President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has returned back to Liberia from a working visit to Rwanda. Upon her return, she has accepted the resignation of her Chief of Staff, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Willis D. Knuckles. Knuckles was her most trusted lieutenant.
|President Johnson Sirleaf addresses the 10th Anniversary of the Rwanda Women Parliamentary Forum which is a Forum that she launched in 1997 as the Director of the African Bureau of the UNDP.
"Finally, Fellow Citizens, I accepted today, with regrets, the resignation of my Acting Chief of Staff, Minister Willis Knuckles. I accepted his resignation, which he offered not because of demands from those who sought to use this unfortunate situation for blackmail and who should probably review their own moral probity. Rather, I did so because first, I have sworn to uphold high standards in my own behavior and have made it clear to my staff and others that they will be held accountable for the same standards, and second, because I am in full agreement with those who do speak with moral authority that the behavior of Minister Knuckles, while not illegal is improper and inappropriate for a public servant." she stated.
A recent photograph of Minister Knuckles engaged in an alleged sexual encounter with two young Liberian girls found their way on to the front page of a local Liberian newspaper and was widely disseminated through the Internet.
|Resigned Minister Willis D. Knuckles
The Press Union of Liberia, even as they denounced the alleged act of the Minister, also strongly denounced the publication of such an immoral picture by a newspaper house. The newspaper and the Editor were both suspended from the Press Union of Liberia for a period of three months whilst a local Liberian radio station was fined L$2,500 by the Union for broadcasting graphic description of the photograph.
It had been widely speculated that given the close relationship that existed between Knuckles and Johnson Sirleaf, that he would have escaped resignation. However, the public outcry that ensued following the publication of the photographs led to tonight's acceptance of the resignation of Knuckles from the Johnson Sirleaf Government.
In her statement released tonight, the President said of her regret at letting Knuckles go, "I used the word "regret" advisedly, as Minister Knuckles has been a friend and close associate for many years. However, my regret cannot extend to condoning improper behavior by a public servant who swore to uphold the tenets of our code of conduct, and to accept the higher scrutiny which comes with that role."
She also called for forgiveness from all and reconciliation.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.