Liberia: Diplomatic Mess

-At Liberia’s US Mission

President George Manneh Weah’s critics say his decision to recall Liberia’s Ambassador to Washington, George W. Pattern, suggests a messy crisis on Liberia’s diplomatic front.

Central to the critics’ argument is that an individual with low competence in the diplomatic cycle was appointed to face seasoned diplomats like U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield while Liberia struggled under the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) regime to gain the international community’s confidence.

More to that, critics have also raised concern that President Weah was heading to the United Nations General Assembly when he recalled Ambassador Pattern, allegedly leaving the diplomatic mission there under serious stress.

While Amb. Pattern served on Liberia’s mission to Washington, three Liberian officials were recently sanctioned by the U.S. Government for corruption.

The sanctioned officials – Nathaniel McGill, Bill Twehway and Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus – resigned recently after President Weah placed them on indefinite suspensions.

One of the critics, Mr. George Wisner, former National Investment Commission (NIC) Executive Director, says Liberia’s diplomatic missions are facing stress under the Coalition for Democratic Change-led regime.

“Liberia’s diplomatic missions [are] under serious stress especially with the way in which the government is recalling and immediately replacing ambassadors amidst the recent decision from Washington D.C. to sanction officials,” said Mr. Wisner on Monday, 19 September 2022.

In a live phone conversation with local broadcaster OK FM Monday, Mr. Wisner linked the diplomatic missions’ alleged ‘serious stress’ to ‘unnecessary actions taken by the government.’

Wisner alleged that instead of the CDC government finding a seasoned ambassador or someone who is well schooled in the field of diplomacy to represent and make Liberia’s case, it allegedly appointed an individual with low competence.

“I don’t think where you have former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Ms. Linda Thomas Greenfield at the UN is where you took someone of low competence,” he said.

He notes that just two days after President George Manneh Weah’s visit to the United Nations General Assembly, the President recalled and replaced Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States.

He further observes that this came in the midst of recent U.S. sanctions against three Liberian officials, claiming that it suggests that there is a crisis on the diplomatic front.

On Thursday, 15 September 2022, the Executive Mansion here announced that President Weah had nominated Mr. Jeff Gongoer Dowana as Liberia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of America with concurrent Non-Resident Accreditation to Canada and Mexico.

The Mansion said Ambassador Dowana replaces Ambassador George W. Pattern who has been recalled.

It detailed that Ambassador Dowana holds a Master of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership from the NYACK College in New York.

The new nominee had earlier earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Liberia.

The Executive Mansion described him as a career diplomat who served at several postings, including in London, New York, Washington DC, Paris, and his current assignment as Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary to Kuwait.

But Wisner argues that recalling Amb. Pattern does not augur well for Liberia, warning that it’s something that has serious implications that the government may not know about.

In diplomacy, Wisner explains, symbolism counts a lot. At the level of the UN, he stresses that Liberia needs someone that will make the country’s case “because as ambassador, you look at your pedigree, among other things.”

He states that for a country to go to the extent of recalling and immediately replacing its ambassador suggests that there is a problem.

According to him, such problems could be ethical misconduct, or the ambassador might have gotten involved in activities that will require his replacement.

At the same time, Mr. Wisner frowns on the decision of President Weah to replace Liberia’s Representative to the Mano River Union, Mrs. Medina Wesseh, through a press release.

She was serving as the Secretary General of the Mano River Union (MRU).

He argues that the process of replacing Madam Wesseh was never followed and it was a serious diplomatic breach, noting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed gross incompetence.

“Madam Wesseh is not just an employee of the government, once she ascends as Secretary General of the MRU. She definitely became a representative of the MRU despite being nominated by Liberia.”

Wisner, a strong member of the former ruling Unity Party, adds that if for any reason the government had a plan to replace Madam Wesseh, it should have followed the normal diplomatic process by sending a prior notice to the MRU head of state.

He said the MRU head of state will then convene a meeting, or a summit, to make such pronouncement.

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