Anti-Corruption Drive vs. Respect for the Rule of Law: A Challenge for the Johnson-Sirleaf Administration


By Momoh Sekou Dudu


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 5, 2006


For the recently ushered in Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government, bringing Mr. Charles Taylor to book, as rapidly as it was done, was nothing short of a watershed event. Truth be told, I was one among the many who had doubts about the resolve of the new President to act so resolutely so soon. I was dead wrong! By pressing for justice over expedience in the Charles Taylor case, President Johnson -Sirleaf has set the tone for a responsible administration. She could have taken the easy way out by first attending to what has now become known as the “more pressing issues”: providing pipe-borne water, electricity, healthcare-delivery mechanisms, education, etc. Instead, she chose to be prudent and act in the nation’s long-term interest by doing away with the Taylor issue, which, had it been left to linger, threatened to cast a long shadow over whatever else she would have accomplished.

Taking off from this vantage point, it is envisaged that the president will remain strong-willed in instituting the necessary reforms that will turn Liberia toward the path of socio-economic progress. That is very much the mandate so overwhelmingly given to her by the Liberian masses. After having virtually been to hell and back in the last two and half decades of our national existence (starting from the Samuel Doe era to the maiming Charles Taylor years), Liberians have robustly broken loose from all sorts of servitude, and have wielded enormous political clout and ingenuity by electing, this time, a leadership on the substantive basis of qualification rather than on the basis of popularity or apprehension. We cannot ask anything more of our people, at least, not just yet. The challenge now falls to President Johnson-Sirleaf and her government to do their part: instituting sweeping anti-corruption reforms, ensuring national security, promoting human and infrastructure development all of which must be strategically balanced against the respect for the organic laws of the land.

This is a somewhat difficult but necessary condition to forge the burgeoning democracy that we expect to see flourish in Liberia. The administration must balance its zest to wipe out corruption with the respect for due process as called for by our constitution. Anything short of this will not only taint the achievements of the government, but will as well, defeat the purpose for which Liberians so unselfishly voted for the President. I am not pointing accusing fingers at the very young government, at least not yet. What I am pointing out is that the administration must lawfully go about the business of cleaning up the rotten culture of insurrections and corruption from the fabric of Liberia’s nationhood.

Recent reports of arrests and searches without warrants in Monrovia are disturbing. Alleged mass firings at the Ministry of Defense and the Bureau of Immigration without first exhausting the necessary mechanisms laid down in the labor laws of the country deserve our attention. If there are any merits to these reports, President Johnson-Sirleaf must act to ensure that such telltale signs of abuse of power will not be allowed to fester. Our government’s ability to take anti-corruption and anti-insurrection initiatives on the one hand, and the respect for the laws of the land on the other, as interwoven issues that should be used to complement and reinforce each other while not allowing neither to down play the other is pivotal to the development of our democratic institutions.

I am impressed by the charm, charisma, and the lengthy educational and experiential track record of President Johnson-Sirleaf. I wish her nothing but the utmost best as she attempts to steer our country out of the turbulent waters of war and defilement to development and respectability. Something deep within tells me she is up to the task at hand. I cannot, therefore, be asking too much of her. In fact, the seeming pressure for this administration to deliver on its political agenda should not be overwhelming, not at all.

There is resounding impetus in favor of the Johnson-Sirleaf government. The international community is anxious to assist based on the president’s credibility and steadfast determination to succeed at her job. The Liberian intelligentsia and technocrats are in her corner as well. Take Dr. J. Christopher Toe, for example, who left his University Presidency in the United States of America to serve in the Johnson-Sirleaf led government as Agriculture Minister. This speaks volumes of the respect the President enjoys in both local and international circles. Exploiting this huge network of internal and external assets in her continuous bid to foster the cause of the Liberian populace will be the telling confirmation of her natural acumen for political leadership.

True, my demands are not a cakewalk. Liberia is in a deep mess. As a matter of fact, we are attempting to climb out of an abyss. For the last three decades, almost all Liberian children have been born into an environment lacking opportunities and, threatened by war and its attendant menaces. But that is why providence gave us President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Madame President, we look to you to cultivate within our national psyche the ideal that selfless determination pursued in the just cause of personal convictions and national concerns can uproot even the most formidable barrier to social justice and sustainable human development. When you lead us in nurturing these values into a unique and forceful campaign, we will, together, succeed in lifting our beleaguered country out of the ashes of deprivation—devoid of insurrections and corruption and filled with the undying respect for the rule of law.

About the Author: Momoh Sekou Dudu lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be reached at