Liberian Leadership Forum: A Network to Promote Peace and Democracy in Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 19, 2002

I. Background
Liberian civic and political leaders from inside and outside the country met from March 14-15, 2002 in Abuja, Nigeria and discussed ways and means of collectively addressing what they considered critical to saving Liberia and restoring "honor and dignity to our country". Prior to this meeting, an idea to create a forum of Liberian leaders to help find solutions to the myriad problems of the country was gaining wide support. This is an initiative that provides a framework for such a forum that shall be a network of political parties and civil society organizations as well as individuals committed to promoting peace and democracy in Liberia. Specifically, it is building on the ideas of many organizations and individuals and the recommendations of the Abuja meeting.

In the Position Statement issued at the end of that meeting, the leaders said that they were "shocked by the political, social and economic disintegration of our native land". As a solution to the deteriorating situation in the country, the signatories to the March 15 Abuja Position Statement (hereinafter referred to as the Abuja Agenda) identified three broad problem areas requiring urgent and concrete action. The areas are: security, free and fair elections and reconciliation.

Central to the Abuja Agenda is security for all who live in Liberia and the neighboring countries especially those of the Mano River Basin. It observes that the current environment in Liberia is characterized by lawlessness and harassment of the populace, which often-times is targeted specifically at political leaders, journalists, human rights activists and students, many of whom have had to flee the country out of fear for their lives. Also commonplace is looting, banditry, and armed hostilities in many parts of the country, resulting in death, destruction and the uprooting of thousands of Liberians, large numbers of whom have been forced to seek refuge in other countries.

The Abuja Agenda therefore argues that security must include a ceasefire between the government forces and armed rebels; deployment of an international security stabilization force; disarmament, disbanding, and demobilization of all the rival fighting forces; creation of a new national security system that would include new military and paramilitary organizations; and the creation of mechanisms to address impunity, human rights abuses and other crimes.

It sees security for all as critical to the conduct of proper and credible elections and for genuine reconciliation. In that connection, it contends that the process of reconciliation in Liberia demands first and foremost the removal of the climate of fear and mistrust by creating an environment that provides for every Liberian the right of full, unhampered participation in the political process as a peaceful alternative to armed struggle.

The statement was submitted to the ECOWAS Secretariat and the Nigerian Government who hosted the meeting.

The challenge since that meeting has been, "what next?" How do the political and civic leaders from across the globe expect their views to be translated into concrete actions? What mechanism exists for pursuing the Abuja Agenda?

It is the search for an answer that necessitated the renewal of the process of consultations that started before and continued during and after Abuja among a number of political and civil society leaders and, more recently, among some members of the group appointed to draft the Position Statement during the Abuja Meeting. In continuation of the consultation process, the ideas contained herein are being presented for easy discussion, improvement and necessary action.

II. The Vision
The vision is to take collective action to save Liberia and restore its honor and dignity.

III. The Problem
In spite of the fact that several initiatives have been undertaken before, during and after Abuja, no structure has yet been put into place to serve as the engine to drive the vision, agenda and activities of Liberian political and civic leaders in a collective, coordinated and sustained manner. It is acknowledged that many, if not all, political parties and associations and civil society organizations, as well as recognized national leaders, have committed themselves to changing the deteriorating situation in the country as described in the Abuja Agenda. The lack of coordination has undermined their ability to induce democratic change in the country.

IV. The Solution
There is an urgent need to formalize a forum for regular consultations among and collective action by Liberian political and civic leaders to save the country. The creation of the Liberian Leadership Forum (the Forum) is the response to this need. Among other things, it will undertake a campaign to implement the vision and the specific recommendations contained in the Abuja Agenda. The Campaign of the Forum shall be driven by concerns for the Liberian people. It shall aim to create a sustainable security environment in the Mano River states and a just and democratic political order in Liberia.

V. The Mandate of the Forum
The Forum shall help political parties and civil society organizations to develop, define and promote programs and activities to build democracy and restore the country's honor and dignity. It shall represent the collective view of all those who shall commit themselves to the pursuit of the vision.

VI. Broad Strategy
In promoting its vision, the Forum shall operate on two broad fronts:

· Mobilization, participation and support of the Liberian people and

· Mobilization of West African and international support and solidarity.

VII. Specific Considerations
Within the framework of the broad strategy, the specific tasks of the Forum shall be guided by the recommendations set out in the Abuja Agenda as well as other collective decisions. The Agenda provides:

A. Security
1. Establishing a ceasefire between the Government and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

2. Disarming, disbanding, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of all rival armed groups.

3. Deploying an international security stabilization force to take charge of national security for a limited period.

4. The creation, by ECOWAS and the international community, of a national security system that shall include the recruitment, training, and organization of new military and paramilitary forces, not to be dominated by members of any warring faction or ethnic group.

5. The creation, by the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations, of mechanisms to address acts of impunity. These would include the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, boards of inquiry and special investigation committees to look into grave cases of a criminal nature and human rights violations.

B. Elections
Advocating electoral and judicial reforms to ensure a balanced and impartial elections commission, as well as the establishment of conditions that will lead to the holding of free and fair elections in accordance with internationally accepted standards.

C. Reconciliation
1. Removing the climate of fear and distrust by addressing the security issue.
2. Creating an environment for the participation of all Liberians in the political process.
3. Accounting for past wrongs perpetrated in the Liberian society, with the government demonstrating its readiness to put an end to the culture of impunity by punishing wrongdoing.
4. Instituting reforms to ensure the independence of the Judiciary.

VIII. How the Forum will be constituted
It is envisaged that the Forum shall be open to leaders of political parties and associations and civil society organizations as well as other national civic leaders who are working for and committed to saving Liberia from its current state of decay. The Forum shall essentially be a network of organizations and individuals. Member organizations will maintain their individual organizational identities. Each participant/member shall be required to subscribe, through actions, to the objectives of the Forum and the programs of the Campaign. Participants shall work in the areas of their interest and competence.

IX. The Structure of the Forum
It is envisaged that the Forum shall be established and its campaign conducted wherever Liberians and friends of Liberia may reside in the world - from refugee camps and displaced centers to cities in and out of Liberia. The Forum shall be formed with leaders of political parties and civil society organizations as well as credible opinion and community leaders.

The policy and other structures shall be determined at its first formal meeting. However, it is proposed that there be a Forum Coordinating Committee. The FCC shall be task driven with responsibilities delegated to members based on the two broad strategies of mobilization in Liberia and advocacy in the international community. Until that is created, there shall be a working group to organize the Forum and carry out other relevant activities.

X. Necessary Steps to Advance the Proposal
A. This proposal will be circulated to the signatories of the Abuja Agenda and to an additional number of political and civil society leaders for comment.

B. The Forum shall be deemed formed when support of the initiative shall have been received from (1) a majority of the 29 signatories to the Abuja Agenda, (2) at least 3 civil society organizations and (3) at least 3 registered political parties. All those who endorse the initiative shall be acknowledged as Founding Members of the Forum.

C. The individuals who formally served on the committee that drafted the Position Statement in Abuja shall constitute the Working Group for Organizing the Forum (WG), unless one declines participation.

D. The Working Group shall hold it first full meeting in the second half of June 2002. This meeting shall be open to all leaders who are committed to creating the Forum and are committed to its vision. The meeting shall develop a program for the Forum and operating procedures for the FCC for approval by the first formal meeting of the Forum following the WG meeting.

E. The first formal meeting of the Forum shall also be held in the second half of June 2002, immediately following the meeting of the Working Group. It shall be open to the signatories to the Abuja Agenda, leaders / representatives of registered political parties and civil society organizations and other leaders working for peace and democracy in Liberia. Among other things, the meeting will adopt operating rules and policy positions and programs of the Forum.

XI. Funding
The Forum shall be funded by contributions and fundraising activities. Contributions and other forms of support shall be solicited and accepted from Liberians and friends of Liberia.

Names of Members of the Group that Drafted the Abuja Agenda and who are invited to join the Working Group organizing the Forum:

Mr. Josephus Garley, (based in Ghana)
Mr. Harry A. Greaves, Jr., (based in the USA)
Mr. Marcus Jones, (based in Liberia)
Mr. James Kiazolu, (based in Liberia)
Ms. Nohn Kidau, (based in the USA)
Mr. D. Fonati Koffa, (based in the USA)
Mr. S. T. Eugene Peabody, (based in Abidjan)
Mr. Conmany B. Wesseh, (based in Abidjan)
Mr. Dusty Wolokolie, (based in Liberia)

The WG shall co-opt additional members as it may deem necessary.

Special note: This document is a draft that is open to other views. If you support this initiative, please email the message: I support the initiative and will contribute to its realization to:

Conmany B. Wesseh < >; and copy to:
Harry A. Greaves, Jr. < >; and
S. T. Eugene Peabody <>.

April 16, 2002

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