Monrovia – Despite holding the second most powerful position in Liberia, Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor still faces hitches when applying for visa to travel to the United States of America.
The latest is the issuance of a restricted visa by the US Embassy near Monrovia to the Vice President, who was due to attend the 62nd Session of the Commission of Women (CSW) taking place at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Howard-Taylor was expected to deliver special remarks at the CWS on Monday, March 19, but many Liberians at home and even in the diaspora were taken aback to see First Lady, Clar Weah, performing the function alongside Gender Minister, Wilhelmina Piso Saydee-Tarr.
FrontPageAfrica has gathered from an impeccable diplomatic source that the Vice President was angered by the restrained placed on her movement should she have travelled to the US.
She then opted to turn down the invitation to speak at the event and at the same time asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to look into the matter, our source said.
“She was issued a near belated and restricted visa which would have limited her to the Conference. She refused to travel on a restricted visa and is seeking clarification through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ,” the source added.
The diplomatic source further told FPA that not only did the visa restrain her movement; it was also intended to last for only a week.
The director of communications in the Office of the Vice President confirmed to frontPageAfrica that Madam Taylor was issued the visa, but admitted that it was delayed.
“The Vice President was in Ghana when the visa was issued."
"I’m aware that the visa was delayed. I’m not aware that her visa was restricted."
"I’m aware that she would be leaving for the States. I’m not aware exactly when she would be leaving,” said Solomon Ware in a mobile chat on Tuesday evening.
FrontPageAfrica has gathered that almost all members of the Vice President’s delegation to the CSW were issued visa while her passport was still being held by the embassy.
Prior to the issuance of the Visa, the Liberian media raised concerns over the delay by the U.S. Embassy and made several inquiries over the delay.
The Embassy, after remaining mute over media inquiries for a week, later issued a release last week stating, “Following inquiries from some media institutions about a U.S. Visa issue concerning Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, herein is the response of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia.
The U.S. privacy laws prohibit us from discussing any person’s visa application status, immigration status, or citizenship status with anyone other than the person in question.”
Madam Taylor had often had issues with traveling to the United States since the United Nations lifted her travel ban and other sanctions against her and 16 other closed associates of jailed former President Charles Taylor in July 2012.
Howard-Taylor told the BBC's Focus on Africa program that year that her international isolation meant she had to live like a "fish in a small bowl".
"It was quite difficult," she said. "If I had a chance i'll probably go to Israel and praise God."
But later in 2012, her delayed visa to accompany former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the UN General Assembly raised a lot of eye brows with many believing that it required Madam Sirleaf’s intervention to ensure that she acquired the U.S. visa.
At the height of the 2017 elections, Howard-Taylor was recorded in an interview stating that if the CDC is elected, the ‘Taylor agenda’ would be brought back to the table.
Addressing reporters in Saclepea, Nimba County, Senator Howard-Taylor said although former President Taylor is not involved in Liberian politics, she believes that the NPP he created is a grassroot party that made promises to its citizens since 1997.
“Because of what happened in our government and the abrupt closure and arrest of former President Taylor, we were not able to fulfill those promises,” she said.
Her comments sparked some concerns in the international community, with the US Congress condemning external interference in the election, including any communication or action by former armed faction leader and convicted warlord Charles Taylor to influence the elections from prison.
Issuing restricted visa is not unique to Vice President Taylor. Several former heads of state have also been given a 25-mile restriction while visiting the United States.
Many of these officials and their countries were experiencing sour diplomatic relations with Washington, which apparently resulted the restriction.
Amongst them were former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and Syria’s UN delegation, headed by Bashar al-Jaafari.
North Korean and Iranian diplomats were also restricted to a 25-mile radius of the Columbus Intersection in Manhattan that same year.
The United States did not give reason for the travel ban, but State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said that such travel limits were not unheard of.
“UN delegates of certain countries are required to notify us or obtain permission prior to travel outside of a 25-mile radius. So this is not something out of the realm of what we’ve done before,” she told reporters in Washington.
25-Mile Restriction Not New
Bashar al-Jaafari (2014)
The US State department banned the movement of Syria’s UN delegation, headed by Bashar al-Jaafari, to stay within a 25-mile (40 km) radius of New York City.
Jaafari has served as Syria’s envoy to the UN since 2006 and has been an unwavering supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the protracted civil war.
Cuban Diplomats (2007)
Two Cuban diplomats were restricted to 25-mile radius from Columbus Circle in New York City, in order to participate in an informal meeting of the Working Group on the Crime of Aggression, chaired by the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein at Princeton University.
Javad Zarif, Iran Ambassador to UN (2007)
Mr. Zarif was the United Nations ambassador from Iran, a country that has had no diplomatic relations with the United States since 1980, and he is confined by the American authorities within a 25-mile radius of Columbus Circle.
Former President Mugabe (2017)
Former Zimbabwen President Robert Mugabe could not go beyond a 25-mile radius of New York City while attending the UN General Assembly in 2017. The restriction was imposed by the State Department due to sanctions imposed on him in 2010.