A Call For A National Conference Prior To The October Elections
(An Open Letter To Stakeholders In The Liberian Peace Process)


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 6, 2005


Addressed To:

The Chairman, National Transitional Government Of Liberia
Current Chairman, African Union
Chairman Of The African Union Commission
Executive Secetary Of Ecowas
Us Secretary Of State
Un Secretary General
Representative Of European Union
The Special Envoy Of ECOWAS


The Liberian nation today in crisis faces a challenge of change and renewal. At the heart of the crisis and challenge lie crucial issues of sustainable peace based in equity and justice.

We, the undersigned, representing an important sampling of Liberian opinion leaders, subscribe to the view that as the country is poised for elections a nationally organized conversation be initiated about the essential ingredients for sustainable peace and development. We consider it imperative to clearly state that we fully support the scheduled holding of national elections in October 2005, and as such we are not advocating postponement. There is for us no conflict between the scheduled elections and the call for a prior national forum. The latter seems to us necessary because a quarter century of violent conflict has left the national social fabric in disarray, and lessons have not been learned from two failed transition processes.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2003 established institutions to address critical challenges created or exacerbated by the conflict. Challenges included disarming and demobilizing, resettlement, issues of transitional justice, governance reform, and accountable governance in the transition period. Rather than dwell on the mixed and often troubling results of the efforts well into the second (and last) year of the transition, we wish to underscore the persisting crisis and continuing challenge.

While many clamor for public office as elections loom there is no leadership that calls us to re-imagine national community. And there seems a deepening of the crisis of confidence into which the country has been plunged in recent decades. We were in the throes of a national conversation in the 1970s about redesigning the political order when military intervention aborted that process. Efforts were resumed in the 1980s through constitutional rethinking, but that too came to grief and other ambitions intervened.

Full-fledged civil war ensued and this conflict has added a pernicious layer of its own to the historic problems that have plagued the country, and that efforts were made to address in the 1970s, and again in the early 1980s. Because the civil war layer has counterparts in a number of such conflicts around the world since the end of the cold war, the tendency has been to dwell on that feature to the exclusion of root and proximate causes peculiar to Liberia.

We consider it imperative that a national forum be convened in Monrovia before the October elections to accomplish the following:

¨ Affirm national community and begin difficult process of developing "leadership consensus" about national path forward;
¨ Provide opportunity for Liberians to forge a national reform agenda that addresses issues of institutional reform, leadership ethos, and problematic national mindset (political culture) that predisposes to autocracy;
¨ Provide a forum for Liberians to speak within an organized setting to their future leaders - an opportunity to express their hopes and fears and their unwavering commitment to accountable governance and the rule of law;
¨ Provide an opportunity to expand what is called the Liberian "stakeholders" so that the donor community comes to appreciate the Liberia beneath the veneer of shifting "governing authorities".

In all of the foregoing we remain mindful of the various contexts that inevitably impact the peace process in our country. We believe firmly that all levels (national, regional, and global) will be served well if the core Liberian problem is no longer obscured by inadequate Liberian engagement.

We urge timely action in convening a National Forum in Monrovia that will avail our people the opportunity to speak their mind on the national crisis in light of past experience and future aspirations. To lose this historically unique window of opportunity may not augur well for sustainable peace in Liberia.

With sentiments of esteem,

D. Elwood Dunn, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science
(On behalf of signatories)

The signatories are independent Liberians exercising their constitutional rights, and are not necessarily representing institutions with which they may be affiliated.

1. Dr. Byron Tarr, former Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs
2. Dr. Amos Sawyer, former Interim President of Liberia
3. Mr. Albert Bropleh, Liberian Scientist, Engineer and Entrepreneur
4. Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs
5. Rt. Rev. Dr. Sumoward E. Harris, Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Liberia
6. Monsignor Dr. Gabriel Jubwe, Roman Catholic Church of Liberia
7. Monsignor Dr. Robert G. Tikpor, Roman Catholic Church of Liberia
8. Mr. Tom Kamara, Liberian Journalist
9. Shiekh Kafumba F. Konneh, Vice President Inter-Religious Council of Liberia
10. Shiekh Habib H. Sheriff, Muslim Council of Liberia
11. Dr. Alfred Kulah, former Minister of Rural Development
12. Dr. Emmet Dennis, Dean and Vice President, Rutgers University, New Brunswick,
13. Mr. Leslie Norman Cole, Founding member and past President of ULAA
14. Dr. James Teah Tarpeh, former Liberian Ambassador
15. Mr. George B. Cooper, former Foreign Service Officer
16. Bishop Bennie D. Warner, former Vice President of the Republic of Liberia
17. Dr. John T. Wulu, Jr., Senior Statistician, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services
18. Dr. Sakui Malakpa, Professor of Education, University of Toledo, Ohio
19. Mrs. Arabella Greaves, former official of Health Ministry, Liberia
20. Mr. Ijoma Flemester, former member of the House of Representatives
21. Counsellor Phillip Banks, former Minister of Justice
22. Mr. Isaac Dahn E. Bantu, Liberian Journalist
23. Dr. Jestina Doe-Anderson, Liberian Pharmacist
24. Dr. Felicia Lamptey, Teacher, New York City Dept. of Education
25. Dr. William E. Allen, Professor of History, Georgia Perimeter College, Atlanta, GA
26. Dr. Abdoulaye W. Dukule, Media & Policy Consultant, Washington, DC
27. Hon. Othello Gongar, former Minister of Education