The field of candidates is crowded with old guards, part timers, independents, non- politicians and a whole hosts of diverse ideologues vying for votes to run the affairs of a people and nation emerging from one of West Africa’s horrific civil wars.
It is understandable that given the difficult circumstance under which a Peace Agreement was hammered out in Accra, Ghana in August 2003, certain provisions of the Agreement conflict with the Liberian Constitution.
Certainly, there are unique complexities and challenges which will affect the attempt at democratic governance again in a nation that has known nought but misrule, glaring government ineptitude, corruption and wanton human rights abuses as far as this and past generations can remember.
For the sake of this expose, the following examples would obtain as NOT addressed on the ground in Liberian per the Accra Peace Agreement: the issues of the resettlement of the internally and externally displaced and the security sector reform which have now, in effect, been deferred and will become the immediate responsibilities of the incoming administration.
In the Ghana Peace Agreement, signed by the warring militias and witnessed by the international community, it stipulates in ARTICLE XXII - MANDATE OF THE NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA that
1. The primary responsibility of the NTGL shall be to ensure the scrupulous implementation of this Peace Agreement….
Additionally, the Peace Agreement, among other stipulations, notes in PART TEN - IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PEACE AGREEMENT
ARTICLE XXXII - RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PARTIES
1. The Parties to this Peace Agreement undertake that no effort shall be spared to effect the scrupulous respect for and implementation of the provisions contained in this Peace Agreement, to ensure the successful establishment and consolidation of lasting peace in Liberia.
…“ARTICLE XXX - REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
1a. The NTGL, with the assistance of the International Community, shall design and implement a plan for the voluntary return and reintegration of Liberian refugees and internally displaced persons, including non-combatants, in accordance with international conventions, norms and practices.
b. Refugees or internally displaced persons, desirous of returning to their original Counties
or permanent residences, shall be assisted to do so.
c. The Parties commit themselves to peaceful co-existence amongst returnees and non-returnees in all Counties
The Peace Agreement further mandates in PART FOUR SECURITY SECTOR REFORM
ARTICLE VII - DISBANDMENT OF IRREGULAR FORCES, REFORMING AND RESTRUCTURING OF THE LIBERIAN ARMED FORCES
1. The Parties agree that:
a. All irregular forces shall be disbanded.
b. The Armed Forces of Liberia shall be restructured and will have a new command structure. The forces may be drawn from the ranks of the present GOL forces, the LURD.
and the MODEL, as well as from civilians with appropriate background and experience. The Parties request that ECOWAS, the UN, AU, and the ICGL provide advisory staff, equipment, logistics and experienced trainers for the security reform effort. The Parties also request that the United States of America play a lead role in organizing this restructuring program.
2. The following Principles shall be taken into account in the formation of the restructured Liberian Armed Forces:
a. Incoming service personnel shall be screened with respect to educational, professional, medical and fitness qualifications as well as prior history with regard to human rights abuses;
b. The restructured force shall take into account the country's national balance. It shall be composed without any political bias to ensure that it represents the national character of Liberia;
c. The Mission of the Armed Forces of Liberia shall be to defend the national sovereignty and in extremis, respond to natural disasters;
d. All Parties shall cooperate with ECOWAS, the UN, the AU, the ICGL and the United States of America.
3. All Parties together shall organize Information, Education and Communication (IEC) programs to sensitize the Liberian public as to the mission and activities of the restructuring plan…”
The concern here is these are dangerous and unjust missteps and omissions as per the mandate of Peace Agreement. The intent of security reform in the Accra Peace Agreement is to discourage non-state armed groups from engaging in violent attempts to challenge or reform the balance and political and economic structures of power, to avenge perceived past injustices and or to defend and control resources, territory and institutions for the benefit of a particular ethnic or social group.
The instability and fragile security climate in the West African Mano Rive sub region and Cote d’Ivoire is a direct threat to the emergence of a new democracy in Liberia. As good-intentioned as the Peace document is, such a glaring non implementation of the two major stipulations threaten the unity and stability of Liberian and must be elevated to ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations given the time constraint and the pending General Elections.
It is recommended then that any phased disengagement after the elections by the international community takes into consideration the issues raised herein so as to provide an opportunity for redress and an avoidance and repeat of the disintegration of the country Liberia.