U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy Concludes Visit to Southeast Liberia
The Ambassador of the United States of America, Michael A. McCarthy, along with USAID Country Director Jim Wright, visited three Southeastern counties, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Maryland, from March 21-25, 2022. Ambassador McCarthy, speaking of the purpose of his visit, said: “I am the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, not just Monrovia, and as all of you know quite well, to know a country you must travel it and see it firsthand and get out of the capital.”
“During my visit, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with an extraordinary mix of people doing amazing work for their communities – often with support from the American people. These include members of the Liberian Armed Forces, local political leaders, activists seeking to improve women’s rights and the business climate, students, exchange alumni of U.S. State Department-sponsored programs, and a number of health workers striving diligently to improve the lives of those around them. I’ve driven the road from Zwedru to Fish Town, and I can tell you how much communities would benefit from improved local infrastructure,which would not only facilitate transportation and trade, but also improve local economic conditions,” Ambassador McCarthy told local media.
The U. S. envoy spoke of meeting with local business leaders who gave him firsthand information about the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and businesses in the Southeast. He noted that the United States currently supports programs that improve the business climate, helping U.S. and international businesses find opportunities to invest in Liberia. The United States also supports Liberian businesses through programs like the two US$20 million credit financing facilities with the Liberia Enterprise Development Finance Company and International Bank Liberia. Last year, small cash-transfer payments worth US$10 million total were made to vulnerable Liberians, an unconditional transfer of funding introduced by the U.S. Government for market women, small-hold farmers, and micro-business owners.
Ambassador McCarthy emphasized that, despite these efforts, corruption is devastating to overall economic growth in Liberia. “Corruption prevents the government and people of Liberia from realizing their goals of social and economic development and job creation. It also blunts the effectiveness and impact of the billions of dollars of U.S. government assistance provided since the end of the civil war to help achieve those goals,” Ambassador McCarthy told local media in Harper. “Strengthening the resilience of rights-respecting democracies is one of the defining challenges of our era. Corruption eats away at the foundations of democratic societies. It makes government less effective, wastes public resources, and exacerbates inequalities in access to services, making it harder for families to provide for their loved ones. Corruption attacks the foundations of democratic institutions, drives and intensifies extremism, and makes it easier for authoritarian regimes to corrode democratic governance.”
The U.S. Ambassador noted that on June 3, 2021, President Biden issued a National Security Study Memorandum on the Fight Against Corruption to establish combatting corruption as a core U.S. national security interest. He explained that the United States will lead by example and will partner with allies, civil society, and the private sector to fight the scourge of corruption – a fight that requires everyone to stand in support of courageous people who are demanding honest, transparent governance, around the world, including in Liberia. “You’re going to hear me speak a lot about corruption going forward because, as I sincerely believe, it is the biggest issue holding Liberia back from fulfilling its tremendous potential,” Ambassador McCarthy emphasized.
In Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Ambassador McCarthy and USAID Country Director Jim Wright met with the Joint Security Team and heard the Liberian perspective on security issues along Liberia’s border with Cote d’Ivoire and resource challenges Liberian security professionals face while operating out of Zwedru. Ambassador McCarthy met with Zwedru City Mayor, Cecelia Harris Jolo, and interacted with grade school students at the American Corner, where he participated in a discussion with both students and representatives of civil society organizations.
Ambassador McCarthy and Director Wright then traveled by road from Zwedru to Karwenken and Fish Town in River Gee County, and to Pleebo and Harper in Maryland County. In River Gee, Ambassador McCarthy and Director Wright visited Gbeapo Health Center in Karwenken and held discussions with the county health team on progress made in the fight against COVID-19. USAID is working with the health officials in the county to encourage more people to get vaccinated against the virus.
The U.S. Ambassador extended his visit to Fish Town and held discussions with county officials, including Fish Town City Mayor Victoria Hinneh, County Superintendent Philip Nyenuh, and Senator Conmany Wesseh, as well as the women’s rights advocacy group, Southeastern Women Development Association (SEWODA).
While in Maryland County, the U.S. Ambassador and the USAID Country Director participated in a community media forum on Trafficking in Persons and toured the Plolo border crossing with Cote d’Ivoire.
Ambassador McCarthy used the visit to engage with local county officials, economic stakeholders, university students, women’s groups, the management of the Port of Harper, and the administration of the J.J. Dossen Hospital, as well as holding a press roundtable with the Liberian media.