“Why I Am Passionate About Fighting Corruption” -US Ambassador Explains; Clarifies that his JJ Roberts Op-ed wasn’t meant to mock Liberia

The United States Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy has said the sickening affairs of Liberia fading away through rampant corruption and the need to account for the American tax payers’ money sent to Liberia as assistance fired him up to elevate the fight against corruption to a recognizable place, lamenting that Liberia has so much potential to develop but the systemic corruption which he said has been around for about 200 years has hampered everything.

Ambassador McCarthy provided the explanation on Tuesday, April 27, 2022, when he appeared as guest on the OK FM Morning Ride program where he spoke on a variety of issues such as the deplorable electricity situation in the country, especially Monrovia, US-Liberia Relations, the Millennium Challenge Compact, 2023 elections, etc.

“With all the resources Liberia has, the mineral resources, the huge coastal line, the number of ports you have, the agricultural possibilities, the dependable rain, all of that portends to a very wealthy and successful country but unfortunately corruption has impeded the development of the country”. Ambassador McCarthy indicated that the war against corruption is one of the key areas the Biden administration has decided to address around the world and that he was properly briefed by the US Congress and mandated by the State Department to consistently discuss about and speak against the endemic.

He noted that corruption has been pervasive in the country from one government to another because it has been around from the foundation of the country and that no one in this present dispensation should feel personalized in the web of fighting corruption in the country.

He said corruption has been a global phenomenon and not even the United States of America is free from the scourge but some countries were able to turn the corner against it because they have to come to the reality that it is something that needs to be tackled no matter the situation, citing Singapore that has applied death penalty as form of punishment for those involved in corruption.

The Ambassador also used the occasion to comment on the controversial Op-Ed where he rhetorically asked what would former President Joseph Jenkins Roberts would have said about the present state of the Liberia if he was alive today and said the statement was not to make mockery of the country but to solicit frank discussion on the state of affairs in the country on a basis of “partnership, friendship and neighbors” that characterized the Liberia-US relations and not how some people take Liberia to be a son to America. He said that was the motivation he derived to write the Op-Ed and not to cast aspersions on the country and its people.

“Yes, I thought about it when I drafted it but didn’t show it to anybody and then clear it with my team. I got some criticisms that were not more but the one that hit home was that ‘you call JJ Roberts a great Liberian, was he not also a great American?’ and I was shocked  and when I read it, I said JJ Roberts was a great American and a great Liberian too. When he came here, he has quite a lot of power of starting a brand new country, he could have been a Dictator Roberts, King Roberts, etc but he chose to live within a status, he was not perfect, but stood for something, sold an idea that outlived him for the birth of a nation.

“So I mentioned his name as a great American and a great Liberian also and to discuss what I wrote on the basis of being partners, friends and neighbors, not the kind of father and son relationship because we are both countries with rich tradition and background and not as father and son as others say”, he said.

Commenting on the virtually non-availability of electricity from the Liberia Electricity Corporation(LEC) to a large portion of the population, Mr. McCarthy said he was deeply worried about Liberia because LEC is losing a lot of money everyday and to know that people in power or position want to have a country with steady electricity.

“But there is no way we can be half-truthful about it; it is either we take power theft seriously or we are not worried about it. I doubt, if we cannot take important decisions about power theft, about our infrastructure, I will not understand how LEC will work”, he said.

He said tough the government has enacted some laws against power theft and could be some good move to increase the penalties for power theft but of course prosecutors are busy with other things, the criminal justice sector is underfunded, struggling the best they can, but the fact is Liberia is not winning any dependable source of electricity, adding that development will always be beyond, wondering who the country can attract in this country where there is no dependable electricity.

Ambassador McCarthy also touched on the Millennium Challenge Compact whose threshold Liberia has consistently failed for the past 3 to 4 years and has made it impossible for the country to qualify for another round of funding after the first phase of 5 years ended a few years back.

He said from the report he has garnered from Washington D.C, the MCC is still passionate to return to Liberia to assist with funding more projects but the country’s failure to pass the minimum score set for each areas of critical assessment such as ease of doing business, rule of law, etc , stressing that out of the 20 areas, Liberia has been hovering around 9 for the past years and until the country improves consistently, there is no way the support from MCC will come the country’s way.

Asked why the US Government has not yet extended official invitation to President Weah to visit the White House as has been the tradition in Liberia if a leader is in good rapport with the US government, Ambassador McCarthy downplayed it but said every good leader must be concerned about what he does for his people that elected him and not the approval or visit to Washington DC.

He said President Weah has already met with Joseph Biden in Scotland and they took  photos together and so there should not be much concern of further physical meeting. He said another opportunity open to Weah is to be able to fulfill all the promises or fulfill significant portions of the promises the President made last year during the Summit of Democracy so that this year’s edition, which will be physical, will have President Weah visiting the United States to meet Biden one on one.

He was not definite on imposition of  sanctions on Liberian government officials but said Global Magnitsky Act which designates corrupt officials worldwide is still in force and is normally administered through the Department of Treasury.

 He described the US-Liberia relations as cordial, pointing out that Liberia is the only African country that has consistently supported or voted with the United States at the United Nations.

McCarthy who said he has spent 32 years in the foreign service and travelled extensively in the world, said that the US government is keenly following the activities leading to the ensuing General elections next year and over time has worked with both the government and civil society groups in the area of strengthening measures to entrench genuine democracy in the country. He said his government remains committed to reforming the electoral process in the country and has supported the efforts of integrity institutions and the larger civil society groups towards ensuring that democracy continues thriving in the country.

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