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Liberia Ready to Strengthen, Rekindle Historic Bilateral Ties With United States

— President Weah

For Most African countries and their leaders, the news of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris being elevated to the status as President-elect and Vice President-elect (respectively) of the United States of America, is unprecedented and quite welcome. During the administration of President Donald J. Trump, only one African president visited the White House. And it wasn’t President George Manneh Weah.

It was the leader of Africa’s largest economy, Muhammadu Buhari.

For Liberia, America’s oldest ally on the continent, things have been less than rosy. Let’s just say that, at least President Weah was able to get a snaphot with President Trump through his good friend and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nyetanyahu, at the Paris Forum in Paris, France, in November 2018. Little more is known about the engagement between the Liberian President an his American counterpart.

Barely a year earlier, December 2017, President Trump had tried to strongarm his way to get the UN member states to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Liberia, being a close traditional ally of the United States, voted against Trump’s wish. As a result the Deferred Enforced Departure status for many Liberians living on temporary status in the US was threatened. However, after much appeal and lobbying with some friendly US congressmen, the Trump administration rescinded its decision and gave Liberians a pathway to citizenship, which was better than were they were before.

Recently, the Trump administration responded swiftly to request for technical assistance from the government to investigate the case of the alleged L$16 billion. But just a few months ahead of Liberia’s December 8 senatorial mid-term elections, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement threatening denial of visas to anyone who would cause chaos, commit elections fraud and destabilize the peace of the West African subregion.

For President George Manneh Weah, the change in the US government administration may not have come at a better time, or so it seems. He has moved ahead to congratulate U.S. President-elect Joe Biden “following his victory in that country’s recent Presidential election,” a statement from the Executive Mansion says.

The Liberian Leader is the latest of many around the world who have already congratulated the U.S. President-elect. Before his historic win, Biden previously served as Vice President under former President Barack Obama.

The Liberian leader also congratulated Senator Kamala Harris, who was elected as the first female and first black Vice President of the United States. He said Vice President-Elect Harris’ election will serve as an inspiration to all women and people of color that they can become whatever they aspire to with determination, commitment and hard work.

President Weah said the American President-elect is assuming the leadership of the United States at very challenging time, when the world is faced with a global health crisis. He called on Americans to forge ahead in “peace and unity”, a reference to the polarized political environment that occasioned the period of electioneering.

Rekindling the Relationship

“As Liberia’s traditional ally, we stand ready to further enhance and rekindle our long, historic and unique bilateral relations,” President Weah said. The two countries have had a longstanding special relationship dating back to the 1800s, when America played a crucial role in Liberia’s foundation.

According to Dr. D. Elwood Dun, a Liberian historian and professor emeritus of Swanee-University of the South, since the establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries in 1862, they have never suspended their relations. “There have, however, been strains during some Liberian presidencies. Examples include Edwin Barclay, Tolbert, Doe and Taylor,” he said.

According to the Executive Mansion, stronger ties between both countries in recent years have given rise to American support for Liberian institutions, as a means of helping to consolidate the Liberian democracy. But there has also been cooperation in other areas, including education, health and infrastructure.

While President Weah has made his administration available to rekindle the relationship with US under Biden, it might actually depend on key issues or interest the administration of Biden wants to pursue.

“Relations with a Biden administration will depend on their assessment of the Weah presidency,” Dr. Dunn suggests. “And those who led Africa policy during the Obama administration are likely to be players in Biden’s. Some may include Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield, who served in Liberia. If a friendly and serious posture is sensed, Washington is more likely to listen to Liberia’s priorities.”

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