Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here, and thank you to the Acting Assistant Secretary for Global Public Affairs, Elizabeth Trudeau, for her visit to Monrovia. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Ms. Trudeau heads the Office of Global Public Affairs (GPA) whose mission is to effectively communicate US foreign policy priorities and the importance of diplomacy to the American public. , as well as engage foreign audiences. to enhance their understanding of and support for United States values and policies. Accordingly, during her short stay here, she met with key members of the media and civil society to better understand the status of media freedom, civil society and government accountability in Liberia—
As Assistant Secretary Trudeau and I spoke this morning with Minister Rennie, in an effort to pursue government accountability and combat misinformation, you journalists are essential to the functioning of a democracy, and we look forward with looking forward to your honest coverage before the 2023 elections. Your presence here, month after month, and the work you do every day, is certainly a positive indicator of the commitment to press freedom and transparency.
Before giving the floor to Acting Assistant Secretary Trudeau, I would like to take the time to address two administrative matters before highlighting some important past and future events:
Regarding the census, donors and friends of Liberia would like to highlight the following:
– The census has started and is continuing.
-The census is an important and apolitical action required by the constitution.
– Opposition leaders should ask their supporters not to disrupt the census.
Regarding a story that circulated last week regarding the recall of the US currency – it is a rumor that sometimes makes the rounds and is completely false. The United States Treasury has always emphasized that despite the new designs in our currency, the old notes in circulation were legal tender. As they announced when new $100 bills were released in 2011, “U.S. currency users should know that they won’t have to exchange their old $100 bills when the new ones start circulating.”
With regard to significant events, firstly, regarding Assistant Secretary Trudeau’s visit and freedom of the press, I would like to commend the Supreme Court of Liberia for the decision of September 26e decision in favor of One Media Incorporated, parent company of radio station Punch FM, which allows the radio to finally start its activities after applying for a broadcast license in June 2018.
Despite meeting media licensing requirements under the law in 2018, Punch FM faced a number of legal challenges to be allowed to broadcast. Now, following a series of calls from One Media Incorporated and the Liberian government, Punch FM can begin broadcasting.
It is a victory for freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Liberia, and a demonstration of judicial independence.
Another cause for congratulations is the government of Liberia for adopting the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s 2023 scorecard for the first time since 2018. Liberia has made significant progress, particularly in the area of controlling inflation. Going forward, we urge the government to focus on indicators in the “investing in people” category, which include health, education and protection of natural resources. This could make Liberia more competitive for a potential second compact from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Liberia is one of 66 countries that will be further assessed by MCC’s board of directors next month to determine their eligibility for a compact.
I also want to point out that it is three months ago, almost to the day, that I announced to you in this room the Treasury Department’s global Magnitsky sanctions against Nathaniel McGill, Bill Twehway and Syrenius Cephus. I think it is important to draw our attention to the Treasury Department’s statement, in particular its notification that persons who engage in certain transactions with such sanctioned persons “may themselves be subject to sanctions or be subject to legal action. In addition, unless an exception applies, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a material transaction for any of the individuals or entities could be subject to US sanctions. This applies not only to those who deal with these three people, but also with the other two people sanctioned by Global Magnitsky in recent years: Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Senator Varney Sherman.
Finally, next month in Washington DC, President Biden will host the highly anticipated US-Africa Leaders Summit – the first in eight years. Alongside other distinguished heads of state from across the continent, President Weah will represent the government and the people of Liberia with the goal of enhancing future collaboration between the United States and the entire African continent. As the Secretary pointed out during his trip to Africa in November: Africa will shape the future — not just the future of the African people, but of the world. Africa will make a difference by tackling the most pressing challenges and seizing the opportunities that we all face.
At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, we plan to build on our shared values to better foster new economic engagement; strengthen U.S. and African commitment to democracy and human rights; mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and future pandemics; work collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health; promote food security; advancing peace and security; responding to the climate crisis; and amplify ties with the diaspora.
President Biden believes that U.S. collaboration with African leaders as well as civil society, business, the diaspora, and young leaders is essential to addressing common challenges and seizing opportunities, including increasing the sustainable food production, tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to the escalating climate crisis, building a strong and inclusive global economy, delivering lifesaving humanitarian assistance, and strengthening standards, institutions and the rule of law at the global level.
I believe this will be a productive summit, where Liberia commits to continue taking steps towards economic, social and political progress ahead of the 2023 elections.