20 September 2017

Liberia: U.S. Concern About Liberia

With less than four months to the expiration of her administration, the United States Government is said to be concerned about Liberia after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

According to a statement on the future of Democracy and Governance in Liberia, Congressman Christopher Smith of the United States, said among the more than 50 nations of Africa, the United States has the closest connection with the Republic of Liberia.

Smith said this is not only because Liberia was founded in 1847 by freed men and former slaves from the United States, but also because of the estimated 500,000 Liberians and Liberian descendants, who live in the United States as well as the naming of Liberian cities such as Monrovia and Buchanan after American presidents.

However, he noted that most Americans are largely unaware of the long link between the United States and Liberia and likely see Liberia as just another African country.

"Most Americans are unaware that Liberia has been a major U.S. ally since World War II and into the Cold War, hosting U.S. communications facilities in the 1960s and 1970s and receiving extensive U.S. development assistance, including postwar aid and post-Ebola aid to Liberia." Congressman Smith indicated during a hearing in the U.S. recently.

He said the United States also helped Liberia to build its criminal justice sector and supported transitional justice efforts.

Congressman Smith acknowledged that President Johnson-Sirleaf has made advancements in democracy and governance during her two terms, following what he referred to as 'despotic' rule of Charles Taylor.

"We don't yet know whether her successors can or will continue an upward trend. Most candidates for President have highlighted corruption, but as our witness from the National Democratic Institute can tell us, these candidates have platforms that are light on policy specifics," he noted.

Congressman Smith pointed out that the United States is a key provider of technical assistance to Liberia's National Elections Commission, including an International Foundation for Electoral Systems program, funded by USAID, and the U.N. Development Program, backed by nearly $12 million in mostly European Union funding under a multifaceted project from 2015 to 2018.

The National Elections Commission, he disclosed, has also received broader institutional capacity building support under a second $4 million USAID-funded program, the Liberian Administrative and System Strengthening.

The U.S. lawmaker told the hearing that "our government has a significant investment in Liberia on several fronts. The future direction of this country is important to the United States. Therefore, we have a stake in the next Liberian government building on advances made in democracy and governance under the current government and must continue to provide assistance to that end and insist on no backsliding as we see in far too many countries in Africa today."

He stressed the need for more to be done to minimize the impact of corruption in Liberia, which does not only robs the people of benefits of the country's resources and labor, but also discourages foreign investment that could provide a needed boost to development.

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