MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf dismissed her cabinet on Wednesday in a move that will provide her a “fresh slate” for the next phase of her administration, her office said in a press release.
No other reason was given for the move, but it comes in the midst of a crackdown on corruption in the West African state that has led to investigations of some public officials a year ahead of presidential elections.
“President Johnson-Sirleaf told the ministers that the reason for demanding their mass administrative leave is that this administration is entering a critical stretch and this would afford her the opportunity to start with a fresh slate going forward,” according to the release.
“The President further announced that a cabinet restructuring will be made in the shortest possible time and that several ministers could be reappointed.”
Deputies will take over the ministers’ responsibilities until replacements were nominated, according to the release, which added the minister for presidential affairs alone had been asked to stay in his post.
Sources told Reuters earlier on Wednesday that Sirleaf had asked her cabinet to resign.
An analyst said the move may be part of her strategy to improve her chances in next year’s election.
“Patience with her government is wearing thin over the issue of corruption,” said Joseph Lake of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit. “She faces a strong challenge in the 2011 presidential election from local hero George Weah and this may be an effort to freshen up a weary cabinet.”
Sirleaf has been in power since 2006 and was expected to seek another term in the planned 2011 poll.
Critics of Sirleaf’s administration say she has not done enough to root out corruption or ease tensions between communities divided by 14-years of near-constant civil war, one of Africa’s bloodiest, that left infrastructure in ruins.
The country is near the bottom of the U.N.’s human development index but its oil and minerals resources are drawing increased investment from energy and mining companies like Chevron, ArcelorMittal and BHP Billiton that Sirleaf hopes will trickle down to improve the lives of Liberians.
The government said last month it was investigating some current and former public officials for their role in a proposed carbon deal that would have given a U.K. firm control of a fifth of the country’s rainforests.
Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Matthew Jones