ULAA Prexy Speaks -Says “Working with Govt Will Help Liberia” -Wants GOL to Fast Track Dual Citizenship ACT

The President of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas(ULAA) Mr. J. Shiwoh Kamara has said that the development of Liberia depends on a strong collaboration between Liberians at home and their counterparts in the Diaspora, stressing that these developmental partnerships cannot succeed without extending that partnership to the a sitting government back home while also calling on the government to fast track the passage of the Dual citizenship Act to enable Liberians who have acquired other citizenship abroad to make their contribution to the country’s development efforts.

Mr. Kamara made the statement on Saturday, March 26, 2022 when he delivered his inaugural address at the 47th Inaugural Ball of the Organization in Essington, Pennsylvania, USA at which time he outlined the policy thrust of his administration and the direction ULAA will be taking in the wake of the change of environment and circumstances that have shaped the relationship between the government and the institution over the years.

“Accordingly, it shall be the policy of my administration to maintain a constructive engagement with the government of Liberia in areas that are beneficial to the people of Liberia. We are embarking on this policy fully aware that there have been times when the relationship between the Union and the Government of Liberia has been strained and for good reason. However, when times change it is imperative that the Union also adjusts its policy and postures towards the government. Liberia is now a full-fledged democracy where individuals and entities are exercising and continue to exercise their political, civil and other rights.  In this regard, the Union will pursue a collaborative relationship with the government of Liberia in areas that are beneficial to the Liberian people and where the policies of the government are in the interest of the people”, Mr. Kamara said.

He told the well-attended event that Liberia is at a crossroad and the task before them is enormous, adding that there are many areas of national development that require the support and participation of Liberians living in the Diaspora. He stressed that while it is true that Liberian Diaspora contributes more than 20% to Liberia’s GDP through remittances and other investments, Liberians in the homeland are still looking to them to make more contributions for development and the maintenance of peace.

Highlighting early good sign of the collaboration, Mr. Kamara, commended President George Manneh Weah for his bold support for the citizenship rights of natural born Liberian citizens who may have acquired the citizenship of their countries of residence through his strong advocacy for the passage or the repeal of the Alien and Nationality Act.

He however said the Union is saddened by the delay of the Liberian Senate regarding the passage of this Act, despite its passage by the House of Representative.

“The Union is taking aback that politicians and other national leaders continue to play politics and lip service to the rights of its natural born citizens in the Diaspora despite the massive support the Country is receiving from its citizens abroad is a national disgrace. We remain hopeful that cooler heads will prevail in the Senate for the passage of this act very soon”, he said.

The ULAA President who seems to be placing high premium on projects that will have profound impacts back home took time to present perhaps his signature initiative, the Liberia Diaspora Initiative Fund (LDIF), the project which necessitated the Fund drive, stating that it will aim to promote economic development and reduce poverty for the people of Liberia.

“The Liberian Diaspora Initiative Funds (LDIF) was established as a meaningful way to support Liberia’s poverty reduction efforts. The Initiative aims to provide support to projects or institutions with the highest poverty reduction impact on groups and communities in Liberia in education, healthcare, agricultural development, technology and entrepreneurship. In addition, the Liberia Diaspora Initiative Funds will give precedence to projects focusing on youth, women, small enterprises, and entrepreneurs, who can be agents of comprehensive social and economic development”, he said.

He stressed that the LDIF will improve the lives of Liberians living in poverty, irrespective of ethnicity, language, religion, and gender. ULAA believes that all Liberians should have equitable access to living a life of dignity, equality, justice, and economic success.

Making use of facts based statistics from credible sources to understand how pervasive poverty has eaten within the population Mr. Kamara said that according to the World Bank, 50.09% of Liberia’s population lives under the poverty line; this translates into roughly 2.3 million Liberians who are unable to meet their basic needs. He noted that Around 68 percent of the country’s poor live in rural areas where poverty incidence is 71.6 percent, more than twice as high as in cities which is at 31.5 percent, adding that, 44 percent of the population lives under the extreme international poverty line of $1.90 per day compared to Liberians living in America, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends $164 per day on groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, etc.

He said poverty in Liberia is projected to increase over the next few years, driven by increasing food prices, lower commodity prices for minerals, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The leading causes of poverty in Liberia include lack of access to food, education, healthcare and unemployment.

Besides looking at Liberia, Mr. Kamara also used the occasion to explain about his 100-Day plan, a roadmap focused on 3 key initiatives that serves as foundation for the service he intends to render to the organization for the next two years, which he categorized as Community Engagement, Robust and impactful policies and procedures and marketing and rebranding ULAA.

He said under Community Engagement, his administrations’ priority was to mobilize and create awareness around the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act so that qualified Liberians could take the necessary steps to apply for this critical immigration relief before the deadline on December 20, 2021. Therefore, the administration organized an immigration summit in partnership with USCIS, other immigration advocacy groups, and legal professionals on November 27, 2021, to educate, answer any lingering questions around the law, and expedite the filing of their petition. In addition, to the Summit, he said the leadership hosted a Call Your Law Maker Day on December 10, 2021 encouraging all Liberians to call their local lawmakers to seek an extension of the deadline for filing petitions under the LRIF Act.

He said that though Congress did not extend the deadline, the campaign provided guidance and mobilized many Liberians who were able to file their petitions before the expiration.

He said his administration has also been engaging member chapters that were once part of the Union to return to the Union. In addition, he said they will continue to provide support to our members and have designed an outreach strategy to recruit more chapters into the Union.

“On January 22, 2022, the administration sent a delegation to the State of New Jersey to find a resolution to a decade-old conflict within the Liberian Community Association of Central New Jersey and Metro areas. As a result, we can proudly say that the community is back together and will be going to the poll on May 4, 2022, to select their new leadership”, he said.

Under Policies and Procedures the President said his administration has reviewed and made significant recommendations to address all the Union’s Policies related to Fiscal Management, Conflict of Interest, Whistle Blower, Records Retention and Destruction, and Gift Acceptance, promising that his leadership will do everything it can to be transparent with the Liberian people.

Speaking on Marketing and Communications he said the leadership has created a comprehensive communication plan for the Union, including ULAA Branding Guidelines, ULAA Press Releases, and private email Accounts. “In addition, we have redesigned and launched a user-friendly website, updated all our social media accounts, and deployed a phone system to contact us at any time. We will continue developing and utilizing our communication infrastructure to keep you informed”, he said.

Mr. Kamara whose administration will be transitioning ULAA from being more of an advocacy group to an emerging development partner to the President Weah led government had earlier extended thanks and appreciation to the government delegation headed by Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel Falo McGill for honoring the invitation to attend the program and conveyed special appreciation to President Weah for the high level representation of his government at the program.

Those installed at the occasion were J. Shiwoh Kamara, National President; Madam Minerva Grant, Vice President; Madam Emmanuette G. Nagbe, National Secretary, Alexander Arku Bazzie, National Financial Secretary; and Dr. Will Jallah, National Treasurer.

Others are Hon. Robert Reeves, Eastern Region VP; Alpha Tongor, Northern Region VP and Dr. Sumo Hubbard, Southern Region VP.

As pundits look in the future of ULAA in its new dawn era, it is expected that its leadership will deliver on its promises to turn the fortune of the almost 5 -decade old institution.

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