This week we feature one of Liberia’s most appreciated politicians; his numerous contributions over the years to his people and country graded and appraised by many of his countless admirers both at home and abroad have overly resolved as one of the Country’s reliable and dependable patriot.
Ambassador Milton Nathaniel Barnes’ dream and interest to see Liberia graduate from the state of isolation, and other vices that have the propensity to draw Africa’s oldest in the mud of disgrace amongst the comity of nations gives rise to this profile.
Product of several notable academy institutions both in Liberia and abroad is been admired by many Liberians due to his nationalistic contributions to his beloved Country, Liberia, Ambassador Milton Nathaniel Barnes has always made it his duty to serve his country and people at all times.
Born unto the union of Mr. and Mrs. Roland T. Barnes, ‘Nat’ as he is affectionately call by many of his colleagues and relatives began his professional career with one of the world’s renowned Insurance Companies, the Insurance Company of Africa, following extensive training in management and insurance operations at affiliate company offices in Des Moines, Iowa, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
His mother, Mrs. Eudora N. Barnes, a renowned Educator who professionally trained hundreds of Liberians in the field of education will forever be remembered and tag as a role model for hundreds of Liberians who went under her tutorship over the years.
His father, Roland Barnes who was considered as a true nationalist prior to his demise to the great beyond served the Liberian Government in several capacities with honor.
Upon his return to Liberia in December 1979, our profile of the week managed the underwriting function of the Property and Casualty Division of The Insurance Company of Africa. He and his family left Liberia in July of 1980 as a result of the violent coup d'etat in April 1980.
While in the United States, he and his family settled in Nashville, Tennessee where he got a job at Northern Telecom (now Nortel) as an analyst in the corporation's treasury department. Spending over fourteen years at Nortel, Ambassador Barnes quickly rose through the management ranks working in financial management, internal control and marketing. After leaving the corporation in 1996, he ran a successful telecommunications consulting firm.
In April 1998 Ambassador Barnes fulfilled his desire to return to Liberia; he started as an analyst at the Ministry of Finance.
In March 1999 saw he was appointed Director General at the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP). Within a six-month period at NASSCORP, Ambassador was able to completely transform the corporation from a debt-ridden, under-funded entity into a more efficient corporation by streamlining its workforce, challenging and motivating the management team and aggressively negotiating with creditors. In addition, he established a dynamic program to initiate an insurance reserve.
In September of 1999, Ambassador Barnes was appointed Minister of Finance, Republic of Liberia a position he held until July 2002. In that capacity, he became the chief architect of Liberia's fiscal program. During his tenure as Minister, he oversaw and implemented a new Tax Code for Liberia in consultation with the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund.
He also conceptualized and developed a proposal for a Summit of Post-Conflict Nations in Africa where issues relevant to member nations' peculiar and unique experiences would be analyzed with the objective of formulating a plan for post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Ambassador Barnes still cherishes the hope that such a Summit will one day materialize. As Minister of Finance, he developed a strong management team and tasked, challenged and motivated more than one thousand six hundred employees to new levels of productivity and excellence. In July 2002 his differences with President Charles Taylor were so pronounced that Ambassador Barnes was happy to end of his tenure as Minister of Finance.
In August 2003, the Liberian nation reached an all time low. Rebel forces and forces loyal to President Taylor clashed in a series of bloody conflicts known in Liberia as World War I, World War II and World War III. The international community intervened to end the violence.
Troops from the West African Region (ECOWAS) followed by the United Nations came to Liberia as peace-keepers. With the removal of President Charles Taylor from power and the installation of a transitional interim government, Ambassador Barnes took a bold step.
Believing that above all else leadership mattered in Africa and in Liberia in particular, believing that traditional politicians had failed the people miserably and believing that what Liberia truly needed was "a new breed" of leaders far removed from traditional politicians, Ambassador Barnes decided to run for President of Liberia in the General and Presidential Elections of October 2005. He founded a new political party, Liberia Destiny Party, and was elected Standard Bearer thus becoming a presidential candidate. Despite the fact that he was unsuccessful in his bid for President, Ambassador Barnes counts the experience as one of the most life-changing and significant experiences he has had. He threw his full support behind Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during the subsequent run-off elections and was pleased to have played a small role in her success in becoming the first democratically elected female president of an African nation.
In May 2006, M. Nathaniel Barnes was appointed Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations from the Republic of Liberia. He viewed this challenge as another opportunity to serve his country in its bid to reenter the global community of nations while pursuing its strategic economic, social and political objectives. Ambassador Barnes believed that "the thrust of Liberia’s efforts at the United Nations should be rebuilding her traditional relationships and forging new ones on a foundation of trust, understanding and mutual respect.”
Ambassador Barnes was once again called upon to represent his country as Chief of Mission in September 2008; he presented his credentials to President George W. Bush as Liberian Ambassador to the United States of America. In this position, Ambassador Barnes was committed to fully engaging the Liberian Diaspora which he described as “both substantial and influential.” He initiated the establishment of the Liberian Diaspora Advisory Board for the purpose of effectively engaging the Liberian Diaspora in America in tackling the Government of Liberia's Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Although he briefly considered running for President again in 2011, Ambassador decided instead to serve his country primarily from the private sector in spite of offers to continue in official government capacities. He did agree to serve as Chairman of the Board of the National Port Authorities of Liberia – a position from which he resigned in 2014.
In 2011 Ambassador Barnes co-founded Aurora Solutions, Inc. (ASI) a Liberian-owned company incorporated in Liberia and the United States that provides a wide range of Consulting Services in Finance, Strategic Planning, Marketing, Human Resources Training, Media/Communications, International Relations and Lobbying. As one of three founding partners of Aurora Solutions, Inc., he worked with a team of Aurora principals and associates to produce and launch a media campaign for the Ministry of Education utilizing informational billboards espousing the value of education and encouraging parents to take their young children to school. He also supervised an analysis of the mandate of the Liberian Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) with a focus on an assessment of its information dissemination strategy. Ambassador Barnes led a team of ASI principals in developing and conducting seminars to train senior-level Liberian government officials on the Code of Conduct under Executive Order No. 38.
In 2012 Ambassador Barnes was instrumental in establishing Sifax, Liberia, Ltd., a joint venture with a major Nigerian company, for the purpose of being among the first Liberian companies to bid on Liberia’s oil blocks.
Ambassador Barnes has served as guest lecturer at many institutions of higher education in the United States and Liberia including the Maxwell School of International Relations at Syracuse University; University of Maryland, College Park; State University of New York at Stony Brook; The College of New Jersey and Iona College. He lectures regularly at University of Liberia’s Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida School of International Relations and African Methodist Episcopal University’s Coca Cola Institute for Innovation.
The 2014 Ebola virus crisis in Liberia inspired Ambassador Barnes to volunteer countless hours of his time towards raising awareness, educating the public and responding to the needs of victims of this deadly disease as a part of the community of civil servant activists.
Ambassador Barnes has an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ; an MBA in Finance from the Lubin Graduate School of Finance at Pace University in New York, NY; as well as a Bachelors of Science in Finance from the College of Business & Public Administration at Rider University.
He has been married to Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes for 36 years and they are the proud parents of six children.
Speaking to the GNN during this exclusive interview at his residence Tuesday, October 20, 2015, the highly respected Liberian diplomat, and politician stressed the importance of reconciliation amongst Liberians, and urged his fellow compatriots to realize that it is always good to reconcile with each other at all time.
When asked as to who he considered as his role model, Ambassador Barnes with a glaring smile credited Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela, Shaka Zulu, and his father as those he considered as his role models.
Speaking further, Ambassador Barnes agreed that local leaders should be elected by their own people in order for them to be accountable to those who elect them instead of the President.
He urged young Liberians who are considered as future leaders to prioritize education, noting, “Education for our children is the best in any given situation, they must take interest in acquiring sound education if they are to serve as future leaders,” Ambassador Barnes stressed.