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Israel-Hamas war: Did Liberia vote a diplomatic embarrassment?

Armageddon arrived early in Liberia following a decision by a Liberian diplomat to vote in support of the US and Israel’s continued attacks on Hamas.

Scores, including the country’s outgoing president, are livid by the decision and have sworn to overturn it.

“They voted wrongly, but we are going to fix it, and our vote would be with the votes of other countries that call for diplomacy and not war. Whether or not you were doing it because you believe that George Weah is leaving now let’s give him a negative image, you’re wasting your time,” said Mr Weah, president of Liberia.

In what may well be described as diplomatic confusion, some members of the erstwhile Coalition for Democratic Change appear to support the controversial vote. This is at the United Nations as the War between Israel and Hamas intensified. 

Some have construed it as an attempt by Liberia to buy the favour of its traditional ally, the United States of America who also voted against the UN resolution seeking to end the war in Gaza.

“Most recently, in the United Nations resolution to end the war in the Gaza Strip, which would bring peace and end the killing and suffering of Palestinians, Liberia stood with America to say No to ending war,” said Finance Minister  Samuel Tweah, who was sanctioned for significant corruption by the US.

He narrated that Liberia had sided with all resolutions against China and Russia even when the rest of Africa took a different position.

The war in the Gaza Strip followed the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on the Jewish state of Israel, which led to the killings and raping of women and children. Hamas, considered by many Western nations as a terrorist group, is also holding several Israeli hostages. 

Since the attack, the Israeli Defense Force, backed by the United States, has unleashed sporadic attacks against Hamas, prompting calls for a ceasefire care for the civilian population.

A total of ten countries, including Liberia, stood against the decision seeking a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Liberia was the only African country to vote against the resolution, which passed with 153 votes in favour, 10 against, and 23 abstentions.  

President Weah says the decision by a Liberian diplomat at the UN to say ‘no’ to end the war did not meet his approval as the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.  Weah tells his church congregation on Sunday that whoever voted to say ‘no’ will face the wrath of God.

Weah: “A wicked person in the Embassy… voted for war. [That Liberian] is a wicked Liberian, and God will not spare that person, and every person’s life that was taken in that war because that person voted, they will also feel the wrath of the true living God.”

The unnamed diplomat at the Liberian mission in Washington probably acted on instruction, but it remains unclear who that authority might be. The Liberian leader then instructed the Foreign Minister, D. Maxwell Kemayah, to rescind the decision.

Israel and Liberia Relation

The bilateral relations between the two nations started as far back as 1947. Liberia was one of the United Nations members to vote in favour of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine in 1947.

Israel and Liberia established relations in the late 1950s. The administration of William Tolbert severed ties with the Israeli government in 1973 in response to the Yom Kippur War. Still, they were re-established in 1983 by Samuel Doe, who succeeded Tolbert via a coup.

Amidst the long-standing relationship coupled with the almost lack of knowledge from the  Liberian leader regarding the country’s position at the UN, critics say it leaves much to be desired. 

Others weighing in on the matter told DUBAWA that the President’s assertion signifies that he is not in charge of the government, describing his comment as nothing short of mis-leadership.

“An absentee president who lacks knowledge of history and geography-politics,” Artemus Gaye said.

Mr Gaye, a History student and a Liberian writer based in the United States, recalled the long-standing relationship between Israel and Liberia while criticising the President.

He said: “As a founding member of the UN, on Nov. 29, 1947, Liberia, as the only African nation, voted for the establishment of Israel.  It would send contractors to build the current Executive mansion and the Ducor Palace Hotel during the William V. S Tubman administration.

“However, it was William R. Tolbert Jr. who, in 1973, broke the relationship during the YUM KIPPUR war. It would be 1973 when Samuel K. Doe reestablished the relationship with Israel. George Weah is the only Liberian president who failed to achieve any investment from Israel.”

As if this was not enough, many citizens, including those in the circle of the government, have joined calls for the immediate dismissal of the unnamed diplomat who acted against the government policy direction.

One man leading the charge is outgoing Representative Acarous Moses Gray, a stalwart of the Weah’s three-party government; in an interview with OK FM via telephone called on the President to dismiss those responsible.

Such diplomats should be immediately recalled and dismissed, “doing so would be the best decision to save the image of the country,” Rep. Gray said.

Can Liberia Rescind Her Decision:

Hours after the President’s outburst, the Ministry of Information, the institution responsible for speaking on behalf of the government, issued a statement rescinding the country’s decision at the UN General Assembly, which opposes UN Resolution A/ES-10/L.27.

The government has decided to join 153 countries that had earlier voted in favour of the resolution that seeks a ceasefire in Gaza. See the complete statement attached.

The rules and procedure of the UN General Assembly say otherwise about Liberia’s decision to rescind her votes on the passage of a resolution that other world leaders reached.

Rule 81 reconsideration of the proposal says: When a proposal has been adopted or rejected, it may not be reconsidered at the same session unless the General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, so decides. 

Permission to speak on a motion to reconsider shall be accorded only to two speakers opposing the motion, after which it shall be immediately put to the vote.”

Touching on the country’s decision, Liberia’s former deputy minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, B. Elias Shoniyi, differed and said the move by the government could only be reflected in subsequent resolutions but not the one that has already been cast and counted as part of the record of the United Nations General Assembly.

“While there may be discussion and negotiation leading up to the poll, once the vote takes place, it is considered binding for that session. The vote’s outcome reflects the member states’ collective decision at that moment,” he said in an interview with Analysts News Paper.

It is fair to say that there are slippages in the country’s foreign policy under the President. Yet, no action has been taken against those responsible for diplomatic embarrassment except a prayer from President Weah expressing the wrath of God on them.

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