Wednesday, August 12, 2009



Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

America’s most senior diplomat and apparently the most powerful voice in the international political system is expected to visit Liberia this week, specifically on Thursday August 13, 2009. The position of Secretary of State in the U.S Government automatically gives an individual the above description. Madam Hilary Rodham Clinton, with her experiences in U.S politics, gaining highlights first as First Lady of the United States, later as Senator, then lastly a contender for the presidency, is best suited for this post. Clinton came to the post under a liberal regime headed by the first Afro-American president of the United States of America whose lineage can be directly traced to an African village in Kenya, unlike millions of others who cannot find any trace of their ancestries on the Dark Continent.

Obama’s ascendancy to the U.S presidency increased the hopes of African leaders and their people for more aids in development, partnership, and foreign trade with the United States. But this is yet to be actualized since Obama is committed to supporting only pro-people and democratically functional governments something that is only sung in words in Africa, but not felt in practice.

In July Obama himself came to Africa for the second time, the first being in Northern Africa. This second visit which was widely publicized as Obama’s first visit to the least developed part of the continent – Sub-Saharan Africa – gave Ghana, an emerging democracy, sufficient applause among fifty-three other countries for its outstanding democratic and good governance credentials. In Ghana President Obama called for a partnership which he suggests “…must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect”.

Like Marcus Garvey, who preached philosophy of ‘Africa for the Africans’, so Africans must take full responsibilities of their own development, Obama said, “…Africa’s future is up to Africans”. This is indeed a challenge to African leaders and their peoples who are endowed with abundant resources in nature and human capital.

For Clinton, she is particularly in Africa to affirm a commitment by the Obama administration to tackle trouble spots from Somalia and Zimbabwe to the DR Congo and Liberia according to the State Department.

Naming Liberia as a ‘trouble spot’ with nations like Somalia, DR Congo, and Zimbabwe is a terrible label which undermines the strides made so far.

However, as she comes to Liberia, there must be something to collect and put in our basket as we struggle with a balance of about 1.9bn debt, mass poverty, and deplorable infrastructure. The controversial report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also one of those things that have called the international community’s attention to our country again which the Clinton delegation may not ignore. Besides, we need to display something to prove to the Obama Administration that Liberia is not a trouble spot any longer.

As she roams the continent, four African leaders, including our own Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf have called for more partnership instead of increasing patronage. Clinton however does not have the will and power to seize the patronage style of relations. Again, it is how Africans govern themselves will determine whether they will live on patronage or be considered as potential partners in development.

In Kenya, where she began her tour of Africa she called on African’s to open borders to each others in trade. This is a demand that has been made for decades in Africa. Opening trade borders is now overdue, particularly in a continent that is highly dependent on foreign handouts. Opening borders to fellow Africans to promote trade and education as well as free movements of people is very necessary as we strive to integrate our economies and peoples. So Clinton’s call to Africans is highly laudable and Liberia as the oldest sovereign state on the continent must take the lead in liberalizing trade policies and limiting restrictions on goods and peoples of African origin.

Several other development issues were discussed in South Africa and the DR Congo. Emphases were placed on health issues mainly on HIV/AIDS in South Africa and in the DR Congo, the issue of women’s rights and violence against women was highly condemned, and the Kabila government was urged to find an end to the violence in the eastern region of the mineral rich country. In Angola the talks were highly centered on trade between the two countries in oil where she promised that US oil firms would give greater helps to other sectors of the Angolan economy.

It is our turn. We must take something. Since this administration took seat, several world leaders and business moguls have paid official visits here. What these visits signals are not in material gains, but the trooping of foreign leaders to our country radiates bright light on our peace and stability and also indicate that the future is brighter. In all, we hope that the gains from our visitors will translate properly to improving the lives of every citizen.

As for President Bush, he promised books and chairs. We don’t know what Obama may promise through Clinton. But like our president jointly said with her counterparts, we need more partnerships, and if the US still believes that we are what many call ‘America’s Stepchild’ then there must be a direct plan to rebuild Liberia like it was done to rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan after World War Two.

In the Cause of Democracy and Social Justice, the Pen Shall Never Run Dry