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July 05, 1985 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-07-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, July 5, 1985

The ubiquitous official
photograph of Dr. Doe.

Liberia's Head of State, Samuel K. Doe, met with
our delegation in his office

meeting with the ADL delegation in
Monrovia, the capital city. He said his
country's "bold step" in renewing diplo-
matic relations with Israel in 1983 was met
with "many negative reactions from the
Arab world," including the deregistration
of Liberian ships as well as negative votes
at OAU meetings and in the United
Nations. "But that has not hindered us
because our decision is fundamentally cor-
rect," he said.
Political instability is the norm in West
Africa, where tribal rivalries, economic
decline, widespread official corruption and
tenuous government control are constant
problems. Nowhere in the region are these
problems more evident than Liberia, a
depressed and depressing country of two
million, which is nevertheless of critical
importance to the U.S,
There are moral and historical reasons
why Liberia receives the highest per capita
U.S. aid of any African country (totaling
about $80 million this year): the state was
founded in 1847 by former American
slaves who based their Constitution on
America's and named their capital, Mon-
rovia, after President James Monroe. The
official language is English and the cur-
rency is the U.S. dollar. But Liberia is also
of strategic importance to the U.S., pro-
viding Air Force and Navy base facilities, ,
the Voice of America base for Africa and
the site of one of the five Omega tracking
stations in the world, monitoring the
movement of all ships and planes.
Foreign Minister Eastman and other
Liberian cabinet members expressed a
love-hate relationship for the U.S., refer-
ring to their country as "America's step-
child." They had warmer words for Israel,
which they said has been a good and loyal
friend.

Samuel K. Doe, a master sergeant, led
a military coup in April, 1980, eliminating
President William Tolbert, suspending the
Constitution and imposing martial law.
Doe has managed to maintain power for
five years despite a series of attempted
coups. In a meeting with the ADL delega-
tion at the executive mansion in Monrovia,
Africa's youngest leader defended his deci-
sion to renew diplomatic ties with Israel
and said he hoped other African leaders
would follow suit. He pledged that his na-
tion will soon return to civilian rule and he
invited the visitors to attend the 1986 in-
auguration of the next president following
democratic elections in November.
This is significant because Doe has been
under strong American pressure to hold
free and fair elections, which he has
postponed several times since 1981. (One
reason for the delay is that Doe, who has
changed his official biography to make
himself two years older, just turned 35 —
according to the revised version — the
minimum age requirement for president
according to Liberia's new Constitution.)
Doe has taken steps to make it difficult for
other candidates to be eligible to run for
president. The U.S. is currently debating
foreign aid to Liberia and attempting to
link continued heavy financial support to
Doe holding free elections.
Doe told the visitors he hoped they
would "tell the truth" about Liberia and
encourage an American Jewish economic
mission to visit Liberia and discuss invest-
ment possibilities.
Ivory Coast, Liberia's neighbor to the
east, is also scheduled to hold elections
this year. A model of African political

Continued on Page 18

Liberia's Executive
Mansion is the most
impressive building in
Monrovia.

Israel has official
diplomatic relations with
Liberia, as evidenced by
Israeli Ambassador
Gavrielli's car.

15

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