A Call For New Alternative
By Abraham M. Williams
For many years, I have used this space to lash out at those who plunged Liberia into its current quagmire. I have said that such lowlifes who engineered and oversaw the death of thousands of Liberians should not be allowed to govern the country.
Instead, these characters should be tried for crimes against humanity. I still hold those views notwithstanding the sentiment of some Liberians that we should reward the war criminals for the sake of peace. Unfortunately, this baneful reasoning for peace was emboldened by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who brokered the Abuja peace accord, essentially letting the perpetrators off with impunity.
I have also regularly used this space to spotlight the various misdirected policies of the Taylor government since it took office. My primary reason has been to aid the regime to see those things that the majority of citizens expect the government to do in their interest; what's generally good for the nation, and not just the parochial and selfish interest of a select few.
But Mr. Taylor has come to view this serious national discourse from an adversarial perspective and, accordingly, regards this important outlet as criticism of his regime. Many of my readers have told me that Taylor and his officials came to power with a set of predispositions whose foundation is inimical to democratic principles. In other words, they see themselves as divine rulers who must tell their subjects what to do. The kind of condescending attitude that characterized the Tubman and other Liberian dictatorships.
So, instead of just criticizing the regime, I have decided to offer some bold, concrete yet unconventional, proposals which might lift Liberia from this abyss of hopelessness. While the situation in Liberia is not completely unique, some of its elements are bizarre enough to require unusual approach.
First of all, we all must admit that our problems have been understated. Liberia is in a far deeper trouble than we have been led to believe, and that the condition would require more than the citizens can give. We will need outside assistance as well as a mortgage on the future of the country. That means we must change the way business is done in Monrovia and institute a radical paradigm that can produce the desired results. Violence is not a solution.
As a corollary of this, President Taylor must also admit and come to grips with the stark reality that our problems are overwhelming, and that his government lacks the capacity to effectively address them. This simple admission of truth could be the only patriotic thing he could do to lessen burden that his actions have imposed upon our people.
Secondly, with this admission of truth, the government must then tender its resignation. Taylor should not be embarrassed for this bold and courageous action. He should realize that there is a difference between the ability to make war and the requisite capacity to provide effective, democratic leadership. Taylor must understand that such dramatic decision would manifest the patriotism to which he has laid claim; it would certainly silence his critics who have consistently accused him of putting personal ambition over national interest and, most importantly, it would relieve the nation of this stranglehold of division.
Thirdly, Liberia must establish a National Crisis Administration, which will run the country for the next four and a half years. This national crisis administration will comprise of men and women who can command international trust - individuals whose sole purpose is to breathe life back into a dying nation. As such, unscrupulous characters and political leeches need not apply.
This group will consist of five persons. One of the selected five will become director while the other four will each be charged with social welfare, national economic renewal, finance and foreign affairs. Basic qualifications in addition to experience will include honesty, commitment to democratic principles, sacrifice, antipathy to violence, belief in market-based economic system and declaration of personal assets.
The purpose of this group is to design economic recovery programs and engage in intensive international discussions to facilitate the effective implementation of such programs. All of their collective energy will be totally devoted to the success of this endeavor.
Yes, I know some people are ready to say that we had tried this before. But of course, they're wrong. There is a difference between what's being proposed here and the various interim governments. For one thing, the stubborn warlord who held Liberia hostage all those terrifying years has tried his hands at ruling and failed.
Following the selection of the National Crisis Administration (NCA), a blue ribbon commission will be set up to identify and prioritize Liberia's problems. From the commission's report Liberia can put together a need-based package which will be presented to the western powers, international financial institutions and Japan for both grants and loans.
Fourth, and central to the success of these recommendations, is the maintenance of a safe and secure economic and political environment. This vital role must be played by U.N.- supported African Peacekeeping force (ECOMOG), which would provide training for a pared Liberian military and police. An army of at least 2000 soldiers for guard duties at key border posts, and a police force of 500 should be adequate. All police personnel must be at least a high school graduate or its equivalent.
Fifth, the entire national administrative apparatus will be seriously pared down to a minimum. In this regard, the legislature will be reduced to a 26 member consultative council while the judiciary is reorganized for functional administration of justice. All other state agencies will be subsumed by the Crisis Management.
With these five recommendations, it would then be incumbent upon Liberians in the Diaspora, especially those in Europe and the United States, to make the necessary investment. Once the entrenched roots of corruption and incompetence have been excised from the system, most Liberians would be willing to make substantial human and capital contributions to their country's development.
A key allied ingredient which would be critically important for the success of this project is a determined resolve to lure as much private investments into Liberia as possible. Such foreign investments should include various manufacturing concerns and other business entities which would enable the ordinary citizens to be economically self-sustained. Indeed, economic empowerment has been the crucial missing link in Liberia's overall development schemes over the years. The importance of a vibrant middle class in any emerging economy cannot be overemphasized.
But all of this cannot happen in Liberia until we disburden the country of economic and political parasites and profiteers who pillage the lifeblood of the society.
This bold, unconventional alternative is not a panacea for all of Liberia's problems. Other meaningful actions should be taken to put in place a fair and equitable political system that values the dignity and autonomy of the individual. It would require serious commitment and sacrifice to succeed. It ought to evoke passionate discussion among the citizenry since the country is at the ebb of no return.
Liberia will need the inculcation of new social and political values, since existing structures are an affront to humanity. The current political framework, seemingly appropriate on paper, has been seriously perverted by the regime to the detriment of the people.
As soon as the varied components of this recovery package are in place and the whole initiative is in full swing, Liberia must begin the final phase of easing its agony. A panel of credible citizens must be established to examine the conduct of the war and bring to justice those who have committed crimes against humanity.
Such a public inquiry of the atrocities that destroyed the nation would be a basis for lasting peace and genuine reconciliation. Any other approach will be demeaning to the memory of the victims.