The United States Secretary of State for African Affairs and former Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has trumpeted the responsibility of Liberians to fight corruption, champion democracy and sustain the 13 year peace in the country.
Speaking to hundreds of students at the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) yesterday, Ambassador Greenfield made reference to President Barack Obama’s statement in Ethiopia last year that African economies are “hampered by nothing else other than the cancer of corruption.”
“We should fight corruption in this country, and don’t allow politicians to use their political connections to fill their bank accounts and their pockets here,” Ambassador Greenfield contended.
According to the US diplomat, her country has contributed $1 billion in foreign assistance to Liberia in the postwar period. In spite of that level of assistance from the US and other partners, the US diplomat lamented that Liberia remains one of the lowest in the world in terms of provision of electricity, something she noted Power Africa seeks to address.
With the level of peace in the country that every Liberian is contributing to, there is a need to sustain it through democratic means so that terrorist activities in West Africa will not be introduced here, Ambassador Greenfield emphasized.
Liberians must take security as a priority and build it, said Greenfield, referencing Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Tuareg group in Mali and recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
She applauded the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) for maintaining professionalism and better deportment.
The US diplomat’s comment on corruption is coming after EU Ambassador, Tiina Intelmann last weekend emphasized that they were aware of corruption in Liberia and called on government to prosecute all cases on record.
On elections, Ambassador Greenfield said United States does not endorse a candidate in any country, but supports democracy and politics.
She stressed that as 2017 draws near for Liberians to choose new leaders, they must exercise their rights to champion democracy in Africa as Nigeria and Ghana have done on the continent.
“Liberia will be setting a tremendous record on the continent when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf steps down after completing her term of office. Such a democratic step is rarely seen in Africa as many leaders do not want to leave power but are going ahead to change constitutions to extend terms of office,” observed Ambassador Greenfield.
She insisted that Liberians should “ask politicians what they will do for the country, and don’t be personal in choosing a leader. Demand from them what they will do about employment for students graduating from colleges and what they can do to improve the infrastructure to meet the development needs of the country.”
Ambassador Greenfield, who received repeated applause from the audience, especially when she spoke on corruption, told Liberians to turn out on election day to vote and see the change they need rather than resort to violence.
Referencing to Nigeria again, she said people in that West African country set the record during their elections and voted out the ruling party and the result was accepted by the incumbent President and all.
“Let the elections instead of being a challenge, be an opportunity for Liberians to assess candidates on issues and not personality, asking them what best they can do to improve the country’s foreign policy. It is not who a person is; it is about what a person can do. Do away with personality and hold politicians by their words on issues that relate to the wellbeing of the country,” she emphatically advised.
Ambassador Greenfield said, “Liberia must stay on its trajectory of maintaining democracy, governance process and peace that have existed here for the past 13 years.”
Liberia’s weak health system was exposed by the Ebola Virus Disease, and therefore Liberia must seek to create jobs for citizens, build infrastructure and improve the education system to sustain the prevailing peace, she warned.
Ambassador Greenfield who described her visit here as “another home coming,” assured that the United States remains a partner to Liberia, and its election observers will be deployed here to monitor the process from the beginning to the end. She served as US ambassador to Liberia from 2008-2012.