Liberia’s president said Tuesday her administration had fallen short in its fight against corruption, which she called “public enemy number one” when she took office more than a decade ago.
“We have not fully met the anti-corruption pledge that we made in 2006,” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told lawmakers in her final state of the nation address.
“It is not because of the lack of political will to do so, but because of the intractability of dependency and dishonesty cultivated from years of deprivation and poor governance,” she added.
Sirleaf took office in 2006 after winning the country’s first election following more than a decade of conflict.
But the Nobel Peace Prize laureate faced persistent allegations of nepotism related to the appointment of her sons to government posts. Robert Sirleaf served as chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia. Two other sons have also occupied top positions, one at the National Security Agency and another at the Central Bank.
The allegations flared up again in 2014, when a 17-year-old grandnephew of Sirleaf’s gave a presentation to lawmakers on how to manage profits from oil production. Following that incident, Leymah Gbowee, who shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Sirleaf for their promotion of women’s rights, scolded the president, writing a scathing letter saying she doubted the teenager was qualified to give the talk.
Liberians will vote for a new leader in October, and Sirleaf has publicly backed her current vice president, Joseph Boakai. He will face stiff competition from soccer star George Weah, who over the weekend announced that Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of former president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor, would be his running mate.