Liberia: Pres. Weah Resolves to Attend UNGA Virtually

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MONROVIA – At long last, the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), Mr. Ledgerhood Rennie, has finally laid to rest confrontations and speculations surrounding the physical attendance of President George Manneh to the ensuing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York, United States of America (USA).

There has been mounting concerns and speculations over President Weah’s attending the event in the wake of confrontations and misunderstanding between the Ministers of State for Presidential Affairs, and Foreign Affairs Mr. Nathaniel McGill and Mr. Dee Maxwell Kemayah.

The pair was engaged into war of words and traded invectives at one another over the possibility of President Weah attending the event in-person or via zoom.

Minister McGill was reported to have encouraged the Liberian Chief Executive to physically attend the meeting along with scores of other government officials, but his proposal was downplayed following a recommendation from Minister Kemayah for the President to participate in the meeting via the internet.

According to Minister Rennie, President Weah will not attend the event in person this year.

He attributed the decision reached to a request made by the United States government, headed by President Joe Biden, cautioning against the influx of delegates to attend the meeting in the US in the wake of the growing wave of Covid-19 cases in America.

“No, the President (George Manneh Weah) will not be in physical attendance at the UNGA. The US government is concerned about the Covid situation and so, they have asked the United Nations to try to minimize the number of delegations coming from across to New York. The President will make his presentation by zoom this year”.

The United States is currently experiencing a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Minister Rennie stated that President Weah will make his official presentation via zoom, instead of physically appearing in the US to do so.

There are reports that the UN has requested the leaders of few nations from across the African continent and the rest of the world to physically attend the UNGA, downsizing and low-rating President Weah from attending.

But Minister Rennie could neither confirm nor deny the reports.

“I am not aware of that; the United Nations has not requested any President to be a part. But what I know, the decision was reached as a result of the current situation obtaining”.

He claimed that though the UNGA event most often jam-packed New York, the concurrence made by President Weah not to attend with a huge delegation and expend taxpayers’ monies on luxurious hotels as per the United States’ request, is in the best interest of Liberia and its citizens.

The issues

There are reports that the decision taken by the US government to request the UN to restrict the attendance of leaders and others to attend this year’s UNGA is to safeguard the nation and its people from new wave of Covid-19 cases, especially the new Delta variant which remains prevalent in Liberia and other West African countries.

The full vaccination against Covid-19 of those attending the event appears to be a paramount concern of the US government that continues to maximize efforts to defeat the pandemic.

Scores of Liberians and others residing in the country have been expressing concerns over the alleged delay or refusal of President Weah’s to openly take doses of either the AstraZeneca or J and J vaccines against Covid-19, though the vaccines are visible in the post-conflict nation.

Though authorities of the Ministry of Health in Liberia continue to encourage citizens to turn out en masse to take the vaccines, vast majority of Liberians continue to shy away on grounds that President Weah has not played a leadership role to encourage them to do so.

Citizens claimed that the physical appearance of President Weah at one of the public health facilities to take the vaccine against the disease will encourage scores of others to follow suit.

The presentation of Covid-19 clearance by travellers is one of the protocols put in place by US authorities to combat against the spread of Covid-19 in the United States.

Though some government officials of the Liberian government have consistently claimed that President Weah has taken the vaccination against Covid-19 in France, the Liberian leader has failed to make any public pronouncement on the matter.

Critics and political opponents believed that the delay or refusal of President Weah to openly take doses against Covid-19 in his own country prompted the UN to select leaders of other African countries to attend the UNGA over the Liberian leader.

About the UNGA

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), serving as the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN.

Its powers, composition, functions, and procedures are set out in Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter. The UNGA is responsible for the UN budget, appointing the non-permanent members to the Security Council, appointing the Secretary-General of the United Nations, receiving reports from other parts of the UN system, and making recommendations through resolutions.

It also establishes numerous subsidiary organs to advance or assist in its broad mandate. The UNGA is the only UN organ wherein all member states have equal representation.

The General Assembly meets under its president or the UN Secretary-General in annual sessions at UN headquarters in New York City; the main part of these meetings generally run from September to part of January until all issues are addressed (which is often before the next session starts).

It can also reconvene for special and emergency special sessions.

Voting in the General Assembly on certain important questions—namely recommendations on peace and security; budgetary concerns; and the election, admission, suspension or expulsion of members—is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Other questions are decided by a simple majority.

Each member country has one vote. Apart from the approval of budgetary matters, including the adoption of a scale of assessment, Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members.

The Assembly may make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN, except matters of peace and security under the Security Council consideration.

Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly (using coordinating groups like the G77), the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal outlet for their foreign relations initiatives.

Although the resolutions passed by the General Assembly do not have the binding forces over the member nations (apart from budgetary measures), pursuant to its Uniting for Peace resolution of November 1950 (resolution 377 (V)), the Assembly may also take action if the Security Council fails to act, owing to the negative vote of a permanent member, in a case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The Assembly can consider the matter immediately with a view to making recommendations to Members for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.

On rice

Currently, the availability of rice and subsequent purchase appears to be a search for “gold dust” in Liberia. Rice is the nation’s staple food.

Rice distributors and vendors have blamed the situation on the alleged hike in fees being charged at the Freeport of Monrovia by the government and the delay in receiving their various goods.

Warehouses, shops, and other business centers across Monrovia and its environs are seen on a daily basis with rice.

The situation has compelled few other unscrupulous business owners who have the commodity to arbitrarily and unilaterally increase the prices of the different kinds of rice on the local market.

Citizens are also constrained to stand in long queues under the sun or rain to purchase several bags of rice

Minister Rennie reiterated that there is no shortage of rice on the local market, but Liberians should remain patient as government put in place measures to prevent huge profiteering and hoarding of the commodity by unscrupulous business owners.

“Let me start by saying that there is no shortage of rice in Liberia. We have sufficient supply of rice in the country at warehouses at the Freeport of Monrovia to last up to November”.

He pointed out that vessels remain visible at the Freeport of Monrovia awaiting to be offloaded with huge consignments of the country’s staple food.

He noted that the cost of importing rice to Liberia has increase due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus across the world; and said situation does not in any way imply that there is a shortage of the commodity in the country.

Minister Rennie added that wholesalers of the commodity have expressed concern over the situation if they continue to import at a higher transportation cost and sell for fewer amounts.

He added that government is engaging the importers and a decision would be reached before the end of this week to ensure that the commodity is stable and affordable and importers too can make some profits.

 “Rice is a strategic commodity and we understand that and the concerns of the importers. But we are also trying to ensure that profiteering and hoarding happening now do not occur. We are saying that rice remains at US$13 whole sale and US$13.50 cents retail. I know for the fact that we have also received report that is some business people who are increasing the price of rice and are engaged into hoarding”.

Minister Rennie cautioned that the Ministry of Commerce, through its Inspectorate Division, will step up its inspection at various rice trading centers in the country to ensure that huge profiteering to the detriment of consumers is curtailed.

He stressed that there is no need for citizens to panic as government is imploring strategies to ensure a win-win situation for all.

Eat other commodities

Minister Rennie used the medium to encourage Liberians to eat commodities that are produced in their own country.

“We have other commodities that we can eat here; we have our rich Liberian rice, though it is not in high quantity, but it’s available also. We also have cassavas, eddoes and all those kinds of things that are good to supplement our diet”.

He emphasized that as the transportation cost for rice continue to increase on a regular basis, it is prudent enough for citizens to supplement their diet with other commodities that are available in the country, even though Liberia is not producing rice in mass.

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