Liberia: Recent Airport Appointment Speaks A Lot about the Quality of the CDC Leadership


PRESIDENT GEORGE WEAH’S appointment of Darlington Karnely as Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority has set off a firestorm of condemnation, with critics characterizing the nomination as overwhelmingly lopsided, lacking the requisite credentials to manage an entity that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks.

THE EXECUTIVE MANSION website and Facebook page had reported that Karnely, whose confirmation is still pending by the Liberian Senate, has “a rich background in the field of Aviation and is a Master’s Degree Candidate in aviation management from the Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Philadelphia (AIM).”

HOWEVER, a FrontPageAfrica research found that Karnely lied about his credentials, which says a lot not only about the leadership deficit in this country but also about the failure on the part of decision-makers to exercise due diligence and put the national interest first.

MR. KARNLEY, an airframe and powerplant technician, was presented to the public by the Executive Mansion as an aviation expert, and an employee of Boeing, the biggest plane manufacturer in the world. 

KARLEY’S APPOINTMENT comes at a time when the country’s only international airport – the Roberts International Airport – has turned into a national disgrace and needs not only an aviation expert to straighten up things there, but also one with the requisite managerial skills, the experience, and the contacts to straighten things up at the airport. Unfortunately, Mr. Karnley has no managerial experience. 

THIS LEADS US to wonder, who’s advising our President? Is he deliberately being misled? Or is he making decisions to please a few in his Coalition for Democratic Change regardless of the consequences it may cause the nation? 

ABOUT A MONTH ago, former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, in a piece of write up, called on the Weah-led administration to put aside politics and find the rightful technicians to solve our airport dilemma. 

HE WROTE: “To my friends in the regime, please forgive me for perhaps being the wrong messenger. Just ignore me for a moment. You inherited an airport with a new runway, terminal building with jetways (”first time since 1847”), and other amenities befitting a modern airport. It doesn’t matter who built it; it belongs to Liberia. Making it work to increase the inflows of passengers, whether they are Liberians returning home, tourists, investors, etc., will help boost your legacy long after you leave office. Imagine annual revenue was roughly $4 million in 2006 when you had a runway with potholes and a house as the terminal. Then imagine the potential now. Own it and prevent it from falling apart. Get the right people in there.”

IN HIS VIEW, electricity and more money aren’t the solutions to Roberts International Airport’s (RIA) problem. The people managing it are the problem.

He recalled that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took office in 2006, just a few years after the end of a 14-year civil war, the nation’s largest airport was in physical and financial tatters. The RIA was deep in debt, it had no auditable trail of revenues and expenditures, and it suffered from a bloated payroll, a severe skills shortage, and a culture of corruption.

HE RECALLED the appointment of Mr. Alex Cuffy, who was then a member of the CDC political party which was an opposition party at the time, implemented a controls system to improve financial management. Between 2006 and 2009, Cuffy worked with Julius Dennis and Abraham Simmons, successive managing directors at RIA, to implement a series of reforms to make the airport viable again. They established financial controls that helped bolster the airport’s financial position, eliminated unnecessary workers, trained the remaining staff, wrote a complete operating manual, and purchased much-needed equipment with financial support from donors. With these reforms, RIA met International Civil Aviation Organization standards, and U.S. regulators approved the facility to handle flights to and from America. 

MR. KONNEH MENTIONED this to inform the Weah-led administration that a solution is not always found within and it is imperative at times to go outside the comfort zone when finding the solution to a problem.

EVERYTHING at the Roberts International Airport has gone south since the dismissal of Bishop Allen Klayeh. 

LIBERIANS FLYING to and from Liberia have often been mocked over the state of our airport. Flights are now uncertain of a successful landing at the Roberts International Airport. If this does not scare the President and his lieutenants, what else would? 

THERE ARE MULTIPLE qualified Liberians here and in the diaspora who are more than capable of restoring prestige to the Liberia Airport Authority. We would therefore recommend the advertisement of the position, and the setting up of a vetting committee for the recruitment of the Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority. 

THIS IS NO TIME for politicking, this is the time to fix our country.