Liberia has been extremely fortunate to have Ambassador Atilio Pacifici serve as the European Union envoy for the past five years. This was a critical period for a country just emerging from a terrible civil conflict that not only killed nearly 300,000 people, but devastated the country’s infrastructure and shattered her international relations.
One of the effects of this was the fact that many of the country’s traditional partners closed their embassies near Monrovia. This included our oldest diplomatic partner, the United Kingdom, the first nation, as far back as 1848, to establish diplomatic relations with Liberia. The next oldest diplomatic partner, Germany, scaled down its mission, and turned over its plush compound in Congotown to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The European Union, too, scaled down its operations here and Liberia lost her ownership of the National Authorizing Office (NAO), which was transferred to La Cote d’Ivoire. It was that country which was performing the duties of the NAO for Liberia, in managing the European Development Fund allocation for the country, since the NAO powers had been revoked. In addition, several other embassies relocated to other parts of West Africa, plunging Liberians into the painful, humiliating and costly experience of having to travel to other West African countries to obtain visas to enter Europe.
Things began to change with the arrival of Ambassador Pacifici in 2009. Before she performed the Investiture upon the EU envoy last Thursday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that his arrival five years ago coincided with the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty that saw the EU Office transformed into a full-fledged EU Delegation to Liberia. “Our partnership,” she said, “went from humanitarian assistance to development cooperation.”
It was also during his tenure that the Liberia-EU dialogue and many other initiatives were realized,” President Sirleaf added.
Speaking on that occasion also, Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh said Ambassador Pacifici, soon after his arrival in Liberia, began supporting us in “the rebuilding of a credible and competent NAO. For this reason, said Minister Konneh, “we can now look forward to the next envelope of EUR 279 million in EU support,” from 2005-2020. This, according to the Minister, “represents a 73% increase in the EDF allocation for Liberia.”
Describing Ambassador Pacifici as “not just a partner, but a dependable friend and a true advocate for Liberia, Minister Konneh noted that during Pacifici’s tenure, the country witnessed a gradual increase in direct budget support amounting to EUR40 million and, just for the health sector, EUR35 million. He also assisted in reestablishing the flow of Liberian forestry and other projects to Europe, which had been cancelled during the Taylor years when Liberia’s resources were terribly managed.
When Ebola hit Liberia, “the Ambassador responded quickly,” said Konneh. “He advocated strongly with the EU Headquarters for increased budget support for Liberia.” The result: US$35 million into GOL’s budget since Ebola.
Ambassador Pacifici took an active interest in the improvement of West Point, Monrovia’s sprawling slum. Not only did he initiate a water project in the township. He also took an interest in the project for the building of a modern Town Hall initiated by Daily Observer publisher Kenneth Y. Best on the occasion of his 75th birth anniversary. At the groundbreaking ceremony for the project Ambassador Pacifici pledged that the EU Delegation would do everything possible to ensure its realization.
Not many diplomats are able to leave so distinctive a mark after serving at a post as has Ambassador Pacifici. The President said he had approached his work with the passion and precision of the engineer that he is.
Yes, we can say that this Ambassador was able to accomplish what he did because he undertook his work with engineering discipline. We are sure that wherever he is assigned in the future, he will leave another mark of distinction.
Our hope is that we in Liberia will make the best possible use of what Ambassador Pacifici has left us. Should we do this with all the assistance we are given by other development partners and with our own self-generated resources, we would be on the march to development and modernization.
But OH Liberians! Given last Friday’s demonstration that sent Monrovia “crazy,” can we ever become a disciplined people? May God grant.