Report by Lennart Dodoo – [email protected]
“Mr. Dweh’s collusion with Taiwan is the reprint of the previous “checkbook” diplomacy. This is intended to seek personal gains rather than the interest of the country.
As former Speaker of the House, who was a key player in the resolution should have complied with the law, instead of breaking the law just to satisfy his own interest above the Country’s” – Liberian Association of Chinese Trained Scholars
As of 2009, significant amounts of both investment and foreign aid came from China to Liberia.
The PRC broke off relations with Liberia on October 10, 1989 in response to Liberia’s recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Taiwan had offered US$$200 million in aid to Liberia for education and infrastructure in exchange for this recognition.
The PRC reestablished relations with Liberia on August 10, 1993 and opened an embassy in Monrovia, making Liberia one of the few nations which established diplomatic ties to both the PRC and Taiwan.
In 1997, Charles Taylor’s government proclaimed to recognize “two Chinas” and the PRC subsequently severed diplomatic relations. In addition, following the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong, Liberia’s consulate, established during British rule, was forced to close.
Liberia dropped diplomatic relations with Tiawan on October 12, 2003 and reestablished ties with the People’s Republic of China. This move was seen largely as a result of the PRC’s lobbying in the UN and plans to deploy a peacekeeping force in Liberia.
From 2000 to 2011, there were approximately 68 Chinese official development finance projects identified in Liberia through various media reports.
These projects range from renovating and constructing the Fendell Campus for Engineering of the University of Liberia, to a US$10 million contract with the Government of Liberia for the construction of a 100 bedroom hospital in Nimba County in 2008.
In 2014, trade volume between our two countries exceeded US$4250 million, a 74% increase over the year before despite the Ebola strike. China continued to be one of Liberia’s top trading partners, as well as the biggest foreign investor and the top project contractor for Liberia.
The renovation of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, construction of annexes at the Capitol, construction of Ministerial Complex and the recent ground breaking for the renovation of the Roberts Internal Airport are current projects being undertaken by China in Liberia.
George Dweh’s Game
Two separate communications in the possession of FrontPageAfrica dated August 19, 2016 under the letter head: Office of the former Speaker with a signature believed to be George Dweh’s addressed to the President of the Republic of Taiwan requesting the reestablishment of bilateral relations between Liberia and Taiwan averred among other things:
“Your excellency, what I am clearly indicating or driving at is that Taipei should not be intimidated by the presence of China’s diplomatic ties with Liberia or other West African States; then of course, Taiwan will automatically achieve her trade mission desire or objective.”
From the letter in our possession, it was noted that exchange of communications between Dweh and the Taiwanese began in June 2016 when he first made the request.
In an earlier response to Dweh, the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ingwen, through her Chief of Mission accredited to Nigeria, noted that Taiwan as a matter of policy could not establish diplomatic ties with countries whose leaders have similar ties with China.
However, Dweh through his August 19 communication to President Ingwen authoritatively reminded her that “Taiwan needs to decide exactly what she wants in terms of her foreign policy about the diplomatic and trade mission because no one individual has right to interfere into her national and international policy as well as making decision for Taipei concerning her trade mission.”
“In this background, Taiwan need to put into place a mechanism to touch the lives of Africans on a trade economic basis, most especially her presence as a country need to be felt in Liberia vis-à-vis-Africa as a whole by opening these business doors for Liberians to purchase quality but affordable goods of all kinds and also arrange a visa-free program for Liberia business people and citizens to have easy access to entering Taiwan,” the letter stated.
Dweh further advised Taiwan to arrange some direct fights that will transport Liberians and other nationalities to Taiwan under the trade mission to avoid passing through China if necessary.
China’s ‘Fake’ Goods
Dweh tied his argument around substandard Chinese product flooding the Liberian market, noting that such was creating economic hardship not only for Liberia but also the African continent where these products also go.
The Letter: “Your Excellency, you will agree with me that China is supplying a substandard mass production goods to Liberia and Africa in general that is creating economic problem because some of those goods life span is a little over 2-6 months or a year.
That’s why other African countries like Liberia are yearning for Taiwan to come and create a room for competition in accordance with the WTO business arrangement which does not need a monopoly.
“Your Excellency Madam President, Liberia really needs a country that will help its citizens after fifteen (15) years of devastating civil war to improve their livelihood in terms of socio-economic improvement of their lives.
Therefore, Taipei needs to come to Liberia to work side-by-side with the rest of the world including America, China and the EU countries.
“In conclusion, we have confidence and trust in Taiwan’s ability and capability based on some of the goods and services that we have seen in Ghanaian and Nigerian markets. That’s why it will be very much important to consider her trade mission to Liberia and other neighboring countries for her citizens and investors to travel and do business in Liberia and the Mano River Union countries.”
Did China Block Trade Link?
In a separate communication by the former Speaker to the Taiwanese Head of Mission accredited to Nigeria alleged that the Taiwanese Letter of Accreditation sent through offices of the Liberian Ambassador accredited to Nigeria requesting Economic Trade Link Mission between Liberia and Taiwan to promote mutual economic benefits had been blocked by China though said communication was in the offices of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Chinese hindrance, according to Dweh, was for the Government of Liberia not to allow trade link between Liberia and Taiwan to be established.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty signed by Liberia gives Liberia the right as a sovereign state to do business with any country of choice.
He further alleged that he held meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and her principal deputies concerning the issue.
“From where I sit with regard to the background investigation conducted, there is possibility of the mission being established because of my influence and contact at both the Liberian Parliament and within the Executive as a former Speaker of the House of Representatives,” he averred in his communication to the Taiwanese Head of Mission in Abuja, Nigeria.
Government of Liberia’s Response
In a reaction to the letters, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied ever holding meeting with Dweh over bilateral relations or the establishment of trade link with Taiwan.
The government in a statement said: “The government of Liberia takes this matter very seriously and, because of the gravity, has alerted the relevant security agencies to investigate the matter so as to avert a diplomatic faux pas with the friendly government of the People’s Republic of China as well as to determine his motivation for this dubious overture.
“The Government of Liberia reaffirms its commitment to the “One China Policy” and its support to China’s concept of “one country, two systems” and every effort by the Chinese Government to achieve national reunification.”
Liberian-Chinese Scholars React
While the Chinese Embassy in Monrovia is yet to comment on the issue, the Liberian Association of Chinese Trained Scholars (LACTS) in a statement said it takes serious exception to the communications written by former Speaker Dweh to the authorities of Taiwan, which according to them, was in total disregard of the One-China policy resolution signed into law by the National Transitional Legislative Assembly which Mr. Dweh ever served as Speaker.
“It beats our imagination to see the former Speaker who was part of the law making to be the one breaking the law. We are therefore calling on all Liberians to condemn this selfish act by Mr. Dweh which is tantamount to derailing the cordial relationship between Liberia and China….”
“Mr. Dweh’s collusion with Taiwan is the reprint of the previous ‘checkbook’ diplomacy. This is intended to seek personal gains rather than the interest of the country. As former Speaker of the House, who was a key player in the resolution should have complied with the law, instead of breaking the law just to satisfy his own interest above the Country’s.
As John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address in 1961 ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’.
We believe that such behavior by Mr. Dweh has the propensity to undermine the friendship between the two countries (China-Liberia relation),” they asserted.
Who Is George Dweh?
Despite widespread resistance to his appointment amidst allegations of his involvement in numerous massacres, Dweh served as Speaker of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly of Liberia (NTLA) from October 2003 to 14 March 2005, when he was suspended from the body after being accused of financial mismanagement and corruption.