Madam President, it's Time to Let Go Of Your Minister Of State For Presidential Affairs, Mr. Willie Knuckles

By Rufus S. Berry II

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 26, 2007


Liberia has a chronic, pervasive problem with sexual immorality. Men in power are often able to behave immorally and irresponsibly, with no consequences for their actions. History has shown that the demise of many great empires begins with moral decay and corruption. The Republic of Liberia will never build itself into a great nation with a morally bankrupt and sexual immoral culture.

Mr. Willie Knuckles’ involvement in sex acts with two women is disgusting and an embarrassment to his family, the people and President of the Republic of Liberia. My sources have informed me that a significant number of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf‘s cabinet are calling for the resignation or immediate dismissal of Mr. Willie Knuckles, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. Madam President, a true leader's strength is clearly exhibited during difficult times; the country is waiting for you to say that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the new Liberia.

Others might argue where does public morality begin and where does it end? Isn't this a private matter between Knuckles and his family? They might also say that regardless of how embarrassing and disgusting Mr. Knuckles’ behavior was, they don’t think President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf should dismiss him. This is his personal life, and his actions don’t reflect on his professional life. I beg to differ; the acceptance of Mr. Knuckles' behavior sends a message that it is OK for men to exploit women in Liberia. With more than 100,000 people living with HIV/AIDS virus, and thousands of un-prosecuted rapes, this type of behavior can not be condoned.

Mr. Knuckles must act in the best interest of the country, and do the honorable thing by resigning his position as Chief of Staff. Unfortunately, it appears that he has no intention of taking the high ground, as exhibited in his press conference. Mr. Knuckles showed absolutely no remorse for his behavior. He blamed everyone for the distribution of the photos, rather than acknowledging that there would be no photos, had he behaved properly. His lack of humility is daunting, especially after his boss was in Rwanda championing the cause of women. In a culture wrought with corruption and moral compromise, it is in the interest of the nation to have members of the executive team with reputations for good moral character.

Madams President, you were elected by an overwhelming majority of your people because you possess high moral character that stands out among world leaders. The phrase "high moral character" conjures up images of luminaries such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and Mother Teresa. Each of these historic icons lived lives of service, dedicated to transcendent causes such as social justice, poverty, and the establishment and preservation of democracy. This is the kind of leadership Liberia needs to lift it from the ashes of poverty and destruction.

By electing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberians have made a conscious choice to leave behind their turbulent past and pursue a future of hope and opportunity. You have brought much needed international credibility to the Liberian government. Over the past fourteen months, you have met with several of the world’s most prominent leaders in order to advocate international support for the rebuilding of the republic. At the recent Liberia Partners’ Forum Organized by the World Bank and the Government of Liberia and co-hosted by the US government, the European Community, the African Development Bank, the (AfDB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations (UN), held in Washington DC, you advocated and got 100% debt relief from the United States of America, and Germany. Both countries announced that they would forgive 100 percent of the bilateral debts owed in the context of the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) process. The total amount of debt relieved by both countries is more than 620 million dollars ($391 million by the United States of America and $230 million by Germany).

In drastic comparison, Charles Taylor was in office more than six years, and failed to facilitate any international economic incentives for the country. Likewise, Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant, and his transitional government were in office for two years, and also failed to broker debt relief for Liberia. The former chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Charles Gyude Bryant is currently being indicted for willfully, maliciously and criminally applying US$1,397,255 in ways and manners to benefit himself at the detriment of the Government of Liberia.

Your greatest accomplishment is the hope that you ignite in the hearts of the Liberian people, especially the women. Madam President, by your continued silence, you are on the verge of losing the moral high ground on the Knuckles issue. It is about Liberia and the international reputation you have built since your ascension to the Presidency as Africa's first female elected leader. The women of Liberia, who make up more than half of the population, are looking up to you for decisive leadership. The old adage" Let boys be boys" is no longer acceptable in the new Liberia. Furthermore, a message must be sent to Liberians men that the days of sexual irresponsibility have passed with Bryant, Taylor, Doe, Tolbert, Tubman and Liberia's previous leadership.

As a former President of the Liberian Community Association of Northern California (LCANC) with more than 5,000 Liberians, a recent unscientific poll showed that the vast majority of the people view Mr. Knuckles’ resignation or termination as in the best interest of the country.

Liberia has been plagued by morally undisciplined government officials throughout her history. This lack of discipline birthed an insidious culture of corruption that pervaded Liberia’s past governments. President Johnson-Sirleaf must stamp out this entrenched corruption from every government agency, starting with members of her inner cycle. Otherwise the safety and stability of the nation will be at risk. Madam President it's time to let go of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Willis Knuckles.
About the Author: Rufus S. Berry II, (former President of the Liberian Community Association of Northern California) a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area (Northern California), and the author of many articles including: Liberia’s National Security Alert: President Johnson-Sirleaf’s Government Needs Discipline to Stay the Course. He initiated and managed two humanitarian aid missions to Liberia in 2004 and 2006. He can be reached at: or 510-393-1825

© 2007 by The Perspective

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