LEGAP Is A Trusteeship But It Is Good For Liberia

By: John S. Morlu, II



The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 12, 2005

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The international community has proposed a plan for Liberia dubbed Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan (LEGAP). LEGAP was conceived in May 2005 at a meeting in Copenhagen attended by the United Nations, the European Union, ECOWAS, and the United States. As I see it, the principal goal is to improve the country’s fiscal management by curbing massive corruption, maximizing revenue collections, and prioritizing expenditures. A secondary but important goal is to strengthen the judiciary. Liberians should stop nit picking and speaking legalese and talk plainly and recognize the practicality of LEGAP.

LEGAP is not a form of trusteeship. It is a trusteeship, pure and simple. It is an extension of the trusteeship we already have in Liberia. LEGAP is both financial and administrative control over Liberia. There are several ways that I can substantiate my assertion that LEGAP is, for all practical purposes, a trusteeship. First and foremost, the most important responsibility of a national government is to provide security and protect its people. UNMIL is responsible for providing security and making Liberia a stable country; it is not the Liberian government.

Second, another important function of a national government is to promote and protect its citizens' fundamental rights by having a legal system that has capable and qualified judges, insists on due process, renders impartial adjudication of disputes, and interprets laws and legislation in a competent manner. LEGAP seeks to usurp that national responsibility by bringing in outside judges to carry out those important functions of a sovereign nation.

Third, a national government - sovereign nation - has a vested and solemn right to manage how revenues are collected, how those revenues are spent, and how goods and services are procured. LEGAP wants to bring in foreigners to make those decisions under a committee called The Economic Governance Steering Committee (EGSC). EGSC will supervise and monitor LEGAP by providing the necessary political leadership, technical direction, and approval including the right to vote. Yes, the right to veto. Read it again! Yes, the right to veto.

EGSC will comprise members from outside groups such as the U.N., ECOWAS, E.C., U.S., IMF, and World Bank. Some folks from the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Liberia, representatives of the Liberian civil society, the Chairs of the Governance Reform Commission (GRC) and the Contracts and Monopolies Commission (CMC) will be member of EGSC. But the outside groups will have veto power over contracts, procurement, and expenditures. ESGC will report to the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) and the International Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL). It will not report to the government of Liberia, period. Go figure this one out! Is IMC and ICLG a separate government overseeing critical decisions of the Liberian nation? You bet! I could very well move on and rest my case about this kind of structure that leaves out the post-election legitimate government of Liberia. But no way, just for comparison purposes let me provide some historical context on an arrangement that occurred in the 1980s.

In the 1980s, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and I believe the U.S. Treasury sent international experts to work with the Liberian government to institute policies, procedures and systems to prevent corrupt practices and achieve efficiency. But those international experts were acting as consultants or advisors, and not key decision makers. In LEGAP, they will be key decision makers, plain and simple. Prove me correct by carefully analyzing the details. As the phrase goes, the devil is in the details. Check LEGAP out and you will see trusteeship looking straight at you.

Fourth, a national government - sovereign nation - also has the right to regulate commerce and enter into contracts or concessions without any outside intervention. In the United States and practically all other sovereign nations, the Congress is responsible for regulating international commerce, approving concession contracts, and affirming trade agreements. I believe the Liberian Constitution also gives such power to its Congress. Since, we do not have an elected Congress in Liberia, for the most part these assemblymen were loosely chosen to represent the interests of their constituents - meaning warring factions and some members of political parties and civil society.

Therefore, one could make a plausible argument that the Interim National Assembly is limited in scope and does not represent the will of the people, so it cannot serve as a basis for a competent defense of sovereign rights. But LEGAP seeks to extend its mandate beyond January 2006 for three years when we will hopefully have a democratically elected Congress. Bluntly speaking, LEGAP again usurps this all important right by insisting on becoming a key decision maker within the Contracts and Monopolies Commission as well as approving and vetoing contracts, concessions, procurement, and expenditures.

I could go on and on. But as the saying goes, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck. You can call LEGAP international partnership. You can call LEGAP receivership. You can call LEGAP a stopgap. Or you can argue that in the document there is no word mention trusteeship. Sadly, supporters of LEGAP are desperately trying to hide behind false definitions. This is like throwing a stone and hiding your hands. But let the supporters of LEGAP keep hiding behind the fence and call LEGAP anything they want. The common people know that for all practical purposes, LEGAP is trusteeship camouflaged as anything but a trusteeship. It would be nice if every Liberian could just learn to call a spade a spade rather than trying to hide behind jargons and definitions.

Former UNMIL head Jacques Klein stated on National Public Radio that the international community contemplated a trusteeship for Liberia during the Accra meeting but stopped short of an outright trusteeship because African leaders would consider a trusteeship as the beginning of the re-colonization of Africa. It seems clear now that the international community decided to take a different approach with sober assessment pointing to trusteeship; they decided to gradually put Liberia under trusteeship with a piecemeal control of various sectors. I believe then like so many other Liberians that it was a catastrophic mistake not to have gone all the way for a trusteeship. Liberians future should not have taken second stage to some ill-informed African governments’ position about re-colonization. However, I am glad that the United Nations and the donor community have finally recognized the urgent need to extend their reach beyond providing security and a stable environment. It is better late than never. Many Liberians welcome it!

It would, therefore, behoove Liberians to stop debating the virtues and pitfalls of trusteeship versus non-trusteeship. We humans can find more than a million bad things to say about any proposal for change. In the study of organizational behavior, we learn that people are less inclined to support change, so management must be candid in discussing the beneficial aspects of change while acknowledging potential pitfalls. So rather than making the argument that LEGAP is not a trusteeship so support it, proponents should tell the truth that LEGAP is a trusteeship and then try to convince the opposition of the beneficial effects for Liberia.

Democratic politics is about persuading others to agree with your line of thinking. Hiding behind the fence and assuming a position by confusing the issue will not win you any good points. It only leaves you expose and vulnerable to the opponent’s assault on your position. This is what has happened in the LEGAP debate. The proponents seemed unsure of their positions, creating a vacuum for the opponents to come in and box them in the corner. I don’t want to make that mistake. So I want to acknowledge to all those opposing LEGAP that it is a trusteeship, but that it is good for Liberia. This is a clear and unequivocal position I have assumed. In the subsequent article I will present a case for why I support LEGAP even though it is a trusteeship. But remember now, this is just my opinion. It is unsolicited. It is fair and balanced. You have the right to agree or disagree. Stay tuned!

John Morlu II can be reached at: jmorlue@yahoo.com