July 27, 2005
Liberians Associated for Public Accountability and Democracy has been following the various opinions, positions and public reactions relating to the present Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan (LEGAP) proposed by the international community vis-à-vis diplomatic relations, legal conventions, international law and sovereignty of nation-states.
The international community intends to establish an Economic Governance Action Plan (LEGAP) for Liberia as part of its efforts “to guarantee the full implementation of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement”. At a donors’ meeting held in Copenhagen on May 11, 2005, the United Nations, United States, European Union and ECOWAS decided on an action plan that they believe will ensure that all Liberian revenues will be made available for the reconstruction of the country, the improvement of basic services, create the appropriate fiscal instruments to capture the revenue for the development of the country. The plan we gather, is intended to bring about tangible developments, establish new procurements policies for the country, and reform the Liberian justice system which will require the temporary assignment of outside judges contracted on a short term basis
to implement the laws of our country for the duration of the reform process.
On the contrary, some concerned officials of government, politicians and ordinary citizens have expressed total opposition to the proposal. They consider it a move to “take over the sovereignty of Liberia and place the country under international trusteeship”.
LAPAD as a group working for the transparent, accountable and democratic governance of Liberia and its resources views this controversy as a question of accountability as opposed to an issue of sovereignty. When the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in August 2003 all parties agreed to the establishment of a Governance Reform Commission with the mandate to review the existing programs for the promotion of good governance, develop public sector management reforms, ensure transparency and accountability in governance in all government institutions and activities. The agreement also specified under Article XVII, 2a and 2d that the Contract and Monopoly Commission under the transitional government would ensure the formulation and effective implementation of sound macro-economic policies that will support sustainable development goals; and that public officials will not use their positions to benefit from any contracts financed from public funds.
LAPAD holds the view that the text of the Economic Governance Plan Action Plan that we have read and cited here does not in any way infringe on the sovereignty of Liberia . Therefore, we do not necessarily follow course that the Economic Governance Action Plan put forward by the international community is intended to infringe on the sovereignty of our country. We view the plan simply as a framework for the reinforcement and the implementation of the Accra Peace Agreement.
Government officials and others who are concerned about the sovereignty of Liberia should be reminded about the track record of the transition government since it inception in October 2003. Liberians have witnessed for the past twenty-one months a complete national disaster in terms of governance, tantamount to an infringement on our economic sovereignty by the transitional government. We also believe that the country is basically held in economic bondage by a host of former factional leaders and their political supporters, warlords, gravy-seekers, opportunist masqueradering as politicians, corrupt bureaucrats and their Lebanese/Indian common partners in crime. LAPAD wishes to state emphatically that these are the same people who are squandering the resources of the country and the assistance provided by the international community without any regard to the rule of law and the mandates of the peace agreement that empowered them and thereby prolonging the suffering of the Liberian people.
As if the Liberian situation was not already worse, a report compiled by the special TLA committee during the investigation of suspended House Speaker George Dweh, Deputy Speaker Eddington Varmah, Taplah Doe and Edward Kpulun revealed that nearly $4 million was intentionally stolen or misused from the Liberian government with impunity. Additionally, the signing of bogus concession agreements and contracts, the sale of iron ore without any tangible explanation, the manipulation of the price of rice by Commerce Ministry officials for personal gains, granting tax waivers to businessmen for kickbacks, and the continuous commission of all kinds of economic crimes by trusted government officials and public servants at all levels of the government of Liberia only present a general picture of the ice burg of economic, political and social corruptions the government presides over. We hold the view that every fabric of our nation's public institutions is infested with corruption to the extent that corruption has become a national doctrine of the Gyude Bryant-led government. As a result of these vices, this government has proven completely incapable of restoring such basic services as electricity, drinking water, sanitation and adequate health care to this “sovereign nation” at a time when over fifty per cent of the country’s financial resources is provided by the international community.
In light of such national condition as described above, we at LAPAD agree with the international community that the Liberian people would benefit from the proposed Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan and would be better served by it. We believe that this plan will serve the best interest of ordinary Liberians who have yet to recover from 15 years of brutal war while politicians, factional leaders and corrupt public servants have already enriched themselves and continue to become richer from national resources and international donations. This plan will rescue the country from the claws of the voracious squanderers of its scarce and desperately needed resources and give ordinary Liberians more access to the reconstruction assistance from the international community. LAPAD believes this plan is a genuine means by which the international community which is providing the lion’s share of the financial resources will be able to monitor and verify the scrupulous utilization of their taxpayer’s money.
With respect to the issue of sovereignty, LAPAD is unequivocally opposed to any form of trusteeship, not only for this founding member of the United Nations but for any other member of the UN. However, we hereby clarify that not only are we convinced that the Economic Governance Action Plan prepared by the international community is not a trusteeship, we are also aware that Article 78 of chapter XII of the United Nations Charter relating to the establishment of international trusteeship clearly states “the trusteeship system of the United Nations shall not apply to territories which have become members of the United Nations, relation among which shall be based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality”. LAPAD does not believe that the UN is proposing to violate its own charter. Therefore, any claim by any group of Liberians or individuals that the economic governance plan proposed by the international group is a plan to put Liberia under international trusteeship is mere fabrication, based on a distorted definition of trusteeship intended to evade the issue of the scrupulous implementation of Accra Peace Agreement, and divert public attention away from the endemic corruption that has engulfed the country. Frankly, if the government of Liberia has anything honest to say about sovereignty, it should be that the sovereignty of the country will be made more meaningful by the Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan (LEGAP).
In light of the claims and counter claims regarding the LEGAP proposal, LAPAD recommends the following:
- In order to allay the fears and apprehensions surrounding this proposal, the government of Liberia in collaboration with the international community should publish the full text of the proposal in local print and electronic media.
- The International community and the government of Liberia Invite comments, opinions and encourage the media to conduct opinion pools and generate feedback from the Liberian public regarding the LEGAP proposal.
- While reforming the Liberian justice system is a welcome proposal, LAPAD is troubled by contracting foreign judges to run our judicial system. We recommend that the international Contact Group bring in legal experts/scholars to work along with the Liberian judicial community.