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|Welcome to "Ask the State Department" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to State Department officials.
Jendayi E. Frazer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs led an online discussion regarding what events in Liberia mean to the advancement of democracy and prosperity in Africa and how they are tied to President Bush's strategy for global peace and security.
Jendayi E. Frazer
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
February 23, 2006
On January 16, 2006, Africa inaugurated its first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as President of Liberia. I was honored to accompany First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to witness President Sirleaf's inauguration. This election is especially meaningful after the 14 years of civil strife that lasted in Liberia until 2003. The United States has been intensively engaged with Liberia and international partners in helping to restore democracy. These efforts culminated in national elections in October and November 2005.
Liberia has a special place in American history as the country was founded in 1820 by freed slaves who returned to the African continent from the United States. Liberians also feel a special kinship with the United States, not only because of the role of Americans and Americo-Liberians in establishing an independent nation in 1847. Many important political, cultural and socio-economic ties remain to this day.
I welcome your questions about what events in Liberia mean to the advancement of democracy and prosperity in Africa and how they are tied to President Bush's strategy for global peace and security.
The U.S. was instrumental not only in ending the Taylor regime but also in stabilizing Liberia and ushering in democracy. Now that there is a democratically elected president, how soon will the U.S. government begin bilateral programs to jumpstart the economy and infuse some public funds into the Sirleaf government and not crumble because of unfulfilled promises?
Thank you, A.D. The United States is already funding programs to jumpstart Liberia 's economy. The U.S. is the largest bilateral donor in Liberia . We contributed over $880 million in the last two fiscal years (FY04 and FY05) for Liberia . We are planning another $270 million for fiscal year 2006, making a total of some $1.16 billion for fiscal years 2004-06. Our efforts will focus on three specific areas: providing stability and security; economic management, including the Governance and Economic Management and Assistance Program (GEMAP) which will bring about transparency in the budget process and financial management of Liberia 's resources; and democratic governance, rule of law, civilian police and judicial systems.
Liberia will continue to be a priority for President Bush's Africa policy, and we will continue to devote significant resources to Liberia in the coming years. We have asked Congress for over $250 million for Liberia in FY06. The FY07 request will likely be similar. Our goal is to help restore Liberia 's economy so that Liberia , standing on its own two feet, can benefit from trade and investment.
As for timing, we have already allocated nearly $6 million in Fiscal Year 2006 funds for quick-impact projects that will build roads, renovate hospitals, schools, and government buildings, and provide jobs for Liberians, especially former child combatants.
Will the U.S. ever seek to have Charles Taylor tried for his actions during the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone ?
F.J., yes the United States is seeking to hold Charles Taylor accountable for his actions in the region. We have always said that Charles Taylor should face justice. We continue our diplomatic efforts with President Sirleaf, President Obasanjo, and regional leaders to ensure their support on getting Taylor to face the charges brought against him by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
We have raised the issue with a number of countries bilaterally as well as with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). We have also worked closely within the UN Security Council (UNSC) and scored a major victory late last year with UNSCR 1638. That Resolution authorized the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to apprehend Taylor if he returns to Liberia and transfer him to the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone .
Would you be so kind to provide U.S. foreign policy concerns as they relate to the U.S. arms embargo on Liberia ? Many thanks.
Norma, the arms embargo on Liberia is mandated by the United Nations, specifically UN Security Council Resolution 1521 of December 2003. This is similar to the UN arms embargo on neighboring Côte d'Ivoire, which is helping to stop the flow of arms that has fueled the conflict in that country. These arms embargoes are important mechanisms for the international community to cut off the sources of weapons in conflicts in West Africa . In Liberia , given its fragile situation, the embargo has not yet been lifted.
In what ways is the U.S. government working with the new government of Liberia to build an economic plan that will promote social and economic stability for the nation and help build stronger economic ties between the two nations? Additionally, what measures, if any, are being taken to foster collaboration and co-development between African-American owned businesses and Liberian businesses?
Thanks for the questions, Dan. We are working to re-establish strong trade ties between the U.S. and Liberia . This is the key to Liberia rebuilding itself with investment, creating jobs and growth.
The U.S. Government, on our own initiative, just conducted a review of Liberia 's eligibility for benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Liberia lost GSP benefits in 1990 because of problems in its labor laws and labor conditions. Our review found that Liberia was making good progress in correcting those problems and President Bush granted Liberia GSP eligibility earlier this week. (Feb. 22)
GSP eligibility is the first step on the way toward benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which grants preferential status to certain African exports, and toward a number of other U.S. trade benefits and measures intended to strengthen U.S. investment in Liberia .
As for African American businesses investing in Liberia , we encourage forming partnerships. Moreover, we encourage all American businesses to take advantage of the new opportunities to invest in Liberia and urge them to become partners in Liberia 's development.
How do you rate the ongoing electoral process in Uganda with the upkeep of democracy in Africa ? Do you believe the non-militarization of the electoral process such as the recent Liberian election would provide a better prospect for the sustenance of democracy than the blind blanket support for all Africa's U.S. allies like Congo's Mobutu, Kenya's Moi, and Uganda's Museveni have turned out as historic and monumental tyrants?
Jesse, I'm sorry you have such a negative view of the electoral process in Africa . Liberia 's elections last fall were certainly a success. The United States devoted some $10 million to help Liberians ensure that their elections were free and fair. We continue to support elections all over Africa with financial and technical support.