Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Liberia: Tyranny, Dictatorship Creeping Back


Recent commentaries from human rights and governance organizations around the world suggest that Liberia is gradually moving towards democracy and fiscal accountability and transparency. But the former chairman of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, says those who compiled the various commentaries might have been under some delusion. The Analyst, reports.

Former TRC Chairman Jerome Verdier says executive tyranny and dictatorship and the timidity of the legislative and judicial branches of government were slowly overwhelming the rule of law in Liberia thereby, amongst other negatives, sending corruption through the roof.

Unless Liberians invest in democracy, utilizing the ten blocks for democracy building that he has developed, he says, Liberia is likely to go further downhill.

The former chairman made the observation on April 30, 2011 during the 22nd Anniversary Program of The News newspaper in Monrovia where he delivered the guest address on the theme, “Liberia towards Greater Democracy in Liberia”.

Prevailing condition

The human right and justice advocate said the fact that Liberia’s current political leadership and opposition politicians have nearly the same aspirations as the oligarchic True Whig Party did indicated that Liberians have failed to build appropriate democracy institutions.

For instance, he said, the nation has yet to be reconciled eight years following the formal cessation of hostilities in August 2003.

Besides, he said, the Executive Branch has yet to cease being overbearing as it were in the days of presidents Tubman, Tolbert, Doe, and even Taylor much as the Legislative and Judicial branches ceased to be timid, living in perpetual fear of the Executive.

He the lack of political and economic advancements, despite the current efforts to restore normalcy to Liberia, indicated that the solution to the nation’s problems lie not in violence and unreliable and dishonest promises. Instead, he said, it lay in determination, courage, and manifest respect for democratic ideals and institutions.

What pointed to such conclusion, according to him, was that the popular elections of 2005 appeared to have no effect on the business of government in Liberia.

“In Liberia today, creeping tendencies of tyranny and dictatorship will undermine our aspirations for greater democracy not only because of the great powers of the president but, most significantly, because of insufficient political, economic and social restraint on the powers of the president,” he said.

The counselor-at-law blamed the lack of political will to adhere to the rule of law for the observed lack of economic and social restraint on the presidency. But he said there was more; there were poverty, corruption, and the congenital lack of democracy within the political parties whence come those who often accede the presidency.

“The three constitutional branches of government responsible to sustain an effective fight against corruption are themselves corrupt and therefore wanting in moral, political, and legal will to fight corruption. This state of affair is undermining our aspirations for greater democracy and corruption seems to be winning the war against it. Liberia is not animal farm so corruption is free for all,” he said.

This is why, he said, the unique challenges of the Liberian democracy in the 21st Century could only be addressed with ten building blocks, which lead to the laying of foundations for greater democracy in Liberia.

The way forward

The ten building blocks of democracy, he said, were strong democratic institutions, frequency of democratic elections, peace and reconciliation, establishment of rights-based security and human rights institutions, and the tackling of corruption with honesty.

Others, he said, were the adherence to accountability and transparency in public service, the cultivation of national tolerance, the establishment of human rights and rule of law, the establishment of peace and reconciliation, and the fear of God.

He said the building of strong democratic institutions meant the overhauling of the three branches of government to ensure equity and checks-and-balances that would end the age-old superior tendency of the Liberian presidency.

“To maintain mandatory check and balance, we must ensure that legislators are competent, independent and well informed to maintain an effective oversight function that guarantee and enforces restraints on executive actions, public spending and passage of legislations that express the will and promotes the interest of the people as envisaged by the constitution of Liberia,” he said.

The human rights and justice advocate said this was necessary because unless Liberians achieved this, it would be another century before they got rid of the culture of “strongmen or women” presidency.

“Generalized tolerance of the excesses or absolutism of the president in Liberia is high because of poverty and patronage,” said, claiming that as the direct result of that, presidents often used state funds to their own political advantages.

The exercise of that advantage also, he said, exacted from ordinary Liberians, the National Legislature, and the Judiciary blind loyalty and subservience to the point of functioning inevitably at the wishes of the president.

Left unchecked by neglecting to lay a strong foundation of democracy, he said, the unfolding status quo would lead ultimately to the reinstitution of the ‘cult of the presidency’.

The antidote for this possibility, he said, was to elect to office what he called “right legislators who are imbued with democratic values and commitment”.

Cllr. Verdier’s ideal legislators would be those who he said would be “courageous and prepared to tackle the critical issues of corruption, executive spending, and ensuring a transparent budget process, the transparent and equitable allocation of public resources and disposition of public property through contracts and concessions that advance the best interest of the people.”

Once such legislators were elected, he said, such other strong institutions as education and the economic sectors would function properly, being aware of a strong legislative oversight.

He said while Liberians have the power under the law to change their wayward executive leadership and members of the Legislature, they would not do it with those of the Judiciary.

He made the point to indicate that a viable Judiciary was crucial to the survival of the Liberian nation and that therefore the strengthening of that branch of government was crucial to Liberia’s way forward.

“Corruption in the judiciary, justice peddling and the overbearing political influence of the President or the Executive over the judiciary is hearting our transition to a vibrant democratic society, and undermining peace and reconciliation in both the short and long term,” he said.

He then noted, “Once all our democratic institutions are independently functioning in a transparent and accountable manner and fashion, we can be certain of sustaining the growth and development of greater democracy in Liberia.”

But he said this would only be possible were the watchdogs of society, the press and other civil society organizations especially those accessing public and international private funding, to make themselves internally democratic, accountable to their constituencies and their donors.

“This will bolster the moral standing of civil society institutions to demand accountability and transparency from government,” he said.

Internal democratization, he said, was crucial to the creation of the moral standards required for the opposition and the civil society to demand prudence within government.

“Political parties in Liberia, historically, are inherently weak, wanting in internal democracy and driven by the oftentimes personal ambition of one man,” he said to make the point that such lack of internal democracy was to blame for the autocratic tendencies often associated with the Liberian presidency.

“Our country will have to invest in greater democracy and strengthen political parties to perform their roles by allotting budgetary support to political parties, at least to the first three or four parties with the highest votes in any given general election, for their annual administrative and operational programs,” he said.

Next to building stronger institutions, he said, the nation needed to respect human rights and the rule of law, which he described as the pillars of democracy and effective defense against corruption.

“Respect for human rights and the rule of law entails that all are equal before the law, which is applied fairly in a society with equal opportunities for all, the merit system is upheld, the constitution is supreme, and there is justice and accountability in such an effective manner as not to leave any room for impunity,” the former TRC chairman said.

The respect for human rights, backed by frequent free and fair democratic election, he said, would ensure the expression of the will of the people in matters of governance and governance.

Regarding peace and reconciliation, he said, Liberians needed to redouble their efforts in establishing justice because while open hostilities had ended, the conflicts that gave vent to them have not.

In his view, the conflict would end only when the government implemented all the recommendations of the TRC, of course, in spite of the controversy and implementation risks critics and pundits say surround the recommendations.

“Implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC is the first step towards addressing the root causes of incessant conflicts in Liberia and laying foundations for genuine reconciliation in Liberia. This is very critical to maintaining a stable society founded on justice and equality for all. Reconciliation is a process and implementing all the recommendations of the TRC will never happen overnight,” the former TRC chairman said.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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