ELLEN ‘DID NOT SEND ME TO AMERICA TO SPY’: Gabriel Williams on Barnes Recall


Written by Nat Nyuan Bayjay
Source: FrontPage Africa

Gabriel Williams, the Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Liberian Mission in Washington, D.C. has rejected suggestions that he was sent to the U.S. to keep an eye on recently-recalled Ambassador Nathaniel Barnes.
Williams, in a letter of clarification to FrontPageAfrica Wednesday said his mandate from President Sirleaf to take up the post in Washington is to revitalize Liberia’s public diplomacy so as to positively project Liberia’s image to the outside world. “My responsibility includes engaging Liberians in the Diaspora and Americans by creating public awareness about the encouraging progress Liberia is making, as well as the challenges facing our post-war country.”

Immediately following his recall, several names of the President’s close confidantes stationed in the United States surfaced regarding who possibly hinted her about Ambassador Barnes’ alleged political rally activities which were said to be tied in with the President’s decision that led to Barnes’ end of mission in the Federal capital of the world’s most powerful nation.

One of such names who may have recommended his recall was Williams, the recently-appointed press attaché’ at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, who reports surfaced that it was him who spilled the beans on Barnes’ political plate in the Diaspora.

Some speculations suggested that Barnes was using his position to galvanize support for another run for the presidency in 2011. Other stories suggested that the Ambassador had sought the help of Cynthia Nash, Liberia’s Diplomatic Consul to Atlanta in raising money for his potential run for the presidency.

The recalled Ambassador Barnes, in a recent FPA interview, said: “On the issue that Gabriel Williams has been involved, I don’t believe an iota of it. It is not true. In the very short time there that I have worked with Gabriel Williams, I have found him to be very professional, a very, very good human being. Therefore, he wouldn’t want to do a thing like that because he wouldn’t have any negative to report my job. I don’t believe it”.

Another name who reportedly emailed the President suggesting the Ambassador’s recall was Nash, Liberia’s Honorary Consul General and Consulate for the State of Georgia.

Nash who was appointed by President Sirleaf in March, 2009, was interestingly commissioned by Ambassador Barnes on August 31, 2009.

Responding to Nash’s possible input that led to his recall, Ambassador Barnes told FPA: “For Cynthia Nash, she’s a good friend of President Sirleaf. Trust me, I’m not stupid. If I had that sort of motive, she would be the very last person that I would disclose it to.”

Moved by the article, Williams wasted no time in clearing his name, stating that President Sirleaf did not appoint him to spy on other people or destroy their future.

Williams: “Accordingly, I wish to make it absolutely clear that President Sirleaf did not send me to Washington to spy on other people or destroy their future. As the Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs, my mandate from Madam President is to revitalize Liberia’s public diplomacy so as to positively project Liberia’s image to the outside world. My responsibility includes engaging Liberians in the Diaspora and Americans by creating public awareness about the encouraging progress Liberia is making, as well as the challenges facing our post-war country.

In a letter to FPA, he writes: “My attention has been drawn to the Tuesday, September 7, 2010 edition of the FrontPageAfrica publication headlined, ‘NOT STUPID’: Recalled Ambassador to U.S., Barnes on 2011; Recall Rumors. In the article, it is reported that there are rumors that I, Gabriel Williams, recommended to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the recent recall of His Excellency M. Nathaniel Barnes, then Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States”.

But it was the favorable Ambassador Barnes’ response to Williams’ alleged implication that made the former Deputy Information Minister more comfortable in describing the working relationship between him and the Ambassador, as he pens: ““To the extent that Ambassador Barnes has seriously refuted the allegation against me should indicate to any reasonable person that he is convinced that I had absolutely no role to play in his recall, and, more importantly, he and I had an excellent working relationship for the short period following my assignment as the newest diplomat at the Liberian Embassy near Washington, D.C”.

The former Deputy Information Minister expressed delight and pleasure for a better working relationship with Ambassador Barnes, adding, “And it is my honor and privilege to serve in the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf”.

In line with Williams’ mandate, a proposal has been submitted for the reactivation of the Liberian Information Center, the Public Diplomacy Section of the Liberian Embassy. The Liberian Information Center, which is equivalent to what used to be the United States Information Service (USIS) in Monrovia, was closed during the civil crisis. According to Williams, the reopening of the Liberian Information Center would boost the country’s efforts in projecting Liberia’s image to the outside world.

Explaining that he has been too occupied with the mandate of disseminating information through media outlets in the Diaspora and in Liberia, in addition to a series of town-hall meetings in various parts of the U.S. to explain the policies and programs of the Liberian Government, and to get some feedbacks from the people concerned, the Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs said: “One of the challenges facing our government is the inability to provide adequate information to Liberians in the Diaspora, as well as others in the international community who want to know about Liberia, due to financial and other constraints. Since my arrival in Washington, my focus has been how to make public information dissemination more effective despite the constraints, rather than seeking the downfall of other people that I work with”.

A Builder, Not A Destroyer

Flipping pages of his past activities to his current status, Williams said he has always been a builder rather than a destroyer.

He said: “Records of my activities over the years would clearly show that I have always been a builder rather than a destroyer. Throughout my career – beginning as a cub reporter with the Daily Observer when I was a teenager, to leading The Inquirer newspaper and the Press Union of Liberia during the early years of the civil war, to recently serving as Deputy Information Minister in this government, I have never done anything to undermine the public interest, including seeking to destroy others, for self aggrandizement.

I never took advantage of my position in government to steal public resources, while our President is struggling to pull our country and people from abject poverty. I have never used my government position to suppress freedom of speech and of the press, or proved to be an incapable custodian of the public trust.”

While Barnes’ political future still remains uncertain as he also faces unanswered questions about his legacy as Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) relative to answers to the concerns of an unreleased audit report on the mission, Williams has cleared his side of the rumors, leaving many to wonder now who may have telephoned the President on any purported galvanizing support on the part of Ambassador Barnes to challenge her during the crucial run for the presidency in 2011.

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