The South African Ambassador to Liberia, Masilo Mabeta, announced at the weekend that his government had decided to begin issuing visas to Liberians. This is wonderful news because it will save our people the costly and embarrassing inconvenience of traveling to neighboring countries to obtain S.A. visas.
Ambassador Mabeta went to the Foreign Ministry last Friday to inform Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan about the S.A. government’s decision. Mr. Ngafuan thanked the Ambassador profusely and under the same breath pleaded with the European Union to emulate South Africa’s example.
It is hard to understand why the Europeans are continuing to punish Liberians with the humiliating, costly and time-consuming necessity to travel to neighboring countries for visas to enter Europe.
If each European nation thinks it too costly to set up a consular section in its embassy in Monrovia, why can’t the whole of Europe mandate the European Union Delegation to Liberia to handle this aspect and save Liberians all the trouble, including time and cost of traveling to Abidjan, Abuja, Accra, Dakar, Freetown to get a European visa?
In 2010 following a harrowing experience traveling from Monrovia to Accra and to Abuja in search for a Schengen for his scheduled travel to Austria and Germany, the publisher of the Daily Observer wrote an odyssey which was published in this newspaper. It claimed the immediate attention of the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bodo Schaff, who said he had immediately reported the matter to the Foreign Office in Berlin. After reading Mr. Best’s odyssey, Ambassador Schaff did not only apologize to the Liberian people for all the inconveniences; he also pledged to work with his government toward redressing the situation. Alas, the good, friendly and effective Ambassador most probably did what he could, and has since ended his tenure and returned to Germany. But the problem remains. If a Liberian or person or any other nationality residing in Liberia wishes to travel to Europe, he or she still has to go to one of those African capitals to apply for a visa.
In his September 28 and 29, 2010 odyssey, Mr. Best said he had first gone to Accra and the German embassy there told him to go to the Austrian embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. He traveled to Abuja the next day and was told that he should rather go to Dakar. He told them that that would make him late for the event in Vienna should he go to Dakar. It was upon the kind intervention of the Liberian Ambassador in Abuja, Alhassan Conteh, that the Austrian embassy finally relented, and the Observer publisher was able to get the visa.
Mr. Best, a born Liberian, could not understand why it caused him so much trouble getting German and Austrian visas when Liberia has been for nearly two centuries Germany’s closest African friend. The Germanic states, Mr. Best said in his essay, became in 1848 among the first foreign powers to recognize Liberia’s independence. “There have almost always been cordial diplomatic and sisterly relations between Germany and Liberia. Indeed, before the Second World War, it was Germany that dominated the Liberian economy . . . it was German merchants that shipped Liberian produce, including coffee, cocoa, piassava, palm oil, palm kernels, pepper and other products to Europe and elsewhere. Most of the medical doctors in Liberia were German . . . until World War II when Germans had to leave Liberia. But following the War [long before most African states gained independence from their European colonizers] Liberia resumed very cordial diplomatic relations with Germany. President W.V.S. Tubman and Conrad Adenauer, [Germany’s] first post-war Chancellor, were very good friends, and exchanged state visits in the 1950s and 1960s. This friendship led to many, many Liberians pursuing professional studies in Germany in a wide range of fields, including Architecture, Engineering, Medicine, Natural Science, Philosophy, Social Science and Vocational and Technical training. In the mid-1960s German industrialists, Eugene Plotzky, invested in the Bong Mining Company . . . The German government built one of the biggest and most beautiful embassy compounds in Monrovia, which spanned Tubman Boulevard to the Atlantic Ocean.”
We urge the EU and all European embassies in Monrovia to do their best to ease the pain of Liberians by pleading with their governments to mandate the EU Delegation in Liberia to start issuing Schengen visas in Monrovia.