The Go vernments of Liberia and Saudi Arabia have exchange note for the supply of rice worth US$500,000 to victims of disasters and vulnerable Liberian citizens, with a caveat against distributing the offer to public officials in the country.
By Obediah Johnson
The signing ceremony, which was characterized with a display of the sample of the rice, took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia on Friday, February 10.
Mr. Nasser M. Alsubaie signed on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, while Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Adonnies Greaves signed on behalf of the Liberian government.
The distribution of the rice is expected to be done by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) of Liberia.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, Mr. Alsubaie disclosed that his government will provide over 29,000 bags of 25kilograms rice to the Liberian government.
He pointed out that the gesture was in fulfillment of a request made to his government by Liberia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dee Maxwell Kemayah.
He stated that in the next two months the donated rice will be delivered to the Liberian government for onward distribution to the beneficiaries.
Mr. Alsubaie further disclosed that a local company operating in Liberia, Fouta Corporation, has been selected to supply the rice to the Liberian government.
“We are happy to be in Liberia for the first time and this will not be the last time. On behalf of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabiawe will provide food assistance to the government and people of Liberia. We want to express special thanks to His Excellency Ambassador Dee. Maxwell Saah Kemayah for facilitating our mission. We appreciate him.”
He also heaped praises on his government for seeing the need to identify with Liberia and its citizens during these difficult times.
For his part, Liberia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dee Maxwell Kemayah pointed out that in pursuant of the vision of President George Manneh Weah as enshrined in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) he engaged the Saudi government on food assistance and the renovation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Liberia.
“In line with the directives of the President of the Republic of Liberia, we initiated series of ongoing engagements with our bilateral partners and friends including, but not limited to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
He recalled that while en route to Yamasoukro, Ivory Coast for an Independence Day celebration on August 6 last year, he engaged and held a bilateral meeting with the Saudi Ambassador accredited to Liberia, with residence in Abidjan.
He added that as part of the discussions, he requested the Saudi government to aid Liberia to renovate the building housing the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the construction of a new ministry to meet present day realities, and food assistance for the people of Liberia.
“Our request for food assistance was to enable a prompt response by the government to would-be victims of disaster related situations as well as those within the bloc of vulnerabilities. The bilateral discussions were and in October, a communication from the Saudis came informing me that the requests made for the renovation of the Foreign Ministry and food assistance were granted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Minister Kemayah disclosed that the Liberian government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was later requested by the Saudis to provide a bank account for the deposit of the amount of US$2million and US$500,000 respectively that were approved for the renovation of the ministry and food assistance.
He said a focal point person, the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Adonnies Greaves, was appointed to work out the technicalities with the Saudi government for the actualization of the two grants.
He noted that the Liberian government was also requested to identify the sample of rice to be imported to Liberia and work out the modalities for the rice to be distributed to the needy.
How NDMA was selected?
Minister Kemayah disclosed that the Saudis were informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in keeping with its reform agenda, is not involved into the distribution of food and as such, the relevant agency of the Liberian government will take cease of the distribution exercise.
“Without even informing the Executive Director of the agency, we informed the Saudis that the NDMA is an agency responsible for food distribution and the rice should be channeled through the NDMA for them to carry on the distribution even though we will be carrying on our facilitation role.”
He said in a bid to promote coordination among governmental functionaries, the Minister of Agriculture was also asked to request the brand of rice to be given by the Saudi government.
Following the submission of the specifications, he noted, that the Executive Director of the NDMA Mr. Henry Williams was later informed about the involvement of the agency into the project.
Minister Kemayah furthered that he insisted to the government of Saudi Arabia for the US$500,000 to be spent in Liberia through the purchase of rice from a local company in keeping with the President’s agenda to ensure the growth of the Liberian economy through the participation of the locals.
“We discussed with them for locally produced rice farmers to be a part to boost our agriculture sector. They informed me that the contacts and efforts they made to purchase locally rice locally, those efforts had a challenge. The challenge was that, the farmers were asking for one year to be able to produce the quantity of rice that they needed. But the representation I made to the government of Saudi Arabia was a representation of urgency.”
As a result of this, he added that the Saudis and the Liberian government decided to find another alternative within a two-month period to actualize the gesture.
He said it was finally resolved that the rice be procured and purchased in Liberia, adding that, “the Saudis, through their own process, selected Fouta Corporation to supply the rice.”
“We appreciate the prompt response to the request I made to the Saudis on behalf of the government and people of Liberia. We will appreciate further collaboration with the government through the King’s Humanitarian Foundation and the government of Saudi Arabia as a whole for cooperation to ensure local production of rice which is our staple food. I requested the Assistant minister to sign the exchange of note because he has been working assiduously on this project.”
Minister Keemayah emphasized that the high level of transparency and accountability under his watch at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should also be implored during the distribution of the rice to the beneficiaries, stressing that, “he Ministry of Foreign Affairs under my watch remains pivotal and uncompromising.”
No single grain for public officials
“When I invited the Executive Director of the NDMA at my office, I told him that Mr. Executive Director, this US$500,000 rice I’m telling you about-it is not a favor that I am doing for you through my efforts as Minister; it is part of my duties and responsibilities and do not think to bring one grain of rice to say that we made the arrangement. I said not me-and nobody from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or in the public sector. Every grain Mr. Executive Director you receive is for would-be victims of disaster related situations and others in the category of vulnerability.”
He said the message of transparency, accountability, responsiveness, hard work, equal opportunity for all remain the hallmark of his administration.
“When you promote the interest of the Liberian people, transparency and accountability, we will flow. Mr. Executive Director, one grain (of that rice) is not for any public officials. When we do that, it becomes encouraging.”
Minister Kemayah stressed that bilateral and donor partners will be discouraged from contributing to the growth and development of Liberia and its citizens, if those trusted to carry out their sponsored projects or initiatives are dishonest.
Will complain to the President
Minister Kemayah stated that upholding the values of public service must be adhered to by all public officials in Liberia.
He vowed to complain to President Weah any public official who harasses the head of the NDMA to benefit from the rice donated by Saudi Arabia to Liberia.
He stressed that the essence of public service is to work in the interest of the public and as such, he will continue to work on behalf of the government and people of Liberia, regardless of criticisms and verbal attacks.
Minister Kemayah said though physical things or initiatives will not be spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ministry played a pivotal role to actualize many of the developmental initiatives and assistances Liberia and its citizens are currently benefiting from.
No exploiting interest of Liberians
“We are not into the place the car goes, that the place we are and because we made it to come, we should get. We are not into those things. This is why my name is always on the radio and social media. But I don’t mind. When it becomes necessarily imperative to implore expediency in the interest of the Liberian people, as Minister, we will implore such. We will not hide under the cover of the law or legality to engage into actions to exploit the Liberian people.”
“Whatever decision that I need to make as Minister that becomes necessarily imperative with respect to expediency, we will implore it to the best interest of the Liberian people. We will not be carried away by the “it is the law”.No, it is the interest of the Liberian people. Those who made the law-I’m not a lawyer. But their intent was for the good of the society and the citizens.”
Also speaking, Liberia’s Agriculture Minister Madam Jeanine Cooper welcomed the donation made by the government of Saudi Arabia, through the humanitarian foundation of its King.
She described the move as a “start of a new relationship.”
She said though the Liberian government previously hoped that the rice would be supplied by local farmers in Liberia, the timing was not appropriate because, of the swiftness attach to the grant from the Saudis.
Minister Cooper, however, expressed the hope that local Liberian farmers will be prioritized for additional donations of rice from the Saudis government in the future.
“They have taken their time to not just send the money and say ‘do it.’ But they have decided to sit down and work with processors, producers and the local company at the time that we need it the most. This grant did not allow for full local participation in terms of producers, but this is a start of a relationship.”
Minister Cooper expressed delight that the gesture is being implemented by the NDMA
“This effort by Minister Kemayah will be remembered because to cater to the needs of victims of disasters is not an easy task,” Also the Executive Director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) of Liberia Henry Williams stated.
He attributed the fulfillment of the rice grant to Liberia to the credibility of the Weah led-administration.
According to him, the gesture from the Saudis will enable the agency to adequately cater to disaster victims and vulnerable Liberians residing in the country.
“We want to recognize the partnership and friendship of the Saudis government because; a friend in need is a friend in deed. We are in need and you came to our aid and so, we want to say thank you.”
Mr. Williams stressed the need for Liberia to see the rice grant from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a furtherance of its relationship with the Arab nation.
He committed to ensuring that the agency would carry out the distribution in an honest and transparent manner.