The situation with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI cancelling his trip to the 51st Ordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in Liberia because we decided to invite Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the occasion, speaks volume about sovereignty, diplomacy and economic benefits, and how to have ones cake and eat it without disgrace.
We all know that King Mohammed VI of Morocco was about to use his first ECOWAS participation to beg the regional body for his nation to form part of the regional body. While it is true that Liberia and Morocco had enjoyed cordial diplomatic ties for decades, the latter’s insistence to use this particular summit hosted by Liberia to request formal inclusion into ECOWAS somehow confirmed sub Saharan Africa’s glowing respect for a country that just a few years ago was written off as the worst pariah nation on planet earth.
But then we decided to also invite Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address the 51st Ordinary ECOWAS Summit where we are honorably relinquishing our baton to another authority. The uproar generated by our regional faux pas is still reverberating within West Africa’s diplomatic corridors, if not across the entire continent.
On the other hand, King Mohammed’s terse diplomatic explanation for his absence – that he did not want to create tension and controversy if he attended, overshadowed what might have been a really feel-good occasion for Liberia. We need this moment to remind ourselves that after all said and done, after all the home-grown negativities about our ability to overcome adversities, we can pull something big as ECOWAS.
The fact that the Israeli PM came with some goodies cannot be overlooked. As a postwar nation striving to meet its development agenda goals, Liberia, like its neighbors, needs all the help it can garner from well-intentioned foreign partners. No doubt, the US$20 million Green Energy Power Project that Liberia stands to benefit as a result of Netanyahu’s visit is welcome news. No well-meaning Liberian will disagree that such development will boost our economy.
Right now Liberia needs every bit of development assistance to foster its development goals. But what is worrisome is for us to use such occasion as the ECOWAS Summit to ostracize traditional friends (whether Israel or Morocco) for the sake of quick impact projects.
The situation of our brush off with Morocco and Israel reminds me of our country’s short lived romance with China and Taiwan. Since 1977, Liberia had established official relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But when the civil war broke, we established relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) because they offered $200 million to Liberia for “education and infrastructure”, just for us to recognize them. In 1997, Charles Taylor officially recognized “two Chinas”, which caused PRC to cut off diplomatic ties with Liberia. It was a period marked by “dollar diplomacy”.
Today, the $200 million that Taiwan offered for education and infrastructure is gone. Education is still a mess. Our roads are still in shambles. On the other hand, Liberia and PRC relations are back on course following our decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan on October 12, 2003.
Within the comity of nations, there is no big or small nation. Even if you sit on the Security Council, you will one day need the vote of seemingly lesser nations to push your agenda. Morocco and other African nations rely on Liberia to stand up for the rights of the Palestinian people just as we did when the people of South Africa were subjugated to undue apartheid.
We can continue to forge sustainable socioeconomic foreign relations with other nations at our ambassadorial and ministerial levels without antagonizing our continental partners at such prestigious forays.