By Lawrence Kennedy
Washington, DC – The government of President George Manneh Weah has secured the services of a top U.S. law firm and public-affairs group, Greenberg Traurig, to reach out to U.S. members of Congress, U.S. businesses and other U.S. leaders to make Liberia’s case on issues relevant to the country.
The contract for services, signed with Greenberg Traurig on September 30, 2018, by Minister Samuel Tweah on behalf of the Liberian government, includes a wide scope of deliverables. These include networking Liberian officials with their U.S. counterparts; intercede to activate Liberia’s privileges under the AGOA Act, beginning with rubber, cocoa and coffee; and forwarding Liberia’s case at the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF, as well as to foreign investors.
It appears President Weah and the CDC-led administration have been quietly working diplomatically and tactfully to reboot Liberia’s international image, economy, and relations with U.S. businesses, investors, as well as governmental institutions.
According to documents obtained for this inquiry, the recent extension of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians represents an immediate success for President Weah and his international team which, seemingly, is being managed by the country’s finance minister, Mr. Samuel D. Tweah. While Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been terminated for nearly every country by President Trump, it’s not by accident that DED has been extended for Liberians.
Greenberg Traurig, with offices in the United States, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia is reportedly the largest and most significant U.S. law firm with vast experience to guide countries and businesses through every stage and opportunity of U.S. and international engagement.
It is no secret that leaders of foreign nations routinely hire Washington lobbyists. According to documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, Greenberg Traurig is providing advice and counsel related to foreign relations issues, as well as educating the government and opinion leaders regarding the same. The chief strategist for the Government of Liberia also represents the Ashanti Kingdom of Ghana and other notable institutions around the world.
According to the firm, their capabilities extend to oil, energy and natural resources, banking and financial services, corporate and institutional rebranding; emerging technology; entertainment and media; environmental food, beverages, and agribusiness. The firm also practices government law and policy including contracts; health care and hospitality; infrastructure; intellectual property and technology – all sectors that need to be developed in Liberia.
Information surfacing for this article shows President Weah and some senior members of his cabinet including Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah, have been offhandedly and privately engaged with the firm on a wide range of issues, especially with respect to Liberians on DED in the United States as well as on matters relating to economic development, foreign investments and cementing U.S.-Liberia ties.
With President Weah committed to focusing on job creation, workforce development, and small business development to make Liberians participants in their economy, one would expect Greenberg Traurig to assist the country and the Weah administration in unmeasurable ways.
Transparency, integrity, and fairness in Liberia’s political arena are crucial to safeguarding the Liberian public interest. Evidence of this transparent engagement is listed on the U.S. Department of Justice website; specifically, the section relating to the U.S.1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Under FARA, all lobbyists who represent foreign governments, political parties and government-controlled entities in a political or quasi-political capacity must file disclosures. The forms list activities, fees received political contacts and any campaign contributions.
Today, it isn’t just companies or groups based in the U.S. that are pushing for their causes on Capitol Hill. Out of 195 countries in the world, 75 percent are actively engaged in petitioning U.S. lawmakers in Washington, DC.
Given that, you will also find registrations by firms representing other Liberians including Alexander Cummings, former Vice President Joseph Boakai, and former presidential hopeful, Mr. Benoni Urey.
The Liberian public has repeatedly called on several administrations to be more transparent; with the Government of Liberia’s full disclosure on FARA, it appears the Weah-led administration has turned the corner with its open engagement in Washington, DC. Hopefully, President Weah’s success in extending the DED program for over 4,500 Liberians will be recognized and touted as a non-political win for all Liberians.