News / Africa

VP Urges Diaspora Liberians to Help Educate Relatives about Ebola

Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai
Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai
James Butty

Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai is appealing to Liberians in the United States and elsewhere in the diaspora to assist the government in educating Liberians about the dangers of Ebola by calling relatives and family members and asking them to cooperate with service providers.

Boakai told VOA that in the initial stages of the outbreak the government had a difficult time getting citizens to realize the seriousness of the disease.

“One of the difficulties we’ve been running into is that of ignorance and people denying. A phone call home to just say look this is serious, to say cooperate with the medical team. Know that Ebola is real and it’s deadly would be a big help,” Boakai said.

His comments came as Liberia declared a state of emergency Wednesday after President Ellen Johnson said Ebola presented a present danger to the survival of the Liberian state.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. State Department ordered the departure of non-essential family members from Liberia and warned citizens from non-essential travel to Liberia.

Boakai said he believes the state of emergency would help the government effectively control the spread of the Ebola virus.

“Ebola effects have reached a level that it has become a threat to our livelihood and to our economic activities. And so the President thought it wise to impose the state of emergency,” he said.

Boakai said his government will leave it to medical practitioners to determine whether the new experimental drug ZMapp being used to treat two Americans who contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia should be tried in Liberia.

But he said if it is successful in treating the two Americans, perhaps the Liberian ministry of health could approve its use in Liberia.

The Vice President Wednesday held a town hall meeting with Liberians in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

He praised Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States, Jeremiah Sulunteh, for putting in place a process for Liberians in the United States and friends of Liberia to give either financial support or provide items useful in the fight against Ebola.

The Vice President led Liberia’s delegation to the just concluded US-Africa Summit while President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remained at home to oversee efforts to control the deadly Ebola viral disease.

Bokai says Liberia welcomes President Barack Obama’s announcement of new US investments to Africa, particularly the Power Africa initiative that would expand electricity access to at least 20 million new households and commercial entities.

He said the initiative will benefit Liberia greatly, as the country continues to suffer frequent power shortages due to the destruction of its infrastructure from 14 years of civil war.

Vice President Boakai said Liberia, as a traditional friend of the United States would like to see more US investments

He said Liberia remains firmly committed to break with the corruption of the past and has put in place strong measures to attract foreign investment, including good governance and accountability.

Responding to critics who say corruption has gotten worse in Liberia during President Sirleaf’s two terms in office, Boakai pointed out that corruption existed in Liberia before President Sirleaf took over.

But he added that Liberians are becoming more aware because the Sirleaf administration has drawn a “sword against corruption” by putting in place a monitoring system and taking action against officials found to be engaged in corrupt practices. 

Recently, the US visas of three Liberian government officials, including an associate justice of the Liberian Supreme Court, were canceled by the United States.

The US Embassy in Liberia said in a statement that it was aware the visas had been canceled, but went on to say it could not comment on individual visa cases.

Vice President Boakai hoped the matter would be resolved soon. He dismissed speculation in local media that the visa cancelations were part of an effort by the U.S. to go after certain Liberian government officials for human rights abuses and war crimes they might have committed during Liberia’s civil war.

Asked what he believes should be the legacy of the Sirleaf government after two terms in office, Boakai said Liberians should judge for themselves, but added that the country today is better off. He said Liberians have never enjoyed the type of freedoms they enjoy today.

“Everyone in Liberia who wants to know the truth will know that they have never, never enjoyed the freedom that they are enjoying now. Peace has prevailed for more than 10 year in Liberia. We have built very critical infrastructure, and what you see in Liberia is not what used to be there,” he said.

He said the Sirleaf government has decentralized development and is bringing electricity from Cote d’Ivoire under the West African Power Pole.

Boakai would not say whether or not he would run for president after his second term as vice president ends in 2016.

“We’re still far away. I always believe that the job you have at hand, do it very well. I’m a Christian, and the Bible says, if you’re faithful in that which is least, you might be faithful in that which is much. I’m not worrying about the future. The present will create the future,” he said.

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