On Friday, March 16, 2012, President Ellen Sirleaf commissioned 24 members of her cabinet at a ceremony held in the C. Cecil Dennis, Jr. hall at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill. Gracing that ceremony was a number of dignitaries including representatives of foreign missions and family members. One of the major highlights of the March 16 commissioning ceremony was warning by President Sirleaf to her cabinet against back-biting and undermining.
In furtherance of the foregoing, the Liberian Chief executive cautioned her senior officials of government against using the media and other forums to get at each other. The warning may have been against the back-drop of the sponsorship of radio and television phone-in programs, as well as newspaper articles and stories by some officials of government through individuals or group of individuals (under the guise of an associations or pro-democracy organizations in the Liberian society.
She warned that if this is observed in this second-term cabinet, drastic actions (including dismissal) would be instituted to ensure the unity of her cabinet as a team. Her move may have been the result of the disunity she felt among her cabinet ministers and other senior government officials which may have also made her first-term administration to suffer some short circuits along the years. And if the President of Liberia has not said anything before to invigorate the spirit of Liberians, her March 16 observation and warning to her ministers has indeed.
Many well-meaning Liberians, monitoring the radio and television stations, as well as reading the dailies and observing the divisive tendencies among officials of government, had actually harbored the belief that Madam President was one way or the other encouraging such. But with the latest public pronouncement, such perception may erase from the minds of Liberians.
It is also envisaged that President Sirleaf will one day publicly discourage cabinet ministers, as well as other senior officials of government and friends of the President from “gossips-you say, I say, inflicted impressions about individuals and issues below the facts” which interplay within the corridors of the Liberian Presidency.
Such admonition to the President of Liberia is not only important, but necessary because it diminishes the negative perception that she hates a certain group of people. In view of the foregoing, as close as the president and her official family and friends may be, she needs to adapt the “twin mother” policy as was made practical by the late President William Richard Tolbert, Jr. wherein “gossipers/back-bitters” were made to repeat whatever they said before those about whom they gossiped. And that, to a greater extend, helped in minimizing the acrimonies and hatred which initially characterized his administration.
Again, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. The President must be hailed for taking the first step towards ensuring administrative discipline and unity of purpose. It is a good start that needs practical actions, or else “things will continue to fall apart” and the administration may be exposed to public ridicule.