Position On The Restoration Of Peace, Stability, Security And Democracy In Liberia
(New DEAL's Position Statement)
In the last decade of the twentieth century, Liberia, our native homeland, found itself in the throes of fratricidal crises, which were premised on anarchy, massacres, the wanton destruction of properties, the disintegration of national institutions, etc. These crises, which appeared intractable, saw the intervention of member states of ECOWAS, who came and tried to bring about peace and stability in Liberia. ECOWAS and the International Community, particularly the United Nations, saw the compelling need to help return Liberia to democratic governance, peace and security. Consequently, a series of peace initiatives was undertaken and meetings held subsequently. In furtherance of efforts to return Liberia to peace and democracy, Special Elections were organized as a way of promoting and safeguarding peace, as well as engendering an environment of genuine national reconciliation and compromise. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), which metamorphosed into the National Patriotic Party (NPP), overwhelmingly won those Special Elections. By all accounts, the NPFL/NPP was expected to live up to the terms of the negotiations that sought to bring about peace, stability, prosperity and democracy to Liberia, as well as to create an atmosphere of civility and tolerance amongst the people of Liberia.
Despite these peace initiatives the NPFL/NPP became arrogant and crassly chose, under the cloak of “sovereignty”, to abort the terms of the Accords that brought it to power by ordering ECOWAS and the UN to leave Liberia prematurely. The Accords had provided for, among other things, the restructuring of the security apparatus, an exercise that would have created an enabling environment in which Liberians could live in peace and harmony with one another and at the same time foster genuine national reconciliation, growth and development. Moreover, the NPP Government complicated the situation by factionalizing the security apparatus of the State by directly rearming fighters of the NPFL and making them “State Security officers.”
At this point, it became clear that Liberia was far away from achieving the peace and security so desired by all Liberians and the International Community. Witch-hunting, harassment, intimidation, and reprisal became the order of the day. The efforts of ECOWAS and the UN were thereby undercut. No wonder, therefore, that other Liberians, predominantly comprising members of rival armed groups in the Liberian conflict, chose to return to the bush to fight the Taylor - led Government.
Since 1999, Liberia has become Balkanized by these belligerent groups. Liberians, most especially the vulnerable women and children, have become victims of the callous and charlatan war adventures of these warmongers. Liberians are suffering in both displaced and refugee camps. The crisis, which appears to defy all solutions and seems to be a contagion of terrorism in the sub region, is being fueled by heartless men with no remorse for their fellow Liberians.
The New DEAL Movement, as before, therefore sees the intractability of the conflict in Liberia as a result of the arrogance and recalcitrance of the NPP Government. This is evident not only by the abortion of the Abuja Accord that brought the NPP Government to power, but also by its consistent disregard of international standards for good governance and democracy. Additionally, the NPP government’s continuous reluctance to dialogue with LURD as a government that should be working to promote the interest and well being of its citizens demonstrates its disinterest in peace and unity in Liberia.
Equally, the New DEAL Movement blames the LURD (and now MODEL) for arrogating unto themselves, like the NPFL did in 1989, the right to make war without a popular mandate from the people, which action has created the pretext the NPP Government now exploits for the militarization of the Country at the disadvantage of the Liberian People. Hence, the New DEAL Movement believes that in order to restore lasting peace, stability, security, and democracy in Liberia, the following conditions must be satisfied:
CONDITIONS FOR PEACE
1) That there must be an immediate, unconditional ceasefire between the forces of the Government of Liberia, LURD and now MODEL
2) That an international stabilization force be deployed immediately to ensure and monitor the ceasefire, as well as disarm and demobilize all warring forces without exception. This is very critical to the achievement of lasting peace in Liberia, and the issue of “sovereignty” should not put a logjam in the realization of this condition. As a matter of fact, we are talking about the future, security, and prosperity of Liberians within whom “sovereignty” rests. The current demands and dimensions of international law do not see a country’s “sovereignty” as being absolute. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21) provides that the basis of the authority of a government lies in the popular will of the people. And the people cannot freely exercise this popular will if their security is not being guaranteed. Liberia, being a member of international organizations like ECOWAS, AU, UN, etc, does not exercise absolute “sovereignty” when it comes to adhering to treaties to which she is a signatory. More besides, the deployment of a stabilization force in Liberia now is very important, particularly in the context of ensuring the security of all stakeholders (i.e. political parties and candidates) in the ensuing general and presidential elections, as provided for in the ‘Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections’ as adopted by the Inter Parliamentary Union, an international organization to which Liberia is a member. The New DEAL Movement therefore believes that the International Stabilization Force will be in the best interest of all parties, including the Liberian Government, as the presence of the Force will help foster an environment characterized by trust, unrestrained movement, competition, and popular participation during the elections, as well as further reduce the possibility of people or a party challenging the outcome of the election;
3) The New Deal strongly believes, as a matter of absolute necessity, the need for the Stabilization force deployed to monitor the ceasefire, disarm and demobilize the belligerent forces to also be clothed with the mandate and given adequate powers to enforce the ceasefire as well as forcibly disarm any and all would-be intransigent warring parties.
Similarly, the New Deal strongly supports the ICG’S call for the establishment of a war crimes Tribunal on Liberia for the persecutions (for war crimes) any belligerent party or parties that serve as an obstacle to the peace process either by refusal to ceasefire, violates and/or undermines the peace process thereby leading to renewal or continuation of military hostilities and the prolongation of the sufferings of the Liberian people.
4) That the International Stabilization Force should help in the restructuring and training of all security forces, including the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), so as to construct and maintain a professional, defactionalized, and efficient national security system;
5) That the international community particularly ECOWAS, UN, and the International Contact Group on Liberia, should actively assist in organizing the ensuing General and Presidential Elections. The New DEAL Movement wants for the international community to see the pending elections as being critical to the achievement of and as a cornerstone for genuine democracy in Liberia, and as such should not be left exclusively with Liberians. Specifically, New DEAL Movement calls on the UN, through its Electoral Assistance Unit, to provide assistance for the smooth conduct of elections in Liberia unconditionally. If left alone, the New DEAL Movement fears that Liberia may be another Somalia on the West Coast of Africa;
6) That the Elections Commission be completely overhauled by appointing credible individuals, who hold no (present and previous) partisan loyalty to any political party. Records are replete with facts that the current, original five members of the Commission were members of the defunct NPFL, which transformed itself to the NPP. The overhauling of the Commission is crucial as it could help to engender confidence in the entire electoral process. At the same time the New DEAL Movement believes that the Elections guidelines and timetable as promulgated by the present Commission are fraught with problems, and therefore must be reviewed and revised to reflect the objective realities of the day;
7) That the government of Liberia unconditionally releases all prisoners of conscience currently languishing in detention. We make specific reference to the case of human rights defender, J. Aloysius Toe and Sheik Sackor, both of the National Human Rights Center of Liberia and the Humanist Movement respectively, who have been in prolonged detention on trumped-up charges. This includes students of the University of Liberia in persons of Vamuyan Dulleh, Ansumana Dulleh, Selekie Dulleh, Abraham Dulleh, and Mana-Suah Korlison, who are facing similar fate. These students have been in detention since July 24,2002 without a formal charge or trial, which clearly shows that the Government of Liberia is not democratic and responsible.
Friends of Liberia, fellow compatriots, the New DEAL strongly believes that if these conditions are sincerely considered, the seemingly intractable crisis in Liberia, which is proving to be a contagion of terrorism in the sub region, will by and large be solved and stability, peace, security and democracy shall once more be restored in Liberia.
CAUTION TO ECOWAS/ICGL
Meanwhile, the New DEAL Movement calls on ECOWAS, the ICGL, and the UN to adopt a more decisive, forthright, and unanimous stance on Liberia, especially in the context of working with peace-loving Liberians to restore peace, prosperity, security and democracy to Liberia. The international community, the New DEAL observes, has dillydallied on the crisis in Liberia for so long. Now is the time the UN, AU, and ECOWAS act and act swiftly so as to end the nightmarish quagmire Liberia finds itself at the moment.
Moreover, the New Deal calls on the ICGL and ECOWAS to take cognizance of an essential feature of the Liberian Crisis that not only has more than two decades of lawlessness and bad governance in Liberia robbed the innocent, unarmed, ordinary civilian population of all their possessions, having been forced to live in internally displaced and refugee camps and reduced to being beggars at home and strangers abroad, thereby loosing all material, and financial capacities to struggle, but equally each and every belligerent force in Liberia has either used war as a pretext to loot and plunder the natural resources thereby primitively accumulating wealth unto themselves or as means of acquiring raw power for the purpose of perpetuating tyranny, corruption and poverty. Additionally, these belligerent forces, do have established links with foreign powers and states that finance their war machines and whose interests in return they serve in Liberia to the detriment of Liberia’s national interest. Currently. The NPP-Government in particular, has become a government of millionaires overnight which even in face of military defeats is capable, through subterfuge and bribery, of maintaining its grips on power.
Under the circumstances, and given the regional dimension of Liberia’s Crisis, it would be naïve on the part of the ICGL/ECOWAS on the one hand and suicidal for Liberian, on the other, to merely see the Liberian Crisis as an internal contradiction. Thus the ICGL and ECOWAS this time around must act swiftly and decisively in Liberia in the name of justice, genuine peace, stability and democracy by helping the people of Liberia to struggle for themselves with the creation of conditions for the holding of free,fair, democratic elections in Liberia.
WORKING WITH OTHER DEMOCRATIC FORCES FOR PEACE
The New DEAL commits itself to working closely with other genuine democratic forces of Liberia on all pre-electoral issues of national concerns leading to peace, stability and transparent elections in Liberia.
PRESCRIPTION FOR GOVERNANCE
Fundamental to the resolution of the current politico military and humanitarian crisis is the issue of governance. On this issue the New DEAL takes the following stands in order to move the country forward for genuine and sustainable peace,security,stability,democracy and development:
1. The New DEAL supports the ICG’s recommendation to the ICGL that President Taylor steps down after his term expires and that he should be discouraged also from participating in subsequent elections. By extension, it also means that the Legislature and the rest of the entire NPP government be dissolved and replaced by an Interim Government, to be conceptualized, designed and established by all stakeholders in the Liberian Crisis including belligerent forces, opposition parties as well as the NPP and civil society. The suggestion being floated around to have an Interim Government based on the extension of the tenure of the Taylor government and the co-optation of other stakeholders in that government is obnoxious and repugnant. This stance is very much important because by all indications, purposes and actions, Mr. Taylor and his NPP led government have proven beyond all reasonable doubts that they are incapable and incompetent to provide genuine leadership for the people of Liberia. This is evident by their policies national neglect and human sufferings.
2. Importantly, President Taylor should be asked to step down and his government dissolved and replaced by an Interim Government based on the following reasons:
a) President Taylor personally, and his entire government generally, willfully, consciously and deliberately aborted the ECOWAS baked peace plan that brought the NPP to power and subsequently led to the pre-mature departure of ECOMOG from Liberia. That situation laid the cornerstone for the restoration of the post - elections crisis in general and the renewal of military hostilities in particular.
b) The Taylor Government deliberately and consciously refused to restructure and reorganize the National Army and the entire security system of Liberia; instead, the NPP-Government chose to factionalize the said National Army and the entire security system and dominated them with members of the erstwhile National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) as well as dissidents of foreign countries such as elements of the RUF, etc. The factionalized armed groups and security forces of the Taylor regime owed loyalty only to President Taylor and not the Liberian People and State; as such, said forces have and continue to commit atrocious acts of human rights violations against the Liberian people. This situation made the country insecure and unsafe primarily for former factional leaders in particular and opposition politicians in general.
c) In place of a policy of National healing, reconciliation and tolerance, the Taylor regime pursued a policy generally of witch-haunting, antagonism, intimidation, secret killings and harassment of citizens including journalists, human rights advocates, students, market women, opposition figures, Internally Displaced People (IDPs), leading to, inter alia, the cold-blooded murder of the Dokies, etc.The aforesaid attitude of government also led to the lack of guaranteed security for both ordinary citizens and prominent opposition figures thereby causing many of them to seek sanctuary in foreign land. LURD and other armed groups currently engaging the regime militarily used the terrible security situation in the country among other reasons as pretext to make war; while the Taylor government in turn has exploited the situation of war to further militarize the entire country and used same a justification for not providing basic services to the people of Liberia who elected his government to power as well as demonize citizens and international organizations who are critical of its policies as terrorists and collaborators of rebels.
d) In effect, the New DEAL strongly believes and contends that not only will the Taylor government have exhausted its term by October 2003, but the hostile politico-military-security situation in the country, making it impossible to conduct General and Presidential Elections (which it wants to impose on the Liberian people in the midst of war and insecurity using the Constitution as a pretext to succeed himself and further prolong and perpetuate the sufferings of citizens, and to continuously destabilize the sub-region) and have a smooth transition of power, is largely and overwhelmingly a direct consequence of, and attributive to, the behavior of the government and the nature of its policies. As such, establishing an Interim Government on the basis of the extension of the Taylor regime to have President Taylor preside as President does not only amount to rewarding Mr. Taylor for failure and mischief making but equally runs the risk of perpetuating the crisis.
AN INTERIM GOVERNMENT NOT A REWARD FOR TAKING UP ARMS
a) The New DEAL further contends that the creation of an Interim Government as prescribed by the ICG to include the various belligerent forces, particularly those of LURD and LURD-MODEL should not be perceived as a political reward for taking up arms but as an essential requirement for ending the war and ensuring national healing and stability. We must avoid shortcomings of previous Transitional governments that led to failures. Records and memories of failed interim governments of which the present belligerents were part are still fresh on the minds of Liberians, considering the characters and conduct of those who participated in those governments. The Party has observed that people often see and go into governments as a means of enriching themselves and their immediate families which have always led to crises of various dimensions-hence, care must be taken in the formation and composition of an Interim
Government of National Unity. As such, all, without exception, nominated and/or appointed (to serve in the interim government) by political parties, LURD and LURD-MODEL, be absolutely chosen against the background of the following requirements:
CHARACTER OF THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT
TERMS OF REFERENCE OF THE GOVERNMENT
- Making new Laws;
- Granting new concessional agreements;
- Establishing new bilateral and multilateral treaties and/or agreements of any kind between the Government of Liberia and other Foreign Governments and States;
On the other hand, the Interim Government of National Unity in the thinking of the New DEAL Movement must be strong, clothed with adequate powers and authority and must possess the political will:
- To begin implementing far-reaching domestic reforms in all aspects of state functionaries and bureaucracy; including a start on the financial and banking systems, the economy at large, the justice system as well as accountability mechanisms for addressing years of impunity;
- To provide much needed basic social services such as water, electricity, public transport, etc.;
- To mobilize, in close collaboration with the International Contact Group on Liberia, adequate resources financial and material to begin immediate payment of Civil Servants’ salaries most of which have not been met for more than 14 months; and to begin to resettle all displaced persons and refugees, reintegrate all disarmed combatants and begin the process of reconstruction of public facilities and the lives of citizens affected by war as well as for the holding of Free, Fair,and Transparent Elections. This should include the possibility of the conduct of a census, constituency demarcation for an inclusive political participation and proper representation of citizens, which in our view will help to reduce political tensions and / crises in Liberia;
- To revoke all bogus concessional agreements established between the NPP-Government of Charles Taylor and all such bogus companies (without exception) as the Oriented Timber Company (OTC), Freedom Gold, etc. that have been or/are operating in the Gold, Forest, Diamond, Fishery, Communication industries;
- To begin overhauling the Foreign Service system of Liberia with the view of purging the system of elements linked with international criminal cartels;
- To revoke all monopoly privileges granted to business individuals for the importation of essential commodities as Petroleum Products, Rice, etc. and effect the appropriate policies geared at making the market free and competitive so as to stimulate growth and development in the economy.
PROPOSED STRUCTURE OF THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT
The New DEAL calls for a structure of the Interim Government to be predominantly in line with the Liberian constitution and not a collective presidency as were the cases with the LNTG I, II, III.
The structure includes for example:
1. An Executive Presidency
2. An Executive Vice Presidency
3. A Uni-camera Interim Legislative Assembly/ Speakership
4. Justices of the Supreme Court/ Chief Justice
5. The Cabinet
TENURE OF THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT
Given the suggested enormous terms of reference and tasks of the Interim Government, we propose one (1) year tenure for that government.
With the support of the Liberian people and the International Community, a serious Interim Government with the political will can create adequate, favorable conditions for elections within a period of one year.
ADOPTED AND RELEASED BY THE NEW DEAL MOVEMENT
ON THIS 30TH DAY OF MAY, A.D. 2003