Nine months ago, I asked the purposefully provocative question, “What would J.J. Roberts have
to say about Liberia today?” which helped spark a conversation about where this country finds
itself 175 years after independence, and 200 years since the arrival of American settlers. Now on
December 9, International Anti-Corruption Day, and at the close of the bicentennial year, I believe
it may be helpful for Liberians to take another honest look in the mirror.
Even though we are announcing no new U.S. sanctions here today, I want to assure the Liberian
people that our anti-corruption efforts remain robust and continuous. As the Global Magnitsky
sanctions of three Liberian officials in August demonstrated the U.S. government can and will
employ sanctions as needed on an ongoing basis, in support of our shared development,
democracy, and security goals, guided by the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption.
The all-important goal of transparent, free, credible, and peaceful elections in October will be one
important factor in decisions about additional sanctions in the months leading up to the vote.
Global Magnitsky, or GloMag, sanctions are deservedly a hot topic in Liberia. Some Liberians
have urged the United States to implement more sanctions and even proposed names; others have
objected that the sanctions process lacks due process. Let me be clear: GloMag is a tool the United
States uses to protect itself from particularly corrupt actors, not a punishment against a country or
government. It is also in no way a substitute for a domestic judicial process in the host country,
including prosecution. Ultimately, “due process” or an accused’s “day in court” can only happen
under Liberian law, in Liberian courts.
Liberians generally agree with our analysis that corruption is the primary cause of Liberia’s failure
to thrive; most in the international community share that assessment. That is why our Department
of the Treasury took the extraordinary step of sanctioning five senior Liberian officials in only
three years under GloMag. This set of sanctions has led to some positive results, including the
resignation of the three most recently sanctioned officials. In our GloMag sanction
announcements, Liberians have heard unusually stark language from the Government of the United
States regarding the corruption of these individuals. In some cases, Liberians have also heard
responses from the sanctioned officials themselves.
In the upcoming 2023 elections, however, it will be the turn of the people of Liberia to let their
voices be heard on this topic, especially since several of those sanctioned officials may be running
for office. Ultimately, it is Liberians and not the U.S. government that are responsible for ensuring
good governance in Liberia. Sanctions can help, but the ballot box is a far more important tool for
holding officials accountable. If Liberians choose to elect or re-elect sanctioned officials as their
leaders, that will send a very clear signal about how they truly feel about the fight against
corruption and the future of their country.
As I’ve said many times before, corruption is not a uniquely Liberian problem – it is a global issue,
and one that we suffer from in the United States at all levels of governance. However, today, on
International Anti-Corruption Day, it is worth considering what more Liberians can do to fight this
scourge. I believe there are many urgent steps the government of Liberia can take now to fight
corruption that require no international assistance, many of which are in fact already enshrined in
Fully funding Liberia’s integrity institutions, publishing the names of public officials who fail
to comply with asset declarations, making information on all legislative votes and actions easily
accessible to the public, and reducing funding for government agencies that do not comply with
annual financial reporting requirements, are but a few examples. But there are many others.
On today of all days, we must together acknowledge that corruption in Liberia can be immediately
and dramatically curtailed BY LIBERIANS, without any assistance from the United States or other
donors, if that is something the government and people of Liberia truly want. Where there’s a will,
there’s a way! I commend all Liberians who are truly committed to this noble effort.
For official and accurate information about the U.S. Embassy, please visit the official website at
lr.usembassy.gov and official social media accounts.
Please contact MonroviaPD@state.gov with press inquiries