Crying Sovereignty, Trusteeship, And All This And That…

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 8, 2005


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Amid the uproar that has ensued, as interpreters equate the Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan (LEGAP) to a trusteeship, one wonders whether opponents to the plan are really taking the time to read what is stipulated in action plan, or whether they are advocating the best interest of the people. Nowhere in the proposed LEGAP is Trusteeship expressed or implied. What’s all this “ado about nothing”? LEGAP is simply a proposal to clean up the mess created by successive regimes, especially this current band of looters termed Interim Government., a mess that has left bottomless gaping loop-holes in which thieves have nested for generations.

To all detractors to the action plan, who can point to any single era where an administration had reasonable control over the country’s revenue base? See what is going on as we debate:

Bribery and corruption has been the order of the day since the first cargo ship docked at the Free Port. We have broad-day-light evasion of customs where goods destined for the Port are dumped out at sea and recovered by hired local fishermen. Bales of Marijuana, Fanti lappa, you add your own goods. What have we really gained from the current management scheme at the National Port Authority (NPA) ?

Over the years, Roberts International Airport has been nothing more than a smugglers’ hub. Whether one’s cargo, and oh yes, even one’s suitcase containing personal effects, gets opened and ransacked, depends on his/her willingness, or lack there of, to fork up a negotiated bribe sum. Incoming mail gets sorted here rather than at the Post Office. Mail is put through the “bright-light-test“, and those that pass the test never make it to their destinations.

Revenues from the Bureau of Maritime Affairs have been notoriously proclaimed slush funds, petty cash for the head of state.

Inefficiency plagues this functionary. It only knows to pay its do-nothing officers and board members hefty salaries and allowances. We all saw that flushed out into the open, culminating in the resignation of the gang leader.

All of a sudden some among us are advocating a selective application of the Comprehensive Peace Accord. It is pervasively expressed throughout the CPA document that wherever or whenever necessary, the international partners should be engaged to provide expertise to any set up functionary. Of course we signed the peace document. Why all this not even applicable “sovereignty cry”. The determining question is, is the proposed action plan to rescue or revamp crucial functionaries - NPA, RIA, CBL, BMA, FDA - that to date have proven to be dysfunctional following a slue of audits and investigations warranted? The answer, of course, is YES. Just ask any Liberian on the side-walk, or any international friend, for that matter.

There is one recurring phrase in LEGAP that seems to be stepping on the sore toe of many of the detractors to the action plan, and hence their “sovereignty cry”. Here it is: “deploying international experts with signature authority”. Now let’s deal with that. These experts would be working alongside Liberians in a partnership capacity. Would we rather have their stamp of approval or sole signatures of their Liberian counterparts? Who really would be in charge here? To want the latter is to want a mere rubber stamp. Sorry, that would be inappropriate. And that would be unacceptable to the people.

Annex II: Technical Annex
1. Securing Liberia’s Revenue Base
3. Since the challenge is to revamp dysfunctional systems and processes in the these agencies, it is essential that Management Contracts for these institutions be awarded for a period of time to be defined with agreed upon milestones for measuring results. These would be awarded on the basis of international competitive bidding so that global expertise can be obtained for upgrading these agencies. This is essential since it is recognized that only by introducing modern management practices and processes will make these agencies sustainable in the long term. The recommendations from the EC financed audits of the NPA, RIA, FDA, LPRC, BMA, CBL and BCE should be taken into account when drawing up the terms of reference for these Management Contracts.

The foregoing passage from LEGAP should be music to any Liberian’s ear, and not to draw tears of any fowl play - Trusteeship, invasion of sovereignty, and all that. And music it will be. All this talk about the Chairman threatening to resign because of the plan, if that indeed is true, would be like wasting palm butter on our pussawa. A confidant once said that the Chairman uses “soft voice” to get his aims across. We are listening. Come on, serve the meal and let the people chop, for once.

Let’s work out any perceived kinks and move ahead with the plan of economic action. It is a sensible way forward; it’s long overdue.