MONROVIA – Liberia, a founding member of the African Union, Organization of African Unity at the time, was last year relegated from full member to just an observer – a decision which was triggered by the accumulation of unpaid dues that caused Africa’s oldest nation to lose its voting right at the continental body.
The Africa Union in 2016 decided on the need for equitable and predictable funding source to finance the Union so as to reduce dependency while implementing development and integration programs on the Continent. Each country is, therefore, required to make regular financial contributions to the Union, based on assessment of its capacity.
In November 2018, the African Union held an Extraordinary Summit on Institutional Reforms in Addis Ababa to address, among other things, the issue of due (assessed contribution) payment. At the meeting, the AU decided to impose sanctions on member states who do not pay 50% of their assessed contributions within six months.
According to the AU, such states will be deprived their right to take the floor or make any contributions in the meetings of the African Union. Three different forms of sanctions on defaulting member states were agreed, based on the length of the period of payment default: The three sanction packages are as follows:
Cautionary, which is “applied to member states who do not pay 50% of their assessed contributions within six months. Such states will be deprived their right to take the floor or make any contributions in the meetings of the African Union”
Intermediate sanctions which “shall apply to members who are in arrears for one year. In this instance, the member states shall be suspended from being a member of a Bureau of any organ of the Union; host any organ, institution or office of the Union; lose the right to have their nationals participate in electoral observations missions, human rights observation missions and will not be invited to meetings organized by the Union and further, such states will not have their nationals appointed as staff members, consultants, volunteers or interns at the African Union.”
Liberia Owed US$1.6 Million
Liberia, however, fell short of its financial obligations to the Union resulting to a debt of US$1.6 million which accumulated over a period of three years up to 2020.
President George Weah had inherited a debt of US$400,000 to the Union when he assumed office in 2018 but failed to make any payment up to 2020 prompting the imposition of sanction on Liberia.
Liberia had also struggled with meeting up with every single report to be submitted to the AU. These reports are the core responsibilities of being a member country. Some of these reports were either submitted beyond the deadline and some not submitted at all.
The comprehensive sanctions imposed on Liberia did not only affect the government but individual Liberian citizens who cannot be employed within the AU as staff members, consultants and interns. Liberians could not take part in AU Observation missions. in 2019, a qualified Liberian who had applied for the position of Political Affairs Officer at the AU Office at the UN was disqualified from further consideration because of the sanction on Liberia.
Liberia Back on Track
On Tuesday, Liberia’s Foreign Minister disclosed that the country has fully fulfilled its financial obligation to the pan-African body. This disclosure comes ahead of the African Union’s 34th Ordinary Session of Heads of State which is scheduled to take place from February 3-7.
It will be held virtually under the auspices of the AU’s current Chairperson, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The meeting will be on the theme “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want,” in support of efforts to showcase the significant contribution of the rich and diverse African heritage, as an essential tool for bringing about sustainable development, integration, and peace in Africa.
Minister Kemayah, according to the Ministry of Information, thanked President George Weah, through whose leadership he said the needed funds to settle the 2021 contribution and the legacy arrears which accumulated and were assessed in 2020 were made available. He reaffirmed the Weah Administration’s commitment to settling the country’s financial obligations to International and continental institutions. “Settling our financial obligations signals that Liberia takes its role and responsibilities seriously as a member in the international system”, the Minister said.
During the upcoming Session, the Heads of State are expected to receive reports and debate on matters of continental priority, including reports on the Institutional Reforms of the Union and the AU Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.