Secretary Of State Powell Assures U.S. Commitment Toward A Democratic Liberia
August 20, 2002
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has reaffirmed United States commitment to bringing about democratic rule in war-torn Liberia.
"The United States is committed to creating a level playing field for Liberia’s 2003 elections, and to making every effort to strengthen the democratic process. To that end, we are spending almost $1.5 million this fiscal year to support independent media and political party training," Hon. Powell noted.
Secretary Powell did not say what role the U.S. would play to help end the increasingly escalating armed conflict that threatens the fragile peace that has prevailed in Liberia in the past few years, following seven years of brutal civil war that cost the lives of an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people and left the country ruined. However, the U.S. has called for a cease-fire between the government and rebel forces, and for a negotiated settlement to Liberia’s problems. The U.S. has also urged the Liberian government to institute meaningful reforms, such as restructuring of the state security apparatus, promote human rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and of the press, and good governance.
The U.S. Secretary of State was responding to a letter from Liberian journalist and author, Gabriel I.H. Williams, which accompanied a complimentary copy of his newly published book to Mr. Powell.
In his letter, Williams appealed to the United States and others who subscribe to promoting democratic change in Liberia to provide the requisite support for democratic-oriented civil society institutions, such as the media. "Without a strong and vibrant media, Liberia’s democratic foundation would never be strong enough to contain dictatorship or misrule," he indicated.
Williams recalled the charge to Liberian journalists by Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Africa, Ambassador Robert C. Perry, when he delivered the keynote address at the conference of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) in Washington, D.C. last May. In his address, Ambassador Perry said that journalists "have a fundamental duty to promote the truth and shed light everywhere," and that Liberian journalists can play a pivotal role in bringing about peaceful, democratic change as have been the case in Eastern Europe and other parts of Africa.
Williams, outgoing Secretary General of ALJA and former acting President of the Press Union of Liberia, assured the commitment of Liberian journalists to the struggle to bring about a peaceful, democratic Liberian society. He, however, stated that the Liberian media was faced with serious challenges, including inadequate trained manpower due to the exodus of journalists from the country because of the civil war and the Taylor government’s brutal suppression of press freedom.
Secretary of State Powell concluded in his letter, "With the help of Liberians like you, we would look forward to taking greater steps in the near future toward genuine reconciliation and reconstruction in Liberia," founded in 1822 to resettle freed black American slaves back in Africa.
He thanked the Liberian author for the recently published book, "LIBERIA: THE HEART OF DARKNESS - Accounts of Liberia’s Civil War and its Destabilizing Effects in West Africa."...
Gabriel I.H. Williams,
Journalist/Author (916) 362-9551; Email: email@example.com