Snowe’s Fiery US Critique -Why It Resonates with Many Liberians

MONROVIA: The United States of America came into venomous censure last week in the Chambers of the Liberian Senate when Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe “emptied his gut” – leaving nothing unsaid — on what some consider as the country’s lackluster and carefree relationship towards Liberia which is its brainchild. Senator Snowe was quite unequivocal about the fact that in the somewhat quasi colonial relationship of the last 200 years between the two countries, the United States, the unarguably most prosperous nation on earth, has been playing stingy, cruel and negligent why Liberia remains backward in every aspect of state existence. As The Analyst reports, the Snowe prognosis, which has generated intense public debate since, appears to resonate with a cross-section of Liberians who also think the US is in milk-and-go relationship.

When the first republic on the then “Dark Continent” announced to the world it was declaring independence, all was a result of the engineering of the United States of America which nearly three decades earlier had sowed the seed of statehood. The US had brought in freed slaves from their shores onto the Grain Coast with the professed intent of promoting freedom, self-rule and independence.

Two years ago, the erstwhile government of President George Weah, promoted and celebrated the bicentennial of Liberia’s existence (1822 – 2022) perhaps as a way of reflecting on the long relationship with the United States.

Two hundred years of US-Liberia relations, so what? That was the question many Liberians pondered during the lavish events organized by the Government, but others chose to keep it at a low-key at the time understandably because the celebrations were not intended for critical assessment. Now, that critical assessment has been splashed in the open public by a Liberian lawmaker who sounded exceedingly angry and bitter.

Edwin Melvin Snowe, Senator of one of the least developed counties of Liberia, has treaded where many angels had feared. That the world’s economic and political superpower is the founder and supposed colonizer of a tiny state on the West Coast of Africa, and the relationship of 200 years, don’t worth it, as Snowe contends, appears many Liberians also agree.

The Senator’s apparent rage flared up as Liberian lawmakers stroked their signatures on a Resolution, reportedly being coerced by the United States, to begin the process of establishing a war and economic crimes court in the country.

The Liberian Civil war ended in 2003 after 250,000 lives were lost in addition to destruction of public and private properties and displacement of a million people. Though there has been a change of political administration twice, including a 12-year rule by one which was heavily celebrated by the US, Liberia’s social and economic conditions remain ridiculously backward.

Most Liberians feel that the US has not done much since the end of the war, even though all its terms for recovery and development, including surrendering ex-president Charles Taylor for the war crimes court, are met by Liberia.

During most part of the last administration, the United States unleashed sanctions epidemic upon government officials even without evidence and against demands for evidence.

As if that was not sufficient, the US has been pushing Liberia to instituting war and economic crimes court—something some Liberians think will further divide the nation and without transformation value.

Snowe’s Lamentations

Though Senator Snowe signed the Resolution—many of his colleagues signed fearing US sanctions reprisals, something they won’t publicly admit—he had a mail for the superpower, and he delivered it, strongly.

He said quoted almost verbatim below:

“Madam Pro Temp, Distinguished colleagues! Let me start first by getting the records reflected; by looking at the different accounts on social media. There are different accounts of how many people signed. So let the records reflect that out of 29 senators, 28 Senators have signed. And even when one senator did not sign, he gave his reason why, and he was clear on why he did not sign. But as it is, we have an agreement that the Senate, in total, has signed.

“Having said that, Madam Pro temp, let me thank the President for mustering the courage to mention the establishment of war and economic crimes court in his inaugural address. Let me also thank you, Madam Pro Temp for speaking to your colleagues, the senators, and for giving us reason for which we have to sign.

“But Madam President Pro Tempore, I want to give you and the President a caveat. If the President’s inaugural speech on January 22 and your speech today are mere political speeches, to score political points, and play games with your fellow senators, then I think it is a political charade. If that is the case, please withdraw my signature. If you mean business, let’s go out and do business. Nobody should play politics with my signature on the war and economic crime court in Liberia. When we want it, let’s go for it. Nobody should tell people to say it just to appease certain people.

“When I got in session today, someone showed me a picture.  They sent me a message and said Mr. Allan White was witnessing your session and those that will not vote for the war crime court will be put on sanction. I want to say today, if I knew Mr. Allen White was going to be here, I was not going to sign. We are not signing this war crime court to please Mr. Allen White. I am glad Mr. White is here and see where we work from.  And if Liberians will be threatened with sanctions, whether it is your decision of the US Government or it is an NGO’s decision, we don’t know.  But I signed because it’s our decision to sign it.

“But let me state some facts.  In 1980, Liberians were placed on firing squads, killed, in this country behind the barracks. After that, the government that killed those Liberians got more budgetary support from the US than any other government before and after it.  Then came our civil crisis when thousands of Liberians died. Thousands of Liberians died. Today, we are still either directly accounting for the atrocities. As Senator of Bomi County, I am aware that there is a River in the County called the Mahel River. There a well-known massacre that took place. It is now called Mahel Bridge massacre because it is where hundreds of Liberians were killed and thrown in the river.

“Some citizens of Bomi County have been calling me, saying, “Senator, you must sign the war and economic crimes court because we want justice. Fair! But justice at what cost?

“Let me digress a bit: We go to ECOWAS Parliament where I represent Liberia. I have had the opportunity to listen to colleagues from French Speaking countries. While talking about political situations in our various countries, the French people would often say the French government gave them one billion dollars to carry out projects. When the Commonwealth colleagues speak, I mean from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, they boast and say ‘this is what Great Britain is giving us for development’.  When we, from Liberia stand up to speak, we would talk about the budget shortfalls. That our country is cut off from the interior due to bad roads and there is no one to help. We would say budget short falls because there is no one to help us through. And people say they are calling for war and economic Crime Court? Who is giving us what?

“Today, we don’t have one American investment in this country. Not one. We don’t even have King Burger? in Liberia. The only investment that came so far is one for which they broke down Keneja Culture Center to build a hotel. Today, we have a hotel in the place of our revered cultural village. No more culture center.  Today, we bring war crime court. If this war crime court will bring dignity to our country, will improve JFK Hospital? Will it improve our road conditions? Will the war and crimes court bring economic development?

“We had the devastating Ebola virus pandemic in this country. I can tell you what the US Government spent in Guinea and Sierra Leone, countries that also suffered the Ebola pandemic. How much did they spend here? We could not even renovate JFK Hospital. And when we are talking everybody is scared because they do not want to go on sanctions list. I was put on sanction in this country for 10 years.

“We talk about war crimes, but let’s talk about justice also. People sat down outside Liberia and put our names on sanctions list here only because we had all growing ties with Mr. Charles Taylor. And I can challenge it; if getting married to the daughter of somebody can put you on sanction when nobody interrogates you. Today, some of our friends who are sitting in this chamber are placed under sanction. And in this sanction regime, others say ‘you cannot talk to your sanctioned colleagues’. And when they see you talking with them, you are threatened to be put under sanction.  At least they are talking about putting some of our colleagues on sanction today and people are rejoicing without due process.

“The other day, there were those who went to the Supreme Court to debar Counselor Varney Sherman that he must not practice law in Liberia without due process because he is on sanction. And when you talk about that, they say we will put you on sanction. I’m ready today to go under sanction. But let us speak justice. Let us speak justice, Madam Pro Temp. This country, whether we like it or not, is divided on green and blue lines today. Take it anywhere, Liberia is more divided than anywhere. A blue line or a green line. My colleague there said, our agenda is war and economic crime Court. What More?

“Some time ago, I went to visit Senator Zoe Pennoh’s home in Grand Gedeh. I visited him, and I saw who Zoe is. Senator Pennoh is a nephew of the late President Samuel Doe who was killed by Prince Johnson. Today, in our session, Zoe and Prince Johnson share seats. They don’t fight each other, but we want justice and war crime court. And we support it.

“Why do people think today, Madam Pro Temp, that war and economic crimes court is the solution for a new Liberia? I stand for that solution. I am a child from Mano River. My parents worked at the Mano River and I was born there. Today, they have not received their just benefits for retirement. Some of them have died. My father died and my mother is still in Ghana. Thousands of people worked and have not been paid. We are talking about economic crimes. Where is the economic crime?  Where? So, Pro temp, I don’t want to take the entire day but I hope today is not just for a political ceremony on camera or that we are afraid because Allen White is here.

“As for me, I am not afraid.  If I knew Mr. White was in the Chamber, I was not going to sign. But I don’t know if the objective is to look for Charles Taylor people. I don’t know if it’s a US Government project or it’s an NGO project. Whatever the case, I am not signing out of fear. I am not signing because of threat. I am signing because I want a rebirth of Liberia. And I am honest about this.

“The other day, we had a meeting with the Rubber Tappers’ Association. Firestone Liberia was in that meeting. But they walked out of the meeting because two of our senators in the meeting were on the sanctions list. The company’s representatives walked out! Is that fair? Is that justice? How can Firestone walk out of the meeting because two of our senators on the sanctions list were in the meeting? So, they cannot talk to the Liberian Senators? Is that fair? Is that justice? Where is the justice in this? Why are we so? Why are we acting like cowards?

“This is Liberia, Pro temp. This is Liberia!  In Liberia, people were killed here – the Lutheran Church Massacre, Duport Road, Greystone, Carter Camp, Mahel Bridge. When I heard Prince Johnson today raging, I understood his frustration. Because others see it as a Prince Johnson affairs.

“I see my colleagues in the region boasting about what Great Britain is doing about the commonwealth countries and the French speaking people are boasting about what the French people are doing in their country. We cannot boast of what America is doing in our country. Because Americans want Charles Taylor, they brought about a war crime Court. If this is the new beginning of a new Liberia, we want to see direct US investments. Even during the just ended elections when the UN and others were giving us money, the United States could not give us money for our elections.

“We have to raise money today for war and economic crimes court. I hope that money will come. I hope justice will come. I hope America will realize that Liberia and Liberians have suffered in this country. I hope America will have justice, development and direct investment and the money so that the war crime   court agenda will be satisfied. I submit.

Message Resonates with Liberians

Senator Snowe, in his lamentations, brought out to the clear public glare what many Liberians, ordinary and elite, murmur about almost daily in their corners and hardly say it out.

It is an open secret that most Liberians, if not all, see America as their second home and consider the US a mother country. But as the Senator put it, the US does not see Liberia in that same light which is why perhaps it does not handle Liberia’s problems as the French and British do for their former colonies.

Since the Senator braved the storm to speak truth to power, many other Liberians, using their social media pages and radio talk show platforms, have been voicing their disgusts about US-Liberia relations, saying it does not worth it.

“Development experts, both national and international, agree from studies conducted that Liberia’s infrastructure deficits, mainly road network and electricity, require not more than US$5 billion to free this oldest African country from the squalor,” a caller on a popular talk show said.

“What does it take for the great United States, which in the last two years has spent over US$50 billion in Ukraine to give Liberia US$5 billion. And no one says they should put the money in the hand of a sitting Liberian government. Give the money to US companies by carrying out private vetting and bidding and let them do the job. Yes, they boast that since JJ Robert time, they are the biggest donor to Liberia? Are you kidding me? Biggest donor and the only African country which has colonial flag bordering the US still is in acute destitution since JJ Robert time?

A social media writer said on his page: “Snowe could not say it any better. I don’t understand why he signed. No one should have signed. Why war and economic crimes court? Does America know what justice is? If America knew what justice is, why is it spewing out sanctions on people without investigation, without trial and without determining culpability? Is this the kind of Justice that the US-backed war and economic crimes court coming to bring here.

“In fact, all the money that the US got to put behind the court, why couldn’t they use it to raise many Liberians out of poverty? Why don’t they build rehabilitation centers for disadvantaged youth, most of who are war victims, or maternity centers for women and children?”

From one Liberian to another, the refrain is the same: Snowe is right. America could have done better. They have the capacity. They don’t have the interest and empathy for Liberia.

  1. Garsuah Gborvlehn says

    That a whole SENATOR would not say what he is saying here until Two years after he Edwin Snowe jubilated, promoted and celebrated the bicentennial of Liberia’s existence (1822 – 2022), puts him in a position of SIMPLY DISHING OUT BOREDOM.

  2. Delboy says

    Liberians over reliance on America is not helping.i think is about time we learn to stand on our own for heavens sake.

  3. Williamsparl says

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  4. RandytauTs says

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  5. Victorfaf says

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