Just days after the White House in Washington DC announced an official U.S. Government delegation to attend the Bicentennial celebrations of the West African country of Liberia, the Biden Administration is pulling the plug on travel of the head of delegation – its U.N. Ambassador and former diplomat to Liberia Madam Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Wire services quoted the U.S. UN Mission as saying Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is canceling her planned visit to Liberia to focus on the crisis in Ukraine.
On Thursday, February 10, 2022, the White House released a statement saying, “President Joseph R. Biden Jr. today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Republic of Liberia to attend the Bicentennial Celebrations in Monrovia, Liberia on February 14, 202. This marks the arrival of the First Free Black Americans to Providence Island in 1822, which led to the establishment of the City of Monrovia, and in 1847, the Republic of Liberia. The Honorable Linda Thomas Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, will lead the delegation.
Members of the Presidential Delegation: Michael A. McCarthy, United States Ambassador the Republic of Liberia, Dana Banks, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African, National Security Council, and Mr. Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Rev. Dr. Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Chair of the Governing Council of Churches in the United States,” the statement concluded.
Shortly after the White House announcement Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield tweeted on social media, “Looking forward to leading the @POTUS delegation to Monrovia, Liberia to represent the U.S. at the Bicentennial and to celebrate our strong alliance and shared history.”
The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia later on Sunday announced an “adjustment” to the composition of the delegation and indicated that Special U.S. Presidential Assistant Dana Banks will now head the team to Liberia.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield served as head of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia between 2008 – 2012.
The Weah Administration was hoping to showcase its “close alliance” with the U.S. by playing host to the high power Presidential delegation to the celebrations which officially kicked off on Sunday with a religious service for the re-opening of the rehabilitated Executive Mansion which was heavily damaged by fire in 2006.
President George M. Weah will resume official duties from his newly renovated office at the Executive Mansion beginning Monday, February 14th.
It is not uncommon for U.S. Administration officials including the President of the U.S. to defer official foreign travel due to pressing domestic issues.
The U.S. and its European allies are engaged in consultations and diplomacy to prevent Russian invasion of Ukraine and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is playing a key role at the U.N. to marshal a coalition of support and pressure against Russia to prevent the outbreak of hostilities which could happen any day.
While some political observers view the sudden cancellation of the head of the U.S. Presidential delegation to Liberia as a snub to the Weah Administration, diplomatic sources in Monrovia and Washington DC say the decision is principally determined in part by U.S. “strategic interest.”
President Weah has so far not been able to obtain an official invitation to visit the White House since his inauguration in 2018. Even after 174 years of independence, Liberia still remains one of the poorest countries and struggles with a chronically depressed economy, lack of effective systems and poor governance.
On the other hand, African Star can confirm that since the issuance on February 8, 2022 of U.S. House Resolution 907 – Reaffirming Our Commitment to Support Progress Toward Transparency, Accountable Institutions, and Other Tenets of Good Governance in Liberia As It Approaches The Bicentennial of the Arrival of The First Free Black Americans To Providence Island, Liberia, 32 additional U.S. law makers from the Democratic and Republican political parties have signed on as co-sponsors to support the Resolution.
Meantime in Monrovia, the Weah Administration is coming under criticism for its “snub” of local journalists and relegation of local artists to ‘second class participation’ in the Bicentennial celebrations.
Tickets and invitations to most events have been restricted to the well-connected in the country. Ordinary citizens in the capital and rural areas say they were not part of the planning of the official program nor have they been allowed unfettered access to most events.
Source: African Star