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Liberia - US Relations

Congress appropriated $100,000 in 1819 for the establishment of Liberia (and resettlement of freemen and freed slaves from North America) by the American Colonization Society, led by prominent Americans such as Francis Scott Key, George Washington's nephew Bushrod, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Presidents Monroe (for whom Liberian settlers named the capital, Monrovia), Adams, and Jackson. The first group of settlers arrived in Liberia from the United States in the 1820s. The United States, which officially recognized Liberia in 1862, shared particularly close relations with Liberia during the Cold War.

The outbreak of civil war in Liberia and the long dominance of Charles Taylor soured bilateral relations. However, Liberia now counts the United States as its strongest supporter in its democratization and reconstruction efforts. The US and Liberia have a long-standing historical relationship that was sorely tested by the civil conflict, and the political violence, human rights abuses, and corruption that ensued. Relations were strained further in October 2000 when the US imposed a travel ban on senior Liberian government officials because of Liberian support to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. These were followed by UN sanctions in May 2001. The US Government stated that democracy and genuine respect for human rights coupled with transparency and accountability in government remain the best paths for sustainable economic growth.

Since the end of Liberia's civil war in 2003, the United States has contributed over $1 billion in bilateral assistance and more than $1 billion in assessed contributions to the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). In February 2008, President George W. Bush visited Liberia, where he held his fourth one-on-one meeting with President Johnson Sirleaf since her inauguration in January 2006. Peace Corps volunteers returned to Liberia in 2008 for the first time since 1990. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid an official visit to Liberia in August 2009. President Johnson Sirleaf met President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton in Washington in May 2010. Secretary Clinton led the U.S. delegation to President Sirleaf’s inauguration on January 16, 2012.

In Monrovia, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implements its second-largest development program in Africa. USAID's post-conflict rebuilding strategy focuses on reintegration and is increasingly moving toward a longer-term development focus. Rehabilitation efforts include national and community infrastructure projects, such as expanding access to electricity, building roads, refurbishing government buildings, training Liberians in vocational skills, promoting business development, and improving livelihoods while protecting Liberia's forests. USAID also funds basic education programs, improving education for children, focusing on girls, and training teachers.

USAID programs also include primary health care clinics, HIV/AIDS prevention, and a large malaria program. Further, USAID supports rule of law programs, establishing legal aid clinics and victim abuse centers, training judges and lawyers, community peace building and reconciliation efforts, and anti-corruption projects to promote transparency and accountability in public sector entities. USAID is also providing support to strengthen the legislative and other political processes, and is strengthening civil society's role in delivering services and advocating good governance. U.S. bilateral assistance totaled almost $230 million in FY 2010. In July 2010, the Government of Liberia signed a $15 million Threshold Program with the Millennium Challenge Corporation to strengthen indicators in land reform, girl’s education, and trade.

U.S. assistance and engagement is critical to Liberia’s short-term stability and long-term development. National elections in 2011 drew broad participation from the electorate, and paved the way for a peaceful transition to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second administration. But opposition and unrest surrounding the elections showed that security, political, and social conditions remain fragile, and that the government must continue to make progress in building and solidifying confidence in public governance, reenergizing reforms, and fostering tangible improvements in the lives of average Liberians.

U.S. assistance seeks to focus on professionalizing Liberia’s military and civilian security forces; consolidating democratic progress; improving capacity, transparency, and accountability of governance institutions; promoting broad-based and environmentally sustainable economic growth; improving access to high-quality educational and health services; and responding to the problem of narcotics trafficking in West Africa, while helping Liberia build capacity to plan, implement, and sustain its own development efforts in each sector.

Liberia is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The country's revenues come primarily from rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program. Liberia’s U.S.-owned and operated shipping and corporate registry is the world’s second-largest. U.S. exports to Liberia include agricultural products (with rice as the leading category), vehicles, machinery, optic and medical instruments, and textiles. The main imports from Liberia to the United States are rubber and allied products; other imports include wood, art and antiques, palm oil, and diamonds. The United States and Liberia have signed a trade and investment framework agreement.

Liberia has welcomed the 12 November 2015 lifting of US sanctions that were imposed on the country in 2004 by then President George W. Bush. In letter to the speaker of the US House of Representatives and the president of the Senate, US President Barack Obama said Liberia has made advances to promote democracy and the orderly development of its political, administrative and economic institutions. Obama cited Liberia’s two consecutive democratic elections (2005 and 2011), the conviction of former president Charles Taylor and what he called the diminished ability of those connected to Taylor to undermine Liberia’s progress, as well as the lifting of a U.N. assets freeze on Liberia.





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Page last modified: 15-11-2015 20:18:57 ZULU