MONROVIA – Liberia, Africa’s oldest Republic and pathfinder of the continent’s disengagement from its past colonial vestiges, itself got embroiled in violent conflicts dating from 1980 to 2003, based on what the perceived liberators at the time termed as removing the yoke of “rampant corruption” that impeded the growth and development of the nation. As a long-standing traditional partner to Liberia, the United States of America has continued to tie its bilateral support to its supposedly “stepchild” on the adherence to strict democratic tendencies, especially on the issue of corruption that tends to undermine democracy and increase the space for the sort of violence that plunged West Africa’s once Nirvana into a hellhole abyss.
Perhaps sensing that Liberia might be sliding back to dark days if left unchecked, the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, in his usual no-nonsense posture, has unconditionally condemned the Monday, March 13, 2023 violence that erupted on the main campus of the University of Liberia when members, supporters and sympathizers of the Student Unification Party (SUP) got in a stone-throwing ruckus with supporters of another opposition student grouping that ramped support for Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarious Gray when he moved into the nation’s highest learning institution to reportedly dine with students. Gray’s defiance to visit the University of Liberia campus, against widespread admonition, was precipitated by the booing and chasing of Aloysius Howe, an aide and confidant of Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah, who had been accused of siphoning funds meant for the National Census project. The students had also booed and chased former Solicitor General Syrenius Cephas who was recently hit by the Magnitsky sanctions for engaging in massive corruption that undermined the development of the country.
“Good afternoon! Before I begin, I will first take this opportunity to unconditionally condemn the violence that occurred yesterday at the University of Liberia Capitol Hill campus. Details are still emerging, but I am speaking directly to politicians, student groups, and citizens across the country when I say that violence of any kind has no place in a democratic society. Violence does nothing but undercut your own credibility and will only take this country backwards. Disagreements and compelling visions for the country should be solved through peaceful debate and at the ballot box, not on the street.
“So now I would like to move on to today’s primary topic. Embassy Monrovia is privileged to welcome two of our most senior anti-corruption agents, who will talk to you today about their visit to Liberia. As the Liberian public is well aware, the U.S. government is deeply concerned with corruption, globally and especially here in Liberia.
“Unlike Mozambique, Liberia is free of hurricanes or typhoons. Unlike Ethiopia, Liberia does not have an invasion of locusts. Unlike Cabo Verde, Liberia has plentiful and dependable rainfall. A country that has been blessed with a bounty of resources, there is only a man-made plague that holds back Liberia today: that plague is corruption.
“Corruption has been a part of Liberian society for over 200 years. Like FGM, or the tradition of binding feet in China’s history, once corruption is a fully-established way of doing business, it is very difficult to remove. And before anyone draws a conclusion that I am favoring one political party over another, or one administration above another, let me be perfectly clear – corruption in Liberia is far too ingrained and pervasive to pretend it could be that isolated.
“Singapore, with only 270 square miles of land, virtually no natural resources, and with the population almost the same size as Liberia’s, had a reputation in the early 1960s as one the poorest, most corrupt countries in Asia. Singapore’s per capita Gross Domestic Product in 1960 was $428. Today, Singapore is one the wealthiest countries on the planet, and their per capita Gross Domestic Product in 2022 was $630. How did this happen? Did they win the lottery? Was it by change or coincidence? No. One of the primary reasons for the phenomenal success of Singapore, is that they decided corruption would no longer be accepted as a normal part of Liberia.
“Like most of you, I have great hopes for Liberia. Like most Liberians, I dream of a better country; one where labor regulations are enforced uniformly without prejudice, and not for personal manipulation or political gain; one where all legislators appropriate funds to a Ministry with the expectation of kickbacks; one where all Ministers negotiate on behalf of what is best for the country, not on the basis of what funds are being paid directly to them; one where public appropriations are distributed as the legislature directed them – not in a random or weaponized fashion determined by individuals; one where schools have no ghost employees and are supplied with the actual number of teachers on their payroll; one where donated medicine is actually available free of charge to the poorest of the poor in public health facilities throughout the country. Liberia can be this country. Just as in Singapore, it is within the power of the Liberian people to make this happen. You can do it!” Ambassador McCarthy stated emphatically.
The U.S. Ambassador made the assertion on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 during a press roundtable with visiting U.S. Global Anti-Corruption Coordinator Richard Nephew and USAID’s Anti-Corruption Task Force Executive Director Shannon Green.
Ambassador McCarthy’s statement comes in the wake of a crucial presidential and legislative election slated for October 10, 2023, which many believe will actually determine whether Liberia has finally graduated from pariahdom to statehood.