Friday, October 18, 2013

Monrovia's Newest Embassy: Qatar

Continuing with the coverage of embassies this week, one of the first entirely new diplomatic missions to arrive in Monrovia during the last ten years has been the establishment of the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Monrovia. 

If the photograph below of the elongated Qatari flag flapping happily over a spacious, sleek house looks familiar, that's because the Emir's standard was raised over the roofline of the Mamba Point Hotel at some point last year.
Apparently, the Charge d'Affaires set up an office in one of the refurbished hotel's suites, as a temporary measure before leasing a more permanent and dedicated compound. 

For most of the year, a small, computer-printed sign, "Qatar Embassy," has been stationed at the landing at the top of the hotel's entry stairway, pointing towards the guest wing. Incidentally or purposefully, the background of this little wayfinder matches the aubergine-clay of the Qatari flag. 

Qatar, flush with petrol cash, has been extending its diplomatic reach throughout its home region and beyond, and seems to be expanding into Africa for soft-power and humanitarian aid, resulting in the world's wealthiest citizens, with a per capita income guessed to be as high as $400,000 per year, opening up offices in the world's poorest countries, with Liberia's per capita income estimated to remain as low as $400 per year. 

Likewise, it appears through minimal information that Liberia has opened an embassy in Doha, or at least has an Ambassador resident there, which may very well have been at least partially sponsored by the Qatari government. Much larger, wealthier states such as Lebanon now occupy brand-new premises provided by the Qatari government. 

If so, this would be the second of Liberia's post-war foreign missions opened in the Gulf, as it echoes the opening of the Liberian Embassy in Kuwait in 2010, which was made possible by a 5-year gratis lease on a spacious 2-story chancery in the Gulf's other tiny, petrol-rich emirate. Kuwait has not, apparently, reciprocated with a diplomatic mission in Monrovia. 

Kuwait was at the time one of only three Liberian embassies in Asia, the other two being in Tokyo and Beijing, and as recently as last year passports from as far away as Indonesia had to be shipped to Kuwait City for visa processing. If there now is indeed a second consular facility a few hundred miles away, it's not clear how the continent is carved up. 

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