US Ambassador-Designate to Fight Corruption, Lawlessness, in Liberia
The newly nominated U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Mark Toner, has said that the George Weah government has recognition for corruption and lawlessness and that he will do all in his power to fight against these vices during his assignment here.
Addressing the U.S. Congressional Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Friday, October 20, Toner said progress made in Liberia since the end of the war in 2003 has been eroded by corruption and lawlessness in the current administration.
“The United States is the largest bilateral donor to Liberia, with more than US$5 billion in bilateral assistance since 2003. That assistance has paid concrete dividends in the economic, education, security, and public health sectors,” Toner told the committee. “But that progress has also been heavily eroded by growing lawlessness and corruption within the present administration.”
If confirmed, Toner plans to lead the US government’s efforts to hold “corrupt government officials accountable and keep Liberia on a path to self-reliance, so that ordinary Liberians see the benefits of private-sector growth and accountable government.” These efforts, he said, are geared towards ensuring that Liberia remains the United States’ most steadfast partner in Africa.
The US Ambassador-designate has a strong personal connection with Liberia, having served here as a Peace Corps volunteer—an experience he said kindled his desire to become a Foreign Service Officer.
“During that time, I had the privilege to work alongside many dedicated Liberian health professionals, people who showed up every day to work under difficult circumstances without any guarantee of a regular paycheck. These are the people who inspire me to this day through their commitment, courage, and determination,” Toner said.
“If confirmed, it would be an honor to return as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia, a country with which the United States shares a special bond rooted in our deep historical ties and preserved through our shared commitment to democracy, human rights, health security, economic prosperity, and regional stability.”
Liberia is also a country shaped by years of conflict, terror, disease, and hardship. It speaks to the Liberian people’s resilience when, in 2017, the country achieved a significant milestone by carrying out the first peaceful transition of power between two elected presidents in over 70 years.
The next test to fostering this peace began on October 10, when Liberians cast their ballots to elect their next president, and vice President, as well as 88 Lawmakers — a process in which a runoff is imminent, since none of the presidential candidate managed to gain the constitutional 50 percent plus one votes to emerge as outright winner of the presidential election. This has set up a contest between the two leading candidates who are poised to face-off next in a runoff.
“President Weah and his challengers pledged to hold an election that is peaceful, free, and fair; and we, the United States, and our partners are doing everything in our power to hold them accountable for delivering on that commitment,” Toner told the US Foreign Affairs Committee.
He promised that, upon confirmation, he and his team will work to increase investment opportunities for U.S. businesses and promote inclusive economic development focused on job creation, providing much-needed opportunities for Liberians, especially the young people. “But the onus, ultimately, is on Liberia’s political leaders to increase transparency and tackle corruption, as both are integral to establishing the conditions necessary to attract responsible foreign investment.”
“We must apply this same approach to human rights, as Liberia’s justice sector works to address reported cases of gender-based violence, forced child labor, and human trafficking, as well as the legacy of war crimes,” he said. “These abuses must be confronted for their own sake as well as to ensure a broader system of accountability, good governance, and rule of law.”
If confirmed, Toner said he looks forward to building on the outstanding work the previous Ambassador, Michael McCarthy, and his team did to assist with the many challenges facing Liberia. “I am optimistic the United States can work with its partners in the Liberian government and people to help strengthen their democracy and secure a brighter, more prosperous future for the next generation,” he said.