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Friday, June 14, 2024

FORMER TRC COMMISSIONER STEWART CRITICIZES BOAKAI ADMINISTRATION OVER CABINET RETREAT AND FAILED EQUIPMENT DEAL

Date:

MONROVIA – Former Commissioner of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), John H. T. Stewart, on Monday, June 2, 2024, voiced his concerns regarding recent developments in President Joseph Boakai’s administration, particularly focusing on the controversial cabinet retreat and a failed deal involving heavy equipment for road construction.

Stewart welcomed the initial announcement from the Executive Mansion about the cabinet retreat, as it was seen as an opportunity to evaluate the administration’s progress during its first hundred days. He highlighted that many political observers had hoped this retreat would address significant issues, including the government’s failure to scrap the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) and the Met-Tech inspection scheme. Both schemes, instituted during the Weah administration, have been criticized for funneling money into private accounts rather than government revenue.

Another pressing issue is the unresolved rice price hike, which Commerce Minister Amin Modad announced but later rescinded on President Boakai’s orders. The administration’s handling of road improvements also drew mixed reactions; while some progress was acknowledged, many commuters continue to face challenging conditions.

However, the focus of the cabinet retreat shifted dramatically when Minister of State Without Portfolio, Mamaka Bility, announced that hundreds of heavy earth-moving machines were en route to Liberia. This announcement was initially met with public enthusiasm, but it soon became clear that the deal was shrouded in secrecy and impropriety, leading to its cancellation.

Stewart questioned the transparency of the deal and the involvement of controversial South African businessman Gumede, who has a history of financial scandals. The revelation that the equipment deal might have involved granting mining concessions in the Wologizi mountain range to foreign investors further fueled public distrust.

Stewart highlighted the sensitivity of the Wologizi mountain range issue, noting that the people of Lofa consider it a prized asset with deep cultural significance. He also drew parallels to past failed deals, like the Eton-Ebomaf arrangement under Weah, suggesting a troubling pattern.

Critics argue that Bility’s announcement at the retreat indicates a significant lapse in President Boakai’s oversight. Stewart pointed out that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance had signed off on the deal, while the Chairman of the National Investment Commission refused, raising questions about internal coherence and due diligence within the administration.

Furthermore, Stewart raised concerns about Bility’s credentials and her suitability for handling such significant deals. He noted that while she previously served as a political advisor to then-Vice President Boakai, little is known about her experience and competence in managing high-stakes political negotiations.

The controversy surrounding this failed deal underscores the broader issues of governance and transparency in the Boakai administration. According to Stewart, the secrecy and alleged impropriety involved in this arrangement reflect poorly on the President’s commitment to good governance and anti-corruption efforts.

Public reactions to the failed equipment deal have been largely negative, with many expressing disappointment and distrust towards the administration. Stewart emphasized that President Boakai must take decisive action to restore public confidence and demonstrate his administration’s integrity and transparency.

The situation is further complicated by allegations that a non-refundable sum of US$5 million was paid upfront to secure the deal, raising questions about the financial prudence and ethical standards of the involved officials. This development has sparked calls for a thorough investigation into the matter.

Stewart warned that if such issues are not addressed promptly and effectively, they could lead to significant political repercussions for President Boakai. The administration’s handling of this controversy will be crucial in shaping its legacy and determining its future success.

Reflecting on the broader implications, Stewart cautioned that continued missteps could lead to sanctions from the US Treasury Department, similar to those faced by officials in the Weah government. This could ultimately undermine Boakai’s development agenda and his chances of securing a second term.

Stewart’s critique serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing the Boakai administration and the importance of maintaining high standards of governance and accountability. As he aptly put it, “President Boakai has to be on his Ps and Qs else he would find himself an unwitting participant to shady deals and schemes for which he will have to bear full responsibility for whatever unfolds.”

Former Commissioner Stewart’s commentary highlights the urgent need for President Boakai to address these governance issues and ensure that his administration operates with the highest levels of transparency and integrity. The President’s response to these challenges will be critical in determining the future trajectory of his administration and its relationship with the Liberian people and the international community.

Socrates Smythe Saywon
Socrates Smythe Saywon is a Liberian journalist. You can contact me at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or reach out via email at saywonsocrates@smartnewsliberia.com or saywonsocrates3@gmail.com.

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