Liberia Institute For Peace, Democracy, & Good Governance
Workshop Report on the Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement Between the Government of Liberia, the Liberians United for Reconciliation Democracy (LURD), the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and Political Parties
The Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict of the University of Pennsylvania hosted the Liberia Peace and Democracy Workshop on August 9th 2003. The Liberty Center for Survivors of Torture of Philadelphia co-sponsored the event. Chaired by Asch Center Research Fellow Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, 24 Liberianist professionals (See Appendix I) participated in the workshop.
The purpose of the Workshop was threefold. First, to discuss the Liberian Peace Process and how to implement the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement Between the Government of Liberia (GOL), the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy in Liberia (LURD), the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and the Political Parties of Liberia.” The second purpose was to make recommendations to help the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) effectively to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in a manner that will lead to and ensure the speedy achievement of sustainable national peace, reconciliation, rehabilitation, solidarity, reconstruction and unity as well as the socio-economic and democratic political development of postwar Liberia. The third purpose was to send the recommendations of the workshop to all the key stakeholders of Liberia—including the Liberian delegations who participated in the Accra Conference, the members of the International Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL), including ECOWAS, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union and the African Union as well as the Friends of Liberia, and other international organizations working on Liberian matters. Within this framework, the group discussed how to implement the Liberian peace agreement brokered by West African peace mediators in Accra, Ghana. It also discussed the next steps in the transitional process to democratic elections and durable peace in Liberia.
This report presents the resolutions generated by the workshop based on small group discussions of political, reconstruction, security (including human rights and humanitarian issues), and political tracks. These discussions were chaired respectively by Dr. J. Teah Tarpeh, Liberia’s former Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. James Guseh, Professor of Public Policy at North Carolina Central University, Dr. M. Alpha Bah, Professor of History at of Charleston College, and Dr. Michael P. Slawon of the Consortium for International Development. Dr. Abdul Lamin, a 2003 Asch Center Summer Fellow, served as the workshop's rapporteur. Dr. Denise Michultka and Ms. Silvana Gambardella of the Liberty Center also greeted the workshop and explained their work with Liberian clients. The Asch Center's Director of Refugee Initiatives, Dr. Arancha Garcia, who was instrumental in organizing the program, welcomed the participants on behalf of the Asch Center.
Section II summarizes some salient policy issues from the peace implementation literature and best practices. This is followed by reflections by Liberianist professionals who we consulted prior to the workshop on workshop guidelines that would constitute the next steps in the Liberian peace process. These reflections served as the guidelines for the workshop. We are particularly grateful to Dr. John and Reverend Judith Gay for sending written suggestions on the next steps in Liberia. Section III presents the recommendations of the four working groups.
2.1 The Implementation of Peace Agreement
Dr. Conteh summarized the current peace and security best practices and literature on peace implementation, which he defined as the process of carrying out a specific peace agreement. In order to be successful, stakeholders must take into account its ideal focus, duration, and evaluation criteria. Furthermore, the factors likely to affect peace implementation include difficulty in the conflict environment and the willingness of states to provide Resources and risk troops. Three factors are cited in this literature as likely to affect peace agreements in a difficult conflict setting such as Liberia’s. First are hostile spoilers, members of warring parties who may support the peace agreement only to the extent that it maximizes their economic, political and other interests. Second, hostile neighboring states might be supportive of the peace agreement only if they perceive it as unthreatening their national security interests. Finally the availability of spoils, otherwise known as “tradable commodities,” (e.g. diamonds and timber in the Liberian case) can prolong conflict well beyond the agreed cease-fire dead lines and the formal signing of the peace agreement.
Specific sub-goals reflecting obligations to safeguarding human rights, refugee repatriation, free and fair elections, good governance and DDR (demobilization, disarmament and reintegration) are set in peace agreements, although the ability to realize them might be minimized by resource constraints. Policy scholars have therefore strongly recommended that the demobilization of fighters, and demilitarization of politics, in the short run, must receive resource priorities if a specific peace agreement were to succeed. In the long run, the provision of security, broadly defined, to include police and judicial reform are critical. Also important is the local capacity building for human rights, and the extent to which civil society, governments and the international community complement each other in the sub-goals attainment.
2.2 Guidelines for Working Groups
Careful thought should be given to revamping political and economic structures. Democratic institutions in the rural areas in the past went scarcely beyond elections for the village chief. Bottom-up elections for county and national office should be instituted. Funds can be administered locally rather than always from the capital city. Rehabilitation of facilities can be organized at the county level, once the funds are disbursed there. Management of natural resources, in particular timber and minerals, can be done locally so that the use of these resources becomes a cooperative venture rather than remaining a centralized, extractive and exploitative exercise.
During the interim period, institutions allocated to the various parties under the Accra peace agreement should be under oversight supervision of the United Nations. Qualified Liberians should constitute ministries, e.g., education, health, agriculture, transport. In this respect, international counterparts should provide oversight in foreign affairs, commerce, finance, planning and economic affairs, the central bank, defense and police. At the same time, the process of reconstruction should aim for national elections, no later than 2005. Elections should be internationally administered. The obvious reason is that, until tempers cool and time heals, no one from a given faction will trust a leader from a different faction in handling elections matters. We know from recent experience that hastily patched-together coalitions of erstwhile enemies never work. Are elections and a government of national unity, including the restoration of peace, and the several pre-conditions, likely in the time frame provided by the agreement? The militia should be disarmed, given incentives for doing so, including rice, clothing and money, and brought to camps. Police and judicial reform, which are critical for the long run success of the peace plan, should be started.
Resources are needed for all aspects of the economy. An option is to consider taking back the funds the Taylor regime allegedly has in Swiss and other bank accounts. This should be complemented by funds from an international donor conference under the aegis of the United Nations, and foreign assistance from the European Union (EU) and other sources. Reconstruction activities, coupled with maintaining an International Stabilization Force will be very expensive. The interim government is unlikely to pay civil servants all their salary arrears, but some compensation should be given, and thereafter salaries must be guaranteed. As a first step, individuals claiming to be civil servants need to show their faces and be acknowledged as alive, as legitimate job holders, and as once again on the job. Their full salary arrears should be paid as soon as possible.
Roads must be reconstructed and opened. Check points, if necessary during the interim, must be manned by troops of the ECOWAS Military Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL), and later by the United Nations Military Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), until trained Liberian police can take over.
Water and electricity should be restored to urban centers. Communication systems should be restored, including post, telephone, radio and newspapers. Schools, colleges, universities, clinics and hospitals should be re-opened. Urban and rural gardens and farms should be planted immediately. The Ministry of Agriculture should make plans for the 2004 rural farming season.
The population and housing census should be conducted simultaneously with an assessment of physical and economic conditions around the country. It should utilize a detailed census form of at least 1% of Liberian households. It should include specific questions on the activities of household and family members during the civil war, what assets they own, and what plans and proposals they have for the future. In addition to the census short and long forms, the census should identify structures, facilities and personnel that survived the war, including schools, teachers, health centers, health personnel, communication facilities, markets, shops, roads, administrative buildings and personnel, commercial and subsistence farming, and other commercial activities. A detailed assessment on the dynamics of population, including mortality, fertility, and refugee movements should be made to provide accurate data for among others, the accurate reconfiguration of electoral constituencies as provided by the Liberian constitution.
Serious recruitment of skilled Liberians in exile, as distinct from displaced and refugee persons, should be started. Those who have the needed skills must be sought, and not just those who are unemployed. There are thousands of such Liberians in the United States alone, not to mention those in other European and African countries. But in order to persuade those Liberians return home, decent salaries and relocation allowances must be provided. Again, this will be very expensive, so that recovered wealth as well as foreign aid should be tapped to make this possible through the UN and Breton Woods institutions.
As mentioned above, durable peace cannot be restored without demobilizing the various militias, including reconfiguring the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the various extant militias, for example, the dreaded Anti-Terrorist Unit. Two things are needed for that to happen. First, there must be a robust International Stabilization Force as planned by the UN Security Council. Ideally this force should comprise tough, experienced troops from Africa and other continents. The force should receive Chapter VII authorization of the UN Charter to engage in peace enforcement. Second, the various militias must be given incentives, monetary, training, and otherwise, to give up their weapons and become successful civilians again. If there are no incentives, then rebels will continue to make their living the only way they know: by the gun.
Refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) should be given help to return to their villages. Exiles in the Diaspora must also be encouraged and assisted to return from Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the United States and elsewhere. This, too, will cost a lot of money, which should be taken from Liberia’s recovered wealth, and from foreign aid. Who actually is a legitimate refugee is not an easy question to answer? Can this workshop resolve this problem? As a guide, for this purpose, community leaders, both within Liberia and in the refugee camps, will be the main source of authentication, but with those being rejected, having the right of appeal.
Once refugees are home and displaced persons return to their villages, a census is necessary, as mentioned above. Before there can be any election of any kind, it is necessary to identify who in fact are citizens of Liberia. In rural areas, this will include depending on the word of chiefs, churches, mosques and secret societies. Otherwise it would be very tempting for refugees from other countries to claim to be Liberians.
Food and shelter should be provided to returnees and repatriated people until they can get on their feet. The World Food Program (WFP) and other international humanitarian agencies, including Action Against Hunger, would be useful here.
A Truth and Reconciliation process must begin immediately so that all who participated in the war can have a chance to forgive and be forgiven. Sierra Leone and South Africa can be models, and experts should be brought in from those and other countries to organize the process. However, the leaders should be drawn locally from civil society as well as the Inter-Religious Council, with Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and traditional believers participating as agents of reconciliation.
III WORKING GROUPS’ REPORTS
3.1 The Political Track
As per the above guidelines, Working Group I carefully reviewed the Draft Comprehensive Peace Agreement that had been sent to workshop participants earlier. Group members discussed thoroughly the document’s provisions and made the below recommendations, which in their consideration have the greatest potential effectively to revamp, with success, the political and economic structures and institutions of postwar Liberia. They considered critical issues that will ensure the popular and effective participation of the vast majority of the Liberian people in all aspects of national affairs - including the especially the political, economic, socio-cultural, financial, commercial, civil society, NGO and governmental sectors.
After nearly three hours of deliberation, the members of Group I consensually arrived at several conclusions and positions that have the strongest possibility to contribute positively and effectively to the potential of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) to expeditiously achieve significant levels of sustainable national peace, reconciliation, rehabilitation, solidarity, reconstruction, unity and democratic good governance in Postwar Liberia.
3.1.1 Political Recommendations to the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL)
i. Carefully review and update of the current Elections Laws of Liberia to internationally acceptable standard and submit it to the NTLA for enactment into law.
ii. Undertake an internationally credible Voters’ Education & Training of Elections Officials and Personnel Program.
iii. Conduct the general and presidential elections of Liberia time, as decided by the peace agreement, in order to restore genuine constitutional rule in post war Liberia.
iv Work closely with the United Nations and other members of the International Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL) to establish a National War Crimes Tribunal (NWCT) with the mandate to put on trial all those - Liberians and non-Liberians, who are accused of, and indicted for committing human rights violations as well as economic crimes against the people of Liberia and the Liberian State. The purpose of the NWCT include the following:
(A) To end the culture of violence and impunity that has characterized and dominated all aspects of national life in Liberia - especially since the violent overthrow of the Tolbert Administration on April 12, 1980 to the present.
(B) To contribute to the process of national healing, reconciliation, solidarity, building, unification as well as the development, consolidation and promotion of a culture of national peace, equity, justice, solidarity and unity as well as the Political, Economic and Social Development of Postwar Liberia for the benefit of all Liberians and foreign residents in Liberia.
3.1.2 Economic Recommendations
(a) Proper repatriation and resettlement of Internally Displaced Liberians and Liberian refugees from abroad into suitably prepared, as well as their preferred rural and urban areas of origin prior to their civil war-induced displacement.
(b) Development, support and promotion of rural agricultural and related economic activities that are designed and intended to ensure productive and income-generating engagements as well as employment opportunities for the rural dwellers of postwar Liberia
(c) Development, support and promotion of urban-based business, entertainment, industrial, commercial, technical and related economic and entrepreneurial activities to ensure various levels of productive and income-generating activities and employment opportunities for the urban dwellers of postwar Liberia.
(a) Ensure that a significant part of the Liberian economy is actually set aside for the sole participation of bona fide Liberian citizens.
(b) Facilitate the provision of loan guarantees for suitably qualified, experienced and motivated Liberians who wish to borrow the requisite funds to undertake various types and levels of business activities.
© Exert the NTGL’s best efforts to encourage and work with interested international organizations and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to assist in providing business and entrepreneurial skills training and education as well as various types of small loans capital and/or grants to Liberians interested in going into private business.
5. The NTGL should enforce the immigration laws, which require alien compliance in legally obtaining residence and work permits. Effective enforcement of these or any other laws of Liberia will serve significantly to reduce and/or discourage the existing practice where foreign traders, including Lebanese and Indian businessmen, employ relatives instead of chronically unemployed Liberian nationals.
6. The capacity of the Liberian Marketing Association (LMA) should be developed as a wholesale importer and national distributor of certain categories of commodities, including rice, cooking oil, pig feet, chicken parts, etc -- that are critical part of the Liberian diet and market. Towards this end, the NTGL should undertake the following:
(a) Provide LMA members with opportunities to acquire the requisite business education and training as well as acquire entrepreneurial, financial, technical and related support systems to enable the association to operate effectively and competitively throughout Liberia
(b) Require non-Liberians who are desirous of participating in the commercial sector of the Liberian economy to deposit fix amounts of funds in government designated financial institutions as investment guarantee. This would discourage, or end, the negative practice of “fly by night” expatriate business people” who lack genuine commitment to the well being of the Liberian economy and the people of Liberia.
3.2 Reconstruction & Development Track
The Working Group on Reconstruction also used the above-mentioned guidelines with the following focus question: what are the next steps for implementing the Liberian Peace Agreement? The group had a lively discussion on the topic of reconstruction and development of Liberia, and reached consensus on several points. But it disagreed with the point in the workshop guidelines above on recovering Liberia’s alleged stolen wealth of $3.8 billion from past regimes. The group felt no one personality or group should be the focus, especially when the amount in question was unverifiable. It was clarified during the plenary session that the amount in question was verifiable, and attributable especially to recent exploits of Liberia’s timber industry. For example, on page 18 of its March 2003 report entitled “The Usual Suspects: Liberia’s Weapons and Mercenaries in Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone,” the internationally acclaimed environmental research group, Global Witness, reported that Liberia had USD3.8 billion in Swiss Bank Accounts. The group reiterated in its report that “The overall figure for Liberian assets in Swiss banks is significantly higher; as figures stated here are only from one type of account from which the Swiss government allows statistics to be released publicly.”
3.2.1 Recommendations for Reconstruction and Development
The group agreed that the NTGL should ensure that the following quality of base institutions should be set in place or reestablished: (1) An accountable maritime infrastructure; (2) A wholesome business climate; (3) a facilitated agricultural sector; (4) protection in the exploitation of resources in forestry; (5) roads; (6) schools; (8) hospitals; (9) radio and TV stations and networks; (10) power (electricity/light); (11) safe drinking water; and (12) banking. In addition to its detailed discussion on government’s role, and the recommendation of the political track group above on what the government should do, there was a distinct impression that the size of the government should be minimized. The recommended strategies of reducing government size include:
A. soliciting assistance through (1) grants and loans through various organizations, including the Paris Club, for example, with U.S. sponsorship; (2) Ensuring that the short term and long term goals are clearly set in implementing projects; (3) using the best minds in the current Liberian government and the private sector, including Liberians in exile, as stated earlier, to ensure a high quality of governance.
B. Streamlining business establishments to ensure that they remain vital and functional to the nation. This should ensure that a business organization could be established within a period of 48 hours to ensure fluidity. For large foreign business establishments, the recommendation is to institutionalize a bank deposit of between USD250,000 to USD500, 000, as practiced in Ghana, and some other states, as part of their business establishment. This and related deposits would serve as a guarantees that an incipient business is not a ‘fly by night’ business, as mentioned by the political group. Also, the interim government should focus on revamping the Liberian Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) to guarantee the reestablishment of the agricultural sector.
C. Encouraging Liberians in the Diaspora (especially the United States) to send remittances and gifts to Liberia as a nationalistic strategy of promoting the practice of giving to the country. Best practices to learn from include fund-raising activities among Philippino residents in the United States, and fund-matching activities for the revamping of a district in Philadelphia. The group suggested initiating a fund-raising drive for Liberia in the near future to show concern for Liberia by Liberians in the Americas.
D. Focusing on Leadership: The NTGL should focus on a brand of leadership that would revamp the civil service and provide various means for capacity building. The group agreed with its political counterparts in this respect, especially with the establishment of school systems that would assure access to elementary, primary and high schools, community colleges and universities by all Liberians, irrespective of their rural or urban locations.
Following a prolonged civil war with sub-regional implications, there is need for robust international peacekeeping commitment to Liberia. The Working Group identified the following key issues:
(1) Endorse the establishment of an international peacekeeping mission provided for by UN Security Council resolution.
(2) To enhance proper coordination, the peacekeeping force should be under the auspices of the UN, with the collaboration of ECOWAS and AU.
(3) The NTGL should appeal for direct US financial assistance for the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia, and to the UN in general.
(4) Disarmament of ex-combatants must be complemented by incentives such as improvement in social services, including education, housing and vocational/jobs training skills.
(5) Assistance with resettlement of Liberian refugees is central to long-term stability. Specific incentives should include transportation, housing and farming implements.
(6) The need for a reliable census, as stated above, is very important to future economic development and elections.
(7) There is a need to tackle international arms trafficking that has had impact on conflicts in Africa as confirmed by international research groups, including the International Conflict Group (ICG) and Global Witness.
(8) There is need for effective police training, health and job security.
(9) Consult with existing human rights organizations and activists, in and out of Liberia, on the establishment of policies and institutions of transitional justice, especially the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, within the context of international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Banjul Charter).
The Reconciliation Working Group agreed with the workshop’s guidelines that a Truth and Reconciliation process should begin immediately. This would enable all who participated in the war to have a chance to forgive and be forgiven. Sierra Leone and South Africa can be models, and experts should be brought in from those and other countries to organize the process. However, the leaders should be drawn locally from civil society as well as the Inter-religious Council, with Catholic, Protestants, Muslim, and traditional believers participating as agents of reconciliation as stated above. In this context, the group identified the following factors and key points in its recommendations on reconciliation:
3.4.1 Immediate establishment of a Truth & Reconciliation and Human Rights Commission
The commission must be independent of government. It should operate fairly and impartially without any form of interference and or hindrance on the part of government. Its members should be very carefully selected from a cross-section of highly reputable Liberians of diverse backgrounds. During its organizing stage, delegates should be sent to Sierra Leone and South Africa to learn from the respective experiences of those states, and also invite experts to conduct workshops in Liberia. Members of the commission should be trained through workshops. Financial and other forms of support from both local and international sources should be provided to support the establishment of this and related transitional justice institutions.
3.4.2 Identification of six (6) levels of reconciliation
I. Intra-personal level - self examination of reconciliation with respect to what you (the individual) experienced directly / or indirectly during pre-war Liberia or currently (during the entire civil conflict);
II. Inter-personal level - two persons examining their relationship with one another with respect to how they behaved towards each other directly or indirectly (similar to #I);
III. Intra-group level - a closer examination of why ethnic conflicts continue to exist amongst members of the same ethnic groups;
IV. Inter-Group level - a closer examination of why ethnic conflicts continue to exist between ethnic groups of the same counties or neighboring counties;
V. National level - This is where the national government can be more effective in creating national programs and public policy, by organizing town meetings, and/or enforcing laws to support the reconciliation process;
VI. International level - neighboring countries. Countries who have supported the war, either through providing safe passages of arms, sale of arms, financing and training of rebels, etc.
3.4.3 Identification of four kinds of conflicts that need reconciliation process
a. Physical war;
b. Hatred (resentment, intolerance, discontentment, begrudging one another) war
c. Corruption / injustices war
d. Political patronage
- economic/social inequalities
The four kinds of conflicts listed above should be studied very carefully to answer the following questions:
a. Why do we fight amongst ourselves all the time?
b. Why do we hate each other so much - where is this hatred coming from?
c. Why are we so corrupt and unfair toward one another - why do we perpetuate corrupt practices from one government administration to the next in a never-ending saga?
d. Why do we govern the way we do - showing favoritism, nepotism, etc., thereby promoting economic and social inequalities within our society?
The process or implementation of reconciliation should be subdivided into two parts to address two groups of Liberians respectively:
b. Non-combatants (the general civilian population)
Separate capacity building curricula should be developed for the two groups based on the following approaches:
a. Workshops in our various communities, schools, churches, and mosques, throughout the country.
b. Use of radio and television utilizing all the local languages.
c. Town, clan and district meetings.
d. Sport activities between counties.
A curriculum and set of guidelines should be developed for ethnic language broadcast, packaging and disseminating the Commission’s activities to the nation as a whole.
APPENDIX I: ORGANIZATION OF THE WORKSHOP
Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, Chairman, Liberia Peace & Democracy Workshop
Dr. Abdul Lamin, Workshop Rappoteur
Dr. Arancha Garcia Del Soto, Workshop Facilitator
Amb. James Teah Tarpeh, Chairman
Dr. Romeo A. Horton
Mrs. Elizabeth Brewer
Mr. Harvel Brown
Dr. Edward L. Wonkeryor, Secretary
Dr. James S. Guseh, Chairman Dr. Cyril E. Broderick, Secretary
Dr. Judge Luvenia Ash-Thompson Mrs. Berma Broderick
Mr. Prince Massala Reffell Mr. Moses Kerkula
Ambassador Rudolph Johnson
Dr. Alpha Bah, Chairman Dr. Silvana Gambardella
Ms. Mala Thompson Dr. Abdul Lamin, Secretary
Ms. Angie Brewer Ehimika
Dr. Michael P. Slawon, Chairman
Rev. Dr. Napoleon L. Divine
Rev. Walter D. Richards
Mr. Fulton Q. Shannon, Secretary
Rev. Toby A. Gbeh