By Jack Warner
The United States of America has long considered Liberia, a tiny nation on the coast of West Africa, to be an ally. The deep historical ties and cultural resemblance date back to the 1800s. The roles and partnerships between the two nations are distinguishably noted throughout the history of both. More recently and even more importantly, the involvement of the United States and the pivotal contributions made during and after the Liberian crisis were crucial to Liberia’s stability. Liberia has long been one of the most assisted and grateful beneficiaries of foreign aid from the United States.
Against this backdrop, the call to improve relations and investment, as made by Benoni Urey, a presidential aspirant in Liberia and long-time associate and confidante of the convicted and incarcerated warlord and former Liberian president Charles Taylor, is at best hypocritical and lacks merit. Urey, acting upon orders from his former associate Taylor, was a catalyst for destruction in Liberia, using his role as maritime commissioner to siphon millions of dollars to off-shore accounts to exchange for weapons used against the innocent people of Liberia.
Urey’s attempt to solicit improved assistance from the United States, while grossly divorcing himself from the roles he played, is outlandish. The United States has long criticized Urey. He remains listed as a specially designated national (SDN) by the U.S. Treasury Department; his assets are frozen; and he is banned from travelling to the United States. Still, he attempts to propel his political quest!
Urey is regarded by many as the richest man in Liberia, amassing overnight wealth with no recognizable source of his fortune. The United States has recognized the need to trade with Liberia, but in light of the culture of corruption, lack of accountability and impunity associated with Urey, it would be foolish to credit or deal with him. His rise to fame and notoriety was deeply entwined with unprecedented evil. This is why he remains on the SDN list.
The United States has done a lot for Liberia and the region, but Urey has no legal standing to call for improved relations. From his business dealings with the notorious and now incarcerated gunrunner Victor Bout, to his strong and ongoing bond with the convicted war criminal Charles Taylor, Urey is no friend of the United States. In fact, it was Urey and his cronies who imperiled the long-standing relations between Liberia and the United States through the draconian and despotic policies of the Taylor administration.
Warner is a Liberian–American entrepreneur and activist. He also heads the socio-political think tank Coalition for Accountability and Justice.