Liberia: Lebanese Worry over Liberia’s ‘Long Bureaucracies’

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MONROVIA – The president of the World Lebanese Culture Union has called on the government of Liberia to review regulations that directly affect the Lebanese community while expressing support for President George Weah’s call to amend the country’s citizenship law.

Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni / [email protected]

Ahmad Wazni says the number of Lebanese in Liberia has significantly reduced since the 1990s mainly due to “long bureaucracies in government.”

Before the civil war erupted in 1990, Wazin recalled that were an estimated 20,000 Lebanese in the country but the figure has “dwindled considerably to under 4,000 today”.

“While the civil conflict superimposed by social challenges such as inadequate health care and education facilities has contributed to the exodus [but] the most singular challenge is the long bureaucracies in governance including the areas that directly affect the Lebanese community,” he said.

“This includes the regulations regarding entry and reentry, resident permit, work permit, business registration – all of which are issue of periods that demand annual application for renewal. The process of securing and renewing these documents and the challenges creates a crisis of confidence and disincentives for the investment in Liberia.”

Wazni was speaking at the 176th anniversary of the independence of Lebanon held at the country’s embassy in Monrovia.

An array of top government officials including House Speaker Bhofel Chambers, Pro Temp Albert Chie, Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Findley attended the event.

“Accordingly, we called upon the government to review its laws and regulations directed to non-Liberians and the business community in general so as to make Liberia more business friendly and to create an enabling environment for foreign investors,” said Wazni.
The World Lebanese Culture Union leader expressed commitment to establishing “effective linkages” between members of the union and Liberians in order to enhance social, economic and cultural integration and collaboration.

Wazni said a committee, comprising of prominent Liberians and Lebanese, has been setup to establish a framework for the revitalization of the Liberia-Lebanese friendship association, which will serve as a vehicle to augment the collaboration between the two peoples.

Despite the progress of the union made so far in the country, Wazi was also stressed the challenges of Lebanese community, which he says undermines the union’s effective contribution to the social and economic development of the country.

The Lebanese community is involved with a number of activities to enhance the fundamental core of the union, he said.

The union has also established a functioning secretariat, renovated the Lebanese embassy in Sinkor, Monrovia and has provided substantial assistance through several charity organizations funded by members of the union.

A scholarship fund has been set up for deserving students of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law of the University of Liberia.

At the same time, the president of the Lebanese union has reemphasized the need to amend the Liberian Constitution so as to give citizenship to Lebanese who were born in the country.

“Many of us here [are] referred to as Lebanese; we’re actually born in this country, went to school here, and have lived here for our lives and it is in Liberia that we intend to live until God call us to rest,” he said.

Wazni said although they are of Lebanese heritage “in our hearts, we are Liberians and Liberia is the only place that we know well. It is Liberia that we call home.”

“We welcome the call by President George Weah, which proffers Constitutional amendment to grant citizenship to all persons including people of non-negro descendant.”

He says amending the law will enhance the country’s development and “we all will have a stake in the future of Liberia and create an enabling environment in which rights and freedom are not measure by the color of our skin and parental heritage.”

He also called on members of the Lebanese community to remain law-abiding and be “honorable residents” of Liberia and encouraged them to “cultivate and nurture friendly and harmonious relationship” with the government and people of Liberia based on mutual trust, respect for human rights, and continue to contribute to the development of the country.

Henry Kastoun, Lebanese Ambassador to Liberia, recalled that the bonds between the two countries date as far back to 1890 and said Liberia has given Lebanese “many opportunities and they are also willing to invest here more.”He said Lebanese born in Liberia don’t only see the country as a business place, but as a “second home” and for some of them Liberia is their home.

He also said that Lebanon is enjoying “sustainable political, economic, security and social stability, and is on the edge of a new phase of growth and prosperity.”

iberia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzongar Findley lauded the “wonderful relationship” between the two countries, while recalling that the first Lebanese touched down on the shores of Liberia 118 years ago and since then the relationship between the two countries has continued to be nurtured.“The Lebanese community has contributed tremendously to the economy of Liberia’s economy and we want to acknowledge the contribution they have made over the years – the social contribution that they have made to Liberia,” said the Foreign Minister.

Findley then recognized the presence of Lebanese with Liberian characteristics in the country, saying; “I see a lot of Lebanese who were born in Liberia, who grew up in Liberia… We know a lot of you that have been here for many years, worked towards enhancing growth and development in Liberia.”

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