Democracy Group Offers Initiatives for Action

The Perspective

January 11, 2002

Editor's Note: Reviewing the continuing Liberian crisis and offering initiatives it considers critical to bringing about genuine peace to Liberia, the newly-formed Washington, DC-based advocacy group, Liberia Democracy Initiative (LDI), has called upon the international community to cut off support and funding to both the Liberian government and the dissident group LURD, amending the constitution to make it illegal for any President of Liberia to declare war or support armed insurgency or uprising within Liberia or another country, and urging LURD to seek the democratic alternative by transforming itself into a political movement, among others. Below is the full text of the statement issued by the LDI.

WASHINGTON, D.C. January 2, 2002 (LDI) --- The Liberian Democracy Initiative, since its inception in May 2001, continues to monitor with grave concern the current state of affairs in Liberia. Many local and international organizations, including the press/media, have well-documented and reported many of the issues facing Liberia. LDI intends to highlight critical issues as well as urge people to take decisive and immediate actions aimed at bringing genuine peace and credibility to Liberia at home and abroad, respectively.

Background: Liberia began a destructive course going down a slippery slope from bad to worse since the 1980s. After seven years of civil war that killed over 250,000 people, Liberians had hoped that the 1997 special elections would be a turning point for economic reconstruction, reconciliation, press freedom, peace, stability, and the repatriation and resettlement of all internally displaced persons and refugees from neighboring countries. Liberia enjoyed lots of goodwill from the international community, including the United States, after the special elections. This goodwill was from both the public and private sectors. The Taylor Administration failed to capitalize on this opportunity. The Administration’s primary focus was on building its paramilitary and security forces, but refused to implement the security provisions of the Abuja Accords.

Economic and Political Repressions: Had the new government implemented the security provisions promulgated by the Abuja Accords, the security forces in Liberia would be professionally trained, better disciplined, and more ethnically balanced and mixed. Human rights abuses would not have been so wide spread in the country today. The Taylor Administration continues to allow gross human rights abuses and systematic killings of opposition politicians, like the Dokies, by the security forces.

Today the Liberian people continue to experience untold sufferings, economic and political repressions. Liberians are living under extreme deplorable conditions and do struggle daily for the basic necessity of life: food, clothing and shelter. The government has failed to provide electricity and pay salaries regularly. Adequate education and healthcare remain elusive. Only a few privileged Liberians can afford them. The basic quality of life and standard of living of the Liberian people is worst than at anytime in the country’s history. President Taylor admitted that his government had failed the Liberian people during the national conference in Monrovia in 1998.

There are many documented cases of official corruption, academic dishonesty and incompetence, economic mismanagement and monopolistic business practices, gross political and human rights abuses, and violations of the constitution. Journalists, opposition politicians and other democracy advocates are targeted, threatened, harassed and killed by government security forces. These advocates are further hampered by the lack of financial and material resources needed to fight official corruption and other forms of human rights abuses in Liberia.

The Taylor Administration continues to blame the deplorable conditions of the country on the international community and Liberians living abroad. In particular, the president has singled out Liberians living in the United States. Ironically, the international community, especially the US, EU and UN, has provided at least eighty percent of the resources bringing international relief and sustaining Liberia’s social programs in healthcare, education, environment, etc. in recent years. Liberians in the United States have played a major role in economic recovery through the hundreds of millions of dollars they continue to send annually to their relatives and friends in Liberia. Thanks in large part to Western Union; Liberians transmitted more than US$200 million to the country in 2000 alone. Yet, President Taylor and his administration blame the international community and Liberians aboard for the failures of the government. We at LDI view the international community and Liberians living abroad as the main source of economic livelihood that provides hope for millions of people living in Liberia. LDI commends the United States, European Union, United Nations and Liberians living aboard for being the lifeline or lifeblood for the suffering people of Liberia.

Domestic and Regional Stability: President Taylor and his administration have had ample time to transform themselves from warlords to statesmen. The Liberian government vehemently denied when irrefutable evidence was presented about its support of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone. Not only did the government’s denial prolonged the search for peace in Sierra Leone, there are now reports that the Taylor Administration may have allegedly supported international terrorism with financial links to RUF and the al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden, according to the Washington Post. The Liberian government has denied connection with al-Qaeda. Furthermore, the fighting between the government and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) continues to destroy the country as well as to destabilize the entire Mano River Union basin.

The problems and challenges facing Liberia cannot be solved through military means and political violence. They can only be solved through the democratic process. Therefore, LDI joins the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Archbishop Michael K. Francis and other Liberians in calling upon both the Liberian government and LURD to stop the fighting and warfare immediately.

Roadmap for Reconciliation and Restoration of Peace in Liberia: Liberia is now a country in crisis and a pariah state both domestically and internationally. The United Nations and the US imposed arms embargo and economic sanctions on Liberia, and a traveling ban on Liberian government officials after numerous unsuccessful appeals for them to comply with international behaviors and norms. Meanwhile, President Taylor and his key officials continue to live a life of opulence, arrogance and in violation of the constitution and rule of law. They continue to totally disregard the collective will of the Liberian people and the international community.

In order to bring about peace and stability to Liberia, LDI urges all Liberians to take decisive and immediate actions in demanding that the Taylor Administration abide by the following key initiatives:

· Full implementation of all United States and United Nations sanctions.

· Investigation and prosecution of all cases of human rights abuses including the murder of the Dokies and others.

· Allowance of full freedom of press and cease the harassment of journalists. The independent media must be encouraged. This must begin with the reinstatement of the short wave licenses and operating rights of Radio Veritas and Star Radio.

· Institution of accountability and transparency in government operations and financial management. This includes abolishment of all monopolistic business and market practices.

· The National Legislature and Judiciary in Liberia are not totally independent. The fact that the executive branch controls these two major institutions through surrogates and cronies of the President inhabits the real separation of powers and the necessary checks and balances within the government. The National Legislature and Judiciary must actively undertake the necessary steps under our constitution to fully investigate and prosecute all forms of official corruption, misconduct, and allegation of involvement in international terrorism. There must be a full and complete report of the findings concerning the allegation of government's involvement with international terrorism. It is unwise to accept the official responses from the executive, which are either denials or accusations of conspiracies or an organized smear campaign against the government. This cannot truly substitute for checks and balances within a constitutional democracy like Liberia.

· The government needs to encourage and welcome a full international investigation by the United Nations Security Council of its alleged involvement in international terrorism.

· The Liberian government and LURD must cease all military hostilities and begin serious dialogues and negotiations for peaceful resolution to the conflict. All concerned parties must completely respect the human rights of and stop the indiscriminate killings and stealing from the innocent civilian population. President Taylor must personally take the lead to begin genuine negotiations and dialogues with all Liberians and opposition politicians aimed at fostering genuine peace, stability and reconciliation in the country. It is time for the Taylor Administration to perform inward reflection, self-examination and evaluation for the greater good of the country.

· In preparation for the 2003 elections, a new Elections Commission needs to be formed. All Liberians and the international community must consider the commission credible. President Taylor should also extend an open invitation to international elections observers. This would be the right and honorable thing to do.

Actions for the International Community: LDI calls upon all nations to cease business dealings and keep their financial systems free of funds supporting both LURD and the Liberian government. The UN Security Council needs to fully investigate the allegation of the Liberian government's involvement with the international terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden. In addition, the international community needs to seriously consider supporting and setting up a Hague-like war crimes tribunal that would begin to fully investigate, document and prosecute all war crimes and atrocities committed against the innocent civilian population in the sub-region. Local and international multilateral corporations must begin to demonstrate their moral obligation and legal responsibilities for the improvement of the social and economic well-being of the Liberian people.

Democratic and Constitutional Measures: LDI calls upon LURD to transform itself from the battlefield to the political field. All Liberians at home and abroad must disavow the use of warfare and other forms of political violence as a means of changing the government. To our youths, you must know that these warlords only want you to fight in order for them to advance their causes. Fighting does nothing for you at all but kills your families and friends as well as steals your future from you. You must stop killing one another now.

Mr. Cyril Allen, Chairman of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NNP), has called for a review of the Liberian constitution. Let it be made clear that LDI does not necessarily agree with and/or support the reasons why Chairman Allen has called for a review of the constitution. LDI calls for a constitutional amendment that would support and accomplish the following:

· Makes it illegal for any president of Liberia to violate the principle of separation of powers.

· Makes it illegal for any president of Liberia to declare war or aid a foreign army or armed group within Liberia or in other countries without the advice and consent of both houses of the National Legislature of Liberia.

· Ensures the election of local leaders including county superintendents and other local officials by the people of the various counties; thereby reinvesting actual power to the Liberian people as opposed to the presidency.

Finally, LDI encourages the Liberian people to carefully review and support the initiatives outlined here. Our common humanity as Liberians and the love of our beloved country make this a necessary effort and collective responsibility that must be taken by all of us. Our collective spirit can bring about reconciliation, peace and stability in Liberia. In this regard, LDI looks forward to working together with all Liberians and our friends in the international community for a more prosperous, peaceful and brighter future in Liberia. God bless Liberia.

Signed: Morris Koffa

Approved: Tim Siklo
Executive Director

The Liberian Democracy Initiative (LDI) is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan and professional organization dedicated to advancing the interests of Liberia.

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