alison. "If you want to fight corruption you can't afford to be soft, or care for one moment what other people think about you," she said.
Paying bribes in Liberia is part of everyday life
After being stung by such criticism, Johnson Sirleaf promptly sacked five politicians, including the Auditor-General, Robert Kilby. She accuses him of corruption and of having failed to open up his private business activities to proper public scrutiny. This had led to a clear "conflict of interest," she said. Kilby was, after all, the head of the institution which investigates how public revenue is being handled.
But Johnson Sirleaf's more recent corruption troubles didn't end there. In its global corruption barometer, the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International revealed on Tuesday (09.07.2013) that Liberia had once again performed badly. It reported that one in two Liberians believed that corruption in their country had got worse over the last two years. Three out of four said they had been forced to pay bribes over the past 12 months.
Liberians are skeptical about government pledges to bring down corruption
On the streets of the capital Monrovia, one resident told DW "the government has long since lost the battle against corruption." Another complained that Johnson-Sirleaf had far too much influence over the institutions charged with fighting corruption. "She decides who will face criminal charges, who will be dismissed." But Deputy Liberian Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson insisted that such accusations were groundless. He is familiar with the findings of Transparency International's global corruption barometer. "It doesn't mean that we have lost the battle against corruption," he said.