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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2006, 20:04 GMT
Liberian finance officials fired
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
President Johnson-Sirleaf has promised to fight corruption
Liberia's new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has fired finance ministry officials as part of her anti-corruption drive.

But her office says she has sacked only 12 people, and not the entire ministry as she initially told some 300 staff.

She said the ministry's corrupt practices had embarrassed Liberia in front of the international community.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf took power last month following elections intended to end 14 years of civil war.

On Tuesday, the president told all outgoing ministers to stay in Liberia pending a financial audit.

She is promising to tackle the corruption that has retarded the development of resource-rich Liberia for decades.

In recent weeks, there have been reports of widespread theft from government offices and their vehicles, with reports of outgoing officials leaving with everything, including carpets, desks and light fittings.


Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf triggered controversy on Wednesday evening when she sacked employees of the finance ministry.

Those who are part of financial malpractices must give way for those who are prepared to do the will of the people
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

During a surprise visit to the ministry, she said she considered everyone in the ministry to be political appointees, who were now relieved of their functions.

"Those who are part of financial malpractices and scandals must give way for those who are prepared to do the will of the Liberian people," she said.

Employees at the ministry were reported to be shocked and angered at the move.

But her office later released a statement clarifying that only certain appointees made under the transitional government were being sacked.

The press secretary said the president was not misquoted, but she was human and had made a slip of the tongue in suggesting that the entire workforce was being axed.


At her inauguration last month, Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf described corruption as a cancer that was eating up Liberia's rich resources.

Guide to Liberia and its recent turbulent history

BBC's World Affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says that as a relatively small country with a population of just three million, Liberia has the potential to be a middle-income country.

After a quarter of a century of misrule, Liberia's road network is in ruins, there is no national telephone network, no national electricity grid and no piped water.

Competition for diamonds and timber in Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone fuelled a 14-year war in Liberia, which ended in 2003 when ex-President Charles Taylor went into exile in Nigeria.

An interim regime, made up of representatives of the warring parties, ruled until Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf took office in January.

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