Liberia’s foreign relations sector cannot be taken lightly. Government relies on it for shaping most of its political and economic goals.
This is predicated on the background that Liberia, after years of civil war, and perhaps even before the civil conflict, depended on foreign aids for its infrastructural and economic developments.
Thousands of foreign residents, comprising Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Guineans, and Sierra Leoneans amongst others are currently residing in Liberia; something that proves equal freedom for both Liberian citizens and foreigners enjoy in this “free land of Liberty.”
This in fact was one of the main tools used during the 2011 Presidential and General Elections to re-elect President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. During her first term, she restored Liberia’s international image among the comity of nations.
Predicated upon the fact that “Liberia’s blessings and glory lie in foreign hands,” its relationship with international partners was highly strengthened in 2013 as new embassies were opened and some very friendly foreign diplomats ended their tour of duties and were recalled by their respective countries.
On October 14, 2013, the United Kingdom reopened its embassy in Monrovia after 22 years of closure due to the Liberian civil crisis.
British Parliamentarian and Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds making a remark at the opening of the embassy said United Kingdom was confident of the peace in Liberia. He also stated that they were reopening their embassy on grounds that Liberia had celebrated 10 years of peace and the environment now depicts peaceful coexistence.
Simmonds assured that they were making frantic effort to introduce the visa system that will allow travellers from Liberia to travel to the United Kingdom directly without having to go to a second country like Ghana or Nigeria to obtain a visa.
For Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan, he described the relationship between Liberia and Great Britain as “strong.” Min. Ngafuan stated that Britain was the first to recognize Liberia’s independence and it was also the first country the first President of Liberia, Joseph Jenkins Roberts visited after Liberia declared its independence in 1847.
Minister Ngafuan also recalled the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron to Liberia in February of 2013 as one consolidating factor to Britain and Liberia’s relationship.
Liberia’s traditional ally, the United States of America, early 2013, recalled Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield, who had stayed for nearly four years in Liberia on diplomatic mission, and was replaced by Ambassador Deborah Malac. Amb. Greenfield was considered by many Liberians as a daughter of Liberia more than a diplomat. She had once lived in Liberia many years before she came as a diplomat.
On June 14, 2013, German Ambassador Bodo Schaff bid farewell to Liberia and in September his successor, Ralph Timmermann took over as Ambassador of Germany to Liberia.
Germany’s role in Liberia’s post-war recovery process is very essential. It is one of the European countries contributing to the restoration of the country’s damaged hydro-electric power, and it has over the years contributed to logistical supports for the Liberian National Police (LNP) and is supporting Agriculture project in south-east Liberia through the German based non-governmental organization, Welt Hungerhlife.
China is one main development partner to Liberia’s post-war recovery. It has financed and built some of Liberia’s recent modern structures, including the US$10 million Jackson F. Doe Referral Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County. It also built a modern, new University of Liberia Campus outside Monrovia. Its Ambassadors have awarded hundreds of foreign and local scholarships to Liberians both in the private and public sectors.
The latest part of 2013 saw Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, under whose administration, Liberia got some of the biggest aid packages from China, going back to China after serving ending his tour of duty.
Prior to his going, the Chinese Ambassador and the Liberian Government signed US$36 million bilateral agreement aimed at undertaking three projects including the erection and remodeling of the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex and the construction of a new campus of the Monrovia Vocational Technical College (MVTC), along the Somalia Drive in Garnesville.
Also, during his tour of duty, China agreed to a US$60 million Ministerial Complex for the Government of Liberia. This building when completed, it is expected to host at least 10 ministries. Chinese Amb. Zhao said during one of his press conferences that it (Ministerial Complex) is going to be the second of such building in Africa. The first is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, also built by the Chinese.
In a remark at the signing ceremony, Foreign Minister Augustine K. N’gafuan also lauded the Chinese Government for the complex project, which he said when completed the Liberian Government will no longer be a tenant in its own home.
EU Nations & Others
European countries including Sweden, France and Norway opened embassies in Liberia in 2013. Egypt recalled Ambassador Adawy and Finland retired Aaron Milton as an Honorary Consul and replaced him by Markku Vesikko.
The year 2013 also saw Liberia and Japan cementing their relations with the signing of a US50 million agreement for the reconstruction of the Somalia Drive, beginning from the Freeport of Monrovia to the ever-busy commercial district of Red-Light in Paynesville.
Again, Foreign Minister Ngafuan noted that the reconstruction of this road will ease the traffic congestion in Monrovia and the initiative by Japan is an indication that Liberia’s partners are now assured of stable peace under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In addition, Japan sent a huge consignment of rice to Liberia for sale at a cheaper price to Liberians so that proceeds from the sale can help to promote the Agriculture sector.
Post UN 2015 Meeting in Monrovia
The Observer’s reflection of Liberia’s diplomacy in 2013 can be climaxed by the United Nations post-2015 stakeholders’ Meeting held early this year in February. Our Diplomatic Correspondent termed it as the peak of Liberia’s foreign relations in 2013, as top world leaders including British PM David Cameron and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came to Liberia, the first for a sitting British PM and that of the an Indonesian President.
The Stakeholders’ Meeting, held at the Royal Grand Hotel, was aimed at assessing progress attained so far by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and looking ahead to 2015, when those Goals should have ended.