Residents of Liberia who wish to visit France will no longer encounter the inconveniences associated with traveling first to the la Cote d'Ivoire for a visa, but will receive it right here in Monrovia, as of the end of September 2019.
In his message on July 14, during the celebration of France's 230th Bastille Anniversary, French Ambassador Terrance Wills said, "Bilaterally, we have good news on Schengen Visas. By the end of September, applicants for a Schengen visa to France will not need any more to travel to Abidjan; they will just apply at the VFS office at the Royal Hotel and the passport will be sent back directly to their home.
Prior to this short but elating message to travelers, Ambassador Wills could not withhold his excitement about how Liberians are set for protecting their peace despite the humiliating circumstances surrounding their economic and social wellbeing. He referenced the June 7 protest as a good example of this desire for upholding and sustaining peace.
Ambassador Wills, whose presentation was colored with much humor, was emphatic to state: "June 7 showed us that Liberia is certainly not as fragile as it looks. The country has generated its own clicks on the wheel of history that prevents it from going back to bad times."
While the Council of Patriots, organizer of the protest, was propagating the message of conducting a peaceful protest on June 7 this year, memories of the April 14, 1979 Rice Riot were refreshed, leaving many with the thought that the June 7 planned protest would be take a disastrous turn as did the deadly Rice Riot.
As leaders of the protest mobilized and propagated their message that the protest would be peaceful, some supporters of the Weah administration took to social media and radio airwaves sending messages of doom and gloom, warning people to stay away from the protest, lest they lose their lives or get injured.
In fact, Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson went further to state publicly that the protest will be "A blood bath," something that his Nimba people who believe in him as their political godfather heeded to in majority.
With such an imagination in the Liberian populace and perhaps in some foreign residents knowing the history of the country, Ambassador Wills said, "To draw its future, Liberia might rely as much on imagination as on memory. June 7 is a good starting point. Some of us were expecting that it would bring back bad memories from the past; on the contrary, Liberia showed that day that it could reinvent itself."
Ambassador Wills succeeded Ambassador Joël GODEAU in October 2017 as Liberians were in the middle of choosing their new President and legislators.
Recalling some messages in the Liberian media in 2017, as the runoff for the presidential election drew nigh, he said: "I remember reading in the newspapers that the Supreme Court was then exercising a "Government by the judges;" later, after the elections, I read that the Legislature would prevent the Government from implementing its policies; later on, that the Executive had full powers; more recently that the power was in the street!"
According to the French Ambassador, these are mere perceptions of the reality, stressing, "But the point is that any political system might be stronger when it provides space and different political scenarios to the public imagination."
Ambassador Wills convincingly stated in his message that Liberia has some strong democratic assets, acknowledging further that its (Liberia) communities are at peace and the risk of terrorism, a real preoccupation in West Africa Sahel, is well contained.
In an optimistic tone, the Ambassador said Liberia is a thrilling country for external observers who know the country's potential beyond the current economic difficulties.
He urged that Liberia should be seen as a country of opportunities as much as one of fragilities.
As solutions to improve Liberia's economy become a concern to its partners including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ambassador Wills said "France will support an agreement between Liberia and the IMF if they decide so. This agreement should be seen as a springboard and not as a lid on the economy."
He said the perfect mix might be an IMF program to give Liberian macroeconomics its balance, linked with an innovative policy of processing the natural resources in the country, instead of exporting them raw, to give the economy its impetus.
He urged partners, business communities, and big concessions to look for innovative ways to process raw materials in Liberia, emphasizing the agro-industry as a must that can provide many jobs for the youth and foreign currency needed in the economy.
Deputy Minister for Administration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mawine G. Diggs, lauded Ambassador Wills and the people of France to the gesture of visa issuance in Liberia and extended a congratulatory message from President George Weah and the government and people of Liberia to France.
She recalled the long existing relation between France and Liberia beginning in the 1800s, and acknowledged that European nation for its numerous contributions to Liberia's post war development agenda.
Deputy Minister Diggs recalled France's contributions to the Liberia National Police, to the entire country during the Ebola scourge, and how it allows its businesses and non-governmental organizations including Médecins Sans Frontières and TOTAL to make business in Liberia with the intent of improving the lives of the citizens.