LLF-C Program of Action for Peace in Liberia
The Liberian Leadership Conference/Liberian Leadership Forum makes this presentation as a contribution to the on-going efforts by Liberians, supported by the sub-regional, regional and international community towards ending the death and destruction in Liberia and curtailing the further spread of the instability associated with the country across the West African Sub-region. It outlines the critical steps needed to end the armed hostilities and create a serene and secure environment that will allow the Liberian people restore responsible national governance and embark on the process of national reconciliation and reconstruction and the building of a peaceful democratic society.
What is contained herein is a result of many consultations in several parts of the world. Some of the key formal consultations, which brought together leaders of political parties, religious bodies and other civil society groups, were the conferences held in Abuja, Nigeria under the aegis of ECOWAS and the Nigerian Government (March, 2002); Bethesda, Maryland, USA by the Liberian Leadership Conference (June, 2002); Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso by the Liberian Leadership Forum (July, 2002), and in Monrovia organized by the ruling National Patriotic Party Government of Liberia (August/September, 2002).
Those meetings and subsequent developments in the country continue to demand appropriate mechanism to ensure the proper implementation of some of the broadly agreed program ideas. It is envisaged that the mechanism will serve as a common platform of Liberian leaders to forcefully and eloquently represent the views and position of the vast majority of the Liberian people committed to peace and democracy in the country. The LLC and the LLF, which independently sought to fulfill that important vacuum, have decided to merge to become the effective critical voice demanded by all at this time.
The newly merged entity comprises of leaders and influential members of political parties, religious bodies and other civil society organizations, statesmen, academics, professionals and other respected opinion leaders from all walks of life. It takes a non-partisan political, non-sectarian, non-ethnic, non-violent approach to finding solutions to the Liberian crises. Its primary and immediate goal is to end the ongoing-armed hostilities, and to create conditions that will allow and enable Liberians to put their lives back together and commence the processes of building a peaceful, stable and democratic society. Its mission is to save Liberia and restore her honor and dignity.
The LLC/LLF fully relies on the Liberian people in pursuit of its mission and counts on the support and solidarity of the governments and people of West Africa, the African Union, the European Union, the United States of America and the entire international community. It warmly welcomes the establishment of the International Contact Group on Liberia represented by the Chairmanship of ECOWAS (now Ghana), Nigeria, Morocco, the United States of America, United Kingdom, France, ECOWAS, African Union, European Union, and the United Nations. It embraces the appointments of General Abdulsalami A. Abubakar, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the ECOWAS Mediator for Liberia and Mr. Abou Mousa as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.
It appeals to the ICGL to lead the all-round support to the Liberian people as they explore all legitimate means to arrest the abysmal destruction of the country and as they resuscitate and return the country to the proper fold of the comity of nations. In contributing to this process, the LLC/LLF proposes the following Programme of Action for Peace and undertakes to work fully and closely with the ICGL for its realization:
The 6-point Program of Action for Peace:
1. Cessation of the hostilities
The need for the cessation of hostilities and a negotiated cease-fire between the rival fighting forces
· That negotiation toward cessation of hostilities and a permanent cease fire be held. Such must be broad-based, bringing together not only the NPP government and the armed resistance, but also a representative leadership of opposition political parties and civil society organizations supported by credible peace brokers.
· That the principal basis of any peace negotiation should be the principles, understandings and decisions reached by the then rival armed groups, civic leaders, ECOWAS and the other peace brokers in Abuja in 1995. Commonly referred to as the Abuja Accord, they provided the legal and political basis and framework for the holding of the special elections in July 1997 that brought the NPP Government into existence. That Accord was cumulative of numerous peace agreements, the core of which was the 1990 ECOWAS Peace Plan and the 1994 Cotonou accord. They were guaranteed by the Authority of ECOWAS, the OAU and the UN as the best framework for achieving durable peace in Liberia. Indeed the failure of the government to adhere to and implement the salient provisions on security and reconciliation is universally recognized as a major contributor to the resurgence of violence in the country.
The lack of security in Liberia under the NPP government and the resulting infringement of human rights are well known and documented worldwide.
· Having security in Liberia today would require the following: the cessation of hostilities and institution of permanent ceasefire; the creation and nationwide deployment of an international security stabilization force; the separation, disarmament and demobilization of all rival armed groups; the creation, organization, and the training of an entirely new and professional national security system.
· The Abuja decisions of 1995/96 provided for the creation of a new national army and other security institutions. On assuming power, the NPP government reneged on the agreement, consequently denied the country of the benefits of a re-constituted, properly organized security apparatus. Instead, it transformed the fighters of the erstwhile rebel NPFL into the national security services. These, as would be expected, are nothing but the private militias of the President and his close associates with the singular purpose to protect and retain the NPP in power. So long as this status quo remains, there will be no peace and stability in Liberia and in the neigbouring countries. This necessitates the demand for the disarmament and demobilization of all armed groups in the country and the creation of a true national security system, under supervision of the proposed international security stabilization force.
3. The international security stabilization force
The international military force to be in charge of national security until a new trusted security organ is created
Liberia is now the weakest link in the security situation in the West African sub-region and especially in the Mano River basin. Sierra Leone has been stabilized to some extent today due to the role of the UN and British Forces, preceded by ECOMOG. The crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, the other neighbor of Liberia, is being contained and may come to a peaceful end due to the intervention of the French and ECOWAS forces. The training provided by the United States of America to the Guinean military has helped build the capacity of the national army to challenge any threat from the neighboring countries. The growth and intensity of the armed hostilities and the incessant reports of the Liberian government being the principal source of support to armed rebellions in the sub-region do make a formidable and compelling case for an international security stabilization force in Liberia.
The mandate and authority of such a force derives from the absolute need to save and protect life and property; and should include the disarmament and demobilization of rival armed groups, the organization and training of an entirely new national security system. There has been general agreement on this throughout the various consultations, including the so-called National Peace and Reconciliation Conference (August 24-September 17, 2002) that was organized by the NPP Government in Monrovia, even if that ended in confusion, with no reading of final resolutions.
4. National Reconciliation
Although elections were held in 1997, and serious efforts made by many Liberian and other bodies towards national reconciliation, the goal has still not been achieved due mainly to the practices of the government.
· True national reconciliation must include an effective mechanism to address impunity. That mechanism must include verifiable actions against past and current human rights abuses. The most tenable and definitive approach in this regard would be the establishment of a tribunal of international standing with mandate to discern or refute guilt and to award penalties or reprieve as the case may be.
· The other mechanism should be the creation of a truth commission at which all victims and perpetrators of crimes will seek reconciliation through truth;
· Amnesty is one other mechanism for reconciliation. Such should apply to those covered under the Cotonou Accord of 1994, excluding those who committed heinous war crimes.
By all accounts, current conditions in Liberia are not conducive for free and fair elections in October, this year as is being suggested
· For any elections to be minimally free and fair, there are major hurdles on the critical path that must be overcome: a) insecurity there is pervasive insecurity for voters, candidates, observers and officials; b) un-verification and non-registration of qualified voters; c) un-fulfilled constitutional requirements on census and constituency demarcation, the prerequisites for proper and adequate representation; d) the failure of the regime to conduct municipal and chieftaincy elections as required by the constitution, thereby leaving in place appointive loyalists, some of whom are former and serving fighters in the regime’s private militias.
· It is an open secret that the present Elections Commission enjoys little or no confidence neither among the Liberian people, nor for that matter with the international community. It does not have the capacity and capability, on its own, to conduct free, fair and transparent elections. If it must be tolerated to serve at all, then the present Commission must do so under international supervision. The mandate must include proper voter registration, voter education, adjudication of demarcated electoral constituencies bearing in mind that demographics have undergone major shifts, development of balloting and counting procedures, elections results announcement procedures, and clear roles for international observers and monitors as well as clear rules for access to the media. The details of the full mandate of the Commission and the rules/guidelines for the elections must be developed by a conference of registered political parties and relevant civil society organizations.
· Another very important element for free and fair elections is an independent judiciary. The current Judiciary is not independent and has not been able to demonstrate its ability to be fair.
6. Sovereign National Conference for durable peace
There are critical constitutional issues imposed by the continuing crises that should only be settled by a sovereign national conference.
· Since it is now quite certain that under circumstances and conditions currently prevailing in Liberia, the scheduled October 2003 elections cannot be held, and if held, would be no more than a charade, the LLC/LLF calls for the organizing and convening of a Sovereign National Conference, to be held under the auspices of the International Contact Group of Liberia, to determine the form, nature and content of interim national governance, pending the conduct of proper elections at a time to be agreed. Ideally, such a conference should be held no later than July 2, 2003, one month to the end of the sixth year of the current regime. The proposed conference should be deemed as lawful under the Liberian Constitution, and decisions there from must be legally binding.
7. UN Security Council Arms Embargo and Sanctions
Sanctions should be retained as a signal to improper state behaviour.
· The arms embargo on both the Liberian government and the armed opposition groups are an important statement of the international community’s abhorrence with the continuing armed violence in the country against innocent people especially women, children and the aged. It should be vigorously observed. The extension by the UN Security Council of the sanctions on the sale of blood diamonds and those banning the travel of certain individuals known to be direct beneficiaries of the wars against the people of Sierra Leone and the inclusion of timber are also a statement of moral outrage when one considers the lives of the amputees and the massive destruction in that country and the environmental abuse in Liberia.
All efforts should be made for the strict adherence to the sanctions or further punishment for violation. They are the strongest statement yet, from the international community against the acts of violation perpetrated by the regime against humanity. They must be lifted only when there is demonstrated proper behaviour on the part of those sanctioned or when the need for the sanctions is removed convincingly.
8. Special Court in Sierra Leone
Early action by the Special Court is necessary to bring to justice all of those including Liberians and others living in Liberia who committed or contributed to the atrocities and war crimes in Sierra Leone.
· This action will serve as a major deterrent to what appears to be the spreading of armed conflicts in the sub-region. No position held by anyone in any country should prevent the court from charging or prosecuting such suspect.
The LLC/LLF believes that the conflicts in the countries of the region are linked. Their solution must therefore be linked. Liberia is the epicenter of all the most recent conflicts and the regime in Liberia is known to fuel it. Unless Liberia is fully addressed as part of the general solution, the violent conflicts will persist. Liberians do recognize and accept their primary responsibility to resolve the national crises and to rehabilitate and develop their homeland. In diverse ways, Liberians are doing something about that problem. However Liberians realize that they live in a global village in which members of the larger international community have a role in helping to save their country. Liberians deeply appreciate that there are those who are willing and able to lend invaluable support and assistance in re-charting the course to national reconstruction and democratization. The International Contact Group on Liberia is seen by all to provide one of the critical links and channels for fostering such strategic partnership with the international community.
Dated May 8, 2003
Please contact the Co-chairs of the LLC/LLF:
Cletus Segbe Wortorson
Tel: 609 448 7905
Conmany B. Wesseh
Tel: (225) 22 411 421