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MONROVIA – Former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas Greenfield, who prides herself as a ‘Friend of Liberia’ has lamented the wave of corruption in Liberia which she has named as the foremost issue confronting the country.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is now the U.S. Representative to the United Nations.
Speaking on panel marking the 200-year commemoration of U.S.-Liberia ties, Amb. Thomas-Greenfield kicked off by acknowledging her fellow panelists including fellow former U.S. Ambassadors to Liberia: Ambassadors Blaney, Booth, Elder, and Malac, as well as our current Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy.
The panel discussion was organized by Yale World Fellow and was moderated by former Deputy Foreign Minister, Elias Shoniyin, for moderating this esteemed group.
She recalled the rich history between America and Liberia, the founding of Liberia by freed black men, women and children from the United States who were not only in search of freedom, but were also being pushed away from America by the American Colonization Society which was bent on removing blacks from the United States.
“It was a hard journey. And we should not romanticize it. People died on this trip. Others perished after arriving. And yet the ACS kept sending more free Black people away. When they arrived, they encountered the indigenous people of the land which sometimes led to more conflicts, with some new arrivals even inflicting some of the racist attitudes they had learned in the United States onto the indigenous population that they met. But racism wasn’t the only reason they left America, nor the only driver of their new life,” she said.
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield expressed appreciation for the manner in which governments in Liberia have always worked with ambassadors in the multilateral space.
She also expressed the gratitude of the U.S. government for how Liberia has become vocal in advancing peace, prosperity, human rights and democratic norms.
“Here’s a fact that stands out for me: Liberia needed a UN peacekeeping mission, and that mission was there until 2018. And I remember because I helped to wind it down, and Deb, you brought it to a successful conclusion. Now today, Liberia is an active contributor to UN peacekeeping missions. And they just sent more troops to the UN Mission in Mali, and this is simply remarkable,” she said.
However, she noted that Liberia’s foremost problem is corruption, among several other problems the country is faced with.
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: “Liberia has a serious problem right now, and that’s taking on a number of issues, foremost among them is the issue of corruption. And this is an issue that we are seeing across the board, not just in Liberia, but in other places. And for me, corruption is an act of robbery, plain and simple. It’s a cancer in our societies. It is government stealing from the people of Liberia, from the mouths of children. It takes away access to health care. It denies citizens their right to public safety. It stops young people of Liberia from getting the education they deserve. It takes the future away from them. It prevents the country from having the healthy business environment that it needs to lift Liberians out of poverty. It has denied Liberia its place in history, a successful and prosperous country with so many resources to contribute to its people’s well-being.”
She went to describe corruption as “democracy killer” which is the most pressing and most forward-looking challenge Liberia faces.
“Only Liberia’s leaders, with the backing of and pressure from the people of Liberia, can create the environment of transparency and accountability the country needs,” she said.
Answering to a question as to whether the U.S. government is going to further put pressure on figures in the current administration, she said, she could not preview how the U.S. government intends dealing with corruption in Liberia.
She, however, emphasized that corruption has been an age-old problem in Liberia and all U.S. Ambassadors to the country have condemned it. But it has become more prominent now because of the impact that it is having on the country, given that Liberia just went through the pandemic and dealing with all of the consequences of, even the Ebola crisis, that set the country back so far.
“I know Ambassador McCarthy has this at the top of his agenda in every meeting that he has with government officials. It is something that, as I noted, the leadership has to address. If Liberia is going to have a future, Liberians have to have confidence in their government and have confidence that their government is doing right by the people and at this moment, there are some questions about that,” she said.
This content was originally published here.