The African Union made up of 55 countries is the continental body designated to achieve unity, cohesion and solidarity. But the lofty goals are apt to dissolve when countries are late in paying their bills.
Liberia is currently in their crosshairs with a debt of $1.6 million. Full membership privileges have been withdrawn, leaving the cash-strapped West African nation with a lesser observer status.
Observers lack the ability to vote or propose resolutions, observed the Liberian FrontPageAfrica in a recent news story. “It is with this in mind that Liberia must return as quickly as possible to full membership in the Africa Union for the good of the nation, her people and humanity!”
According to a recent news report, former President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson found a hefty unpaid bill when she took office in 2006. Liberia was already under sanctions, deprived of voting rights and full membership privileges at virtually all international organizations, with unpaid dues dating as far back as the early 1990s.
The Sirleaf-led government negotiated payment plans, budgeted and made annual payments of its arrears in accordance with an agreed-upon payment plan. By the end of 2008, the Government had restored full rights for Liberia in all membership organizations.
If misery loves company, Liberia need not worry about facing sanctions alone. Other countries suspended by the African Union include South Sudan for failing to pay $9 million over the past three years, and the West African nation of Mali, suspended after insurgent soldiers ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar, the Prime Minister, and several government officials for a crumbling economy and decrepit public services and schools, along with a widely shared perception of government corruption.
Expulsions also face Burundi and South Sudan for defaulting on their annual dues to the East African Community (EAC), an intergovernmental organization of six countries. Member states pay $8 million a year to the bloc but according to The East African news, Burundi had arrears of some $15 million by June 10 while South Sudan owes $27.8 million.
Other EAC states with arrears include Uganda ($1.6 million), Rwanda ($2.7 million) and Tanzania ($4.2 million). Kenya is the only country out of the six members that has fully paid its annual dues.
In other news from Liberia, the U.S. State Dept. has blacklisted former Passport Director Andrew Wonplo and his entire family from entry to the U.S. for selling Liberian passports to foreign nationals. Wonplo was found innocent but the judgment was seen as flawed by the American government.
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