“Mayor Koijee and I both know that actions speak louder than words, and when it comes to keeping the city clean, everyone needs to pitch in.” These were the exact words of t Joel Maybury, the Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States of America in Liberia. This past weekend, he and other volunteers from a cleanup campaign worked to clean up a neighborhood in Monrovia to show that the saying “actions speak louder than words” is true.

The lathering of dirt on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, is a defacing public problem that can only be addressed collectively. Over the years, both Liberians and foreign diplomats have communicated their concerns in various ways. Some have openly criticized the national government for failing to implement a proper strategy and method to maintain Monrovia clean, while others have joined cleaning activities.

Among the campaigners was Joel Maybury, an American diplomat dressed properly for the occasion in blue trousers, a blue calla T-shirt, a light-blue helmet, and a lemon-green bright safety jacket. On Saturday, May 21, 2022, they were led by the mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Tamba Koijee, to clean up neighborhoods in the city. He was holding a yard brush constructed from raw materials obtained at the local market.

But Joel was unconcerned. He swept in a backyard garden while people looked on in disbelief at the sight of a foreign diplomat sweeping in their backyard. We can only hope that the presence of an American diplomat in a cleaning effort will convey a clearer and stronger message to Monrovia people to join ranks in a collaborative action to clean up their areas.

Womenvoices Newspaper publisher Helen Nah Sammie interviewed America’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Liberia to learn more about his motives. In response, the US diplomat stated that it is critical for everyone to participate in keeping their communities clean, something he has done frequently back home in the United States of America. He frequently joins other volunteers to clean parks, streams, and beaches in the United States, he said, arguing that both he and Mayor Koijee understand that actions speak louder than words, and that everyone must pitch in to keep the city clean. Furthermore, he stated that he values the opportunity to meet with people in order to listen to them, study what they’re trying to accomplish, and, in this case, join forces with them.

Womenvoices: Hi DCM, the move you took today to join Major Koijee in a cleaning up campaign was quite amazing and we were impressed. What motivated you to do so?   

DCM (Joel Maybury): First of all, I think that it’s important for people to take part in keeping their communities clean. In the United States, I have often joined other volunteers to clean parks, streams, and beaches. Second, Mayor Koijee and I both know that actions speak louder than words, and when it comes to keeping the city clean, everyone needs to pitch in. Finally, I appreciate opportunities to get out among people to listen to them, observe what they’re trying to accomplish, and in this case, join forces with them.

This is second in recent time for a high-profile foreign diplomat to join Mayor Koijee in a massive cleaning up campaign in Monrovia. The Head of the European Union Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, a few months back was seen with the City Mayor in street corners of Monrovia trying to clean up.    

However, it can be recalled that the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, and Amb. Laurent Delahousse of European Union, on separate occasions, expressly frowned at public behavior of the lathering of dirt on the streets on Monrovia. Ambassador Delahousse, who later apologized, in an open statement said Monrovia was the dirtiest city he had ever visited in Africa. His statement was so heavily amplified on social media and in the local media that he felt compelled to apologize, stating that he was misconstrued.

On similar note, Ambassador McCarthy said when he was a Peace Corps volunteer, he was blessed to live for two years in villages (without electricity or running water) in West Africa. He said the first thing every morning, each household would take advantage of the cool, early morning daylight to sweep inside and outside and dispose of debris. He compared residents of Monrovia with villagers. He said villagers then coordinated with the local government to deliver waste daily to a designated landfill.

He said the state of cleanliness in the city of Monrovia, which is more developed and a far wealthier community, sadly does not compare.

When such statements are made about our nation, we should all feel ashamed. There is a need for public leaders to actually create an environment conducive to open discourse regarding some of these crucial public issues. No one person has all the answers to a public problem, and no one group of people creates public problems. Important, though, is a true community effort to tackle a shared problem.

It is arguable that maintaining the cleanliness of the streets of Monrovia presents two problems, the primary of which are social and capability issues. The majority of people who live in Monrovia are of the mentality that it is the city government’s social responsibility to keep the city clean, which is significant when viewed from a social perspective. This indicates that Mayor Koijee and his team are paid for their work. It’s possible that this is the mindset that contributes to their bad attitude of being willing to smear filth anywhere. But it is important to note that regardless of how much money a city government is paid, and particularly in a less developed country where resource mobilization is a difficult battle, the residents of the city need to be aware that they play a very crucial role in the proper management of city waste.

On the other hand, due to chronically restricted financial, logistical, and human resources, the municipal government is visibly overburdened by the task of disposing of city waste. The local authority is unable to generate enough revenue to fund its activities for obvious reasons. Either the majority of citizens are underprivileged, or those who can afford to pay taxes are unwilling to do so or are corruptly obedient.

As a result of this, we are urging all Liberians to demonstrate a love for public service and a readiness to serve the public good in the same way that Joel Maybury did, which is why we are lifting his example. In addition, it is recommended that the MCC make greater effort into raising awareness among the general public in order to enlist the assistance of the general populace. This is an unavoidable prerequisite, and the governance structure of the Monrovia City Corporation absolutely requires an expansion of both the people and material resource capacities available to it. This is an essential. It is not too late to follow in Joel Maybury’s footsteps; in fact, you can get started right away. Everyone should do so.

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