— AFL Chief of Staff is Defense Minister-designate
The pace at which President Joseph Nyuma Boakai is setting up his cabinet may appear rather tedious to some, but, true to his sense as a farmer, there’s no sweetness in forced ripeness. There’s a lot to unpack from this parable, but suffice it to say, those who feel he’s going too slow with his appointments will be just fine.
However, the order of his appointments so far is a rather solid indicator of what his priority pillars have been from the start–and in this order–National Security, the Economy, the Office of the President, and then everything else.
The good news is that the list is getting longer each time, which perhaps suggests he’s hopefully picking up the pace.
On Thursday, February 1, Boakai nominated fourteen additional officials–consistent with his priority pillars–affecting the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the National Port Authority, the National Investment Commission, the Ministry of State, and the Office of the President.
There are four new security sector appointments. Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL, Major General Prince Charles Johnson, III and Brigadier General Geraldine George-Johnson, respectively, have both been retired and appointed as Minister and Deputy Minister (respectively) of National Defense.
With the change of guard in the AFL top brass comes Col. Davidson T. Forleh, promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and nominated for Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, succeeding Maj. Gen. Johnson. Meanwhile, Col. Theophilus Dana has been nominated as Deputy Chief of Staff, succeeding Brig. Gen. George.
The transition from the AFL to the Defense Ministry may appear to be a natural career shift for those with leadership acumen in the national army. After all, it’s the most obvious transition. However, given the more diverse opportunities for professional development offered by the AFL, Liberian soldiers who excel could see themselves transitioning to other areas than the Ministry of Defense.
For example, Liberians were quite impressed at various road and sidewalk construction works neatly and professionally done by soldiers. Could we soon see a soldier appointed to the Ministry of Public Works? The idea is not far-fetched, since Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, a candidate in the October 2023 presidential election, pledged to appropriate military manpower to the agricultural sector. In fact, trailblazing the path is none other than the outgoing Minister of Defense, retired Maj. Gen. Daniel D. Ziankahn, who is being nominated for an ambassadorial post.
So there are five from the security sector out of this list of 14 appointments.
Pushing his economic agenda, President Boakai has made two appointments to the National Port Authority — Sekou Dukuly, Managing Director, and James Bernard, Deputy Managing Director for Administration. Dukuly holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations from Augsburg University, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from the University of North Dakota.
At the National Investment Commission (NIC), the President has appointed Jeff Blibo, Chairman, and Melvin Sheriff, Executive Director. Blibo is probably best known as the CEO of Union Strong, a well-known solar energy dealer in Liberia for more than 20 years. Sheriff has worked at the NIC for more than 13 years and, up to the time of his appointment, served as Director of Concessions and Public-Private Partnerships. He holds a BSc in Business Management and Accounting from AME Zion University (Liberia) and a Master of Science Degree in Economics with an emphasis in International Finance from Shanghai University.
Ministry of State
Coming in at the Ministry of State are Madam Mamaka Bility and Mr. Samuel A. Stevquoah, both serving as Ministers of State Without Portfolio. Stevqoah will also be in charge of special services under his designation.
Working directly with the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs will be Attorney Cornelia Kruah Togba as Deputy Minister for Administration. Kruah Togba’s appointment brings a youthful gender balance to her Minister-proper, Amb. Sylvester Grigsby, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. As a licensed lawyer and a politician in her own right, she’s one to watch as an understudy for much bigger assignments.
Also coming to the Ministry of State will be Madam Ora Richards, as Deputy Minister for Budget and Finance.
Last but not least on this list is Ms. Morie Yaude Nemah, Executive Assistant, Office of the President. Nemah has served as Boakai’s Executive Assistant for several years and will continue in this capacity at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs.
According to a release from the office of the Presidential Press Secretary, Ministry of State, these nominations, where applicable, are subject to confirmation by the Liberian Senate. Meanwhile, the Liberian Leader, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, hereby directs the Ministry of Defense and Chief of Staff to conduct the appropriate procedures consistent with established military protocols.