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Weah’s cabinet another big headache

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Liberian President George Weah filled the vast majority of remaining cabinet seats on Saturday while controversy grew over allegations of past criminal behaviour by his justice minister.

Liberia’s President-elect and former football star George Weah (L) stands by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (R) after he was sworn-in on January 22, 2018 in Monrovia.
To the cheers of a crowd fired by his promise to bring them jobs and prosperity, former football star George Weah was sworn in as president of Liberia on January 22, 2018, completing the country’s first transition between democratically-elected leaders since 1944. Weah, 51, took over from Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who over 12 years steered the country away from the trauma of a civil war, although prosperity eluded her.

Weah gave posts to a mixture of inexperienced but loyal figures from his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, along with some key members held over from the former government, according to names released in an official statement.

Newly appointed interior minister Varney Sirleaf is a stepson of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and previously served as deputy minister, while her information minister Eugene Nagbe keeps his role in the new administration.

Minister of Education Ansu Sonii, and Minister of Commerce and Industry Wilson Tarpeh were key spokesmen for Weah during last year’s election campaign, when the former footballer beat Sirleaf’s vice-president Joseph Boakai on a wave of youth support.

Just one woman, Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr, has been appointed as a minister so far, taking the Gender, Children and Social Protection portfolio and breaking with strides in gender equality under Sirleaf.

Several women were given deputy or assistant minister posts, however.

Rodney Sieh, a Liberian political commentator, said key aides to Weah and the CDC “were expected to land lucrative jobs”.

Zogar Wilson, the new youth minister, is a former goalkeeper of the national team and local club Mighty Barrolle, he added.

Weah’s biggest headache however is the appointment of lawyer Charles Gibson as justice minister. He was once stripped of his legal licence after embezzling a client of $25,000, local media reported.

“The fact that he was suspended by the Supreme Court for duping a client of funds is not a good record to have for an incoming minister of justice,” Sieh noted.

“It looks like President Weah will not bow to public pressure and withdraw the nomination as many have demanded.”

Weah had already named his chief of staff and finance minister, both CDC allies, and a foreign minister who backed his presidency after resigning from Sirleaf’s party.

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