Weah’s Inaugural Speech Highlights His Gov’t Diplomatic Strategy
Monrovia – Liberia’s new President kicked off his administration by showing indications of the trend his international relations would take.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni – [email protected]
Perhaps, George Weah has been learning from his predecessor – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – whose relationship with the rest of the world flourished for 12 years.
Pres. Weah’s inaugural address on Monday, January 22, hinted at how he perceives diplomacy with major countries and partners, and the path his administration would thread for the next six years.
He lauded the ‘strong historic’ ties with the United States, the ‘critical’ support from the European Union and China, for being one of Liberia’s ‘most dependable allies’.
It was a savvy move on his first day standing on a Presidential podium and being watched by foreign leaders.
Liberia’s relationship with the U.S goes back to the West African nation’s founding, but it is the influence that Washington has over Monrovia that has often eclipsed the magnitude of the two-way diplomacy.
Nevertheless, staying the course is pivotal for Mr. Weah’s international policy regardless President Donald Trump’s disdainful views about African countries.
“The Republic of Liberia has a strong historic relationship with the United State of America, which has manifested itself and that relationship will even be stronger under my administration,” he said.
It’s a task that would heavily rely on lobbying and spending money.
Now, the appointment of Gbehzongar Findley, a former senator, flings suspicions over the administration’s choice of its top diplomat. How he would proffer Liberia’s international policy with other nations remains unknown.
Little is known of the former Grand Bassa County Senator’s diplomatic skill set. However, such aptness would definitely be highly required the soonest.
Meanwhile, Weah has acknowledged the roles of several other international partners including the United Nations – that help resuscitated Liberia’s crumbled sectors following years of civil unrest.
“Ending a peacekeeping mission successfully is something in which all Liberians and her partners should take great pride,” he said, while promising to continue building on the gains.
Mentioning the three diplomatic partners was a salient move by the new Liberian leader since he would have to cling onto their support to get his government on the right footing.
“We hope our international development partners will assist us in this transformation,” Weah said, thanking them for the “invaluable contributions” to Liberia’s peace and economic development.
In the coming weeks, the President would perhaps be meeting top officials of Liberia’s three most influential diplomatic partners. And he would have to put forward his own agenda on the table and ask them for their support.
At the other end of the table, they will be making their own requests.
Diplomacy is a win-win situation and it is also coated with interests, so asking must also be reciprocated. Weah needs foreign influential partners more to get his government off its feet, as the economic climate for the country remains appalling.
Liberia has always relied on aide. It’s a bad syndrome, but for now, without it the country would plunge into further destitution.
The US, EU and China contribute the highest to Liberia’s development.
Former President Sirleaf had set the pace, so following her footprints with new vigour, Weah should enhance deepening ties.
He seems cognizant of staying the course although he would have to mature along the way learning the competing international interests of Liberia’s foreign partners.
In Europe, Weah has a strong bond – where he thrived as a soccer star.
“It was my success in European football that enabled me to give back to my beloved country. Europe will always have a special place in my heart, and, as President, I intend to strengthen my relationship with the European community for the benefit of all Liberians,” he said.
Howbeit, he has to reinvent his personality now as the President of a developing nation in order to solidify relationship on that continent.
Signalling out China at the SKD Sports Complex has earned him a pretty good rating and should be rewarding move. Recognizing the World’s second largest economy and it holds sedately gives Weah leverage and a possible seat at a table with Xi Jinping in Beijing.
His acknowledging the ‘One China Policy’ and professing his support for Chinese-Liberian relationships to grow stronger during his tenure would solidify consistence between Monrovia-Beijing collaborations.
In his inaugural address, Weah was also sensitive to the ties Liberia enjoys with other friendly nations and international organizations including the UN, ECOWAS and African union.
“To other bi-lateral and multi-lateral partners, I say a sincere thank you! The World Bank, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Norway, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, to name too few, has also played important roles in Liberia’s emergence from conflict and will remain critical for the transformation.”
Obviously, the Liberian leader is aware of the challenges he has inherited. But he knows the international community can help his administration salvage the broken economy, which he said, would require “huge investments in agriculture, infrastructure, in human capital, and in technology.” It would be no “quick fixes”, as he states.
The three top international partners have massive capacity to help shape the pro-poor agenda of the new administration, but Liberia’s new chief executive must manage his foreign policy meticulously amongst US, China and his second love – Europe.