Biden Aide: ‘America Cannot Fight Liberia’s Corruption’

A senior aide to United States President Joe Biden has cited one of the reasons for Liberia’s backwardness, being that leaders choose their short-term gain over the long-term benefit of their country.

Dana Banks, who works as a Special Assistant to Biden, and also served as Senior Director for Africa at the National Security Council, said while the United States remains a dedicated partner and friend to Liberia, it has observed that too many of Liberia’s leaders have chosen their short-term gain over the long-term benefit of their country.

This, she said, is an act of robbery — robbing Liberia’s citizens of access to health care, public safety, and education.
“Corruption is an act of robbery. It robs you of the healthy business environment we all know Liberia could have, which would lift countless Liberians out of poverty,” warned Dana, who headed the US Presidential Delegation to attend the Liberia Bicentennial Celebrations in Monrovia, on February 14. “It subverts economic opportunity, exacerbates inequality, and erodes integrity. It eats away at the democracy you have worked so hard to build.”
Banks expressed the belief that too many Liberian leaders have engaged in corruption with the expectation that the United States and the rest of the international community will step in to solve Liberia’s long-term problems.

She bluntly warned that, as things stand, the fight against corruption and demand for accountability and transparency now rests in the hands of Liberians if they envision moving their country forward.

According to her, Liberia has a host of anti-corruption institutions and, while they are nominally and legally independent from the Government of Liberia, the truth is that the government fails to adequately fund them and exerts its influence upon them.

“Let me be clear. The United States is a proud and dedicated partner and friend of Liberia. But ultimately, only the Liberian Government and the Liberian people can tackle corruption, fight for accountability and transparency, and move this country forward,” she said. “Still, in the meantime, we will continue our strong and unique partnership for taking on all kinds of challenges — especially on issues that affect us all like climate change and the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Bicentennial, which Dana and others are here to celebrate, is a year-long event that marks the return of the Africans freed from slavery in the United States back to Africa and settling on Providence Island, leading to the creation of present-day Liberia.

On February 6, 1820, the first group of formerly enslaved people in the United States to resettle in Africa departed from New York. An organization called the American Colonization Society, with funding from Congress, had been established to return them to Liberia, in West Africa. Kidnapping and enslaving people from Africa had been abolished in the United States in 1808.

The Bicentennial Commemoration is being held under the theme, “Liberia: The Land of Return – Commemorating 200 Years of Freedom and Pan-African Leadership”, while the slogan is, “The Lone Star Forever, Stronger Together.”

It signifies the important historical milestones achieved by the country since it was founded in 1822 and the strong and longstanding ties between Liberia and the United States of America.

Banks, on behalf of Biden, said that it is important that Liberia celebrate the 200th anniversary of free Black men, women, and children from the United States arriving on Providence Island as they left a country that legalized slavery.

“They were sponsored, in part, by the American Colonization Society, a racist project — supported even by the Great Emancipator himself, President Abraham Lincoln — to remove free Black people from America. It was a hard journey, and even harder life for those who arrived. But we know why they made the journey. As it says upon your coat of arms, ‘the love of liberty brought us here,” Dana noted.
“When I think about what it must have felt like for those first free people arriving to establish Monrovia — feelings of apprehension, nervousness, excitement, returning to a home they’d never known — I can’t help but reflect on the deep, strong, historical ties between the United States and Liberia — the very ties we are here today to reflect upon and commemorate,” she added.

Banks however noted that America, after 169 years since recognizing Liberia as a sovereign state in 1862, remains committed to the U.S.-Liberian relationship. She stressed that despite troubling events elsewhere in the world, the U.S. President sent a delegation on his behalf to demonstrate the unique bond that the United States shares with the founding of Liberia.

“Today, on President Biden’s behalf, we have presented President Weah with a framed archival copy of the 1861 Act recognizing Liberia as a sovereign nation,” she said. “In my short time here, I have been struck by the warmth and kindness of the Liberian people. Although I have only been here a few hours — after an absence of nearly 15 years — it has felt like a homecoming.”

Meanwhile, Banks has disclosed that Liberia is a country where the sense of purpose to succeed is tangible — from finding the strength and grace to leave behind nearly a decade and a half of civil war, to making history by electing the first female head of state not just for Liberia, but in all of Africa — a milestone, I might add, we have yet to achieve in my own country.”

She, however, noted that Liberia has overcome its divisions and built a democracy from the bottom up in a time when the world is seeing democratic setbacks and a rash of dangerous coups across Africa; thus making Liberia stands as an important example of democratic elections and peaceful transitions of power.

She said: “You then went on to have a peaceful transition of power, from one democratically elected president to another democratically elected president — an achievement to be proud of. You have made progress on empowering the free press by the decriminalization of defamation and insult.”

According to Banks, Liberia, like many democracies, still has work to do to seriously address and root out corruption and that the U.S. is raising the issue “up as your friends who are eager to help.”

She noted that despite the difficult and weighty challenges confronting the country, she hopes that Liberia, with its persistent people and firm belief in democracy — a people whose love of liberty brought them here — will once again succeed.


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