Washington D.C. – Former leaders of the Press Union of Liberia, Gabriel I.H. Williams and Emmanuel D. Abalo, who are now residents in the United States have raised concerns over the deteriorating conditions at the Embassy of Liberia in Washington, D.C.
In a joint press release issued yesterday, they highlighted the disruptive effects of recent diplomatic recalls and terminations calling attention to the potential consequences for critical embassy functions.
The former leaders have raised the alarm over what they describe as the “partially paralyzed” operations at the Liberian Embassy since the government of President George M. Weah recalled several diplomatic personnel with immediate effect in August 2023.
Furthermore, they noted that several other diplomatic personnel are expected to depart the U.S. due to the US State Department’s decision to terminate or no longer accept the accreditation of certain Liberian diplomats by the end of the year.
Of primary concern is the abrupt manner in which the government’s recall was executed, without consideration for the orderly transition of diplomatic personnel to ensure the transfer of knowledge and policy continuity.
One of the key issues highlighted by the statement is the potential difficulty in refilling the vacant diplomatic positions in light of the upcoming presidential and general elections in Liberia, scheduled for October. This situation may significantly impact critical departments at the Liberian Embassy, including the Consular Section, the Passport Section, and the Finance Section, all of which play essential roles in the embassy’s operations.
The statement reveals that the Weah government’s recall of Liberian diplomats came after the U.S. State Department sent a diplomatic note to the Liberian Embassy on August 10, 2023. This note referenced a previous communication from August 2, 2021, outlining the U.S. policy regarding the duration of accreditation for certain members of the Liberian diplomatic mission. The State Department also provided a list of diplomats whose accreditation would no longer be accepted.
Unfortunately, the Liberian Embassy did not respond to any of the State Department’s communications, despite the State Department’s willingness to collaborate in addressing these matters, as mentioned in the August 2, 2021 diplomatic note.
The former Press Union leaders expressed disappointment over the declining state of the Liberian Embassy since President Weah’s government came to power. They criticized personnel changes that were made without considering knowledge transfer and competence and noted that ethnic and political loyalty appeared to be prioritized over professionalism.
However, the former leaders did applaud President Weah for appointing Jeff G. Dowana as Liberia’s Ambassador to the U.S. in late 2022. Ambassador Dowana, a seasoned diplomat with experience in Washington, is viewed positively but faces significant financial constraints in operating the embassy effectively.
The statement points out that financial challenge have led to various issues at the embassy, including the disconnection of its main telephone line for a month, the temporary termination of the Ambassador’s official vehicle insurance, and delays in salary payments to embassy personnel. Diplomatic staff are also owed three months of rental allowance.
The former Press Union leaders used the example of Mr. Gabriel I.H. Williams, one of the co-authors of the statement, who has been denied financial benefits since his dismissal in 2019. Mr. Williams’s legal troubles with a former landlord further highlight the challenges faced by former embassy personnel.
In response to inquiries about the situation, Ambassador Dowana clarified that the affected diplomats are being recalled, not dismissed, and some have already been informed about their reassignments. He also assured that the Liberian government is working with the U.S. State Department to address the status of affected diplomats and pledged to provide necessary resources to support them.
They recommended to the Liberian government to allocate a percentage of the consular fees generated to support embassy operations, rather than remitting all funds to Liberia. This practice, according to the former leaders, would help maintain embassy operations and improve the living conditions of diplomatic staff and their families.