BY: JACOB N.B. PARLEY
The President of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on Monday, January 27, 2014 appeared before honorable members of the 53rd National Legislature of the country to deliver another Annual Message to the Liberian people.
Seen as a stock-taking constitutional requirement for the President to vividly state what her government was able to achieve during the immediate past year, as well as
Challenges and what is being put in place in terms of corrective measures, the Liberian Chief Executive’s 2014 Annual Address touched on a number of issues.
However as a graduate of the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, the portion of the President’s 2014 Annual Message in which I developed much interest
for which I decided to embark upon this scholarly exercise is the issue of the conditions of our foreign missions, and the plight of Liberians who are flying our national flag in those countries, as underscored by President Sirleaf.
President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, like another other Liberian President is the Chief Architect of the Foreign policy of the Republic of Liberia. Article 57 of the Liberian Constitution gives the President the authority to conduct the foreign affairs of the country. This includes concluding treaties, conventions and similar international agreements with the concurrence of a majority of each House of the National Legislature.
She stated that as a nation, we stand the risk of losing some of our foreign properties in Accra, Ghana, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in the Mano River Union region due to their dilapidated conditions. “In the MRU region, we own prime properties for Chanceries in Abidjan, Conakry and Freetown, which are in urgent need of repair and renovation. The residence of the current Vice President of Ghana is a neighbor to the premises of our Embassy, and our Chancery is occupying land in the heart of Accra that is a few feet of the Foreign Ministry of Ghana.
If immediate action is not taken to erect decent structures in these two locations, Government could lose them.
The same goes for the property in Addis Ababa. Because Liberia was among the first to acquire property in that country, our Embassy is within a stone’s throw of the new multi-million dollar AU Commission Headquarters. The Ethiopian Government has been patient with us, but we could lose the property unless we meet the standards for properties within that vicinity.” Observed the Liberian Chief Executive, during her recent annual message to the National Legislature.
Let me commend our President for admitting that our embassies are not up to standards.
President Sirleaf also informed the Liberian people and the honorable men and women at the 53rd National Legislature that government needs at least 20 million United States Dollars in order to maintain all the country’s foreign properties to minimum standard that they can stand out among glittering buildings.
The Architect of the Liberian Foreign policy observed that such allotment will also enable government improve the salaries and working conditions of Liberians who are representing our country abroad and make it easier to rotate, retire and clean up Understaffed Liberian Embassies.
President Sirleaf said most Liberian embassies are understaffed, while staff accommodation is less than desirable, and no provision is made for education allowance or medical insurance for staff and, in many instances, government is in breach of laws of the host countries regarding benefits of local employees.
Considering the increasing number of Foreign Service trained Liberians, including other versatile, Liberians in the field of international relations, there should be no need to run understaffed Liberian Embassies in the midst of global competition in attracting development partners to post-conflict Liberia, with diplomacy as the tool to achieving these goals.
One of the dangers of these foreign missions not having the required number of staff is that it could undermine productivity, efficiency and effective performance.
I am sure that all of us are reading between the lines regarding what happens when a few persons are helplessly carrying a work load that is supposed to be done by more people.
Liberia’s Image-Building Process Since 2006
During the many years of civil war in Liberia, our country’s image on the international had seriously fallen on evil days. No doubt that a sovereign nation, once divided on ethnic lines at the time could not score the kind of grades it actually needed to find a conducive space among the comity of nations like it used to be prior
to the war.
Liberian passports could be found in many parts of the world in the wrong hands, as unpatriotic Liberians formed partnership with unscrupulous individuals to rob the country of the needed respect, revenue, dignity and international recognition.
What I am trying to say is that these few unscrupulous Liberians collaborated with other elements to market Liberian passports for economic gains.
However, rigorous efforts by the current Liberian Government are yielding the needed results in rebuilding Liberia’s image on the global scene.
This can be seen by the way our passports are now treated with respect, or the manner in which Liberians travelling to other parts of the world are no longer treated with growing suspicion like many years back.
As I drop my pen on this particular issue, I wish to call on our dynamic President to muster the needed courage by ensuring that Liberian missions across the globe meet international standards. Achieving such goal will require that we, as a country raise the needed resources through appropriate budgetary allocations.
This may not be a one shot issue, but I think doing so on a gradual basis will help us get to where we may want to go in the future.
Besides, all of us need to conduct ourselves in a way that will help boost ongoing image-building initiatives by our government.
Blatant disregard for constituted authority or the rule of law, dishonesty by people in high places and their likes, lawless acts, to including mob actions, arson attacks on both public and private facilities, inflammatory comments by so-called accomplished politicians, civil society actors and student militants could scare away investors.
My concern does not suggest that I do not recognize the rights people have to comment on issues affecting Liberia. At the same time, I am also worried that if such utterances are not handled with care and maturity, they could cause serious harm to ongoing efforts to sustain peace and the current democratic space being enjoyed.
This is my plead for government and fellow Liberians!
The author is a 2011 graduate of the Foreign Service Institute. He is reachable through: firstname.lastname@example.org/0886560455