Friday, February 22, 2008

Bush’s Visit and Impact on Liberia's 'Terrible Past’

The visit of President George W. Bush was attended by pomp and pageantry in Liberia, the incessant waving of the similar red, white and blue flags of Liberia and the United States of America respectively, songs done by Liberian cultural artists and the band of the Armed forces of Liberia. But what does this visit benefit Liberia? This is the biggest questions. The question is against the backdrop of the long standing relationship between the two countries, and considering the fact the Liberia was founded as a land of the free American salves repatriated under the aegis of a Christian group, the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1821. Significantly, America used Liberia to fight against fascism of Hitler, to fight the cold war between the Soviet Union, but America has not execute substantial development that would being Liberia on pad with its neighbors. So at a time the Chinese are manifesting interest in the country, building roads, revamping the educational system of Liberia and executing other development projects, may consider Bush’s visit as a plow to drive the Chinese away since America is a has seen the People’s Republic of China as a contending force that is being won and popular amongst African countries. I

The Arrival of President in Liberia
The arrival of President George W. Bush brought a massive turn out of students, ordinary Liberians as well as foreigners that lined up along the route to welcome the American chief executive to the country. President Bush is the third of American president who have so far landed on the Liberian soil. The first was President Franklin D. Roosevelt during President Edwin Barclay’s regime in 1948 and the second being President Jimmy Carter who visited President William R. Tolbert in 1978. The American President’s Airforce-1 Bush landed in Liberia via the Roberts International Airport at about 9:30AM Liberian time and flew aboard an American built chopper to the James Spriggs Payne Airfield where he and entourage were met by his Liberian host, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. President Bush was later piloted to the Foreign Ministry, where the Liberian President’s temporary office is located. Protocol, as earlier announced, also took President Bush to the Executive Mansion, the Barclay Training Center and the University of Liberia.
 Enthusiasm of Bush’s Visit
Reports spoke highly of massive preparation. There were increased enthusiasms that were measure in this wise:
i. The routes the United States President used Thursday to attend ceremonies planned for his visit were beautifully decorated with the U. S. and Liberian flags flown on lights poles, major buildings
ii. Students of various schools, ordinary Liberians and other residents who lined the routes were seen waving both Liberian and United States flags in jubilation.
iii. On the UN Drive, the dresses of various organizations and interest groups that turned out to welcome President Bush depicts a rainbow colors however dominated by red, white and blue, which are the national colors of both countries. They carried banners welcoming President Bush some of which read Some of the banners read, “Concerned Widows and Children of Armed Forces of Liberia Welcome President and Mrs. Bush, Republic of Liberia National Traditional Council Welcomes President and Mrs. Bush and Unity Party Welcomes President and Mrs. Bush amongst others.
iv. There were acrobatic cultural displays out along the road to give the President a rousing welcome, while government officials were massively present to welcome President Bush. In fact, a team of Liberian officials and U.S. officials including Bush and SIrleaf hold bilateral discussions Thursday.
At about 2:00 PM, President Bush’s siren was heard, and suddenly the executive convoy came to sight heading towards the Barclay Training Center where the ever ready AFL band welcomed the President with songs to which the anxious crowd and Presidents Bush and Sirleaf danced. There were laud cheers and waving of the red, white and blue American and Liberian flags as the Motorcade scurried through into the BTC shortly before the AFL band sounded. The American President finally appeared, ridding in a motorcade with President Sirleaf in another, both waving incessantly as Liberians in return reciprocally waved the flags and applauded while President Johnson-Sirleaf wore a great smile on her face in appreciation.

Security was appreciable
Far before the landing of Airforce-1 President jet to Liberia, UNMIL and the Liberia security put in place a conducive and proper mechanism to curb any form of disturbance. Other sercurity efforts include:
i. An advance U. S. military team was based at the Roberts International Airport.
ii. Some officers of the Liberia National Police, in its effort to secure the route while awaiting the U. S. President in central town, arrested and handcuff a man who was said to have misbehaved. The man, according to our reporter, was taken away by the police.
iii. The high enthusiasm to catch a glimpse of the United States President at the UN Drive was characterized by massive security presence which on the other hand deprived students and others who went to welcome the American leader and delegation.

Bush expects professional army in Liberia
At the Barclay Training Center, President Bush Spoke to the hear to the Liberian civil war. “Madam President, you're right, we have met four times, and every time I'm the better for it. I appreciate the warm welcome we've received from the people of your beautiful country. He established the American people’s greeting and said, “I'm proud to be traveling today not only with a strong delegation, headed by my wife, but also the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. I'm so honored to be with your troops. I'm looking forward to the display of talent and professionalism we're about to see. I thank those who have worked hard to help them become professional soldiers, all in the cause of bringing peace and security to the people of Liberia.”

Bush Spoke Highly of the Need for Freedom
The American President traced America –Liberian commonalities. To the following as stated:
i. Bush furthered that in spite of being over 4,500 miles from the United States, he felt at home because in Liberia, the "Lone Star" flag is flown and he, of course, was the former governor of Texas, which is referred to as "Lone Star State."
ii. That the Liberian capital is named after an American President, and of course, he is an American President.
iii. That the name of Liberia, means, "land of the free," and that there is no place he feels more welcomed than “a land where liberty is love and the hope of freedom reigns.”
iv. That Liberia was founded by former American slaves who came here seeking the freedom they had been denied in America and that “through hard work and determination, they established the first independent republic on the continent of Africa.” That the free country the freed slaves built became a source of pride for Liberians and a strong ally in the cause of freedom.”
v. That Franklin Roosevelt came here in 1943 to confer with your great President, Edwin Barclay and together, Liberia and America helped defeat the forces of fascism. “Together, our two nations helped save millions from lives of tyranny and despair.”

Reclaiming Liberty
In spuite that Liberia has been a partner of the United States in the fight for global freedom, Liberia slided in an unimaginable civil imbroglio that claimed the lives of more than 350,000 persons and destroyed millions of United States dollars worth of properties, separated hundreds of families and left behind scores of amputees and widows. In the opinion of President Bush,
a. The intervening years (1990-2003) of Liberia saw days of challenge and sorrow.
b. “They [Liberians] suffered the descent into dictatorship and chaos.
c. Civil wars took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Liberian citizens.
d. Yet even in their darkest moments, the Liberian people never gave up on the hope that this great nation would once again be the land of the free that its founders intended.
President Bush said Liberians reclaimed their liberty in 2005 when they elected the first woman ever elected to lead an African nation, adding, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been a strong leader for the Liberian people. She has been a strong partner of the United States of America and doing together to help the people of this nation build a better life.

What Did Bush Committed to Liberia?
The President made all of the traces, pointed to all of the linkages between Liberia and the United States. All ears were opened to by now is what did the trip brought for the people to boast of? For him, the United States President, his country is committed the following in Liberia:
a) The eradication of malaria from the African continent of which Liberia is a sovereign country, saying that it is irresponsible for comfortable nations to stand by knowing that young babies are dying from mosquito bites.
b) That the Bush administration was working to lift the burden of debt, so that Liberia can achieve her potential, and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of her citizens, help the children of Liberia get a good education, so they'll have the skills they need to turn their freedom into a future of prosperity and peace.
c) That the United States will provide one million textbooks over the next year -- as well as desks and seating for at least 10,000 Liberian school children by the start of the new school year.
d) “Together with the help of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, we're working to heal the wounds of war, and strengthen democracy, and build a new armed forces that will be a source of security for the Liberian people instead of a source of terror.”
Bush said there’s progress made in all those areas, the people of this good country must understand the United States will stand with you as you rebuild your country.” He also said the progress made in these areas is possible because of the iron will of the lady Liberians lovingly refer to as "Ma." That would be you, Madam President. I appreciate the fact that you've ushered in an age of reform, and you've opened up a new chapter in the relationship between [Liberia and] our country.”

President Sirleaf defines Bush’s Visit to Liberia
Earlier, welcoming a United States President to Liberia, the first in nearly 30 years, a visibly overjoyed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told President Bush what the visit meant to Liberia. She said:
i. “Your visit to our country today is a clear indication that the cloud of suspicion has been dissipating by our renewed bilateral relationship; a relationship that spans the birth of this nation, two World Wars, and the chilly years of the Cold War.
ii. That the visit, like those of your predecessors, comes at a time when Liberia is recovering from the bitter experience of our recent past and entering the phase of our nation polity that positions us to reclaim our place in the comity of nations by following a path of good governance, economic growth for our people and ensuring justice and the rule of law for all our citizens and all others who reside within our borders;
iii. That the visit by President Bush is a manifestation of a renewed partnership for the promotion of good governance, justice and respect for human rights, amongst others.
The Liberian President thanked the US for the assistance it is providing Liberia in the areas of roads, health, electricity, education, rural governance, and other pro-growth initiatives through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other bilateral programs. She noted that such assistance is helping Liberia move closer to realizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Growing from strength
The Liberian President said the relationship between the US and Liberia grows from strength to strength and her government deems it a strong obligation to provide the environment where the citizens can fully utilize their potential. But Madam Sirleaf sees it workable more when President Bush and the United States people are:
a. To justify this confidence by improving the quality of life of all of all of our people through programs that are designed to reduce poverty, build human and institutional capacity,
b. And help our citizens to operate at their full potential to cross that psychological threshold where they will be limited only by their imagination.
She then acknowledged with thanks, the key role that the United States played and continued to play by the American Government in helping to end our civil crisis through your financial support for UN peacekeeping missions, which will ultimately be replaced by our own security forces whose ongoing training is supported by your administration and by the Congress. She then pleaded for continuous support from the US for the UN peacekeeping forces. “We understand the need, Mr. President, for reducing the support for the peacekeeping; but please do not do that so sharply as they affect our security until our forces are ready,” she said.

Sirleaf’s Strongest Conviction
The Liberian President reiterated with the strongest conviction that Liberia is on the road to economic recovery; a recovery aided immensely by the support of Bush administration and the American people, adding, “Yet we are proud that there is a mutuality of interest and benefit; proud that our nation has full ownership of our agenda and assures primary responsibility for our own destiny.” She furthered, “This is why we intend to make the private sector the main engine of growth in our economy. This is why we have qualified for AGOA and are struggling to become a threshold country under the requirements of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. This is why we welcome the renewed interest OPEC and C corporate America have shown in investing in our natural resource rich country. This is why we will aim for trade, investment and business partnership rather than humanitarian handouts. This is why, Mr. President, we are bold to welcome innovative initiatives which other see with suspicion,” she told the US President.

Pres. Sirleaf Decorates President, Mrs. Bush & Rice
The United States President George Bush, his wife Laura and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been awarded some of Liberia’s highest distinctions. The investiture ceremony took place in the parlors of the abandoned Executive Mansion Thursday as follow:
i. President Bush received the Chain Collar of State and Grand Cordon in the Most Venerable Order in the Knighthood of the Pioneers for his numerous contributions towards peace and development to Liberia.
ii. On the US First Lady, Lara Bush, President Johnson Sirleaf bestowed the distinction of Grand Cordon in the Most Venerable Order of Knighthood of the Pioneers for her support and belief in Liberia’s recovery.
iii. For her part, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received the Grand Band in the Order of the Star of Africa.
Earlier President George Bush was gowned by the traditional leaders of Liberia who pleaded with him to continue his goodwill to a war-ravaged country emerging out of a devastating war. Presidents Johnson Sirleaf and Bush later joined an array of diplomats, government officials, foreign guests for a luncheon and toast. There at the luncheon, the US President again pledged his Government’s support to Liberia in its reconstruction efforts adding, “This is just the beginning of many more commitments to Liberia’s growth and progress.”

President Sirleaf Was Earlier Honored in America
The Liberian President reciprocating the honor bestowed on her late last year when she received the US highest distinction, Presidential Medal of Freedom, at the White House, said the President Bush was a traditional friend and strategic partner in Liberia’s development process. She recounted the US President’s interest in the war ravaged country’s recovery as evidenced by his government’s support in various spheres of assistance that the country continues to receive from the government and people of the United States.

War Crimes Forum’s Mulbah Morlu Arrested
Mulbah Morlu, who has been critical of the administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, offered the only dark spot to what was otherwise a rousing reception for U.S. President George W. Bush, who wrapped up his Five-Nation Tour of Africa with a Commitment to Stand by Liberia, Thursday. At about 10:19 told a United States based medfia by text message on his mobile phone that he had been arrested. The message read, “I have been arrested by the Liberia National Police on the charge of sabotage and hindering law enforcement. All is fake and fabricated,” he said. The group had announced a planned demonstration during President Bush’s visit to push its advocacy for the establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia. The police later issued a stern warning that no one would be allowed to stage a demonstration during Bush’s visit.

The visit of the United States President, some say is feeble and not important to the State. Those with that school of thought may be correct. They may be correct because the level of US-Liberian relationship should not be a mere “empty ‘America Will Stand By You’” but it should be a a concrete contribution should be manifested in the empowerment of the citizenry, the buildings of roads or even the reconditioning and building of new hydro plants for electricity which are all major need of the country’s reconstruction process.

On the issues of books and chairs contributions, one would wondered why the U. S. President would shy away computerizing the University instead of sending books. Instead of the chairs and books, it would have in fact been a worthy contribution if the U. S. President was to manifest the donation book and chairs donation into the donation of about 10,000 pieces of used laptops for the students of law and other social sciences at the University of Liberia.

However, the visit has its own political yielding. For instance, it signals to the international community that security has indeed improved and that the investment climate is ripe; that the present administration is one of the torchbearers of African democracy and respect for rule of law and democracy. Meanwhile, fear abounds that the visit of President Bush shouldn’t hinder the mature relationship between Liberia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which the United States see as a contender in African politics, diplomacy and trade.

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