866 United Nations Plaza
New York, N. Y. 10017
(212) 687 1033
H. E. Milton Nathaniel Barnes
Ambassador & Permanent Representative
Mission of the Republic of Liberia
To the United Nations
On the Occasion of the
First Annual Leaders and Legends Ball
Honoring Distinguished Sons and Daughters of Maryland County, Liberia
In Conjunction With the Celebration of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the
Annexation of the State of Maryland to
The Republic of Liberia
June 16 2007 State University of New Jersey, Rutgers Campus at Newark
Paul Robeson Campus Center
Newark, New Jersey
Madam President, Officers and Members of the Maryland County Association of New Jersey, Esteemed Elders and Honorees, Fellow Marylanders, Fellow Liberians, Ladies and Gentlemen, my dear friends.
I am today, indeed deeply honored and humbled to be here as your key note speaker. I thank the Maryland County Association of New Jersey for this honor which I will cherish for a long time.
I would like to take this opportunity in this public manner on behalf of the Mission of the Republic of Liberia to the United Nations to express our deep appreciation to the Maryland County Association of New Jersey for their generous donation of two desk top computers with associated software to the Mission. Additionally, the Mission and I are most grateful to Mrs. Williette Freeman, President of this organization for her invaluable help in the development and maintenance of the Mission’s website which incidentally you are cordially invited to visit at www.liberia-un.org
As many of you know, this year represents the 150th anniversary of the annexation of the State of Maryland to the Republic of Liberia. We pay homage to our founding fathers and mothers in their vision of unity, peace and prosperity. I admonish all of us here never to forget the richness of our heritage and to rededicate ourselves to peace, stability and prosperity for our beloved Maryland County and Liberia.
WAR IS HELL!!
All of us in this room are living testament of this truism.
WAR IS HELL; when you are forced to leave the land of your birth and endure the countless challenges and hardships of personally adjusting to the cultural, social, economic and political issues of the country of your refuge.
WAR IS HELL; when after all these years, you continue to live the nightmare of witnessing family, loved ones and friends cut down and slaughtered like animals before your very eyes by drugged crazed kids.
WAR IS HELL; when as a result of the massive destruction of infrastructure-schools, hospital, clinics, churches; countless number of innocent children die everyday of simple preventable diseases like malaria, measles, and diarrhea; a disproportionate number of our citizens suffer the unbearable pain of illiteracy; and we teeter on the brink of a Godless society.
WAR IS HELL; when as a result of tyranny, fear and impunity, we lose our national self esteem, pride, patriotism and nationalism and wallow in shame and self doubt and look to others to save us from ourselves.
My people!! WAR IS HELL!!! Look at what war has done to Liberia!! Look at what we have done to ourselves!!
But through the Grace and Mercy of God … HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL!!
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL; when a poor, illiterate, market woman puts her life at risk and stands up to a drugged crazed, blood thirsty rebel and defies him, as a mother, to continue the madness.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL; when Peacekeepers come from all over the world and put themselves in harm’s way by standing between the weak and innocent and the merciless killers for the sake of peace.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL; when a group of foreigners who do not even know us personally come on their Mercy Ship and render vital medical services and care to our people free of charge.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL; when a family in Japan on the other side of the globe has found compassion in their hearts to adopt a Liberian orphan child as their own.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL; when we as a nation, continue to establish historical precedents on our continent and globally; for example the first nation on the African continent to democratically elect a female president.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL; when we acknowledge and honor revered elders for their accomplishments and contributions.
My dear friends, I am here to testify to you today that we are witnesses, in fact, we are an integral part of A Miracle of Hope in Liberia. Most of you in this room have played and continue to play a pivotal role in bringing Hope to Liberia.
Hope for Freedom
Hope for Literacy
Hope for Good Health
Hope for Prosperity and
Hope for Self Reliance
Regardless of the many human, social, and economic challenges that presently confront Liberia, I believe that our strategic priorities should focus on building and expanding our capacity to ensure sustained self reliance. In spite of the tremendous outpouring of goodwill and assistance to Liberia or the presence of peace keepers or even the dynamism of our leadership, make no mistake about it, Liberia can and will only be fixed by Liberians.
To do this, we must approach all of our many issues and problems without heavy emotions and sentiment but with a deep passion to address and resolve them rationally and methodically with a focus on effectiveness and sustainability.
We must never lose sight of the fact that these are Liberia’s problems that require Liberia’s solutions.
How can we together establish and sustain policies of good governance steeped in the rule of law?
How can we together develop a health care delivery system that will meet the long term needs of our people?
How can we together develop and maintain a comprehensive education system that will address our sustained capacity demands and meet the personal needs of all of our citizens?
How can we together develop initiatives and programs that will enable us to feed ourselves?
How can we together prepare to take ownership of our common destiny and control the factors of democratic principles?
The track record of your organization is replete with examples of vigorous individual and collective efforts of programs and initiatives to bring positive and lasting change specifically in the aforementioned areas, to your County and Country. This is indeed enviable.
As your humble servant, I beg your indulgence to allow me to bring an important phenomenon to your attention.
Liberia is now at a critical stage of transition.
The cessation of our civil strife saw a significant inflow of aid for the relief of human suffering. Multilateral and bilateral partners, International and local NGOs, religious and secular organizations all got involved and actively pursued programs focused on food security, shelter, health issues, refugee resettlement, and the welfare of the most vulnerable of our society.
The peace and stability that we enjoy today is the result of the intervention of the international community. This is also true with all social services. Presently, over ninety percent of health care services delivered in Liberia, is being provided through non-Liberian entities.
While there is no doubt that there is still high demand for these vital services, we as Liberians must now begin to demonstrate vision and focus our attention on our sustained developmental needs.
There can be no denying my fellow Marylanders, ladies and gentlemen, our country’s future economic, social and human development will be driven largely by private sector initiatives. While there is incalculable value in relief and aid initiatives, they have their limitations as far as economic growth and expansion are concerned. This is especially true when one considers the critical element of self reliance.
I challenge you today fellow Marylanders, fellow Liberians, to do something positive and timely to address this serious issue.
Considering that I am a bona fide, card carrying member of this organization, coupled with the fact that I am a government official who is aware of certain strategic and policy doctrines of our government, I would like to take the liberty of making some important recommendations concerning our future, to this body this evening.
There is presently a very strong drive by the Government of Liberia to attract foreign direct investment. This is evidenced by the fact that the government recently executed a one billion dollar agreement with Acellor-Mital Steel, the largest steel company in the world. This agreement provides an excellent catalyst for economic revitalization in Liberia. The National Investment Commission (NIC) has been revamped and empowered with a focus towards creating an investment and economic environment that will attract external capital.
While these efforts are targeted at a global pool of potential investors, I believe that Liberians in the Diaspora should view this as an excellent window of opportunity.
According to the Central Bank of Liberia, for the three years of 2004, 2005, 2006, the net remittances of funds into Liberia, a good portion of which originated from the Diaspora totaled $139.2 million. Now, considering that these transfers largely represent disposal income of individuals sending gifts to their family, friends and loved ones in Liberia, one can only imagine the potential capital base of this segment.
My dear friends, I believe that “the proverbial ball is in our court” perhaps it is high time that we consider organizing ourselves to harness this capital potential.
Imagine with me Marylanders, the existence of the Maryland County Investment Corp. or the Maryland County Fund Management Group. Entities established with the specific objective of maximizing and channeling capital of Maryland County equity holders resident in the United States into Maryland County, Liberia in a professional, efficient and most importantly, profitable manner.
I can envision a Savings and Loan institution or a Credit Union with branches in Harper, Plebo, Gedehtabo and other locations in Maryland County addressing the needs of farmers, miners, and other entrepreneurs of the county.
I envision agriculture, electricity, mining and other cooperatives improving the lives of inhabitants while generating profit. Or a construction company providing affordable housing for residents of Maryland County. Or a fishing company addressing the demand for local consumption and the export market. Why not?
It can be done ladies and gentlemen. The Market is there, and the resources exist. However, I believe that there are two mandatory elements. First is the burning desire to do this right. And second is a core of credible, reliable and trustworthy trailblazers captivated by this vision.
I tire of hearing the aged old complaint of Liberians among Liberians. The old “Crab in the barrel” syndrome. Many of us have lived outside of Liberia long enough to rid ourselves of such attitudes and practices. We have witnessed how others have pooled their resources towards very successful endeavors in the countries of their birth. There is plenty of what I refer to as the “New Breed” of Liberians in the Diaspora who have learned the valuable lessons of how to be successful. Why can we not transfer this knowledge to our beloved country? If we don’t do it, who do we expect to do it? On the other hand, should someone else do it, we should have no reason to complain about how the foreigners are taking the resources and profits out of our country.
Today, I challenge this organization, the Maryland County Association in New Jersey, its parent organization, the Maryland County Association of Liberia, USA, and all Liberian organizations in the Diaspora to fully and actively participate in the development of Liberia through direct capital investment in Liberia.
Think about it fellow Marylanders, ladies and gentlemen. My proposal makes sense in many ways. Two of which include, first, the tremendous signal that such action would send to the world. If Liberians see the investment opportunities in their country and are prepared to invest, others will follow suit. Second of course is the potential for financial return while simultaneously doing something positive for our beloved Liberia.
Most importantly, my fellow Liberians this is the genesis of how we create the pervasive “Middle Class of Wealth” in Liberia; arguably, the most important corner stone in a rock solid foundation of sustained peace, stability and prosperity in a new Liberia.
In conclusion, fellow Marylanders, fellow Liberians ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take a moment to pay special homage to all of you. All Marylanders. All Liberians. That tenacious, irrepressible spirit that has kept us all going in the wake of the madness, the senseless slaughter, the pain of isolation and depravation, the unimaginable fear, the darkness of ignorance, the shame, the loss of our national self esteem.
Amidst it all, through the Mercy of the Almighty, we are beginning to find ourselves again.
God Bless you, God Bless Maryland County, God Bless Liberia.