WASHINGTON DC – Liberia has not been invited to participate in a U. S. Aid for International Development (USAID) sponsored conference in Washington D.C. of international Mayors and Municipal Leaders who are joining efforts to strengthen democracy.
According to a State Department press statement copied to African Star on Monday, Municipal Leaders and Mayors from Argentina, Botswana, the Gambia, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, the Republic of Kosovo, Mozambique, Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, and South Africa are expected to develop action plans to strengthen democracy in their home communities with U.S. based experts, ranging from American local government officials to technical specialists to civil societies leaders and organizations…”
The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the State Department says, is building on the progress made at last December’s “…2021 Summit for Democracy and supports the Year of Action leading to the second Summit for Democracy in 2023.”
Last December’s event focused on strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.
The State Department says, “…At the conclusion of their time I the United States,, participants will continue the program virtually from their home communities and complete their Action Plan projects in November…”
Liberia was invited by the Biden Administration to attend the virtual 2021 Summit for Democracy where President George M. Weah made several commitments including amending the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, promotion of transparency and accountability in election funding, and prioritization more women in the electoral process and positions in Government.
Liberia has still not provided concrete plans to the State Department for the implementation of the commitments made. Last February, the top U.S. diplomat in Monrovia Ambassador Michael McCarthy urged civil society organizations and the media to hold the Weah Government responsible for following through on those commitments.
According to an assessment released by the U.S.-based Freedom House on democracy in Liberia, the West African country’s “ judiciary is impeded by corruption, backlogs, funding shortfalls, and political interference. Many people accused of crimes spend more time in pretrial detention than they would serve if convicted and sentenced. Gender-based violence is pervasive, and customary law disadvantages women in matters including inheritance and child custody.”
Freedom House, founded in 1941, is the oldest American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world.
While no reason has been forthcoming for why Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee was not invited to the Municipal Leaders International Conference in Washington D.C. observers point to Freedom House’s 2022 Country Report on Liberia which designates Liberia as “Partly Free” with a score of 60 out of 100 in the areas of Political Rights and Civil Liberties.
“Liberia still faces serious issues with corruption, impunity, and violence against women,” Freedom House said.
The capital Monrovia, under the mayoral stewardship of Jefferson Koijee of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), has been described as one of the “dirtiest” cities in Africa with uncollected garbage and open sewage in the streets.
Mr. Koijee, a former Youth Chairman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) was appointed as Mayor of Monrovia following the inauguration of the WEAH Administration in 2018. Political observers attribute his appointment to political patronage since he has no real prior experience, education, or skills in urban city planning or management.
African Star has unconfirmed reports that the U.S. Embassy recently denied the visa applications of several Liberian Government officials. As a matter of policy, Embassy does not comment on consular matters.
Officials of the Biden Administration have publicly cited the issue of pervasive corruption in the Weah Administration.