Loyal Ambassador Resigns Amid Frustration
And Lack Of Cooperation
By George H. Nubo
During the past two years, Rachel Gbenyon-Diggs criss crossed these United States vigorously defending the Liberian government and despairing rumors about her qualification. After her appointment, according to the former ambassador, Liberians flooded the internet with misinformation concerning her qualification. It was rumored on the internet that since Taylor could not pay her in cash for the sumptuous delicacies she catered during his inauguration in 1997, he chose to pay her in goods by rewarding her with the prestigious position - Liberian Ambassador to the United States.
Another hurdle she frequently encountered was the dismal human rights record of the Liberian government. She at times lashed out at Liberians who continually hammered at Taylor's dismal human rights record. She disagreed with the conclusion that Taylor's human rights record is probably the worse in the history of Liberia. Rattled and visibly angry, at times, the former ambassador made it known that Taylor's human rights record is better than that of his predecessor's. During her visit to Atlanta few months ago, she remarked that Taylor does not arrest journalists to take them to the Executive Mansion and have their private parts cut off. She accused the late Samuel K. Doe of killing her brother, Charles Gbenyon in this fashion. Recently, however, the body of Edward White, Charles Taylor's bodyguard, was found in the ceiling of the president's residence - Executive Mansion, after being electrocuted with 440 volts (Reuters News). In another attempt to convince Liberians about Taylor's human rights record, she went on record by saying her boss' human rights record wasn't as bad as suggested by the U.S. State Department and scores of other reputable news organs such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, etc.
Having done what is considered her best for the Taylor government, most Liberians were confused when they read in the Star Radio news that one of the few loyal supporters of Charles Taylor finally decided to throw in her boxing gloves by resigning. Based on Star Radio's account of VOA's Interview, "Former Liberian Ambassador to the United States has given reasons for her resignation. Madam Rachel Gbenyon-Diggs said she was frustrated and disappointed with Liberia-U.S. relations. She blamed her frustration on the U.S. failure to give direct bi-lateral assistance to Liberia. Madam Diggs said she was also distressed by the U.S. Senate refusal to support a bill that will qualify Liberia for debt waiver. She raised these concerns Saturday night in a Voice of America radio interview. She said it was unfair after Liberia had met almost all requirements set by the United States. The Former Ambassador resigned last weekend after serving in Washington for two years. Some of her achievements, she says, are the lifting of the travel ban on Liberian officials to go to the U.S., the appointment of American Ambassador to Liberia after 10 years. Madam Diggs said she's pleased that relations between the two countries were now politically even."
Hearing the information, some Liberians in the Diaspora began to wonder why the ambassador who in April of 1998 said, "Washington wrapped arms around me more tightly and more quickly than the Liberian community", would now point her blaming finger at Washington. One observer quipped that the ambassador skillfully opted to put the blame on Uncle Sam knowing that Washington will not comment on such.
But there was more to the story. Star Radio decided to carry the portion they thought would appease President Taylor and his government. In the same interview conducted by James Butty of VOA, former Ambassador Diggs also said that she was frustrated with the Liberian government and felt isolated because she didn't have ready access to the president and decision makers in the Liberian government. Beside being denied ready access, financial support for the embassy was not forthcoming. She said that her position required her to be "on top of things". But in most cases, she was not consulted. One of such examples was the cancellation of the president's trip to the U. S. which was scheduled for September, 1999.
Observers agree that the ambassador resigned because the Liberian government did not give her the requisite support and did not take her seriously. She resigned because she was frustrated with the Liberian government, and had to, perhaps, use her own resources to maintain the Embassy. One Observer also noted that the former ambassador is keeping her options open because Taylor will be around for a long time, and, "she does not want to be harassed by his ruthless security whenever she visits Liberia."
Claiming credit on the appointment of a new American Ambassador to Liberia has also been called into question. Some point out that the appointment of a new ambassador to Liberia has nothing to do with former Ambassador Diggs. They maintain that it is the function of conditions at home "these things have more to do with conditions at home than what she has indicated in her interview. The American government will not lift travel restriction because the Liberian ambassador says so."
Others said, "she was more undiplomatic than diplomatic. Like most Liberian government officials, she constantly pointed her finger at Liberians in the Diaspora for preventing international aid from going to Liberia. She also blamed the international community for not training the Liberian securities," a stance seen by many as being disingenuous because it was the Taylor government that reneged on implementing the provision of the Abuja Accord that calls for the restructuring of the Liberian security system. Her detractors also wonder why former Ambassador Diggs who often said that she campaigned against the brutal regime of Samuel Doe, had to give up her U.S. "green card" in a bid to serve the Taylor regime which is seen by many as being worse than that of Samuel Doe. A Liberian politician who recently returned from Liberia commented that, "comparing Doe's first two years with Taylor's, Doe was an angel."
Does the former Ambassador deserve any credit? Many admit that she did well in sustaining the Liberian Embassy. Despite her lack of diplomatic experience and her passionate defense of a government that seems unredeemable, Mrs. Diggs deserves some kudos for her visibility and accessibility. Her pragmatism and determination to transform the Embassy was evident in her oft repeated phrase: "this is your embassy." Moreover, amidst the passport-scandal that has surrounded other Liberian foreign missions such as Germany, Great Britain, Israel, etc., the Liberian Embassy in Washington under her brief leadership, remains scandal-free.
But as the Embassy undergoes a leadership change, the newly-appointed ambassador, William Bull, though considered a career diplomat who has served many administrations, but is remembered for his role and vocal defense of the Doe regime during its final days, will have an even tougher challenge of maintaining the legacy of his predecessor of making the Embassy scandal-free, and a greater burden of trying to promote the notorious Taylor regime to the international community.
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