Trusteeship Sparks Public Debates Among Liberians But Politicians Are Tightlipped

By: Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia



The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 5, 2005

Send Money From Around The World 24/7_1
The Economic Governance Plan that the international community and the United Nations want to put in place to cut back economic mismanagement has generated intense debates among Liberians both at home and abroad, with one group calling for the country to be placed under an international trusteeship, while others diametrically oppose to it.

In the face of this controversy, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, has endorsed the decision to place the country under international trusteeship, reasoning that the UN Council gives due consideration to the Economic Governance Plan developed by Liberia’s international partner.

But in an apparent reaction to the UN Secretary General’s statement, Liberia’s Transitional Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant threatened to resign if the country is placed under trusteeship. Similarly, the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr. C. William Allen, has also threatened to resign if the plan is implemented.

Chairman Bryant stands opposed to any form of trusteeship because, according to him, documents to that effect have been withdrawn.

Conversely, Dr. Annan said that it was disappointing that the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) has failed to improve economic governance and the observation by international partners that financial malfeasance, lack of transparency and accountability threatening the transitional process were causes for deep concern.

The major goals of the Trusteeship System are to promote the advancement of the residents of Trust Territories and their progressive development towards self-government or independence. The Trusteeship Council is made up of the five permanent members of the Security Council China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States.

Usually the aims of the Trusteeship System are fulfilled to such an extent that all Trust Territories have attained self-government or independence, either as separate States or by joining neighboring independent countries.

Under the UN Charter, the Trusteeship Council is authorized to examine and discuss reports from the Administering Authority on the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the peoples of Trust Territories and, in consultation with the Administering Authority, to examine petitions from and undertake periodic and other special missions to Trust Territories.

The debates on whether or not Liberia should be placed under UN Trusteeship has taken a new dimension as the Internet and radio waves are flooded with diverse views, especially from Liberians from all spheres of life.

A group of Liberians based in the United States under the banner of the Liberian History, Education and Development (LIHIDE) has warned against trusteeship.

LIHIDE considers as old, an Economic Governance Plan intended to establish a system of good governance, fiscal responsibility and transparency, democracy and political accountability in Liberia.

The group, however, said there was an urgent need to re-model the proposed Liberian Economic Governance Plan drawn up by the international community.

On the contrary, the Union of Liberians Associations in Americas (ULAA) says the Union has found it prudent to endorse the aspect of the plan on economic governance.

In a press release issued over the weekend and signed by its President, Arthur Watson, the Union said it is regrettable that Liberia as a nation has not found a way to use the natural and financial resources of the country to provide for the basic needs of its citizenry, and develop policies and strategies for national economic development. “Unbridled corruption and mismanagement have continued to bedevil the country since its founding,” ULAA said.

According to the ULAA, the raw theft of public resources has become the badge of honor worn by successive governments, adding that government officials and their cronies live in opulence while the vast majority of the people continue to live in abject poverty.

Instead of considering government as a medium of honorable service to one’s country, ULAA said many Liberians see government as a “get rich quick instrument,” hence the bitter and deadly fight for government jobs.

“The 14 years of civil war has exacerbated this national tragedy and shame of corruption while basic services such as electricity, water, and basic sanitation remain non-existent. Government officials and their criminal business partners are enriching themselves from the resources of the state,” ULAA noted.

“This criminal environment has placed a strangle hold on national economic development by diverting resources away from building needed infrastructures for sustainable economic development, social justice, and peace,” ULAA observed. It added that “our land has become a field lorded over by cavalier thieves where the lot of the vast majority of the population continue to plummet to disgraceful levels.”

The Union said it regrets that the International Community did not cease the opportunity early on to advance this economic plan as part of the Comprehensive Peace Accord reached in Accra, Ghana.

According to ULAA, had this plan been advanced then and implemented, Liberia would have probably been spared the level of corruption and unaccountability that now permeates most sectors of the Government.

Consistent with its principle of ensuring that appropriate steps are taken to curb the abuse of power and misuse of public resources, ULAA cautiously embraces the Economic Governance Plan as the basis for securing the nation’s revenue streams and instilling fiscal and managerial discipline for the betterment of all Liberians.

The group backs calls for the outright rejection of the plan based on the sovereignty argument. It views the argument as “paranoid nationalism”— a desperate offensive launched by beneficiaries of this shameful state of affairs to ward off any attempts to safeguard our resources from their avaricious reach.

The Union wonders how one can argue sovereignty when the nation cannot feed itself nor provide its own security. It added, that those who have advanced the argument of Liberian sovereignty have yet to put forward a workable plan that the dehumanized “sovereign” people of Liberia will use in ending the endemic and unending cycle of corruption, graft and waste in our national lives.

In endorsing the plan, the Union calls for the participation of professional and competent Liberians with no history of corruption as implementing partners of the plan.

For his part, a Liberian author and political commentator, Dr. Abdoulaye W. Dukulé, Associate Editor-In-Chief of The Perspective News-magazine said trusteeship would be long in coming, at least as perceived and expected by most Liberians.

According to Dr. Dukule, the debate about placing Liberia under international trusteeship started well before the Accra Peace Conference in June 2003 when the fall of the Taylor regime became imminent.

Dr. Dukule argued that it was then that monitoring structures should have been put in place to help the transitional government, stressing that economic governance should have been on the agenda along with military issues. “The problems of Liberia went far beyond military matters and a holistic approach was needed to jump-start the nation, but then again, the issue was to stop the killing and return people to their homes. And for those attending the conference, power was the only thing that mattered.”

According to him, rejecting “trusteeship” is not such “a patriotic duty” as some may want to make it sound. How much longer can Liberia continue to be at the receiving end of international charity? Living on handouts should be more humiliating to patriotic Liberians than “trusteeship.”

He said in the past 14 years, the welfare of Liberians has been in the hands of others. “Nigeria, ECOWAS, the UN, the US brought peacekeepers, relief food and medicine while Liberian “leaders” killed hundreds of thousands of their compatriots, destroyed the country and enriched themselves.”

The Associate Editor of The Perspective further reasoned that currently security is in the hands of the international community. Funding for the few institutions that work well comes from international organizations and the money for the electoral process, restructuring of security forces as well as support for the hundreds of NGOs that now constitute a parallel civil service comes from the international community and they offer the only good paying jobs.

Propounding further, he said the same international community provides safe drinking water, medicine and repairs roads, adding that whatever decision the government wants to make in regards to natural resources as well as to the peace process has to be approved by the UN Security Council or ECOWAS.

According to him, one can safely assert that the country has been under “trusteeship” for a long time. Liberians cannot expect others to feed them and not have a say in how their money is spent. Liberians have to face and resolve the shortcomings that led the country to become the poster child of failed statehood.
“The test of patriotism would be to create conditions that render any form of aid or “trusteeship” unnecessary”, he noted. He also said to do so, many would have to forego the life of luxury to become swamp dwellers and kill all the mosquitoes in the process to stop malaria.

“Corruption and impunity are symptoms of more serious social ills. As Liberians are now about to end 25 years of revenge mass killing, they could start to look at other more complex structural problems and find solutions,” he noted, adding that a place to begin would be an understanding of the reasons for failures at integration, nation building and basic human issues that include a culture of inclusion, respect and stronger moral values.

However, Dr. Dukule believes that trusteeship is a stopgap measure that would not cure the cancer; it will only postpone the harsh decisions needed to transform society. Liberians have enough human and natural resources to create a new vibrant society. In the meantime, an economic governance plan in partnership with the international community cannot be anymore humiliating than the past 25 years of slow descent in the abyss. Politicians in Liberia are yet to comment on the issue.