Piah: President Sirleaf’s Trip to US “Private and not Official”

MONROVIA, Montserrado –  Presidential Spokesperson Jerolimek Piah has disclosed to The Bush Chicken that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s current trip to the United States of America is private and not official, as was initially reported by the Executive Mansion.

An Executive Mansion release dated Thursday, May 26 said the Liberian leader departed the country for official visits to the United States of America, Senegal and the State of Israel.

The release noted Sirleaf would be away from May 26 to June 10, adding, “the first leg of her official visit takes her to the United States, thereafter she will proceed to Dakar, Senegal to attend the ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State and Government.”

The Executive Mansion release added that the final leg of the president’s visit would take her to Israel where she will have the opportunity to meet Israeli authorities on “crucial matters of bilateral concern.”

While details were provided about Sirleaf’s activities in Senegal and Israel, none was provided about her trip to the US.

However, acting on a tip from a source within the Executive Mansion, The Bush Chicken found that the president’s granddaughter, Amina Sirleaf, who attends DeLand High School in Florida, graduated on May 28, 2016.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal confirmed that the president did attend the ceremony.

Amina Sirleaf’s name has previously appeared in US news reports for her work with the MacDella Cooper Foundation and in recognition of her grandmother’s two election victories.

The source within the Executive Mansion, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, was concerned about the potential misuse of government funds by classifying the president’s US trip as official.

When contacted via mobile phone about who was paying for Sirleaf’s trip to the United States, Piah did not directly answer the question but suggested that the president was funding the trip herself.

“If the president goes on a private visit, you don’t know who pays for it?” Piah responded. “I’m a press secretary to the president. If I travel to Ghana today, [is it] the government that’s going to pay for me?”

The Bush Chicken has yet to independently verify Piah assertions that the president paid for the US leg of the trip.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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