— says Adboulaye Dukulé, a former adviser to President Sirleaf and Interim President Dr Amos Sawyer
A former adviser to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration says diplomats in Liberia violated their code of ethics when they got deeply involved in the Council of Patriots protest issues by calling for its cancellation and selecting dates.
According to Dr. Abdoulaye Dukulé, a former adviser to President Sirleaf and Interim President Dr Amos Sawyer, diplomats are not supposed to be arbiters of local political disputes.
Dukulé said the foreign diplomats’ recent intervention in the protest in Liberia only helps the government to water down people’s demands and also puts them (diplomats) in control of the government’s political agenda.
“No, it’s not common in the diplomatic community. These are bureaucrats overstepping the boundaries of their duties. Even if they are asked to help, they should do so discreetly, not putting themselves forward as solvers of Liberia’s problems. Definitely it’s an intrusion. They should not be issuing press releases on national issues. That’s not their job. It makes the government totally to be under the control of foreign diplomats. It’s like the country is now under trusteeship, being run by foreign powers,” he said.
Last year on Dec. 30, while the COP was poised to begin its street protest, the ambassadors of ECOWAS, the European Union, the United States, and the UN Resident Coordinator issued a joint statement, expressing their concurrence with suggestion by the Government of Liberia that the protest be rescheduled to another date other than December 30—a rare political move by the diplomatic missions in Liberia.
The ambassadors at that time said: “We strongly encourage the Council of Patriots to shift their demonstration to this Sunday, January 5, and various counter-protestors to shift their demonstrations to Sunday, January 12, at the large venues offered by the government, in order to ensure that the rights of all Liberia’s citizens are equally respected. We, your partners, strongly endorse this plan and look forward to those successful and peaceful gatherings, supported and protected by your government.”
Interestingly, the COP in their press conference expressed their mixed reactions to the intervention of the international community, referring to it as an “intrusion and intervention” at the same time. There, the COP was express their appreciation for the international partners’ assistance in negotiate the terms of the protest with the Government of Liberia, but also saw the intrusion as a necessity to achieve their democratic aims.
Dr. Dukule further said that the intervention of the ambassadors was an act of intrusion and it indicates that the government was losing control of its sovereign affairs by allowing foreign diplomats to be arbiters of national political disputes.
“If foreign diplomats take the lead in resolving Liberian issues, stakeholders will soon start talking to their fellow Liberians through foreign diplomats. I served as a diplomat in Washington, DC and in Abidjan. I cannot imagine any of my colleagues in those posts speaking out loudly about issues in those countries. That’s not what diplomats do. They represent foreign nations,” he said.
Dukulé added that the number one rule of diplomacy is discretion, and the more visible and powerful foreign diplomats become, the weaker the government will appear. According to him, if this continues, Liberians will begin to start dealing with the foreign diplomats rather than petition the government, which is effectively side-stepping the Constitution.
“There is no national emergency that necessitates the issuance of a press release on national issues by the four big foreign missions,” he said. Because of their weight, they would be more efficient if they were doing their work in the background and let Liberians take credit for the positives. But being the ultimate agenda setters, they eclipse both government and opposition. Democracy will suffer.”
Dukulé further emphasized that Liberians will have to grow out of the mentality of dependency that has engulfed the nation as a byproduct of the war.
“When the same diplomats published a letter about the government going into their accounts, I said that if they were in some other countries, they would have been sent out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Elwood Dunn, a retired Liberian Historian and former Alfred Walter Negley Professor of Political Science at Sewanee: University of the South, said there is ample evidence of the United States government’s intimate involvement in Liberian affairs, but the difference between “yesteryears and today is that in the past, the involvement (intrusion or intervention) was done behind the scenes, through diplomatic channels, on paper or verbally through diplomats.
But today, he said “it is done in the full glare of the media including social media. That some citizens would be offended is understandable, especially given the obvious unequal relationship between the two countries.”