US Blows Corruption Alarm Again -Amb. McCarthy Throws ‘Indirect Talks’

Liberians yesterday, March 15, 2022, celebrated the birth anniversary of their first president, Joseph Jenkins Roberts. The day was, as the custom is, intended to reflect on the role and achievements of the man who had no predecessor, a precursor, from whom to learn while he was confronted with challenges of the first republic in the jungles of Africa. At a formal ceremony celebrating his birth, Liberians made various speeches largely in exaltation of President Roberts as there were talk show discussions making sense of his dream for a young country and his impact since. The Ambassador of the United States near Monrovia, Michael McCarthy, in an Op-Ed (Opinion Opposite the Editorial) also seized the celebratory moment to juxtapose the era of J.J. Roberts with Liberia’s contemporary realities coming out of nearly 175 years of existence as an independent state. He hammered some piercing needles into the head of the ruling class, though in rhetorical questions, euphemistically drawing on bad governance, mainly corruption as a root cause of the country’s backwardness. The Analyst reports.

The United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, has joined Liberians and friends of Liberia in celebrating via opinion pieces and other platforms the first President of Africa’s first republic.

The Ambassador’s way of celebration was candidly expressed in an opinion piece released Tuesday, March 15, 2022, for circulation by newspapers in the country.

Though he wrote in diplomatic language, the style and tune conveyed in the Op-Ed suggest that something serious is wrong with the health of the country’s governance system and his country, the United States of America, which founded Liberia 200 years ago, is planning some tough measures.

“Sixty years after the arrival of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Liberia, 19 years after the end of the civil war crisis, and seven years after the eradication of Ebola, the taxpayers of the United States contribute to this country over $110 million per year of foreign assistance,” Amb McCarthy recounted the United States’ material support to Liberia over the years.

He continued: “This includes over $79 million per year donated to the health sector. Approximately $9 million is specifically for purchasing medications and commodities for the Liberian people and improving the Ministry of Health’s effective distribution and warehousing of pharmaceuticals. Despite this extra support, we learn regularly about places like Kolahun in Lofa County and Sanniquellie in Nimba County, where clinics and hospitals must make do without even the most basic drugs.”

With such a massive support, he said, “Troublingly, [US] Embassy investigations indicate that not only are some citizens diverting public medical resources and low-cost drugs for personal gain, but that babies, young children, and birthing mothers are dying needlessly as a result”. Then he asked rather taunting, “What would J.J. Roberts have to say about this?”

Every nation in the Ambassador’s opinion piece was to point to disappointing governance lapses, as he did again in this when he wrote: “As a Peace Corps volunteer, I was blessed to live for two years in villages (without electricity or running water) in West Africa. First thing every morning, each household would take advantage of the cool, early morning daylight to sweep inside and outside and dispose of debris. Villagers then coordinated with the local government to deliver waste daily to a designated landfill.”

Apparently that narration was to draw in contemporary Liberians’ inability to clean their surroundings.

He specifically zero in on Monrovia when he stated: “The state of cleanliness in the city of Monrovia, which is more developed and a far wealthier community, sadly does not compare. Last month, I was surprised at the words of city leadership on Monrovia Day. A senior official lamented that unlike his previous three years in office, “no donor or external partner is funding the recurrent cost of solid waste collection and disposal,” implying that he was abandoned by the international community. Is there a more basic local government responsibility than the collection and proper disposal of garbage?”

Again he said, tauntingly: “Would Liberia’s first president have imagined that, 175 years after independence, foreigners should be held responsible for the removal of garbage in his capital city?

With that, he took another lane, this time on sane lawmaking, apparently drawing Liberian legislators into his radar.

Mr. McCarthy said: “On February 25, we learned that a Rhode Island State Representative, Nathan W. Biah, Sr., is donating electronic voting equipment to the Liberian House. This is not the first of such equipment donated to help make Liberia’s top legislative body more transparent to its citizens.

“I have been reliably informed that a previous e-voting system was installed in 2014 by the U.S. taxpayer-funded National Democratic Institute (NDI), but it was never used.

“For his part, President Weah said during his December 10 Summit for Democracy speech ( ‘Over the next year, we intend to introduce legislative transparency by making all votes public so that constituents can hold their lawmakers accountable for their actions, which is a fundamental element of any healthy democracy.” I hope the legislature embraces this latest opportunity to increase citizen awareness of the actions of their elected officials.”

Rhetorically and comically, the US Ambassador asked: “Would J.J. Roberts have believed that in modern Liberia, a constitutional republic where ‘all power is inherent in its people,’ legislators would purposely neglect to use a tool created to educate citizens on how their democratically elected representatives vote?”

He explained that the United States of America has, no doubt, also failed to live up to some of the aspirations of our first president, but I believe George Washington would be pleased to know that the country he fought to establish would today be working to support democracy and fight corruption both at home and in places like Liberia.

Sings of Fire in the Offing

Ambassador McCarthy recalled that a U.S. House of Representatives introduced Resolution 907 on February 4 of this year, which encourages Liberia to redouble its efforts to counter corruption and advance the causes of human rights. It also urges Liberia to implement critical economic reforms necessary to accelerate sustainable economic growth and human capital development.

He added: “Finally, it calls on the U.S. Treasury and State Departments to continue to impose targeted sanctions against those responsible for undermining the rule of law and trust of the Liberian people through corruption, gross violations of human rights, and other acts that threaten the peace and security of Liberia.”

He also indicated that days later, in her address at SKD Stadium on February 14, Special Assistant to the President of the United States Dana Banks stated that ‘corruption eats away at the democracy you have worked so hard to build. But ultimately, only the Liberian Government and the Liberian people can tackle corruption, fight for accountability and transparency, and move this country forward.’”

According to him, these statements indicate that the U.S. Government is sufficiently concerned about corruption in Liberia to sanction individuals.

“Corruption leads to citizen frustration and has had destabilizing effects on countries in the region. It poses significant risks to peace and democracy,” he asserted, asking again: “How would Liberia’s first statesman feel to know that his country’s top ally was compelled to sanction members of Liberia’s government just to preserve rule of law and the democracy he helped establish?”

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