What Will Be the Focus of President-Elect George Weah’s Inaugural Address on Liberia’s Foreign Policy?

By: Josephus Moses Gray |

Next Monday, precisely January 22 Liberia will be the focus of international attention and at the same time be captured on the front pages of global leading newspapers and in the headlines of top television and radio stations across the globe when power shall peacefully be transferred from one elected leader to another, something that hasn’t been done in Liberia in seven decades of the nation’s past. But what will be the focus of the president-elect, Mr. George Weah’s foreign policy and international relations agenda? Will he stick with the outgoing president, Madam Johnson-Sirleaf’s policy or changed course?

Just as the outgoing president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president-elect George Weah administration will be inheriting a task of removing greater number of poverty-stricken masses from abject poverty,  provide  electricity and safe-drinking water to greater population,  ensure paved roads across the country, create jobs and  quality education and affordable health care with emphasis on available and among other pressing necessities.

Foreign policy takes into consideration emerging events across the globe since foreign policy formulations and implementation takes into consideration domestic policy of a state because politics deals not only with government or state but also several dynamics that occurring at other states levels.

While international relations is a strategies of self-interest adopted by a state to protect national interest and respect to its sovereignty including independence, regulation, power, authority, government with the much needed goal in international system. Let us not forget that foreign policy and domestic policy are both interconnected because foreign policy formulation is originated from the inner of state programs which determines government developmental priories based on budgetary appropriation.

But what will be the emphasis of the President-elect George Weah on foreign policy and international relations when he shall delivered inaugural address on Monday?  Will he use the amazing occasion to set forth his foreign policy goals contrary from the outgoing regime’s foreign policy and that will president-elect foreign policy border on the cultivation cordial friendly relations with governments, United Nations, Multilateral institutions, regional and continent bodies and members of the global system?.

The foreign policy initiatives of Liberia have seen a major boost as Africa’s first independent country pick up the pieces from war to peace. This sad period in Liberian life also witnessed uncertainty in the Mano River Basin comprising Liberian neighbors: Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Guinea and the African continent in general.

By then, the country was view by the outside world as a failed state. But with the extraordinary display of diplomatic modus operandi and sound leadership, Liberia has since regained its status among the comity of nations, but the situation back home speaks contrary.

Liberia’s Foreign Policy is firmly rooted in its political ideology of liberalism and democracy while  the guiding principles of Liberia’s foreign policy has been the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

The fundamental thrust of Liberia’s foreign policy objective before the mid-1960s was predominantly the maintenance of national independence, due to threats posed by the former colonial powers to the Lone Star of freedom and Liberia’s support to independence movement in Africa. The foreign policy objective, during the colonialism was the independence of African states and a devotion to economic, social and political development across the continent.

Liberia’s international stature and standing among the comity of nations improved immensely from the failed and pariah state situations of the 1990’s and early 2000 to a responsible and well respected member of the International Community. This new status of Liberia ensured particularly during the era of Johnson-Sirleaf administration.

Since president-elect Weah’s speech will be flowered by millions of people across the world especially international players, it’s imperative that the president-elect use the inauguration set forth his administration foreign policy and domestic agenda constructively as he seeks to reach Liberia’s international partners and friendly countries.

It is vital that the address considers good neighborliness and ensuring the prevalence of sub- regional, and by extension guaranteeing regional and global peace and security. The address should avoid big promises, instead speaks to the press issue since keeping promise is a difficult task to achieve. It should avoid the 2006 mistake of President Johnson-Sirleaf when she declared corruption “Public Enemy No. 1 and promised to deal with corruption, the fight that failed to win.

Johnson-Sirleaf in 2006 inherited a massive devastation some of which are being passed over the president-elect George Weah’s administration, placing the incoming Weah regime into a difficult position to meet the high expectations of the greater population that rewarded the president-elect with 61 percent of valid vote cast in the December 2017 runoff presidential balloting. Like Weah, Johnson-Sirleaf took office in 2006 undoubtedly stunning.

The incoming administration should understand that diplomacy today takes place among multiple sites of authority, power, and influence; at its essence is the conduct of relationships, using peaceful means, by and among international actors, at least one of whom is usually governmental. The typical international actors are states and the bulk of diplomacy involves relations between states directly, or between states, international organizations, and other international actors.

The Weah’s leadership foreign policy and international relations should base its interaction with states and international players on interest since international relations is the  study of relations between political entities such as states, empires, international non-governmental organizations, among others.

The CDC led-government foreign policy, by all account, should be formulated solely for the national interests and its primary and obvious objectives should entails the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and respect for international orders. This will led to securing the much-needed strategic partnerships with international players in support of the Weah’s administration agenda.

At the same time, the Monday’s inaugurate speech should touch the relations between Monrovia and Washington, D.C., and seek the United States continue support in various aspects based on both interests that tied to Liberia and America. Washington is Liberia’s oldest and reliable partner, the United States has also led the international efforts to end the armed conflict in Liberia through its financial support for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL.  As a consequence, Liberia is gradually recovering from its bitter.

Furtherance, the address should also reflects Liberia’s relations with European Union and reiterate his administration desire for continue ties with EU and its diplomatic Mission near Monrovia, with reference to some assistance the EU has rendered the state and its people. The president-elect, in the inaugurate address should commit his administration cardinal ties with EU.

The speech, notably, should not forget Liberia-China productive, eventful, and mutually most rewarding relations. This relation between both countries have been broadening, especially in areas of general economic cooperation, infrastructure development, agriculture, energy, education, culture and health and security development.

Generally, the president-elect should stress the maintenance of closer and stronger ties friendship and economic partnership with traditional allies and friends, as well as the opening of new avenues of engagements and mutual solidarity with other states; the portion of the address on foreign policy should seeks balance since Beijing and Washington will be paying key attention.

Political pundits have forecasted that the overwhelmed election of President Weah will translate into the creation of jobs that young Liberians desperately need, and improve of livelihoods and a basic ample income distribution for the bigger population.

It is also expected that the Weah’s leadership will build on the gains made by the out-going regime of Johnson-Sirleaf especially in the areas of free speech and press freedom, stability and peaceful co-existence, the security sector with stringent reforms put in place and an irreversible human-development capacity carved on a long term basis in the form of the poverty reduction strategy for continue sustainability.

Those whose will be accorded the task to positively drive president Weah’s regime foreign policy and international relations should understand that diplomacy goes far beyond sparkling red and white wines, champagne, ceremonial dinner and soliciting financial and other hand-outs for personal enrichment.

This can be achieved if the rightful individuals with the education and academic credentials, technological skills are given the task to deliver. This requires a strong background of the diplomats from a multidisciplinary perspective since professional diplomacy is an appropriate instrument to perform this synthesis, to the extent that it can use its persuasive techniques in favor of businesses and investments and, simultaneously, prove to be politically and economically profitable to Liberia.

But considering Liberia’s present situation, the Weah administration should ensure that  economic diplomacy be given greater priority in our international relations since economic diplomacy is now key factor in the development of contemporary international politics.

While the out-going Sirleaf regime primarily focused on development diplomacy in the formulation of foreign policy and the practice of international relations, the incoming Administration of President-elect George Weah disputably should considered economic, trade and commercial diplomacy as paramount.

President Johnson-Sirlead over the past 12 years has presided over a difficult period to maintain peace and stability and ensure economic revitalization, and succeeded to secure approximately Five Billion Dollars in debt relief. She is one of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, but has that translated into dividends for the people of Liberia,

While Johnson-Sirleaf international relations and diplomatic displayed has made her the darling of the development world, state actors and non-state actors, the bulk of the population are mired in poverty, the health care and education systems are in shambles, and roads, safe drinking water and electrical grids are only starting to be reconstructed while the lack of jobs and the fight against corruption have been a major obstacles for the administration. In 2006, she declared corruption “Public Enemy No. 1,” only to preside over a infamously corrupt system which in 2014 she described as “vampire.

The 14-year of the nation’s dark era has massively devastated the entire country bringing the country to its knees and destroying every political, economic, social and cultural sector. During the dark period, those with the means had left and fled the country while others paid the high price with their blood and pains.

In order rebuild the fragmented and dysfunction system,   Madam Johnson-Sirleaf was seemed as a magic touch in the body politics of Liberia in 2005, one who with the political and economic chemistry to repair the broken system and create prosperity for the destitute population since she was being granted in politics and fought bad governances in the past.

In 2005, the people needed a leader who could pass the ball around to the rest of the team mates and keep the spectators in a happy mood, not a meditative disposition, therefore during the past successive presidential election, Johnson-Sirleaf was a people person who many believed came with the reservoir ideas to fix the fragmented economics, reduce poverty and unemployment in the country, create enormous jobs and provide security for the entire population, ensure  quality educations and unique health delivery system booming in the country.

To address all of these problems, the Johnson-Sirleaf has to embark on a diplomatic campaign across the global, knocking at the doors of powers states and regional and continental institutions and multilateral organization, including the world body-the United Nations.

Liberia would not have received the worldwide benevolence it got during the last 12 years, if not for apt diplomatic initiatives by the Foreign Ministry, and had serious negotiations not taken place sometimes long hours into the night, as perceptively as possible with grinding efforts, employing the tools of diplomacy for national advancement.

Meanwhile, diplomat should be fully aware of work every day to be able to partner with local businesses and companies in host country to enhance economic growth back home in his country. That is why those tasked with economic activities at embassy must be sharp, cognizant of global prevailing wheeling and dealing; keep check of the financial movers and shakers, be well-schooled and knowledgeable of economic diplomacy which encourages greater cooperation and relations that protect investment and bilateral ties between two states or among companies.

In certain cases, diplomats also give occasional speeches to members of the community of their host country. It is admirable profession of integrate, intelligent, honesty, political and edification elegance, free of corrupt and other unwholesome practices especially greed for financial gains.   But, now new issues such as technical matters are coming to the forefront.

But let us not forget that the landscape of contemporary diplomacy of Liberia in terms of practice may have lost some of its image of exceptional ingredients, in the sense that it has to compete and interact with a much wider dynamic of the international system, conduct itself in a more time-sensitive manner, and be applied with a greater technical orientation.

In this modern era diplomacy to a far greater extent than in the past is wrapped up with domestic policy-making and political demands about good governance programs across an extended spectrum of issue of national and international concern.

Diplomacy has brought development to other nations for example as already enumerated and economic and trade values as seen in varied negotiations with bilateral and multilateral bodies, as the Liberian case illustrates, as well as increased economic and commercial activity.

It is clear that economic and commercial interests, particularly those related to investment, exports, protection and assistance could be essential aspects of the diplomatic activities of a considerable number of countries. The noble profession which goes with greater demands is not an end but a means; not a purpose but a method. It seeks, by the use of reason, conciliation and the exchange of interests to prevent major conflicts arising between sovereign states and other civil organizations.

In the words of Richard Rosecrance, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, in the extended sense, diplomatic techniques have undergone considerable metamorphosis since the eighteenth century. In his book titled: The Rise of the Trading State”,  Professor Rosecrance propounded that the extensive use of propaganda, subversion on a wide scale, and the manipulation of national economic instruments for foreign policy purposes have greatly enlarged the range of multilateral dealings on the world scene.

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright in her esteemed publication: New American Diplomacy,(2000), pinpointed that  Diplomacy is the art and practice of negotiation between nations, conducted mostly through private conversations and the exchange of confidential documents. According to her, Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors use public statements and news conferences to explain their policies, seek support for their governments, and put pressure on other countries in the negotiations of a specify situation.

A former American Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger in his thoughtful new book: New Order: Explained that practically, new actors on the international scene are increasingly using practices employed by states with the aim of furthering their interests in the international arena and putting new issues on the global agenda.

In the words of Warren Christopher, diplomat is a crisis manager and must possess: A good knowledge of international relations, a good understanding of how international relations function between states, should be well informed, smart, bridge and possess the ingredients of contemporary diplomatic know how and the aspirations in negotiating, great moral and intellectual sensitivity, imagination and courage, the ability to make parties feel convincing and grateful for successful negotiation.

For the former Senior Ambassador At Large of Liberia, Carlton Karpeh (2010) diplomat presents his or her government policies to the foreign country in a persuasive and persuading tone, not a demanding one, as such, a diplomat always represents the interest of the nation but at the same time cannot ignore the public opinion on national and international issues that go beyond defined borders.

In the words of former Liberian Minister of Foreign Affairs, T. Ernest Eastman (2006), “The field of international relations is so important that they called diplomacy the ‘master-institution’ of international politics which influenced domestic politics.

While in international relations, Eastman (2006) said diplomacy functions through a labyrinth of foreign offices, embassies, consulates, and special missions all over the world. In the much quoted definition of a renowned Liberian author and former diplomat, Dr. Joseph Saye Guanua, “diplomat as an honest Man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country.”

While in his recent book: Liberian Emerging Democracy, Josephus Gray, (2013) reiterated that beyond representation, a diplomat is expected to possess a good knowledge and understanding of his own country; its geography, history and culture, its economy, political, social and its demographic structure, natural resources, its industry and the determinants of its foreign policy priorities.

According to a leading twentieth-century figure in the study of international politics, Hans Morgenthau, diplomacy will naturally decline with the onset of modern communication technologies such as the telephone, telegraph, cable and communication satellite.

A nation’s diplomat required function as his or her country’s eyes, ears, and voice abroad, must be aware of national interests and values while being able to understand foreign politics and cultures.

At the same time, the skills required of professional diplomats include intelligence, tact, discretion, circumspection, patience, self-control, teamwork, adaptability, creative imagination, the ability to signal and communicate messages precisely to the target audience.

In certain cases, diplomats also give occasional speeches to members of the community of their host country. It is admirable profession of integrate, intelligent, honesty, political and edification elegance, free of corrupt and other unwholesome practices especially greed for financial gains. But, now new issues such as technical matters are coming to the forefront.  Out of this sphere of unfolding developments and uncertainties a diplomat, in this modern era, should obtain the ‘requisite tools’ of education, skills, and a marketable reputation.

Evidently, diplomat presents his or her government’s policies to the foreign and domestic publics in a persuasive and persuading tone, not a demanding one, as such; a diplomat always represents the interest of the nation but at the same time cannot ignore the public opinion on national and international issues that go beyond defined borders.

Another factor responsible for the low productivity of African diplomacy is the serious issue of diplomats negotiating which missions to be assigned, instead of getting posted to counties by those with the appointing powers. It is common for these so-called influential diplomats to lobby for posting to prestigious diplomatic missions in Europe, Asia, America and multilateral organizations, as greater numbers are not willing to be posted to African missions, especially the underdeveloped ones.

The problem of concern is the existence of too many diplomatic missions abroad, which place a heavy financial burden on the scarce resources of poor African Countries including Liberia, decisively maintaining more contacts with non-African states.

Studies have shown that Washington, Paris, London or Beijing wouldn’t post diplomats to countries of their choice or where diplomats do not have command over the language of the host state or uninformed diplomats to countries of strategic importance in a particular region or continent.

Diplomacy serves states in three useful channels of communication including means of negotiating agreements between states, a source of information about what is happening in host states and representing the interest of the sending state.  Watch out for part two.


About the Author: Josephus Moses Gbala-hinnih Gray is an Assistant Professor at the University of Liberia Graduate Studies Program. He is a native born Liberian, hails from the Southeastern village of Kayken Chiefdom in Barclayville, Grand Kru County. He is an author, professor, journalist, diplomat and scholar with a wealth of rich credentials. He has authored two books, published Two Graduate Studies Theses and a 600-page Doctoral Dissertation on the theme: “Geopolitics of African Oil and Energy: China and America New Strategic Interests in Africa”. He has written extensively and published over 50 articles on variety of contemporary issues. He can be contacted at Email: graymoses@yahoo.com

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