20 March 2016

Liberia: 'Highest Regard' - Rice Clarifies Liberia-Ukraine Comparison

Former United States Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice says she still holds the highest regard for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the great work she has done over a lifetime for Liberia.

In a statement of clarity regarding a recent speech delivered in the Ukraine that has caused a firestorm on social media owing to what many perceived as less-than-inspiring words of advice for Ukrainians, Rice now says, in a communication to Sirleaf, a copy of which is in possession of FrontPageAfrica, that her statement was made as a compliment and not intended to be derogatory. "This [comment] was meant as a compliment to the remarkable rebuilding of Liberia under the toughest circumstances. It was an admonition to Ukrainian leaders to govern effectively despite their problems. I have the highest regard for all Liberia has accomplished."

In a March 9, 2016 speech, Rice told Ukrainains: "And for those Ukrainians who believe that life is bad in Ukraine, Ms. Rice put some icing on the cake: "You should go to Liberia where the standard of living is much lower, and then you will be thankful to be Ukrainian."

Ms. Rice who was invited by Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk Foundation to speak in Kiev, as part of the foundation's "Public Lectures Project", lectured on the topic: "The Challenges of an Ever-Changing World." Rice cautioned her audience not to expect too much from government as she drew the comparison with Liberia: 'You should go to Liberia where the standard of living is much lower, and then you will be thankful.'

The former secretary of state went on to caution civic society that the responsibility of both the strong and the weak--the strong must share, the weak should stop whining drawing some similarity between criticisms the Sirleaf administration has been receiving domestically which pales in comparison to the administration's international image.

Rice's comments drew ire from critics baffled that one of the Sirleaf administration's biggest supporters had turned its backs on the post-war government. The U.S. has pumped in millions of dollars in development assistance to Liberia. Since its creation by the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, USAID has been working in Liberia on Rural and urban development with assistance stretching over 57 years

In early 2004, Congress provided $200 million in International Disaster and Famine Assistance funding, which enabled the United States to take a leadership role in the reconstruction of Liberia. Accomplishments of the reconstruction effort include: Demobilization of 14,000 former Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and recruiting, vetting and training over 2,000 soldiers for the new AFL.

In 2009, USAID shifted its emphasis from recovery to long-term development concentrating on establishing a stable democracy, changing the culture of impunity, systematic corruption and poor governance, closing severe gaps in access to quality education and health care, expanding economic opportunity through agricultural enterprise and natural resources management, and helping to rebuild essential infrastructure and sources of renewable energy.

Comparison between Liberia and Ukraine are not new. Both countries have had shares of armed conflicts and are among the world's poorest. Ukraine sits alongside the Central African Republic, Congo, Uganda and Tajikistan in 152nd place of 183 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Corruption is also widespread in Liberia by all accounts, but much less so than in native Ukraine, ranks much higher in Transparency International's annual rankings. According to Gallup International, the standard of living in Ukraine is currently at its lowest level in all the years of conducted research. In 2015, 79 percent of Ukrainians considered themselves to be "poor."

Ukraine also contributed to Liberia's peacekeeping. The 56th separate helicopter squadron of the Ukrainian Armed Forces being on the UN mission consists of 300 military men, 8 Mi-8 helicopters and 6 Mi-24 helicopters. The squadron participated in transportation of personnel for the United Nations Organization's mission, transportation of cargo, evacuation of injured people, performance of observation flights, and provision of air support during troop movements.

Rice, an American political scientist and diplomat, served as the 66th U.S. Secretary of State and the second to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. She was also the first female African-American secretary of state and the second African-American secretary of state after Colin Powell and the second female secretary of state after Madeleine Albright.

A professor of political science at Standford University where she served as Provost from 1993 to 1999 and a member on the National Security Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification, Rice remains highly regarded in U.S. politics and influential in the Republic establishment. Dissatisfaction over the emergence of millionaire Donald Trump has prompted some within the GOP to eye Rice as an option. Her views on international affairs remains highly regarded in American politics which is why many took exception to her comparison of Liberia to Ukraine. Her clarification could go a long way in satisfying the Sirleaf administration's international standing and perception among the administration's critics.

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