Liberia: Is the US Sanctions Net Widening to Embrace Government Officials?

Joe Biden, President of United States of America

The US GOvernment has made a public statement each year in December of 2021 & 2022, placing individual Liberian politicians under sanction. This list has so far been dominated by Liberia's Legislature with two high profile members of the Liberian Senate being placed under sanctions by the US Government.

Senators Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County) and Prince Yormie Johnson (Nimba County) are the first two to face the wrath of Uncle Sam for alleged corrupt practices.

But, to date despite numerous statements by the US Government, particularly in light of the President's stated public stance against corruption, the Executive Branch of government has remained untouched. Sources within the diplomatic community have spoken on condition of anonymity, that the USA is for the first time preparing to sanction  members of the Executive, with the name of Liberia's Minister of State, Hon. Nathaniel McGill, figuring prominently amongst others, in discussions; as the next person to be named to face international sanctions from the US Government.  

Minister McGill is seen as Liberia’s de facto Prime Minister by many, even though Liberia's Constitution does not have such a post. The ‘Porcupine’, as he is jokingly called by his few supporters, has seemed to draw the eye of and ire of Uncle Sam. Our diplomatic sources allege that the announcement is soon to be expected, as Minister McGill is seen by the USA as the root of many of the governance issues and activities that contravene Liberian and international law. 

It is alleged that Minister McGill is wired into every Ministry and Minister's office. And, through his clique of trusted followers, tries to have final say on any decision emanating from any Ministry. This process benefits the alleged ringleader by giving him access to procurement, consultancies and many types of remuneration. These are the types of economic fraud that Ms Banks stated were unacceptable and needed to be stopped before they continue to hold us back as a nation. 

Apparently yesterday the US Government Delegation refused to meet Minister McGill and let it be known they could not attend the ceremony with him present. During the duration of the program, Minister McGIll was crucially requested to be absent. As evidenced by photos, he briefly appeared and left the area where the US delegation was seated and was absent for the signing of the US$55 million agreement between the two governments. The Minister of State is known to be at the President's side for all major occasions and government business. His glaring absence, along with that of the Foreign Minister, point to a new turning point in the US Government's engagement with Liberia. Is the previously untouchable Nathaniel McGill going to be able to navigate Uncle Sam's sanctions regime and retain his diminishing authority in Liberia's government struggles? 

Since the inception of the Biden Administration, the USA has toughened its stance on corrupt and undemocratic acts. Currently, the U.S. House of Representatives is deliberating a Resolution proffered by Representative Gregory Meeks that seeks to give the U.S. State Department the greenlight to impose more sanctions on individuals in Liberia who commit acts of corruption and acts that undermine the country’s democracy. But the US is also strongly stating that only we, Liberians, can tackle Liberia's problems. 

Ms Banks clearly stated: “The expectation, sometimes, is that the United States and the rest of the international community will step in to solve Liberia’s long-term problems. So let me be clear. The United States is a proud and dedicated partner and friend of Liberia.

“But ultimately, only the Liberian Government and the Liberian people can tackle corruption, fight for accountability and transparency, and move this country forward. Still, in the meantime, we will continue our strong and unique partnerships.”