Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Paradigm Shift: Bringing Liberian Foreign Policy into the 21lst Century

By: ralph geeplay
A cartoon of Musivene & Gaddafi by Fred Mukabuya

While the African Union is busy finding a possible solution to the Libyan crisis, Monrovia have moved to the fore by terminating diplomatic relations with Tripoli. The move is considerable, because Libyan investment in post-war Liberia is enormous; put at almost $100 million by some estimates, it is an important source of assistance the country needs. And secondly, close relations between Monrovia and Tripoli were at their highest; never minding that Libya is widely believed to be the chief sponsor of the Liberian civil war that killed almost 300 hundred thousand Liberians. The adage says ‘Stay close to your friends, and even closer to your enemies,’ but no more now.

In an era in African politics when the African Union (AU) is still a patronizing club of corrupt autocrats and old tired men from Cameroonian Paul Biya, Gambian Yaya Jameh, Ethiopian Meles Zenawi, Zimbabwean Robert Mugabe, Ugandan Yoweri Museveni and etc, the Liberian policy shift must be commended. Slowly, the Johnson Sirleaf administration is positioning Liberian foreign policy on human rights and the rule of law, often speaking when other African heads of state are silent in the face of egregious crimes being committed against their own people.

A case in point was the Liberian government strong-worded statement against the Zimbabwe dictator, Robert Mugabe in 2008 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, during the 13th Ordinary Section of the AU.

The Zimbabwean Scholar Group took note and mentioned on July 2nd that the Liberian president spoke to her colleagues in a close door section and “called on the African Union to be courageous because "all is not well in Zimbabwe. And that the request by SADC for a postponement of the June 27 Zimbabwean elections should be heeded.” The statement went on and quoted a press release from the Liberian government that said the elections were “unacceptable and not credible.”

“Apparently the number of AU presidents who have been elected in less than legitimate ways outnumber those who have had fair elections," the group said. It also added that “Democracy" and "Human rights" have been concepts manipulated in the past, during the Cold War, during the Structural Adjustment period of the mid 1990s and in recent times, but unfortunately this lowest common denominator mentality works to protect the worst offenders.”
It’s a known fact that Colonel Gaddafi is a petty criminal and a prominent figure in the AU who have had his hands in so-called revolutions on the continent. His terrorists’ acts around the globe are no secret. The Libyan leader is famous for the bombing on 21 December 1988 of Pan Am flight 103. The fanatical act killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board. Gaddafi was also a staunch ally of Charles Taylor.

It was Libyan training and ammunitions that reduced Liberia to dust. Three million displaced in the Mano River Union, which accounts for one in five of the population. The current Liberian government has realized it can not pursue a policy of dente with Libya anymore as it was during the post Arab Spring era.

Nearly all of Liberia’s neighbors have long since democratized. The Mano River Basin which includes Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast are neither sympathetic to Tripoli’s so-called Great Islamic Jamahiriya Republic nor does it shares Gaddafi’s thirst for blood and his outdated socialist philosophy and revolution. The region has moved on.

President Sirleaf speaks at Dartmouth College 2008

During meetings in Abuja, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, “Liberia impressed upon ECOWAS as mediator and as an immediate neighbor,” says a ministry of foreign affairs official in Monrovia. “That Captain Moussa Dadis Camara of Guinea who ordered the 2009 mass killing of his own people would be given a safe haven in Burkina Faso upon his returned from hospital in Morocco” where he was receiving treatment “to allow the country hold free and fair elections. 

The move was impressive.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her national security team headed by H. Boimah Fahnbulleh and defense minister Brownie Samukai also made the case with “President Jonathan of 
Nigeria, that Laurent Gbagbo had to go having lost the elections to his rival Alassane Ouattara, which was also the official position of the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations.

Coming into the 21st century, Africa must move forward, and those leaders who resist change and accountability must be dragged along or left behind.

Sooner or later Monrovia must insist or formed an alliance with truly democratic independent states within the AU that are answerable to their people, thereby leaving the autocrats on the other side of the river.

Rulers like Congo’s Denis Sasu Ngueso must conform to a new order--- a paradigm shift that puts the rights of ordinary Africans above the desires of leaders like Gaddafi to lead at all cost.

In severing ties with Libya, the Liberian government called on the Libyan state to stop persecuting its own people adding, "As the oldest independent African Republic, Liberia has fought relentlessly for the decolonization of the Continent and for subjugated and oppressed peoples everywhere to freely exercise the right to self-determination.”

The fight of the Libyan people to rid themselves of Gaddafi must enjoy currency across the continent. The AU must stop pussyfooting on the Libyan question. The Libyan tyrant has been in power since 1969, and is wildly branded as the rubble rouser liable for cross borders attacks that violate the sovereignty of many African states.

His crimes are now being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with charges coming from its chief persecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. It is now known that mass rape has been introduced to intimidate women, and by extension the population in Libya. There is a cell phone video at present making the rounds on cable news of a woman being violated. As she begs for mercy, her tormentors believe to be Gaddafi loyal supporters show no clemency.

Considering Liberia’s own trouble past in which its own citizens have been victimized by its own leaders, and its unique role as Africa’s first independent republic founded on the premise of freedom, her history places her in an unprecedented position to be a defender of freedom and democracy on the African continent.


William Ponder said...

Thanks for the thoughtful and well balanced article. A recommended reading for all those interested in foreign policy and the Liberian experience in the 21st century.

William Ponder

geeplay said...

Thanks Mr. Ponder for your kind words!