Induction Address By His Excellency C. Gyude Bryant, Chairman, National Transitional Government Of Liberia
Wednesday, October 14, 2003
Posted October 17, 2003
His Excellency Joachim Chissano, President of the Republic of Mozambique & Chairman of the African Union; His Excellency John A. Kufour, President of the Republic of Ghana and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; His Excellency Moses Z. Blah, Former President of the Republic of Liberia; His Excellency Jacques Klein, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Liberia; Heads of Ad Hoc Missions Accredited to these Ceremonies; Mr. Speaker and Members o f the National Transitional Legislative Assembly; Her Honor, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Members of the Cabinet; His Excellency the Doyen & Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Eminent Personalities, Local and Foreign Prelates and Members of the Clergy, The National Muslim Council of Liberia; Current and Former Officials of Government; Tribal Chiefs and Traditional Leaders; Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; Fellow Citizens; Friends:
We gather here today to celebrate the beginning of the end of 24 years of civil conflict in our country.
For the third time in the past 23 years, we have been constrained to set aside our organic law and pursue a change of national leadership through extra-constitutional means; each time, hoping that the change would be for the better. But in the first and second instances, we went from bad to worse, reaping only a harvest of despair.
This third time around, we are determined to move together in concert to arrest further polarization of our nation and deterioration of our social fabric.
We are here, therefore, to lay a solid foundation for many transitions:
A transition from the denigrating politics of patronage and tribalism, to the empowering politics of diversity and inclusiveness;
A transition from recurrent civil conflicts and divisiveness to reconciliation and national unity;
A transition from the harmful vices of lies, deceit, sycophancy, treachery, intolerance and indiscipline, to the noble virtues of truthfulness, honesty, adulation, fairness, kindness and discipline;
A transition from secrecy, inordinate greed and corruption, to openness, modesty, transparency and accountability in national governance;
A transition from the practice of pursuing personal interest in government at the expense of the people, to a new attitude of promoting and seeking the general welfare of all of our people;
A transition from a culture of lawlessness and impunity, to rule of law, respect for human rights, and the equitable dispensation of social justice;
A transition from a centralized, Monrovia-centered government, to a decentralized government wherein the people are empowered to assume responsibility for the transformation of their communities;
A transition from opportunism for a few members of the ruling elite, to equal access to opportunities for all of our people; and
A transition from extensive underdevelopment, to a better quality of life for all of our people.
Our country has become a failed state! The Sweet Land of Liberty, which was once considered the beacon of hope of Africa, has become another glaring example of a nation-state in decay.
Ours is, therefore, a rescue mission: to take our country back from the brink of self-destruction; to take our country back from the trenches of despair and hopelessness; to redirect our nation and redeem the pledge of our forebears to: "establish justice, insure domestic peace, and promote the common good".
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Accra, Ghana, on August 18, 2003 provides the basis for moving our country forward. We shall scrupulously and meticulously implement its provisions.
Fellow citizens, ladies and gentlemen, today we pledge before God and man, that Liberians and members of the international community will see in us the finest examples of commitment and diligence in the discharge of our responsibilities under the Agreement.
Historically, the core problem that Liberians have had has arisen out of their inability to effectively perform the fundamental task of governance. This is primarily because, for a very long time, various administrations have paid lip service to the Constitution of the Republic. This led to the civil war. Today, despite our abundant human and natural resources and long history as a sovereign nation, Liberia has been classified among the poorest countries of the world. It is all about not obeying the Constitution. Let me declare, here and now, that I hold sacred the oath I have just taken, to "uphold, protect and defend the Constitution" and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Our Government will take the Constitution seriously and be governed by it in all our policies and actions; and good governance shall be the guide for our Administration. Additionally, in obedience to the Constitution, this Government will encourage the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press, which constitutes one of the basic tenets of good governance.
It is only when the people are free to speak, write and print that they can help keep the government accountable and transparent. I also pledge that our Government will encourage an independent and unfettered Judiciary, where justice will be administered freely, fairly and impartially.
This Government will also embrace the Good Governance Program of Liberia, which has been developed with the assistance of the UNDP. We shall also make the Governance Reform Commission of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement a fully functioning and effective mechanism to undertake further research and to recommend activities to induce adherence to the tenets of good governance.
My fellow Liberians, it is high time that we as a people be true and honest neighbors. Under our leadership, Liberia shall be a nation of peace: at peace with herself; at peace with her neighbors; and at peace with the international community. The focus of our foreign policy shall be good neighborliness and peaceful co-existence. We shall restore a harmonious relationship with our neighbors in the Mano River Union, La Cote d’Ivoire, and the wider neighborhood that comprises the West African Sub-Region. In addition, no group of any kind shall use Liberia for either terrorism, or destabilization of another country.
Toward these ends, we reach out to President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone; President Lansannah Coteh of Guinea; and President Laurent Gbagbo of La Cote d’Ivoire.
PEACE BUILDING AND RECONCILIATION:
Continued conflicts have hurt and destroyed our society for too long. We need to exert new and meaningful efforts to achieve genuine peace and reconciliation.
Fellow citizens, national healing and renewal shall be the primary objectives of our reconciliation efforts. Our approach to national reconciliation shall be simple: Liberians will be urged to forgive one another, to be reconciled with one another, and to join others in the search for closer national affinity.
Peace and reconciliation will require all of us to give a little. We are not asking anyone to forget. We cannot forget because if we do so, we will not have learned any lessons from the past 23 years of attempting to solve our problems through violence. But what we are asking is for each of us to look into the mirror, see the enemy in us, and show some willingness to forgive brother or sister.
To build the peace, all arms must be collected and decommissioned; all fighting units must be dissolved; all control and command structures must be disbanded; and all fighting men and women must be retired and rehabilitated. The entire country must be combed and rid of arms.
In addition, we must reintegrate all combatants into normal life in society and help them acquire a stake in Liberia’s future - a stake so significant, that never again shall war ever be considered an option for them. Rehabilitation programs, however, should take into account the needs of not only ex-combatants, but all members of the community.
To build the peace, we must also reintegrate into the mainstream of society, all Liberians who have been dislocated either as refugees in foreign countries, or as internally displaced people. They, too, should be assisted in re-establishing their lives and provided with opportunities to acquire a stake in Liberia’s tomorrow.
To build the peace, there must be justice - justice for all, irrespective of origin, religion or other persuasions - justice based on the rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights of the individual as declared in our Constitution and international instruments. Accordingly, security sector reforms shall be undertaken; and these reforms shall accentuate training, re-adjusting attitudes and orientations, improving community relations, inculcating loyalty to the state, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Today, we defiantly draw a line in the sand between good and evil. We challenge those who believe that this country cannot and will not redeem its pledge of justice for all, to test our character and our resolve.
THE ECONOMY AND ESSENTIAL SERVICES
Our country has been designated the poorest of the world. But it is common knowledge that this same Liberia once had a vibrant economy, which matched the economies of Southeast Asia. Today, the economies of Southeast Asian countries are so developed, they are referred to as the "Emerging Markets," while Liberia sinks deeper into poverty as a result of gross mismanagement, massive corruption and continued conflict. This trend must be reversed!
To revive the economy and restore essential services, the Government will establish an economic stimulus program that will put our people back to work. Our economic stimulus program will have a growth orientation that focuses on employment generation and poverty alleviation through productive resettlement. Resources will be directed at reducing the unacceptable high indices of underdevelopment which our country is experiencing.
We are under no illusions: we know that the tasks to restore essential services are awesome. We are not certain that all services will be completely restored before the expiry of our 28-month term of office. What we are certain about is that the process of restoration of services and overall reconstruction will commence now.
FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
Remembering that rigged elections have been a source of conflict in Liberia, the Peace Agreement calls for collaboration with the international community, particularly the United Nations, in the conduct of the next elections. We welcome this provision.
MESSAGE TO THE LEADERS OF THE WARRING PARTIES
The war is over!
Those grievances that motivated you to take up arms against your own people and government are now on the political table. You have been brought into the government in positions of your choosing. Let us now work together to seek an amicable resolution of the grievances. Let us now work together to move our country forward into an era of sustainable peace and human development.
As we together seek to correct the ills of the past, the eyes of our people and the world will be upon us. Let us, therefore, govern with every ounce of thoughtfulness for our people and diligence in public service. Ours is a trust bestowed upon us by providence. Let us not betray this trust.
Our collective responsibility is to ensure that we merge our various factions and parties into a coordinated, functional, and credible government.
What we are contemplating is nothing short of a radical re-ordering of how we think, how we live and how we interact with one another. We cannot accomplish what we need to accomplish by returning to business as usual.
To the Combatants
The war is over!
Many of you are young. Many of you have been on the periphery of our society. Life has been meaningless, for there appears to be no opportunities. Most of you have been disadvantaged by the lack of education and training. Others among you have been abused. All of you have lost your childhood and even adolescence. This government, with the assistance of the international community, will seek to address, in a holistic and coherent manner, the wide range of problems associated with former combatants. Your effective reintegration into local communities shall be accelerated. Among the problems to be addressed, top priority will be given to education, health-care and food security. We shall seek the help of the international community in addressing these problems.
In the process of restoring Liberia, our institutions of higher learning will be crucial. We shall work hard to revive and support the University of Liberia and all other institutions of higher learning.
To the Liberian People
I know that too many of you have been hurt either by actions of combatants, your fellow citizens, or by actions of your own government. Under these circumstances, it is hard to ask you to forgive, and to give us your trust. But we have no option, except to ask that you trust us and work with us as we commence the task of moving Liberia forward.
If no government before ours has served you well, this Government will!
Let me caution you, however, that our problems are enormous and our current national capacity is low.
Be that as it may, our Government will do its utmost for you.
Over the months since we were selected to head the Transitional Government, we have received tremendous goodwill for our country. The international community is poised, ready and willing to help us. But there are two conditions: First, we must help ourselves; and second, we must subscribe to and implement the norms of decency, civility and good governance. Let me now assure you, fellow Liberians, that we shall do what is appropriate to attract external assistance to our country so that the quality of life of the Liberian people will be changed permanently for the better.
Fellow Citizens, the harm of our country was done not only by those in arms. Many of us took advantage of the situation to enjoy what we erroneously believed to be the spoils of war. We looted the offices of both government and private businesses. We looted civil society institutions and we looted the homes and shops of our neighbors.
What is even more disgusting is that we have the audacity to sell those from whom we looted, their own properties. But, if you believe in the new Liberia we are seeking to build, we appeal to you to join us in making our country free of looting. We shall endeavor to create the conditions that will empower each able-bodied citizen to reap a fair share of his labor, from the sweat of his own brow, rather than to take, seize or loot from others that which is lawfully theirs. Let us remember that one of the hallmarks of our free enterprise system is respect for private property.
A key demand of the Liberian people and the international community is the eradication of corruption. Corruption, particularly in government, is a cancer that has been eating at the heart of our nation for a very long time. It must be checked.
My Fellow Citizens, we must work diligently and passionately to eradicate corruption from our personal and national lives. We shall not pay lip service to eliminating corruption. We shall attack it from the core of its foundation and from every angle, not only because its eradication is a benchmark set by the international community for assistance to us; but also because we are aware that corruption is inimical to the sustainable development of our country. We shall attack corruption because it is the right thing to do. There will be zero tolerance for corruption in this Administration.
My Fellow Citizens, within the immediate future, you will begin to feel the impact of our commitment, and experience a difference through the policies we adopt.
During the months since our selection, we studied various sectors of the economy and we determined, as you probably know already, that the prices you pay for a 100-pound bag of rice, a gallon of gasoline, a gallon of kerosene, and a gallon of diesel fuel are unnecessarily too high. These, among other things, negatively impact the quality of your lives. This exorbitant cost of living is unacceptable and shall be reduced.
Accordingly, without interfering with our free market system, which we cherish, the Government will initiate policies to ensure that effective November 1, 2003, this unreasonable hardship on our people is reduced. Among other things: the price of rice will go down; the price of gasoline will go down; the price of fuel oil will go down; and the price of kerosene will also go down.
As a consequence of the reductions of the cost of petroleum products, the cost of transportation will be reduced accordingly, and the public will be duly informed.
We are aware that one of the most important elements in the improvement of the quality of life of any people is their active and sustained involvement in the business and commercial life of their country. Unfortunately, for too long the business and commercial life of the Liberian nation has been dominated by foreigners.
While we welcome the continued participation of foreigners in the economic sector, this government, will as a matter of urgent priority, exert every effort to encourage Liberians to go into business, to stay there and to develop and expand their enterprises. Liberians must be encouraged to assume the responsibility for building Liberia. No one else can do it better than ourselves.
The effect of the civil conflict on the lives of all of us is devastating. One of the sources of relief is the barrels and cartons of humanitarian goods and personal effects sent by non-resident Liberians to their families and friends here at home. Levies have been recently imposed on the importation of these barrels and cartons, thereby adding unnecessary hardship on our people. Effective immediately, there shall be no levies on barrels and cartons containing personal effects and relief supplies sent to Liberians from abroad.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement decries monopolies in our economy; and in implementing those provisions of the Agreement, there shall be no monopolies on rice, petroleum and other products. The market will be free, open and competitive.
Our Constitution guarantees the free movement of our people; the Comprehensive Peace Agreement accentuates this principle as evidence of a free people. Accordingly, the requirement for the exit visa is hereby abolished.
To the United States of America
Liberia remains the only country on the African continent with special historical ties with the United States of America. For more than 150 years, Liberia has remained a faithful and trusted ally of the United States. In World War II, Liberian territory was used by the United States Armed Forces as a supply center for the Allied campaign in North Africa. Liberia made the United States self-sufficient in rubber - a commodity that was critical to America’s industrialization.
During the Cold War, Liberia housed the largest United States intelligence and navigation information network in Africa.
Despite intermittent difficulties, Liberia - U.S. relations have withstood the test of time. As we begin this new era of national renewal, we invite the United States Government to engage us in a renewed and strengthened friendship as we face the formidable task of national transformation. We welcome recent signals from Washington assuring us of continued long-term support of the United States in assisting Liberia make this sustainable transformation.
We express special thanks to President George W. Bush for his recent personal involvement in changing the course of events in Liberia for the better.
To the Leaders and Peoples of ECOWAS
The people of Liberia will always be grateful to the Heads of State and Government and the peoples of the West African Sub-Region for their concern shown to Liberia and its people.
We appreciate the sacrifices that the peoples of the sub-region have made and continue to make over these long and difficult years to preserve the sovereignty and integrity of Liberia.
When we needed a friend to lean on, you, our brothers and sisters, came to our rescue, giving up your sons and daughters to die so that Liberians might live and our country survive. When our people, in desperation and pain, sought refuge from hostilities, you provided shelter for us.
We are convinced that the members of ECOWAS, led by our big brother, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are truly performing the role, and living up to the challenge conferred upon them by history and Providence.
President Obasanjo, to you and the great people of Nigeria, we, the people of Liberia, extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
We also pay a special tribute to His Excellency John A. Kufour, President of the Republic of Ghana, and Current Chair of ECOWAS, for providing leadership to the Organization in addressing the Liberian crisis, as well as for the warm African hospitality extended in hosting the recently concluded Liberian Peace Talks.
No doubt, blood and tears have further sealed the fraternal bonds between the people of Liberia and those of the Sub-region. Behold, from henceforth, our children will remember and call you blessed!
For their personal contribution to peace and stability in Liberia, special acknowledgment also goes from the National Transitional Government of Liberia to the following dignitaries:
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa;
President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique;
President Aboulaye Wade of the Republic of Senegal
King Mohammed VI of Morocco
The Members of the European Union
Former Nigerian Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar,
His Excellency Nana Akuffo-Addo, Foreign Minister of Ghana
Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS.
Members of the International Contact Group on Liberia
The Wider International Community
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Liberia’s fundamental problem is prolonged years of underdevelopment, which has now resulted in continued conflicts. Liberia, therefore craves the indulgence of the international community to understand the underlying causes of her problems as well as the enormity and complexity of these problems.
Beyond the resolution of our conflict and the provision of humanitarian assistance, we make an urgent appeal to you to assist Liberia in reforming her economic and political structures and institutions, which are indispensable to sustainable human development.
Without this assistance, Liberia will not meaningfully attend to her underdevelopment; and without attending to her underdevelopment in a meaningful way, Liberia stands to be a zero-sum game in which more political instability will induce more underdevelopment.
We seek true partnership with the international community, not just symbolic partnership. We seek a partnership which will allow us to take ownership of the development of our country. We seek a partnership that accommodates the use of national skills and talents; a partnership geared towards building institutions and setting in motion processes for the renewal of Liberia as a vibrant and well-managed state.
Finally, Fellow Citizens, Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends, Liberia is today a country in conflict. But even in the midst of the consuming chaos, I am convinced that with your cooperation, Liberia will become a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation and regain its pristine place among the comity of nations.
Let us reaffirm faith in our future and rebuild confidence in our confidence in our capacity to achieve a better quality of life for all our people.
I have faith that God will grant us His grace to achieve these goals because they are just and good for all our people.
So as we leave these ceremonies, let us now start this new beginning with a greater degree of harmony, accord, faith, and the determination to succeed.
May God, the Almighty, Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, grant us His Peace and Bless Liberia!
I thank you.