U.S. To Implement "Aggressive, Practical and Pragmatic Policy" in Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted July 12, 2002

Newly-appointed U. S. Ambassador-Designate to Liberia, John Blaney has told members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he looks forward to working closely with the Committee in “implementing an aggressive, practical, and pragmatic policy” in Liberia if confirmed.

Speaking at his Confirmation Hearing in Washington, DC July 9, Mr. Blaney also told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that if confirmed, he would as well use his 27-year foreign service experience to “facilitate democracy, peace, national reconciliation and reconstruction in Liberia”, adding, “ I believe that my 27-year Foreign Service experience in various assignments from the Soviet Union to Africa will serve me well in implementing U.S. policies in Liberia”.

Blaney thanked President George Bush and Secretary of State Collin Powell for “the trust and confidence place in me as their nominee for Ambassador to Liberia”, and said he remained committed to” advancing U.S. interests in Liberia.” A former Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, and former State Department Director for Southern Africa, Mr. Blaney said his top priority would also be “The security of our Embassy, and serving and protecting the 500-600 American citizens residing temporarily or permanently in Liberia”

Mr. Blaney spoke about the close historical ties between the U.S. and Liberia, and added “ In 1847, Liberia became the first African republic when it declared its independence and adopted a constitution based on the U.S. model. Descendants of those original settlers, or "Americo-Liberians," ruled virtually uncontested over the indigenous population until 1980, when the government was overthrown by a group of noncommissioned officers led by Samuel Doe. His refusal to govern democratically created the conditions for the 1989-1996 civil war”.

“The (current Liberian) government, led since 1997 by President Charles Taylor, has not improved the lives of Liberians. Unemployment stands at a staggering 75%. Little investment has been made in developing the economic infrastructure. Liberia is without functioning public electricity, water and sewage systems. Instead of investing in its own people, the Taylor government supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) insurgency in Sierra Leone and attacks into Guinea by the RUF and other forces” Blaney to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“In this bleak environment, our most immediate objective has been, and remains, to curb Liberia's role as a source of regional instability. The UN Security Council in March 2001 unanimously passed a resolution imposing arms, diamonds, and travel ban sanctions on Liberia; this resolution was renewed and toughened somewhat in May this year. We must monitor carefully the impact and effectiveness of UN sanctions on Liberia, and push the government to adhere to the demands of UN Resolutions 1343 (2001) and 1408 (2002)”, Blaney said.

“If confirmed, I would place a high priority on trying to improve Liberia's human rights practices, which remain highly inadequate. In addition to curbing excesses by the country's security forces, we want to work with all political elements to establish a level playing field that could allow the democratic process, most notably the 2003 elections, to produce a freely and fairly-elected government that serves the interests of the Liberian population and promotes the rule of law” Blaney said, adding “Despite the scope of this challenge, we will make every effort to strengthen the democratic process and national reconciliation through civil society, the media --particularly radio, and strengthening political parties and civic education in advance of the elections”.

“The ongoing civil unrest sparked by armed dissident activity against the government, and by government forces themselves, continues to produce more refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). We must continue to support humanitarian assistance for those who suffer from that unrest, but we must ensure that assistance reaches the needy and is not fodder for those with guns”, Blaney told members of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“We should also focus on longer-lasting assistance to foster community development, democracy and good governance. Appreciable efforts will still be required to meet the basic needs of Liberia's population, whether returning refugees, internally displaced, or those who are victims in other ways”, Blaney concluded.

If confirmed, Ambassador-Designate John Blaney will replace Ambassador Bismarck Myrick, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia from 2000-2002.

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