THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNANCE IN LIBERIA
(Extensions of Remarks - September 14, 2017)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1223]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




           THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNANCE IN LIBERIA

                                 ______
                                 

                       HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, September 14, 2017

  Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I held a hearing on the future 
of democracy and governance in Liberia. Of the more than 50 nations of 
Africa, the United States has the closest connection with the Republic 
of Liberia. This is not only because Liberia was founded in 1847 by 
freedmen and former slaves from this country, but also because of the 
estimated 500,000 Liberians and Liberian descendants who live here. 
Many Liberians consider the United States the ``mother country'' even 
though it was never a U.S. colony. Liberian cities such as Monrovia and 
Buchanan were named for American presidents.
   However, most Americans are largely unaware of the long link between 
the United States and Liberia and likely see Liberia as just another 
African country. Most Americans are unaware that Liberia has been a 
major U.S. ally since World War II and into the Cold War, hosting U.S. 
communications facilities in the 1960s and 1970s and receiving 
extensive U.S. development assistance, including post-war aid and post-
Ebola aid to Liberia. The United States also helped Liberia build its 
criminal justice sector and supported transitional justice efforts.
   The United States has funded just over a quarter of the cost of the 
United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), at a cost of $106 million 
annually as of FY 2016. Liberia is also implementing a $256.7 million, 
five-year MCC compact, signed in 2015, designed to increase access to 
reliable, affordable electricity and enhance the country's poor road 
infrastructure. Bilateral State Department and U.S. Agency for 
International Development (USAID) assistance totaled $91 million in 
FY2016.
   President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made some advancement in 
democracy and governance during her two terms, following the despotic 
rule of Charles Taylor. During his term of office, Taylor was accused 
of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of his 
involvement in the Sierra Leone civil war from 1991 to 2002, but he 
also was responsible for serious human rights violations in Liberia. 
Taylor was formally indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 
2003. He resigned and went into exile in Nigeria. In 2006, then-newly 
elected President Sirleaf formally requested his extradition. He was 
detained by UN authorities in Sierra Leone and then at the Penitentiary 
Institution Haaglanden in The Hague, awaiting trial by the Special 
Court. He was found guilty in April 2012 of all eleven charges levied 
by the Special Court, including terror, murder and rape, and in May 
2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
   The United States occasionally arrested alleged perpetrators of 
civil war human rights abuses, often using immigration perjury charges 
as a vehicle for prosecution. One of them was Charles McArther 
Emmanuel, also known as Chuckie Taylor, the son of Charles Taylor. 
Raised in Florida, Emmanuel became the commander of the infamously 
violent Anti-Terrorist Unit, commonly known in Liberia as the ``Demon 
Forces.'' He is currently serving a 97-year sentence back in Florida 
for his role in human rights violations carried out by the ATU.
   President Sirleaf was unable under the constitution to run for a 
third term but unlike other African leaders, she did not push to change 
the constitution to allow a third term. We don't yet know whether her 
successors can or will continue an upward trend. Most candidates for 
President have highlighted corruption, but these candidates have 
platforms that are light on policy specifics. Consequently, my 
subcommittee's hearing this week was intended to examine the prospects 
for democracy and governance in Liberia following the October 
elections.
   The United States is a key provider of technical assistance to 
Liberia's National Election Commission, including an International 
Foundation for Electoral Systems program, funded by USAID, and the U.N. 
Development Program, backed by nearly $12 million in mostly European 
Union funding under a multifaceted project from 2015 to 2018. The 
Election Commission also receives broader institutional capacity 
building support under a second $4 million USAID-funded program, the 
Liberian Administrative and System Strengthening.
   Our government has a significant investment in Liberia on several 
fronts. The future direction of this country is important to the United 
States. Therefore, we have a stake in the next Liberian government 
building on advances made in democracy and governance under the current 
government and must continue to provide assistance to that end and 
insist on no backsliding as we see in far too many countries in Africa 
today.
   Most of all, there must be much more done to minimize the impact of 
corruption in Liberia, which not only robs the people of the benefits 
of their country's resources and labor, but also discourages foreign 
investment that could provide a needed boost to development.
   October's election will tell a lot about where Liberia is going, and 
we need to keep a close watch on developments in this important African 
ally.

                          ____________________