MUSINGS ON THE US-LIBERIA RELATIONS AS SUPER POWER CLOCKS 245
REACHING 245 YEARS of Independence yesterday, Sunday, July 4, 2021, the world’s leading economy, United States of America, has every good reason to festively celebrate. As a former colony under old Great Britain, America, since 1776, and for a greater part of its history, has been able to surmount most of the many direst of challenges posed to its existence. Such challenges include, but not limited to, the rise of Nazism, Japanese imperialism, the cold war between the country and the former Soviet Union led Eastern bloc and in recent times the upsurge of radical Islamist terrorism.
ON SUCH AN occasion like this, we want to join the government and good people of that great country to celebrate all the achievements brought forth by the status of statehood under various dispensations. This is a worthy undertaking and we look forward to seeing America playing that pivotal role in global leadership to promote peace, unity in diversity, development and prosperity.
INDEED, AMERICA IS the leader of the free world, a top moral voice for the oppressed. That great country has been able to stamp its authority on the cause for freedom and triumph of democracy for so many countries that have gone through history of exploitation, corruption, human misery, dictatorship and general human rights abuse.
THE FOUNDATION OF Liberia as an independent state can be traced directly to the struggle for the emancipation and freedom for ex-slaves and the need to have a new haven that provides peace, justice, freedom and greater opportunities outside the country that was indeed a nightmare. That effort aligns with US’s own struggle for freedom against imperialism. Through the humanitarian work and efforts of the American Colonization Society, the US government was able to channel funding and other support to transport the first set of ex-slaves and subsequent ones to what is now known today as Liberia in the 1820’s.
AFTER SOME INITIAL challenges associated with acquiring land, integrating among those who they met on arrival and living in a strange land and some other setbacks, the founding fathers of Liberia, declared independence in 1847. The United States gave recognition in 1862 and full diplomatic relations was consummated in 1864.
SINCE 1864 TO present, a period spanning 157 years, the relationship between Liberia and the United States, though with some rough edges, has flourished over the years on the principles of mutual respect for the sovereignty of each other, rule of law, international solidarity, peace and development. The first major foreign direct investment that came into Liberia was through the Firestone Rubber Company, owned by Americans. That investment significantly impacted on turning the fortune of the country towards a positive direction.
OTHER MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURAL developments followed. Though initially for strategic and military reasons, the United States built the Roberts International Airport(RIA) and the Freeport of Monrovia during the second world war but these projects have come to constitute some of the major capital projects in the country that continue to impact on the socio-economic development of Liberia many years after they were constructed.
THE NATION ALSO witnessed the construction of the massive John F. Kennedy Memorial to cater to the health needs of the people. In its heyday, the hospital was like a regional epicenter for health care delivery as it attracted some of the best medical minds in the sub-region and provided outstanding services to people far and near. Liberia then was a destination for medical tourism.
The Peace Corps Volunteer initiative was another major undertaking that contributed immensely in the critical sectors of our economy like Health, Education and Agriculture. It provided trained manpower to these sectors.
FOLLOWING THE EBOLA crisis 2014, the United States continues to partner with government, donor institutions, especially the World Health Organization and the Liberian civil society to strengthen health systems in Liberia. Even with the recent advent of the COVID 19 pandemic, the United States has demonstrated its commitment to the cause of Liberia with massive financial and material support to avert the widespread spread of the virus.
THE LEVEL OF military assistance from the United States Government cannot be overemphasized. Besides the construction of RIA and the Freeport of Monrovia which initially served for military purposes, the US constructed several military formations and offered training programs for several members of the Armed Forces of Liberia from decades and up to present. They were also instrumental in providing military equipment, hardware, uniforms, and other facilities and took active part in the demobilization and re-organization of the Armed Forces of Liberia when the brutal civil war came to an end in 2003. The US military also supported the battle against the Ebola upsurge in 2014 and successfully executed the task.
IT IS INSTRUCTIVE to note that US policy towards Liberia has never been static; it has been revolving based on the peculiar circumstances or development that trended from one stage to another. This premise, according to political pundits, might have formed the crux of the matter on how the United States conducted itself during the civil war. While others maintain that the Americans should have been actively and directly involved in bringing the civil to an end once it started from the initial stage, others also support the assertion of the Americans because Liberia, as a sovereign country, need to take control of its own situation and stop it from snowballing into the massive destruction of lives and properties.
BE AS IT may, the involvement of the Americans in the process of resolving the crisis, its support to the various interim governments and humanitarian assistance, the networking role with the international community, especially with the regional body, ECOWAS to end the crisis and the electoral processes in 2005, 2011 and 2017 to consolidate on the gains of our fledgling democracy cannot be wished away.
THE AMERICANS CONTINUE to play their role as a strategic partner to the overall development of the country. They have been involved with projects to strengthen institutions in our polity and support efforts of civil society organizations in the area of good governance, rule of law and advocacy. These are core issues that attract the attention of the US government in extending assistance to governments around the world.
THOUGH THERE HAS been a dramatic shift in the policy direction of the Americans since the end of the cold war era, but they have not lost track of working with their tradition to support democratic processes that guarantee the citizens to have more stake in how their countries are ruled and resources distributed. It is in this respect that we call on the government to put a high premium on meeting the criteria or benchmarks, even if it has to be the minimum so as not to attract the wrath of the super power and remain in their good book.
THE UNITED STATES government through its Department of State over the years have been raising a lot of issues bordering on corruption, disrespect for the rule of law, lack of adequate security for lives and properties of citizens and residents, nepotism and ripping off of the opportunities and benefits of the citizens by a few in government. Most of these issues are not just starting to pop up in this government; they have been around in the past but it is fair enough to say that the reportage on these have reached at an alarming rate probably because the government is so deep into it and helpless to mitigate these vices.
THE LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT needs to step up to the bidding, exert the political will to correct the wrongs and create a new vista to convince the international community, especially the United States that wields so much power among the countries that matter when it comes to getting financial support externally.
ONE WAY TO achieve this is for the government of Liberia to overhaul its approach on how her foreign policy objectives will be crafted. For a very long time since its inception, this government has not taken any keen interest in developing a roadmap for a robust engagement with the international community and it has seriously impacted on attracting international goodwill and foreign direct investment in this country. For a government that knew beforehand that the departure of UNMIL and other international donor agencies would have affected the economic fortune of the country, it was never a good decision to de-emphasize economic diplomacy.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN the United States and Liberia has come a long way that has mutually benefited both countries especially, Liberia that has benefited so much from the partnership. It is incumbent upon this country to therefore appreciate this partnership by working towards making it work all the time. We have more to lose if we hold this engagement with kids’ gloves.
IN SIMILAR VEIN, we also call on the United States to continue to be tolerant, patient and realistic in dealing with the government and we think it is fair enough that she has been able to keep afloat on this. The critical stance taken by the US government on a lot of issues in the country is to our understanding, an approach a sincere partner would like to flag up moving forward rather than being silent and returning an unfriendly posture when issues arise.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN the two countries is special, strategic and mutually beneficial that all stakeholder should work towards to maintain and enhance it. HAPPY 245th INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND ITS AMAZING CITIZENRY.