13 December 2012

Liberia: GOL- Liberia-Libya Relations Restored

The Government of Liberia (GoL) through Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan has disclosed that the once severed Liberia-Libya diplomatic relations has been restored. Liberia on 14 June 2011 severed diplomatic relations with Libya then under the leadership of slain Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi as NATO air raids continued that North African country in a bid to oust Gaddafi.

In the wake of the falling apart of the Gaddafi regime government then announced that it was severing diplomatic relations with Libya and with immediate effect withdrew the Liberian Ambassador and diplomatic staff from the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

At the time, a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia, quoted GoL as declaring that it has also suspended the operations of the Libyan People's Bureau in Monrovia and terminated diplomatic status for its diplomats who remain loyal to Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

The Foreign Ministry issued statement added: "The Government of Liberia will review the decision on its diplomatic relationship with Libya after the people of Libya reach a political settlement which offers the best hope of lasting peace."

Additionally, few hours following the release of the GoL statement, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, while attending the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in the British capital London, in defense of her administration's action told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that the decision was based on the increasing number of countries snubbing the then embattled Libyan leader.

Said President Johnson Sirleaf: "I wish for a political settlement between the two sides. In this particular case, it was nothing like the case in La Cote' d' Ivoire but in any case I think you will find an increasing number of countries Liberia included that won't be continuing diplomatic ties with Libya."

She intimated that the decision was in response to global calls for Gaddafi whose government has been helpful to her government to step down, adding that: "We must respond to the people's choice and the people's demand and the people's demand is a demand of change."

Asked at the time if her government would be considering extending diplomatic ties with the Libyan Transitional Council which opposed Gaddafi's rule, the Liberian leader replied, "Yes, we are considering that right now."

The GoL's decision to break diplomatic ties with Libya came few hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, At an African Union (AU) conference held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, urged African leaders to abandon Gaddafi, indicating that it was time to live up to their [African leaders] pledges to promote democracy across the continent.

The US Secretary of State, her country's first Secretary of State to ever address the 53-member African Union, at the time, warned that unreformed African leaders were at risk from the same tide of democracy sweeping the Middle East, stating that "the status quo is broken and the old ways of governing are no longer acceptable."

But at the time, critics of the Johnson-Sirleaf led government argued that the GoL's decision was wrong due to the immense assistance the Libyan government under the leadership of Gaddafi had given Liberia under the Johnson-Sirleaf administration over the years.

It can be recalled that in January 2012, the Liberian government formally handed over to the Libyan African Investment Company (LAICO) the five-star Ducor Palace Hotel and the Gbarnga Rubber Processing Site respectively, to be redeveloped with Libyan financing.

The cost of the two projects was estimated at US$65 million. The Ducor Hotel rehabilitation deal when completed would have contained 151 rooms to include suites, several restaurants, conference facilities, a tennis court, a shopping arcade, exercise facility and a spa as well as a casino.

Liberia has enjoyed economic and commercial cooperation with Libya since 1974 when an agreement was signed during the administration of late President William R. Tolbert, Jr. The terms of the agreement were not formalized until 1979, under the administration of then Finance Minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Libya reportedly invested over US$100 million in Liberia between 1980 and 1990.

Similarly, Libya made a huge investment of US$30 million through the Foundation for African Development Aid (ADA) to embark on the cultivation of rice on vast portion of land in Foya, Lofa County for the production of the commodity on large scale.

Libyan investments in Liberia dates far back between 1980 and 1990, which included the creation and commercialization of the Union Glass Factory, which exported glass bottles to the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Guinea and the construction of the Pan African Plaza, which now houses the staff of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The Pan African Trading Company also exported coffee and palm oil and the Pan African Motor Company that operated the agency for Honda cars and motorcycles.

However, Foreign Minister Ngafuan Wednesday, 12 December 2012 told the Truth FM's Truth Breakfast Show that the severed Liberia-Libya diplomatic relations was sometime this year restored, when him and current Libyan Foreign Minister, Ashour Bin Khayal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia signed a document restoring normal diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

He stated that the GoL has already requested the Libya government to field a diplomatic mission in Liberia soon, adding that: "we are expecting them to field a mission here to reopen their embassy.

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