Recomendations to the Liberian National Conference on Peace and Reconciliation
(Letter - by Cllr. Mohamedu F. Jones)
August 20, 2002
Mohamedu F. Jones
Washington DC, USA
Friday, August 16, 2002
Roland Massaquoi (Phd)
Liberian National Conference on Peace and Reconciliation
Unity Conference Center
Vice Chairman & Technical Director
Conference Organizing Bureau
Liberian National Conference on Peace and Reconciliation
Unity Conference Center
Dear Dr. Massaquoi and Mr. Nelson:
Thank you for inviting me to attend the Liberian National Conference on Peace and Reconciliation, which President Charles Ghankay Taylor opened on July 26, 2002. As it stands, my law practice calendar into the next eight weeks will not allow me to attend due to the time frame of the notice you have provided, because I have federal court proceedings scheduled in the same period.
I wish to offer the following to be presented to those stakeholders who are able to attend for their consideration, and to form part of the records of the proceedings. I wish to further inform you that I will disclose the contents of this letter, as I deem appropriate.
I present my perspectives in respect to some of the issues framed in the four questions the Conference will consider, offering those that President Taylor and the Government can act on unilaterally, some of which could be acted upon even before the Conference commences, during the course of the Conference, and immediately following the Conference. These presentations are neither exhaustive nor inclusive of the issues, nor are they intended to be. They are not presented in any order of significance.
1. Monitoring and verification system
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should formally request the United Nations to institute a system (on site in the country) of ongoing monitoring and verification in respect to Liberia’s compliance with Security Council Resolution 1343.
2. United Nations major elections mission
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should formally request the United Nations to undertake a major electoral mission for Liberia, whereby the United Nations would be mandated to organize and conduct the 2003 elections, assuming the role normally fulfilled by national electoral authorities. Such a mission is undertaken by mandate of the Security Counsel or the General Assembly. The mandate requires the establishment of a system of laws, procedures and administrative measures necessary for the holding of free and fair elections, as well as the actual administration of the electoral process, e.g. the establishment of a legal framework, the registration of voters, and the proper conduct of elections in accordance with international democratic norms, and compliant with national constitutions. The process is initiated when the Government sends an official written request for assistance to the United Nations Focal Point for Electoral Assistance Activities (e.g. the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs).
In the event, upon Liberia’s request, that the United Nations determines not to extend a major electoral mission to Liberia, then the President and the Government should then request a standard United Nations electoral mission to Liberia, as an alternative.
3. Other international elections cooperation
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should publicly request international elections assistance, and invite international monitors and observers to participate in the electoral process.
4. Code of Conduct
President Taylor should immediately issue an Executive Order and simultaneously introduce enabling legislation to institute a Code of Conduct for public officials as required by the Constitution. Such a Code of Conduct should include, but not be limited, to the following principle governing the ethics of public officers. A public officer is the President, Vice President, and other officials of the Executive Branch appointed by the President, as well as members of the Judiciary (justice, judges and magistrates, court officials) and members of the Legislature, and officers of the Legislature (Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate).
Every public office holder should conform to the following principles:
Public office holders shall act with honesty and uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government are conserved and enhanced.
Public office holders have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.
Public office holders, in fulfilling their official duties and responsibilities, shall make decisions in the public interest and with regard to the merits of each case.
Public office holders shall not have private interests that would be affected particularly or significantly by government actions in which they participate.
On election or appointment to public office, and thereafter, public office holders shall arrange their private affairs in a manner that will prevent real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest from arising; but if such a conflict does arise between the private interests of a public office holder and the official duties and responsibilities of that public office holder, the conflict shall be resolved in favor of the public interest. Public officers simply may not have “pepper bushes” that they may use the authority of their government positions to preserve.
Gifts and Benefits
Public office holders shall not solicit or accept transfers of economic benefit unless the transfer is pursuant to an enforceable contract or property right of the public office holder.
Public office holders shall not step out of their official roles to assist private entities or persons in their dealings with the government nor act to extend preferential treatment to any person.
Public office holders shall not knowingly take advantage of, or benefit from, information that is obtained in the course of their official duties and responsibilities and that is not generally available to the public.
Public office holders shall not directly or indirectly use, or allow the use of, government property of any kind, including property leased to the government, for anything other than officially approved activities.
Public office holders shall not act, after they leave public office, in such a manner as to take improper advantage of their previous office.
Avoidance of Preferential Treatment
(a) A public office holder shall take care to avoid being placed or the appearance of being placed under an obligation to any person or organization, or the representative of a person or organization that might profit from special consideration on the part of the office holder.
(b) In the formulation of government policy or the making of decisions, a public office holder shall ensure that no persons or groups are given preferential treatment based on the individuals hired to represent them.
(c) A public office holder shall not accord preferential treatment in relation to any official matter to family members or friends or to organizations in which they, family members or friends, have an interest.
(d) A public office holder should not hire or contract with members of their immediate families, that is, their spouse, parents, children and siblings. As well, they should not permit departments or agencies for which they are responsible, or to which they are assigned, to hire or contract with members of their immediate families.
(e) A public office holder and the departments or agencies for which they are responsible should not hire or contract with the immediate family of another public officer or party colleague except by means of an impartial administrative process in which the public officer plays no part in the selection of a candidate or the negotiation of the contract.
President Taylor should introduce enabling legislation to establish the Civil Service Commission required by the Constitution.
5. Judicial Appointment Committee
President Taylor should introduce enabling legislation establishing a Judicial Appointment Committee, which shall serve as the official recommendation committee for appointment to all judicial offices. The committee shall consist of seven members of the bench, the bar and the general public. The chief justice shall appoint the two members of the bench, the Liberian bar shall appoint the two members of the bar, and the President, the Speaker and the President Pro Tempore shall each appoint one member of the three public members. Meetings and consultations of the Committee shall be confidential. The Judicial Appoint Committee shall publicly recommend three persons whom they have declared “recommended” or “highly recommended” to the President for each judicial position. The President shall nominate one of the three names to the Legislature for consideration of confirmation to the judicial position. The process supports the constitutional principle that the President shall make such appointments, while enhancing the integrity of the process and promoting the independence of the judiciary.
6. Unconstitutional and illegal detentions
President Taylor should immediately authorize the release of all persons ordered released by an appropriate judicial officer, or persons detained in violation of the Constitution or have criminal charge brought against them in accordance with the penal law, or in the case of treason, in accordance with the Constitution. There is nothing in Liberia’s penal code that makes an “unlawful combatant” or similar designations a criminal offense, but there are sufficient provisions within the penal code or in the case of treason, in the Constitution, under which any activity that may be characterized as “unlawful combat” can be properly prosecuted within the civilian judiciary system.
President Taylor should immediately take action to end all illegal and unconstitutional detentions, protect from harm those held in detention, and prosecute government officers who illegally detain or fail to protect persons held in detention.
7. Budgets of the judiciary and the legislature
To the extend that it is not allowed by law, President Taylor should introduce enabling legislation authorizing the Judiciary to present its budget to the Legislature outside and independent of the Executive Branch. Similarly, the operating budget of the Legislature should be considered outside of the Executive Branch budgetary process. This will help to promote the constitutional integrity of the two non-executive branches.
8. Public participation in the budgetary process
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should act to promote broad participation in the budgetary process by opening up the government’s budget systems to public scrutiny-by publishing information on budget formulation, budget execution, and public accounts. This will have a significant impact on the quality of policy debate and the accountability of public agencies. Formal processes for facilitating public participation in the budget process can help to ensure that citizens play an active role in national decision-making.
9. Community driven development (CDD)
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should institute community driven development (CDD) in Liberia, by giving local communities authority and control over decisions and resources. Specifically, this includes direct responsibility to manage resources and responsibility for resource allocation decisions. CDD defines a process by which local communities organize and take action to achieve their common goals, in the context of an enabling policy environment and with support from responsive institutions of the national Government.
10. Reforming Liberia’s public expenditure management
President Taylor should take immediate steps to reform the government’s public expenditure management and institute systems that,
(a) Focus on performance--the results achieved with expenditure. Apart from the obvious reasons, this also has the potential to engage all stakeholders in pursuit of budgetary and financial management reform.
(b) Establish adequate linkages between policy making, planning and budgeting. This is essential to sustainable improvements on all dimensions of budgetary outcomes.
(c) Institute well-functioning accounting and financial management systems. These are among the basics that underpin governmental capacity to allocate and use resources efficiently and effectively.
(d) Pay attention to the links between budgeting and financial management systems and other service-wide systems and processes of government--for decision-making, for organizing government, for personnel management. A well performing public sector requires that all its component parts work well and, where appropriate, together.
The ultimate objective of this direction is to enhance the Government’s capacity to provide good and services to the people.
11. Elections commission
President Taylor should immediately appoint a multi-partisan Elections Commission, and introduce appropriate enabling legislation to institute the Elections Commission within the framework of the Constitution. This legislation should include the grant of authority to the Elections Commission to develop and submit its budget to the Legislature outside the Executive budgetary framework.
12. Public sector audits
President Taylor should instruct the Bureau of Audit to immediately commence financial, compliance, and performance audits of all government ministries and agencies, including the Executive Mansion (and the Office of the President), and make these reports available to the Legislature and the public. The financial audits would be undertaken to assess the accuracy and fairness of financial statements, compliance audits would examine whether government revenue and spending have been authorized and used for legally approved purposes and in conformity with applicable laws, and the performance audits would determine whether the Liberian taxpayers are receiving value for their money.
President Taylor also should immediately introduce enabling legislation establishing the General Auditing Commission required by the Constitution.
13. Reforming the security apparatus
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should undertake to reform the security sectors of the country in accordance with the Abuja Accords, or other established international norms for post-conflict reformation of national security apparatus, and in addition undertake steps to request appropriate international support for:
(a) Establishing a demobilization, disarmament and reintegration program.
(b) Rehabilitating children affected by Liberia’s conflicts.
(c) Instituting reconciliation processes throughout the country.
14. Focus of public funds
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should act immediately to direct public expenditures to core priorities such as focus on basic health and primary education. Poverty reduction should be undertaken by declared policy and directed action within the country’s overall macro framework. This requires public money to be focused on services that benefit the most people and reduce poverty.
15. Reducing societal inequalities
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should take affirmative steps to redress the horizontal inequalities in Liberia, which are inequalities among groups in the society, within the dimensions of the political, economic and social spheres. Informed international private and public sector observers uniformly and independently conclude that President Taylor’s administration is operating fundamentally on the basis of coercion, material inducement and personality politics, which has further degraded the institutions of the state (begun earlier under previous administrations) and fosters horizontal inequalities in the country.
Such affirmative steps require inclusive government. This means that all major groups in the country should participate in political power, the administration, the military and the police. The Government should act to moderate horizontal inequalities of economic aspects of the society, such as assets, employment and income, as well as limit inequalities in social participation and achieved well-being.
16. Reversing economic decline and moderating inequalities
President Taylor and the Government of Liberia should act to reverse economic decline and inequalities in income distribution, and discourage ostentatious consumption (e.g. ownership of ranches, horses and luxury cars) and prevent the opportunities to acquire these items by corruption through active prosecution of official wrong doers. Much of Liberia’s corrupt ostentatious consumption, if not all of it, is carried out by officials of Liberia who work for the Government in a what is clearly a depressed economy, and a society in which ordinary civil servants are not paid regularly.
In closing, I recall the attention of President Taylor, the Government of Liberia, and the conferees, to the General Principles of National Policy, contained in Chapter II of the Constitution. Article 4 provides that, “The principles contained in this Chapter shall be fundamental in the governance of the Republic and shall serve as guidelines in the formulation of legislative, executive and administrative directives, policy-making and their execution.” The principles contained in Articles 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, offer clear and concise instructions on good governance in Liberia. When Liberia returned to civilian democratic rule in 1997, had President Taylor adopted these principles as his instructions for managing the affairs of the country, we would not be where we are today. Indeed, there is sufficient evidence that many of the actions of the President directly countervailed or disregarded these principles. If the President were to model Liberia’s executive governance to conform to these principles, we will not remain where we are, the national effect would be palpable, and the country will immediately move far along from where it is.
Even without waiting for the conclusion of the Conference, President Taylor should act immediately to redress the most egregious issues facing Liberia, all of which he is well aware of, and acting on those that are amenable to executive action, take concrete steps to initiate some of the desired outputs of the Conference.
Finally, as part of this process, I wish to suggest that the Government of Liberia, within the construct of the Conference, should consult Liberians who are outside of the country (including in West African refugee centers, the United States and Europe), and should ensure that the Liberian public have unfettered access to the proceedings and deliberations of the Conference, and that all documents, irrespective of their sources or points of advocacy, be made publicly available and accessible.
Very truly yours,
Mohamedu F. Jones