It was the final opportunity for the key officials of the Liberian government meet peacekeepers face-to-face and show appreciation for their contribution to national security before the UNMIL drawdown is complete. The program observing the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was scheduled to commence at 9:00 a.m., May 27, 2016, with military formalities including marching and hoisting of both the UN and Liberian flags to precede the indoor activities.
Before 9:00 a.m., officials of UN agencies, UNMIL and foreign diplomats had converged and taken seats with expectation that the program would soon commence.
Two Liberian officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Elias Shoniyin and Deputy Justice Minister Wheatonia Dickson-Barnes arrived together with US Charge d’Affaires, Sheila Paskman at 8:54 a.m.
After waiting for about 10 minutes, the uniformed officers of the United Nations and Liberia marched and stood in formation to receive the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), Farid Zarif.
As the SRSG arrived with expectation that the expected Liberian officials would soon arrive, the master of ceremony and UNMIL Public Information Chief, Russell Geekie, had to repeatedly apologize to guests for the delay on the part of the expected government officials.
Most of the foreign guests expressed displeasure by their facial expressions and at the same time murmured over the length of time standing and sitting.
The delay then sparked up much murmuring in the corridor of UNMIL headquarter, where both foreigners and Liberians stood to witness the program.
Liberians at the program were vocal to speak out.
“What is this? They were all given invitations with time on it. Couldn’t they do what they could from 7:00 to 8:30 and be here by 8: 55?” asked a Liberian working with the UN.
“I don’t know whether Liberians know that others in the world are embarrassed by their delay. Every time they are invited to a program they will be the last to arrive while respectable people from foreign countries will await them. What is this?” another Liberian national reacted.
The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Marshall Band was then asked to keep entertaining the guests while they await the arrival of the Liberian security officials.
After 22 minutes of delay, William Mulbah, a senior officer of the Liberia National Police (LNP), as well as Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) Commissioner Lemuel Reeves, arrived and were escorted by SRSG Zarif.
They were followed by AFL Chief of Staff, Daniel Ziankan Jr. at 9:24 a.m. and then Defense Minister, Brownie Samukai at 9:37.
Procrastination has long been entrenched in Liberia that whenever a program or any form of gathering is scheduled, people usually delay for about 30 to 45 minutes with the notion that “Liberian occasions do not start on time.”
As a result of this belief, a program that is to commence at 2p.m., for instance, is announced to commence at 1p.m. to create a one hour room for delay.
It may be recalled that in 2014 when China sent a huge consignment of Ebola treatment materials to fight the virus, Ambassador Zhang Yue and Chinese embassy officials waited at the Roberts International Airport for over five and half hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:35 p.m., until an official from the Foreign Ministry, Amb. Sylvester Grigsby, arrived to receive the items on behalf of the Liberian government.