Liberia foreign missions have become embarrassment and nuisance to the integrity, pride, and national identity of Liberians living abroad. The state foreign missions have been literally abandoned and neglected leaving the country’s public diplomacy in complete shambles with sloppiness and inefficiency the conduit of choice to conduct Liberia postwar international affairs and public diplomacy.
Shockingly for this sad trend of affairs, it could not get that worst to know that Liberia’s permanent mission at the United Nations and the Embassy in Washington DC compete for primacy for how deep and deplorable the two missions are.
The Liberia Permanent Mission at the United nations for instance, if you try to contact the mission on official matters especially when the President is scheduled at the United Nations and institution like our kind get in touch with the mission, you hardly get the Minister Consular for Public Affairs. Even if you leave message or messages, you won’t get a call back from his office. And if you try again, the same barrier will be your fate.
Try send email when you think the mission didn’t check their messages and you thought it is possible they didn’t check, the Minister Consular won’t bother to respond. I then wonder the meaning of having the Minister Consular for Public Affairs and using taxpayers money to pay him for not doing the job he occupies. The mission will not respond to your email even if institution of our kind is trying to get relevant information and or clarification on some important issues, you’ll be ignored. This is how Liberia’s foreign mission at the United Nations has become dysfunctional.
If you think your calls or emails were not returned and you choose to surf the web by checking on the mission’s website, wait a minute you just encounter another amazing stonewall, the latest activity in the media and press section, is a Press Release of 2008.
The entire site has been dormant for about two years now with the exception of photo of the Permanent Representative, Her Excellency Marjon V. Kamara on the first page presenting her Letter of Credence to the UN Secretary General as seen above. Interestingly though, Her Excellency the Permanent Representative had long presented her credentials and taken seat, you will find that if you click the profile menu of the Ambassador’s page, former Ambassador Barnes picture and profile are still there as Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Nations. What a confusion? Who’s the real Ambassador after all? Nathaniel Barnes or Marjon V Kamara? I hope the Minister Consular for Public Affairs can clarify for the public.
Worst of all, equipment in the UN mission are so obsolete and over depreciated, that the first model of IBM computers put on the market in the early life of the personal computers are still in use in the Liberia United Mission, looking as if it’s the stone age. The mission does not have a webmaster or IT professional duly employed to handle the IT section of the mission if at all it has one. In essence, no IT department section at the mission and the mission is extremely under staffed.
Adding up to an already catastrophic calamity, the Liberia Foreign Ministry in Liberia is no help either but in fact the main source of the deplorable condition of Liberia foreign missions abroad. According to information obtained and in our possession, the Foreign is an obstacle to the missions abroad by its failure to respond effectively, promptly, and cooperatively to Liberia mission at the United Nations when sent communication back to Liberia requesting action on a specific action.
The Newly appointed Permanent Representative by all accounts who is a seasoned career diplomat is frustrated for the lack of coöperation from her boss, the Foreign Ministry of Liberia. The ministry has abandoned the missions, they hardly fund the activities of the mission, nor do they keep the line of communication opened, the life blood of conducting public diplomacy and foreign policy. By our account , Liberia is usually unprepared and left out of several important opportunities and matters because the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia will intentionally ignore communications sent from the mission for action by not getting back to the mission for their advice and approval on actions when countries deferred consultation with their governments on certain actions. All other countries will come with their respective governments advice the action but in most cases it is only Liberia that will be at meeting and won’t be able to present their government advice on the action. The mission is poorly funded and if it happens to send a funding, it goes far beyond the need and timing of the funding. Salaries are also inconsistent and new trainee s are barely paid.
For the Liberia Embassy in Washington DC, to begin with , the building looks like a pitiful “bush tent” squeezed in the middle of residential homes and one won’t differentiate it from the regular homes around except you wonder thinking what is the Liberian flag doing flying so high in a residential area. And when you go in the building, as soon as you enter, you will notice how disorganized the embassy is. You first realized the dormancy of the embassy, which could bring back old memory as if you have visited the “bush tent” of an old rice farm after the harvesting had long been done and abandoned. The employees at the embassy are so unprofessional, before you would go any further into business transaction or purpose of your visit, you soon encounter the employees treating you as if you have just entered a “susu club”. Senior staffs are almost not around most of the time and the staffs you meet there in most instances don’t care and would treat and interact with you as if you owe them something or you had met them before and that encounter ended on troubling terms. It is so fascinating to know that some staffs can barely have a clue on how to direct you to the embassy from the Grand Station (train station). Simple as it is and surprisingly, some staffs do not know how to navigate the web for simple things like getting direction from the internet.
The embassies have no system in place where it can interface Liberians living in the United States and around the world. There is no effort in place to bring the embassies to Liberians or develop programs to galvanize the huge community to take advantage of the wealth and human resource this tiny West African nation has in the United States to channel those opportunities for the betterment of the country back home. The embassy doesn’t know or has any clue on Liberian owned businesses, churches and nor does it interface the Liberian diaspora social fabric.
And what is most disheartening to learn is the President herself is not prioritizing the Liberia’s foreign mission, especially with special attention on Liberia’s frontline embassies and allocating the best of the of support to conduct Liberia’s postwar public diplomacy in primacy. The President hardly pass by at the Liberia mission when she is at the United Nations or the embassy in Washington DC when she is in Washington.
Not paying visits at the Liberian mission at the United Nations and Washington D C hampers the opportunity for the President to acquaint herself with problems especially when she comes to the United States almost every month since she took over.
The Liberia mission at the United Nations and embassy in Washington D C are the prime front liners of Liberia’s public diplomacy and considering the benefits and opportunities these institutions have channeled to Liberia, they deserve and rightly so need to be run first classic with the most savvy and energetic staff. Training and regular in-service training must henceforth be initiated to upgrade the capacity of the human resources at these missions to put them on terms with the sophistication of today’s trend and the new frontier of digital and hi-tech public diplomacy in this new era.
The Sirleaf administration must act immediately and reform Liberia’s foreign Missions, they are the representatives of the national identity of Liberia and as such, must be given the care reflective of the unique Liberian pride. Liberia’s foreign missions must be resuscitated and cleansed from the current shambles and state of neglect rattled with the sloppiness and inefficiency looming in the conduct of Liberia post war public diplomacy.