The Backlash from the EU Ambassador’s Comment

LAST WEEK WHILE speaking at the Monrovia City Forum on Solid Waste Management, the Head of Delegation of the European Union in Liberia, Ambassador Laurent Delahouse made a damning description of Monrovia, terming it as the dirtiest city he has ever seen in places he had served. The statement went viral both on the traditional and social media and as usual drew mixed reactions. While others concurred and even commended the European envoy for being bold to speak truth to power on the poor management of solid waste by the government despite all the heavy investment by the donor agencies, especially the EU, others were of the opinion that he went overboard to go against the ethics as a diplomat and that he should retract his statement and render apology to the Government and People of Liberia.

WELL, FEW HOURS later, apparently under protest and pressure from the Government, Ambassador Delahouse, issued a press statement to give clarifications that he never meant to convey a message as it was being negatively understood out there and then apologized to the government and people of Liberia for making the statement. Among other things, he posted on the social media page of the European Union Mission in Liberia as follows:

“These comments were meant as a wake-up call to Monrovians to change their practices of littering and to improve the waste management system that is financially supported by the European Union and implemented by the city, community-based enterprises and SMEs and other stakeholders.

In no way were my remarks intended to disparage anyone or to affect the reputation of the beautiful capital city of Liberia. In no way was my intention to take a political stance that would be absolutely contrary to my ethics and mission as a diplomat.

I sincerely apologize to the Government of Liberia and anyone feeling misrepresented by these remarks and I willingly retract the exaggerated wording that I used”

WE KNOW ON from their own understanding, the Government and those who side with her, will feel victorious to have the envoy rendering an apology and retracting the statement, but what they failed to realize is that the content and intent of the message did serve the just purpose which cannot be dismissed or discounted. Curiously enough, the overzealous reactions condemning the statement did not make any attempt to even debunk or deny what the top European envoy said about  the poor and deplorable state of waste management in Monrovia and yea, the entire country.

WE VIEW THE Ambassador’s outburst as a climax of the frustration and disappointment normally being expressed by our international development partners owing to how our governments have either mismanaged or squandered various forms of assistance and interventions with reckless abandon. It is for sure that the Ambassador or any of the representatives of our development partners have long been seeking for such an open opportunity to vent their anger and verdict on how they see us. The open rebuke from the Ambassador should cause us the concern to just imagine how many times and with what gravity our partners have discussed or are discussing us in silence. We need to take a deep reflection of how these development partners have gone about to discuss us, especially about our level of corruption and negligible attitude to what we receive from them.

TAKE IT OR leave it, the European Union has been one of the outstanding supporters, if not the outstanding one to the operations of the Monrovia City Corporation and its Paynesville Counterpart with equipment, trucks and other logistics for waste collection and management over the years. It was in the thinking of the Ambassador, that from what they have given to the government, it was indeed pulsating to find the city in such a filthy and unhygienic condition. Any other good person if placed in the shoes of the Ambassador would have done even the worst to descend on us in some humiliating and unprintable adjectives. It was just wrong that we will not see the sense in what he said so as to correct our errors and improve for the better; but going out of the way to condemn and issue threats for renunciation of the well placed statement from the envoy is counterproductive.

IT IS SICKENING when you hear figures of money spent on this country on various projects meant to uplift us from the grip of poverty and the untold human misery we are going through. The reality on the ground is our governments have been very corrupt, insensitive to the plight of the people and showing no sign of being ready to change the fortune of the country. We have this naïve notion that the international community is under obligation to assist us even if we are not showing any indication of helping ourselves.

SURELY THE GOVERNMENT must have missed the mark to impress upon the international community that we are a serious people. We would have heightened our seriousness by first accepting all that the Ambassador said as the truth, offering an apology for not justifying the confidence of the donors and promising to do better next time. With this, we would have done ourselves the good thing to deserve further assistance. But being a beggar who lavished the generosity of others and still making a claim that we did no wrong when we were told boldly of our wrong, is something out of this world. It is unacceptable.

WE NEED TO remind ourselves that our donors have their respective countries moving far ahead of us because they operate in a society where accountability, rule of law and scorn on corruption reign supreme. What has been given to us and continues to be given us are products of taxpayers’ money that must properly be accounted for by their governments. These are hard earned money from the sweat of hardworking people who are making sure that their systems work and benefit them. We operate a complete anti-clockwise culture where someone can do dishonest things and go with impunity. It was in the sense of that ugly culture that we were demanding an apology without shame after offending our donors.

THE PAST EPISODE should be a wake-up call for us to start to do things the better and right way. We cannot be begging and at the same time not being ready, willing and able to reciprocate in good faith that we will manage or use what we receive judiciously. In as much as others will feel he spoke very harshly, in the truest sense of being honest, we can say that he did not mean harm and it can be summarized in the last paragraph of his statement, “I confirm my engagement and that of the European Union on the side of the City of Monrovia and the Government of Liberia to improve the lives of the citizens of the capital city and of all Liberians”.

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