The Government of Liberia, headed by President George Manneh Weah, has been struggling to woo foreign powers to help a country which is lagging behind in development, mainly because of the last 14 years of war. Top on the list of countries being courted for friendship and support is the United States of America, which oversaw and facilitated the establishment of Liberia some 200 years ago. A delegation sent to engage policymakers of the United States has been reporting favorably to the effect that those already talked to have promised to help Liberia, including re-granting the Millennium Pact Challenge which if obtained could spread electricity across the country and help build good roads. But sooner the news came then reports emerge that some Liberians from the opposition bloc have intensified efforts with their contacts in the United States to counterbalance and thwart the Weah Government’s efforts. The Analyst reports.
International think tanks familiar with US politics are reporting that political opponents of President George Manneh Weah are intensifying their efforts to sabotage substantial breakthroughs being made by his government to give Liberia international facelift and improve conditions for citizens.
A renowned group called Foreign Lobby Group Report based in the United States, experts in global influence operations, is reporting that the Liberian opposition has launched a US lobbying campaign against President Weah.
According to the Group, “critics of Liberian President George Weah have launched a $180,000 lobbying and public relations campaign to court US support for the opposition”.
The rather disturbing news comes amid reports that Liberia under Weah has been courting Washington, hiring three US lobbying and PR firms in recent weeks, including one run by CNN analyst Bakari Sellers, for a total of $660,000 per year to help to deepen relations with the US government and African-Americans ahead of the bicentenary of the arrival of the first freed slaves who would eventually declare the independent nation of Liberia in 1847.
The Group further said that Weah-recruited folks join KRL International, a consulting firm led by former Johnson Sirleaf campaign adviser Riva Levinson who is now lobbying for Weah’s government although the two political leaders are from rival factions.
The Foreign Lobby Report revealed that Brownstein Hyatt this spring signed a $25,000-per-month contract with the Liberia Maritime Authority, the public corporation that manages all commercial activities within the West African nation’s maritime domain, with former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) notably working on the account.
Royce also lobbies for the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), a US company that manages Liberia’s ship registry, a major source of revenue for the cash-strapped country. DLA Piper also signed up as a foreign agent for the registry last month, registering two former US sanctions officials for help with “sanctions, compliance, international trade, and strategic business growth advice.”
President Chief of Office Staff, Nathaniel McGill, is heading a high power Liberian official delegation to the United States where they reported have met with influential congresspersons and close aides of President Joseph Biden.
Reports from the delegation have indicated the US officials courted have already expressed their delight and willingness to help Liberia acquire more support from Biden administration to improve lives in Liberia.
The Apparent Sabotage
The Foreign Lobby Report last week released a report that Liberia’s opposition is working hard to forestall US report as being sought by the Weah administration.
The Group reported that the Liberia Renaissance Office Inc. (LIROI), a newly formed outfit in Monrovia, has hired a longtime Africa lobbyist and an-ex war crimes prosecutor who helped put away former Liberian President Charles Taylor to head the effort.
The Liberian office is led by Sylvester Grigsby, a Minister of State for Presidential Affairs under Weah’s predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“Washington advocacy firm the BW Global Group signed a six-month contract with Grigsby on Aug. 15, according to a new Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing with the US Department of Justice. BW partners Jeffrey Birrell, who lobbied for the Liberia government back in the early 1990s, and Alan White, a former Department of Defense employee and chief investigator for the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, are registered as foreign agents on the account,” the Group revealed.
The group wrote: BW’s goal is to “promote good governance and rule of law in Liberia,” according to the contract with Grigsby, in particular through the US promotion of whichever candidate the Liberia Renaissance Office ends up endorsing for the 2023 presidential election. Grigsby’s group supports the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), a coalition of four political parties that have agreed to get behind a single candidate to be selected in December. They are:
The Unity Party led by Johnson Sirleaf’s former Vice President and 2017 presidential candidate Joseph Boakai; The Alternative National Congress, led by former Coca-Cola executive and fellow 2017 presidential candidate Alexander Cummings; The All Liberian Party of Wilfred Benoni Urey, a former Commissioner of Maritime Affairs under Charles Taylor who was under US sanctions for his alleged role in the 1999-2003 civil war until President Barack Obama lifted them; and The Liberty Party led by Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, the only woman in the CPP leadership.
Birrell told Foreign Lobby Report that the Liberia Renaissance Office has a US presence and is expected to host Cummings, who resides in the United States, for a visit to Washington next month. The LIROI is also in touch with the other parties and may try to arrange Washington visits for their leaders ahead of the December selection of a unity candidate as well.
BW will also be lobbying for the US to get behind the establishment of a War Crimes and Economic Crimes Court to hold accountable those responsible for the civil wars of 1989-1997 and 1999-2003, as recommended by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission back in 2010. The congressional Tom Lantos Commission held a hearing in support of the court in June, while the State Department did not immediately respond to a query about where the Joe Biden administration stands on the issue.
Birrell said Cummings has a leg up with the LIROI because of his support for the court, but a final determination as to which candidate to support has yet to be made. Boakai and Cummings, who came in second and fifth in the 2017 primary, are widely considered the two top contenders to take on President Weah, a former soccer star that critics accuse of failing to tackle entrenched corruption in the West African nation founded by freed US slaves and free-born blacks.
“We represent that group as it goes through the process of deciding which of the four current candidates to back,” Birrell said. “While I’d say that Cummings is somewhat of a favorite due to his support for the war crimes tribunal, the LIROI is working to determine the best person to run against Weah.”
Finally, Cummings’ Alternative National Congress registered a branch in Atlanta, ANC-Global, Inc.., back in October 2019 to “promote the democratic ideas of The Alternative National Congress of Liberia (ANC Liberia), and to seek support from Liberians, to help ANC Liberia.” Cummings himself previously paid $425,000 in fees and expenses to New Jersey public relations firm the MWW Group for help with his 2017 bid.