Liberian foreign relations were traditionally stable and cordial throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Stabilization in the 21st century brought a return to cordial relations with much of the Western world including its longtime partner the United States of America.
But with a Liberian Government delegation without Foreign Minister Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah presently in Washington DC seeking to solicit US support is raising more eyebrows. Kemayah served the George Weah government as Permanent Representative to the United Nations headquarters in New York before his current post.
Among others, the duties of the Minister of Foreign Affairs shall be, under the direction of the President, to formulate and implement the foreign policy of the Government of Liberia; Promote beneficial intercourse between Liberia and other countries; Protect Liberians’ rights and interests throughout the world; Direct the conduct of the Foreign Service; and Issue regulations governing the activities of foreign diplomatic and consular missions accredited to the Republic of Liberia.
Regrettably, Foreign Minister Kemayah is unconvincing in playing such roles, especially cementing relationship with the country’s traditional ally, the great United States.
Instead, the influential Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill and Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah have headed the delegation charged to meet with lobbyists hired by the Government of Liberia to help facilitate high level meetings with US Government officials.
Prior to the US trip, the Foreign Affairs was linked to a feud with State for Presidential Affairs Minister McGill, thus reportedly resulting to exchange of insults in the presence of President Weah.
Minister McGill had reportedly demanded that the Foreign Minister report directly to his office and not to the President, but Minister Kemayah declined. Additionally, it was said that Minister McGill favored the President going for the 2021 United Nations General Assembly but Minister Kemayah instead opted for a virtual participation.
Kemayah’s objection to President Weah traveling to the UNGA thereafter added fuel to speculations that the Foreign Minister fears going to the US to avoid being arrested for an accusation of sexual harassment days after he was named as Foreign Minister-designate by President Weah. He has since refuted the allegation linking him to sexual harassment involving Whynee Cummings Wilson, a female employee of Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
His accuser Ms. Wilson claimed how then Ambassador Kemayah molested and sexually harassed her on January 8, 2020. She also claimed she remembered that day in part because it was her birthday.
According to her, Ambassador Kemayah on one occasion called her to his office and locked the door, and was allegedly harassed. She claimed further, “Amb. Kemayah asked me several times to kiss him, stating, You know what [to] do, just give me a kiss, we are all adults here.”
According to her, the action of Minister Kemayah, who she considers as a father, left her in a devastating state.
She mentioned that the action made her stay away from office for a whole month, thus raising concerns amongst her colleagues.
In his defense, the Tilem & Associates Law Firm representing Ambassador Kemayah termed as false, baseless and unfounded allegations spread on the social media, especially in Liberia in relation to Ms. Whynee Cummings Wilson.
The law firm added that it initiated an investigation based on its principle of avoiding prolonged and wasteful litigation. It said it does not want to have to pursue costly litigation against her or the news media publishing knowingly false statements.
“Ambassador Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. has advised us that he wants to continue the great work he has been doing and will not let this clearly false allegation stop him,” the firm said.
The law firm also said it discovered that Ms. Wilson and other state actors were attempting to harm Ambassador Kemayah, and that it was an attack on his wife, Rev. Mrs. Dialokai Golanyon-Kemayah.
Tilem & Associates indicated that the Ambassador had over many decades built a strong reputation of integrity, both domestically and abroad.
Despite the strongest defense from his legal team and subsequent Senate confirmation, eyebrows are still being raised about the conspicuous absence of the Foreign Minister from the country’s image-building trips for which those not clothed with such authorities are playing his roles. His unexplained excuses for being absent on such trips are becoming worrisome and embarrassing to the extent that his critics support the view that he fears getting arrested over the sexual assault allegations.
What Kemayah has failed to do as Foreign Minister, for which the current delegation is on a lobbying venture, is to secure an official invitation to the US White House for an official visit as was done his predecessor Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
It now remains to be seen whether Minister Kemayah can lay to rest countless strong feelings that police in New York are awaiting to interrogate him over complaint filed against him.