UN Votes to Maintain Diamond and Timber Sanctions on Liberia – Bryant and Officials are Disappointed

By Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 7, 2005


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The United Nations Security Council has recently voted to maintain the extension of sanctions on Liberian timber and rough diamonds. The sanctions were first imposed on the nation in May 2001 for the Taylor regime’s alleged involvement in the Sierra Leone civil war and the indirect misappropriation of Liberian natural resources to aid the rebel movement, RUF, led by the late Foday Sankoh.

An international panel of experts meets yearly to review the conditions and to make recommendations, as they recently did. According to the panel, the decision to recommend the extension is prompted by the government’s failure to control the “illicit trade in its valuable resources”.

Chairman Bryant (L), Min. Allen (R)
Expecting a favorable response, the Liberian government’s expectation was thwarted; the Information Minister, Dr. William Allen, expressed the government’s disappointment. The government’s chief propagandist and spokesperson said: “We are disappointed because the sanctions were imposed to stop the flow of blood diamonds, but this transitional government is not involved in blood diamond trade.”

Well, chief-the-honorable-minister, someone forgot to tell you the entire story. Or did you simply find it decidedly convenient to apply the psychology of selective memory? In any case, it may be necessary to refresh our collective memory. Here are some of the conditions the panel considered:

Humanitarian and socio-economic status: According to the UN panel of experts on Liberia, “the majority of Liberia’s citizens continue to suffer a great deal from a dysfunctional economy, characterized by widespread financial improprieties by government officials, extremely low economic growth, a high foreign and domestic debt burden, and soaring unemployment estimated at more than 80 percent”.

Diamonds: “…mining activity has begun to increase steadily… much of it is illegal, and recent reports indicate that production from these mines is being smuggled to the international market via neighboring countries. Given that former combatants are now returning to the rural areas in search of work, and the fact that the government lacks the functional capacity to control illegal mining, violations of the Security Council on the export of Liberian are set to increase in the short and medium term”.

Timber: “There is widespread compliance with the sanctions on the export of timber from Liberia. However, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has not completed the reforms required by the Security Council to ensure that the sector is not a source of conflict. FDA must reform its management system. It must also become operational in the field… Given the inability of FDA to enforce the rule of law, it is likely that loggers will violate regulations. Indeed, a growing domestic market is being supplied by ex-generals who are hiring ex-combatant laborers. The fastest way to achieve the necessary reforms is to hire a professional management team to run FDA.” (Some of us know about the incompetence at the helm of that agency).

Financial: “The first full year of the National Transitional Government did not give any sign of macro-economic policy orientation. The NTGL has misplaced priorities in the budget, allocating about 52 percent for personnel expenditure, and 15 percent for the security service sector, at a time when UNMIL is primarily responsible for national security, instead of making allocations for health, education, water and roads…”

Asset freeze: “The NTGL took considerable time to initiate action to freeze the assets of the persons designated by the Security Council. When the government finally acted, it did so only against two of the 26 persons on the list, and that too without proper preparation. As a result, the Supreme Court of Liberia intervened to stay the administrative order when the affected persons challenged the order…”

Given the depth of concerns the UN panel has had to consider, as the highlights above indicate, it is quite misleading or simply disingenuous for the Honorable Minister of Information (or shall we say propaganda?) to declare, “We are disappointed because the sanctions were imposed to stop the flow of blood diamonds, but this transitional government is not involved in blood diamond trade.” Some of us are clearly disappointed that the minister would exhibit such a cavalier attitude towards a matter of this magnitude.

Again, knowing the track record of this NTGL, the Minister Allen also proclaims, “We have to be mindful that we have obligations to our people.” Who are these people to whom you have obligations? What people, the same people who have been forgotten in budgetary appropriations? The same people who lack the basic necessities of water, electricity, roads, healthcare and the like, or those who continue to grow rich and fat at the expense of the masses? Who exactly are the minister’s constituents? One must wonder.

That the NTGL, led by Charles Gyude Bryant, is corrupt comes as no surprise to observers. The NTGL’s Chief Economic Advisor, Mr. Harry Greaves, expressed that view in a long article, detailing the collective malfeasance of the NTGL. Just before the UN Special Panel’s report, Dr. William Allen himself, met with a group of reporters in Monrovia and publicly announced: “The NTGL is indeed corrupt”. How they continue to stay in their posts while making such a damning statements boggles the mind. Is it because they are fattening their own bellies and filling their deep pockets?

Recently reporting from Monrovia, Liberia, our correspondent, J. Moses Gray wrote: “The Chairman of the NTGL, Charles Gyude Bryant, has admitted that there is rampant corruption in the power-sharing government”. But being the incompetent coward he is, Chairman Bryant blames the corruption on the CPA, the power-sharing agreement that brought them to power; he did not elaborate. Mr. Bryant and his co-leaders and advisors must learn to take responsibility for Liberia’s ills during their official reign. It was no secret to him that the transitional government would be composed of factional representatives. As the chief, he must understand the concept that the buck stops with him. Passing the buck has its limits; no amount of pointing fingers will save him.

The UN is right to extend the imposed sanctions. Since Chairman Bryant and his cohorts are admitting their own ineptitude and feigning ignorance about the real issues at hand, it is obvious their time has come to move on. I hope there will come a time when they shall be made to account for their time at the helm. This administration has been a nightmare to the people, the real people who live and work in the trenches; not the fat ones in trendy cars.