By A. Omaska Jallah
The Special Representative of the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) to Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde Olanrewaju Ajisomo, has disclosed that ECOWAS will train Liberian protocol officers.
He said the protocol officers of Liberia need to learn more about protocol, especially when it comes to receiving international guests into the country.
During the recent inauguration of President George Manneh Weah, protocol officers performed poorly to the extent that foreign guests including Heads of State never were seen standing as the program was ongoing.
Sitting capacities were also limited; the protocol officers were seen asking other guests to relinquish their respective seats for the international guests.
The ECOWAS Ambassador’s offer for training could also be prompted by the embarrassments caused to guests at the inauguration.
The ECOWAS’ Special Representative to Liberia made the statement Wednesday during the confirmation hearing of the Minister of Foreign Affairs designate, Gbezohngar Findley.
At the confirmation hearing on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, Findley told members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that he was coming to the post as a greenhorn in the rudimentary of international diplomacy but would surround himself with some of Liberia’s crème de la crème in order to positively project the country’s image internationally.
He further told his former colleagues at the Liberian Senate that as Minister, he will work to ensure that the diplomatic relationship existing between Liberia and its traditional partner, the United States of America, is further strengthened.
“If I say to you that I have a remedy now, I will be lying to you; I am not an experienced diplomat. But the President has made it clear that the Liberian government will hold onto the One-China Policy at the same time we will maintain our traditional relationship with the US,” Findley responded to a question posted to him by Cllr. Varney Sherman, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee.
According to the former Grand Bassa County Senator, key among some of the things he promises to do at the Foreign Ministry is to reduce the cost of the Liberian passport for ordinary Liberians to afford. Even though the Foreign Minister didn’t say how much the passport, which is now sold for US$50, would cost after its reduction, however, stating that the reduction is in line with the President’s “pro-poor governance agenda.”
On the consolidation of revenues generated by the ministry, especially from the sale of visas, the new Foreign Minister said: “I don’t know the details of the visa fees but I do know that funds are being generated from its sale. I will ensure revenue from it goes into the consolidated account.”
Mr. Findley, who served as Pro-temp of the Liberian Senate, promised the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, that under his administration as Foreign Minister, he will ensure that the US Embassy in Monrovia provides proper accommodation for Liberians who go there to obtain visas. His promise was in response to concerns from Liberians who complained of being compelled to stand in the sun or rain for hours waiting for visas, outside the United States Embassy’s premises, with no accommodation.
“Our people will not have to stand under the rain and sun under my administration. I will work with the US Embassy to find a solution to this problem,” he noted.
Speaking on the appalling conditions of Liberian diplomats and their embassies and missions, the Foreign Minister further promised to treat the issue of salary as a major concern, and added that he will rely on budgetary appropriations from the Legislature.
Foreign Minister Findley told the Senators that his administration would also look at the number of embassies and see if some could be merged to shift costs to the welfare of Liberian foreign diplomats.