The Performance Scale: Minister Amara Konneh under the Spotlight

Minister Konneh’s PR operatives aptly described him as: “From refugee to Minister”. Certainly, the Sidiki Trawally-led team was giving themselves the value for their salaries though earned. Yes, the great biblical or Koranic Moses was exiled (became a refugee) in Egypt and rose to fame.

Joseph was a coerced refugee even though his brothers sold him into slavery but he later became Prime Minister of Egypt after all. Alejandro Toledo rose from being a shoeshine boy to becoming President of his native Peru. The list is endless. Our own Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf waited tables at Harvard. Hmm! Folks, walking one’s way to the top of the ladder is sometimes intriguing, onerous and challenging but it takes commitment to reach the finishing line.

Interestingly Toledo struggled to fund his school. He studied Economics and became the Governor of the Central Bank of Peru. Alejandro Toledo is one of the proudest examples of how the U.S. Peace Corps’ volunteerism has been helping to change lives. It was by accident to say the least that through the Peace Corps the young shoeshine boy made it through school. Is that kind of mentoring commonplace with the mindset of present day Peace Corps? Our native Cape Palmas is a beneficiary of Peace Corps volunteerism. Dr. Amos Sawyer went to the U.S. on the Student Exchange Program kind courtesy of the Peace Corps Program.

The trappings of the Liberian civil conflict forced Amara Konneh into exile in neighboring Guinea. How could a young man with ancestral links to Sekou Toure’s homeland file for refugee status? Hahaha! That is not the issue any way. Did anyone know Alejandro, biblical Joseph or Moses would attain the kind of fame human history has recorded? Oh, yes William Shakespeare put it poetically” “Some are born great; others achieve greatness, while others have greatness bestowed upon them”.

Youthfully fresh, and scholarly cum professionally agile, Konneh returned from abroad and with a specialty in Information Technology. Konneh became the first ever Deputy Minister in charge of IT / Communications at the presidency. Amara arrived at a time when Liberia knew very little about the industry and of course it is understandable he would seem a genius. He worked tirelessly to put the non-existent IT dots of the Executive Mansion in line. He did not invent any rocket as it were but had brought an IT minded engineering process to take his country to another level. Visit the Mansion and Planning Ministry’s website and the indicators would visible.

Surely, his political boss must have been incredibly impressed by such extraordinary performance and when the strategic moment came – Amara Konneh was well on his way to Harvard University - somewhere in Boston, Massachusetts in pursuit of MPA in Political and Economic Development. So, our government paid his fees and he must serve this country as it were. Konneh is no longer the “refugee boy” folks and he has a duty to give so much back to this country in the name of taxpayers’ sweat and toil.

The timing of Konneh’s return after studies coincided with the gracious exit of Dr. Toga McIntosh Gayewea who was headed for the World Bank. Konneh became Liberia’s Minister for Planning and Economic Affairs. Shrewd pragmatism and his usual smart PowerPoint presentations make him well-placed to intelligently catalogue his thoughts and analysis as sequentially and cogently as possible.

But did he miss the boat when Youth and Sports Minister Varplah was preferred over him as UP’S lead campaign person? Amara cannot be pestered about that as he was also on the campaign team and as team member – it took individual and collective strategies and resourcefulness to masterfully win a second term. Konneh is at the moment wearing to caps; at least one remains in theory though. Doesn’t the young man feel over-burdened by the pressure involved. He must have a tremendous amount of energy.

After the inauguration of Her Excellency, comrade Konneh was amongst the first four appointments made. Militant-sounding Brownie Samukai, UL-styled cum Palaver-groomed - bombastic Augustine K. Ngafuan, soft-spoken Amara Konneh and Jerelimick Piah - an agronomist-turned presidential mouth-piece were in the lineup.

Konneh was sent to head the Finance Ministry and like many youthful folks appointed into government he wanted to be seen to be the right man in the right place. Others were there before him – some more qualified and experienced as it were. No one is questioning Konneh’s brilliance folks but understanding the culture and dynamics of a particular government Ministry or Agency is health for any newcomer. Is he not learning by the ropes? The public has the right to decide any way.

Yes, the new administration was just few weeks on the political threatre. Seemingly, Konneh showed up at the Ministry of Finance to clean the mess folks. What the hell is going on? Mess! Who created it? Sayeh was there and she was followed by comrade Kpehe Ngafuan. Konneh must have from a distance mind-framed that it was imperative to wear his jungle booths to unmask the Finance Ministry of many years of corruption and bureaucratic bottleneck. Well-intentioned as he was with a fresh start, what has happened to his enthusiasm and momentum? A bit of energy drink should be able to resuscitate the one time refugee chap since on religious grounds he cannot sip some wine. Who is holier than thou?

Minister Konneh’s approach to overhauling the Ministry of Finance was greeted with mixed reactions from his critics especially those who were either replaced, dismissed on reassigned. They accused the young man of witch-hunt nepotism and favoritism. Were they justified? Konneh wore his kicking booths and was at RIA, Bo Waterside and Ganta Customs Inspectorates trying to prove a point. He announced that the government is losing millions as a result of fraud, waste and abuse. Will he succeed? Certainly, if the millions end up in the right place – our country benefits.

He reckoned that frugality was a necessary recipe for a country like ours that is recovering from years of conflict. He wants every penny, nickel and dime accounted for - to allow the government to build roads, hospitals, schools – address job-creation as well as to enable the people feel the presence of a responsible leadership. He must have been preaching to the choir any way. 

He gave some Customs Officers in Buchanan their marching orders for duping the government. Was that enough? If proven beyond all reasonable doubts to have cheated the government – the courts should have gone into action. They took the lion’s share of taxes that should have come into the government’s revenue. The Minister’s critics have accused him of doing little to robustly going after the big fish in his fight against corruption. 

Some of his critics have described as sheer bluff when the Minister assembled different teams of media folks to tour the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant – assuring the population that rehabilitation and expansion works would commence soon. Where were out engineers and energy sector managers? Did they commissioned him or did he see it as a show-boy operation occasioned by glamorous media biz?

 Hey folks, this is the Minister of Finance whose statutory role is to find the millions needed to get the hydro up and running. Konneh has assured the Liberian people that we have some money already. Could it be the reason why the LEC folks were in the Truth FM studio doing PR a few weeks ago? Hmm! Amara is no small ‘Potato’ after all ‘mehn’. On his watch, we can boast of modern container scanners now available at the Free Port of Monrovia. Amara, remember, Public Works has a long list to present to you this dry season huh!       


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