Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here today for my first formal interaction with the Liberian media. It is an honor to meet you and I applaud the vital work that you and other Liberian journalists are doing every day to objectively report and inform the Liberian public about the most important issues of the day. I look forward to answering your questions.
First, I have had a heartwarming reception since my arrival through my interactions with Liberians from all walks of life. You have a rich heritage of being the oldest republic in Africa and your people are extremely, and rightly, proud of this history.
Like other countries in the world, your citizens will soon be celebrating your democracy by flocking to the polls to choose your leaders and representatives. It is a solemn responsibility. It is important that the government must ensure that these are fair, free, and peaceful elections, and to hold accountable those that would attempt to disrupt it. Officials must also ensure that the government invests an adequate level of money, personnel, and organizational resources to protect its citizens, candidates, polling stations, and election workers from intimidation or harm.
The eyes of the world are focused on these elections and how they are managed. The United States, as a longstanding partner of Liberia, along with the international community, has been working closely with the NEC to make sure that all election observers have full access to polling stations during election day, as well as access to the vote tallying. The U.S. Embassy through USAID is directly supporting both international and domestic election observer missions, as well as our own mission observing the election process across the country.
The United States is also prepared to assist in efforts to keep these elections free, fair, and peaceful by holding accountable anyone responsible for engaging in activities to undermine the democratic election process in Liberia through additional measures such as sanctions.
On a lighter note, I want to talk briefly about two very positive experiences that reflect the great partnership between the United States and Liberia.
First, Peace Corps has returned! Just a few weeks ago, 12 Peace Corps volunteers were sworn in during a ceremony at Monrovia city hall. They will be working in the education and health sectors during their service. This is so exciting because they are the first volunteers to return after the worldwide evacuation of volunteers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Peace Corps has been in Liberia since 1962, the year after Peace Corps began, and it is wonderful to have the newest cohort back, on the ground, and working in their communities. Almost everyone I’ve met in Liberia has mentioned their positive interactions with Peace Corps volunteers. This is a rich history, and one that shows the deep relationship between our countries.
Second, I had the pleasure to visit Mt. Coffee hydropower plant. This plant, under Liberian management, is a testament to the enduring relationship between our two governments. Mt. Coffee will serve as a reliable green energy resource as well as a gateway to further electrification of the country – a building block for Liberian sustainability.
Before I turn it over to you for your questions, I want to thank you again for the work that you do, the essential fact checking, and the writing of stories that highlight issues affecting your communities.