8 December 2015

Liberia: Ambassador Answers 20 Questions Posed By Facebook Followers

press release

1. From S Papay Kamara: I want to know from the ambassador what is her expectations of Liberia in those coming years

I cannot predict the future, but my fervent hope is that Liberia continues down the road of development, expanding its economy to the benefit of all its citizens; and that the roots of democracy that Liberia has nurtured these past dozen years grow and become deeply entrenched so that there can never be a return to the civil strife that for so long plagued the country. Those are my expectations for Liberia.

2. From Sekou Sedike Salata Swaray: Why more people were denied doing her period as a Ambassador to Liberia?

We've actually had an increase in the total number of visa applicants, so you're going to see increases in issuances as well as rejections. Applicants for student visas, visiting visas, and all other types of visas must demonstrate that they intend to use their visas in accordance with U.S. law. So, for example, an applicant for a visiting visa must show that she intends to return to Liberia after a temporary stay in the United States. When evaluating whether an applicant is likely to use a visiting visa appropriately, a Consular officer looks for clear reasons a person would return to his or her own country. In doing this, the officer takes into consideration an applicant's entire situation, including family, community, professional, property, and economic ties to Liberia as well as any ties to the United States. The fundamental issue in every visa category is whether the applicant is qualified for a visa under the law.

3. From Luther Mendin: To what extend has Liberia achieved peace since her ascendency as US ambassador to Liberia. What factors can we use to have this peace sustained?

Over the last 12 years, Liberians have begun to see the benefits of achieving, maintaining and developing a peaceful Liberia. I do believe most Liberians want to see this peace continue. It's incumbent on all Liberians to play a role, to signal when there's a problem, to work constructively with one another to ensure that the peace and stability continues. And, most importantly, respect the democratic process.

4. From Ted Brooks: What were her greatest achievements as ambassador?

Being part of the Liberian-led response to kick Ebola out of the country - and succeeding. Hands down.

5. From Femata Siah Stubblefield: What were some challenges that she faced as a US Ambassador to Liberia, how did she overcome them and lastly Ambassador, do you have any word(s) of motivation for the general public in term of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)?

For me, the greatest challenge is that things never move as fast as anybody would like them to go. Everything takes a little bit more conversation to get moving, and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that once you understand that and accept that. You realize that your expectation is that it should only take 'x' amount of time, but it's probably going to take a factor several times greater. Once I accepted that, it was much easier to deal with. That having been said, I still continue to push for many items to be dealt with more expeditiously because I want to see action. I want to see the benefits of action accrue for citizens of this country, which I've come to love.

6. From Mulbah Willie: What can Ambassador Malac point to as a letdown during her time in Liberia?

I'm going to answer this one with "What concerns do I still have as I leave Liberia?" I'm sad to say that I believe the status of women in Liberia continues to be not where it should be. People look at the fact that you have a female president, and they think, 'Oh, everything must be wonderful for women in Liberia.' Well, it's not. One president and a few female ministers do not a gender equal society make. Women are still marginalized. I have to say I am very afraid of what happens on gender issues after President Sirleaf leaves. There's more work to be done. It takes each one of you to work on this.

7. From Amanda Klinck: What is one thing you would have done differently during the Ebola crisis?

Actually, very little except to act even more quickly than we did. I wish, obviously, that we had been able to more immediately understand how to reach grassroot activists and educate them, because once Liberia harnessed this tremendous resource and was able to reach citizens in every corner of the country with educational messages on how to defeat Ebola, the disease didn't stand a chance. That's why we were the first severely impacted country to get to zero after starting so far behind the others.

8. From Pokai Theophilus Bowen: Madam Ambassador, what has been your greatest achievement as Ambassador to Liberia? You were one of those that condemned the WestPoint shooting. It has been more than year now and those responsible have not yet faced justice. Do you feel disappointed by that?

I've already answered the first question, so let me just say this about the justice system. Like all the institutions in Liberia, the judiciary is an institution that continues to need strengthening and improvement. You need to have well trained judges, you need to have well trained magistrates. You need to have public defenders and prosecutors, and people who are genuinely interested in doing the right thing. I do believe there has been progress, but it's still an institution from top to bottom that needs further work to ensure that there is access to justice for citizens.

9. From Alexander Trokon Shelton: Madam Ambassador,what has been the US role in sustaining Liberia peace and democracy and more building strong and sustainable institutions in Liberia during or before your term?

A lot of what we do through our assistance programs is related to human capacity development and the strengthening of institutions, because it's institutions that really are important in a country. From our perspective, in terms of the investments that we have made in the many different areas that we are engaged in in Liberia, we've definitely seen progress. Does that mean everything has moved as quickly as we would like or there has been as much progress as we would have hoped for? Not in some cases. However, one example which I can point to is that the United States certainly helped to build for Liberia a very professional armed forces that understands its role, that is subject to civilian rule, that is under Liberian leadership.

10. From Nehemiah H Howe: Madam,Deborah Malac ,I Appreciate the time you spend as an U.S Ambassador to Liberia . Madam ambassador,what is your independent opinion, to was this madam,Sirleaf administration in term of good governance. As economies policy, social rights, and political will??

We don't give grades to governments. We work with the governments that are in place. The U.S. government believes that there has been progress in Liberia in the last 10 years. Is there more that needs to be done? Yes, most definitely. There's a lot more work. Some goals - such as reviving the education system - will take time to achieve, no matter who's in office, because you cannot rebuild them or build them anew overnight. Also, I've been quite clear about the need to fight corruption. I have been very clear about the need to look at restructuring the economy to ensure that Liberia moves away from a concessions-based economy, to one with a vibrant private sector which will benefit a greater number of people.

11. From Sanoe Kala: Hello Ambassador Malac, I'm a Liberian painter. First of all I wish you good luck where soever you will be transferred to. As a painter, I will like to ask a question pertaining Liberia's arts, as we were asked during several occasions at the US Embassy. "What we the artists need from the US Embassy?" And we expressed lot concerning the difficulties we're facing in the field of arts. So, what do you have to say about this issue, as we are still optimistic about the promotion of Liberian painters from the US Embassy? Thanks.

I don't know if you had the chance to stop by our 2015 Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair that we held on Saturday, but, if you did, you would have seen the type of support we give to local artisans. It's a herculean task to set up this fair twice a year, to recruit vendors, to publicize it. We do it because we want to give Liberian artists the opportunity to showcase their amazing work and to earn money from their talents. We had several thousand customers turn out to shop, and our artisans were very pleased with having been able to showcase their work. The small businesses that these artists represent, whether they be sculptors, painters, seamstresses, or metal workers, will be the engines of growth to diversify and expand Liberia's economy in the future.

12. From Roland Freeman: Hello madam, the US diversity visa program through the United States has been a great help to many families, but Pacificly in Liberia. On the other hand, it was meant to help individuals and their families to migrat to the United States. Over all, individuals has been separated from their families on Grand that either he or she did not meet the requirements or the councilor has to make personal disgressional judgment justifying reasons to deny someone, do you consider this program failure or successful?

In 1990, the Diversity Visa program was created with the purpose of diversifying the immigrant population in the United States, by offering visa interview opportunities for applicants from countries that send fewer than 10,000 immigrants each year to the United States. However, winning a chance to be interviewed does not guarantee that the applicant will receive a visa. Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have followed all the rules of the program - for instance, that they qualify academically or professionally, and that they included their spouses and all children under the age of 21 years on their original entries. Unfortunately, most of the applicants who are disqualified did not become familiar with these rules prior to entering the Diversity Visa "lottery." Please remember, it is very important to read the rules carefully and to double-check your entry before submitting it.

13. From Adolphus Hare: Thanks ma'am for the good length of time spent in in my beloved country, Liberia as U. S. Ambassador. Can you please tell me what is your government position on our leaders who continue to embrace corruption as a good practice?

As President Obama said when he just started his first term and was in Accra, "People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying a bribe. We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don't, and that is exactly what America will do."

The international fight against corruption remains a central priority for the United States, linked to the global community's shared interests in fighting terrorism and transnational crime, promoting free and open markets, increasing economic growth, and encouraging stable democracies and the rule of law.

Corruption robs nations and their citizens of good government, safe roads, good education, sound and accessible health care, and a future for their children.

14. From Edward G. Wingbah: madam Ambassador what your advice to ours politician come 2017 presidential and legislative election.

We encourage all candidates to control their followers, to conduct their campaigns peacefully, not to create unnecessary tensions, and to avoid incendiary rhetoric. We encourage them to participate responsibly in the electoral process and to help ensure a free and transparent process. Unfortunately, there could be individuals who seek to subvert that process, and that's what people need to watch out for - candidates or their supporters who try, for their own political or personal gain or advantage, to subvert the electoral process.

15. From William S. Mandein: Many thanks to the outgoing US Ambassador DebMalac for her numerous contributions to the people of Liberia and Nimba my question to her is how can she help to complete the Sanniquellie Youth Association Youth Center Project in sanniquellie before she leaves and what are the next plan for Liberia youthful population

Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you on your first question. As for the second part, I can say that youth are a priority for much of our programming efforts. An example - the United States is the largest bilateral partner in Liberia's education sector, specifically in primary education. Higher education has also benefited from our support. We have worked with Liberia's leading universities to transform the higher education fields of engineering and agriculture to be more dynamic, interactive, and modern so that students have practical skills and are ready to enter the workforce upon graduation.

Additionally, the Peace Corps continues to rebuild its education sector programming after evacuating Volunteers last year during Ebola. In 2016, the Peace Corps will welcome Volunteers to serve at both the junior and senior high school level, teaching math and science, as well as, teaching at rural teacher training institutions to help equip the next generation of educators with the skills they need to be successful in the classroom. Peace Corps has also started training its Volunteers to teach basic literacy to students.

Another example of our commitment to youth -- The Mandela Washington Fellowship, which is a key part of President Obama's commitment to invest in the future of Africa. The White House created this initiative out of recognition of the role that young Africans are playing in strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa. In 2014 and 2015, we sent about a dozen Liberians each year to participate in this six-week development program at America's top universities. In 2017, we'll be sending 2017. And, let me just say that the work these young leaders are doing in Liberia's private sector and with its non-governmental organizations is inspiring!

16. From Flomo B. Gborkorquellie: Thanks for leaving a positive footprint in Liberia. I am concern about information technology in Liberia. What is the US government initiative with young Liberians that are interested in exploring the I.T. world? How can the US help improve IT professional in Liberia that have the interest but lack financially?

For the past four years, the State Department has cultivated a program called TechCamp, a two-day workshop designed to allow participants and trainers to co-create strategies and solutions to challenges using low-cost, easy-to implement technological tools. TechCamps are hands-on, interactive, participant-led, and highly adaptable to the issues and technology available in any given region. While we currently don't have plans for such a camp here in Liberia, it's something we could consider.

We have supported a number of locally led initiatives to support IT training by various NGOs. One such initiative being run by Youth Against Tribalism in Africa (YATIA), for example, is seeking to raise the IT skills of 2,000 disadvantaged youth in Buchanan.

We have also helped developed an e-Government Strategy to improve the performance of public sector agencies and, in the process, ensure the efficient delivery of public services to all Liberians. Additionally, we have supported the Government's use of IT to pay teacher salaries with mobile money, thus saving many public school teachers the need to travel long distances to collect their pay checks.

17. From Michael Keenan: Ambassador Malac, I've read that the community based response to Ebola played a big part in Liberia's response. What did you find most effective about this response and how could these lessons be transferred to other countries?

As I alluded to in an earlier answer, the grassroot efforts of Liberians played a deciding role in defeating Ebola. What made it effective? Accurate information being delivered by trusted community leaders in local languages and dialects. This ensured that recipients of the information not only understood what was being said, but trusted the source of the information. That was key in beginning to implement behavioral changes that led to breaking the EVD transmission chain. This simple approach is readily transferrable to other regions facing similar or different problems.

18. From Sophie MP Reeves: I appreciate the work of Ambassador Malac in our dear country . Mine question is, can you please share key lessons learned during your time of service in Liberia?

I have learned that the fight for gender equality requires constant attention and the participation of everyone, female and male. Only when women and girls, who represent one half of the population, are given the same opportunities as men and boys, will a country and the world prosper. It will take time, but it is a fight we must win.

19. From William Kokulo: Amb. Malac. What was the most challenging decision you had to take in the interest of your country that appears impossible but you found a way out as an experienced diploma?

The fight against Ebola was the most challenging because the world had never seen Ebola in an urban setting, never seen an Ebola epidemic. It was a surprise and a challenge for all of us. Even as we mobilized assistance for Liberia in the early days of the epidemic, it was a challenge for me to help my government and the world understand the seriousness of the crisis and to determine the best way to respond.

20. From Adrian S. Pabai: as you assume your new post in Uganda, what new are you carrying to the people of that country? what is your expectation?

I am sad to be leaving this beautiful country of Liberia. While here, I have again witnessed the incredible and wonderful diversity, resilience, vitality and potential of Liberians, qualities shared across the continent of Africa. As I begin my new assignment in Uganda, I hope to bring the same energy, commitment and friendliness that I have used here in Liberia. My ultimate objective, as it is every time I take on a new assignment, is to make a difference.

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