By Gabriel I. H. Williams
With my tenure having ended as a Liberian diplomat posted to the United States by the Government of Liberia since 2010, I am requesting the government of President George Manneh Weah to provide the arrears for my salary and rental allowance, as well as my relocation fund, in order to relocate myself and my personal effects from Washington, D.C. and to settle my rental arrears and other financial obligations.
As a presidential appointee, I am mindful that, in keeping with the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, it is the prerogative of the President to appoint officials for service in government, and to relieve those officials from office any time without providing any reason.
However, there is nothing in the Liberian Constitution which states that the President or government can withhold the payment of salary and other financial benefits of an official without justifiable reasons, following the individual’s removal from government. This public call to the Liberian government to pay my just compensation follows some unusual developments, which are part of the troubling signs appearing in Liberia.
On September 25, 2019, I arrived in Monrovia from the US with my wife and son to attend the funeral of my father-in-law, Mr. William B. Foeday, a prominent traditional elder in Salala District, Bong County, on October 5th. Two days following my father-in-law’s funeral in the town of Tokpaipolu, Bong County, my elder brother, who helped to raise me and several other siblings, died in Monrovia, following a period of serious illness.
While planning for my brother’s funeral, I received a call from a well-placed official of government, who informed me that the President was about to relieve me from my post as Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., USA. He said the action was being taken because of disapproval of my recently-published book, Corruption is Destroying Africa: The Case of Liberia.
On Sunday afternoon, October 20th, I received a call from a very good friend and confidant that he had just read a media report on the Internet in which President Weah had appointed someone to replace me as Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs. Few days before my friend called, I had told him and a couple of other confidants about the phone call from the well-paced government source that I was about to be terminated.
A couple of days following the media reports regarding my replacement, I received another phone call from the highly-placed government source, who admonished that in light of the developments, I should take it easy and watch my back. With trepidation, I contacted my confidants and informed them about the call. They all advised that the best I could do was to simply keep a very low profile until I can leave the country immediately following my brother’s funeral, which I did. One of my confidants even advised that I should stay away from all media and public engagements under the circumstances. As a result, the visit turned out to be my first trip back to Liberia without any media or public engagements while in the country, besides the family funeral services.
Accordingly, while I was in Liberia, I had to abandon all media engagements that were being planned to begin creating public awareness about my recently-published book.
Even though I was not officially informed about my replacement, I returned to the United States following my brother’s funeral and turned over the affairs of the office as required. I also immediately vacated the apartment the government paid for as my residence since I was posted to the Liberian Embassy in 2010.
I contacted the Minister of Information in Monrovia regarding my arrears for salary and rental allowance, as well as my relocation financial package to enable me to relocate myself and my personal effects. The Department of Public Affairs at the Embassy falls directly under the auspices of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism. Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States is also aware, as his attention has been drawn to my financial situation.
Unfortunately, more than a month following my replacement, nothing has been said or done for me to receive the funds the government owes me to enable me to relocate and move on. I feel abandoned by the Weah government. After more than 13 years of working sacrificially, and with honesty and integrity in the service of our country, I feel that I am being abandoned by the Liberian government in a foreign land where the government had assigned me as a diplomat to officially represent our country.
As a country and a people, we continue to fail to realize that these kinds of practices diminish the quality of Liberia’s representation abroad and undermine the country’s image.
As I conclude this stage of my public service, I bless the Lord for affording me the opportunity to serve my country and the Liberian people. I wish I could have done more to really help transform our country, especially its dysfunctional state of governance, which has caused Liberia to be stuck at the bottom as one of the poorest countries in the world. As I indicated in the book, Corruption is Destroying Africa: The Case of Liberia, “The level of development or progress in any country is measured by the vision of its leaders and the productivity of its people.”
Nevertheless, having served for the first four years during the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Assistant Minister for Information Services and Deputy Minister for Public Affairs, respectively at the Ministry of Information, I am grateful to God for the opportunity to help institute the necessary reforms that created the enabling environment, which brought about the gains made toward freedom of speech and of the press in Liberia.
A notable progress made toward free speech during that era was the fact that in 2010, Liberia became the first country in West Africa to pass into law a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act – a law that grants public access to documents or other data in possession of a government agency or public authorities, unless the information falls into a certain category that is specifically excluded from the terms of the legislation.
It was out of high appreciation for my service, according to Madam President, that she was pleased to appoint me to serve as Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Liberian Embassy near Washington, DC, capital of Liberia’s most important bilateral partner. In Washington, I learned a lot and have developed a greater appreciation for American institutions and systems that have made the US the greatest power in the world, as well as for the special historical ties subsisting between Liberia and the United States, as reflected in my recently published book. It is with immense gratitude that I was part of a team that worked to further strengthen the special relationship between Liberia and the United States for the past several years. A landmark accomplishment during our tenure was the establishment of the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue in 2013. The first of its kind with the United States since Liberia’s establishment, the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue is the institutional framework for cooperation between Liberia and the U.S.
In view of the prevailing developments in Liberia, it is my hope that the democratic gains that the country has made since the end of the civil crises are sustained and not eroded. Those who resist democratic governance in Liberia are on the wrong side of history. Let the tragic examples of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor remind every Liberian that dictatorship will never succeed in Liberia.
Finally, I herewith appeal to the Liberian government to speedily expedite my financial package (arrears for salary and rent allowance and relocation fund) to enable me to fulfill my financial obligations here in the United States and relocate.