New Deal’s Presidential Hopeful Declines Appointment to the Governance Reform Commission, Cites Potential Conflict of Interest, among Other Reasons

By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 21, 2004

George Klay Kieh, Jr., presidential hopeful for the New Democratic Alternative for Liberia (New Deal Movement) political party has declined his appointment to the Governance Reform Commission by Interim Liberian Head of State, Charles Gyude Bryant. Mr. Kieh was appointed recently to the commission together with Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr. Amos Sawyer and several other Liberians.

In the letter declining his appointment dated April 15, 2004 addressed to Chairman Bryant, Mr. Kieh cited among other reasons, the potential conflict of interest his appointment may cause because of his desire to contest the presidency in the 2005 national elections in Liberia. Below is the full text of the letter:

His Excellency Gyude Bryant
Chairman, National Transitional Government of Liberia
The Executive Mansion, Monrovia

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have been informed my colleagues in the New DEAL Movement and through press reports that you have appointed me to serve as a member of the Governance Reform Commission. However, up to the time of writing this letter, I have not received a formal letter of appointment. Frankly, I must express my displeasure with the manner in which the appointment was made. The crux of my displeasure is that I was in Liberia in January 2004 and had the opportunity to meet with you and other government officials. Interestingly, no one indicated to me that I was under consideration for appointment as a member of the Governance Reform Commission. Instead, the appointment was simply announced via the print and electronic media. Your Excellency, frankly, the continuation of appointing individuals to important national assignments without any prior consultation undermines the very fabric of democratic governance. I did express my displeasure to both Hon. Willie Belleh, Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the National Transitional Government and Counselor Varney Sherman, Legal Advisor to the Chairman of the National Transitional Government, when I spoke with them in February 2004, during their visit to the United States. The two officials explained various reasons. Notwithstanding, because the Governance Reform Commission’s mission concerns matters that I have written about extensively as an academic and advocated as a political activist, and given the centrality of democratic governance to the prosecution of the democratic project in Liberia, I indicated to the two government officials that I would be willing to serve on the Commission. However, since then, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the matter further. I have now reached the decision that I cannot serve on the Commission for two major reasons. First, as a presidential aspirant in the ensuing 2005 elections, I do not believe, as a matter of principle that it would be prudent to serve on such a Commission. The reason is that electoral politics is partisan based; hence, I do not want a conflict between my partisan undertaking and the non-partisan endeavor in which the Commission should be engaged. In short, I do not believe that it would be proper and appropriate for me to be contesting for my party’s standard bearership and eventually the Presidency of Liberia, both partisan-based endeavors, and simultaneously serve on a Commission with such a critical national mission. If I were not a Presidential Hopeful, I would have been delighted to serve on the Commission. Fortunately, there are several qualified Liberians residing both at home and abroad, who are not presidential aspirants, and thus, in my view, may be better suited for service of the Governance Reform Commission.

Second, under the Accra Peace Accord, the members of the Commission are supposed to be drawn from civil society. Since I do not meet this qualification, I do not believe that it would be appropriate for me to occupy a position on the Governance Reform Commission in contravention of the Accra Peace Accord.

Finally, your Excellency, there is no doubt that I remained committed to contributing to the success of the transitional process. However, as always, I would want to ensure that I avoid conflict of interest and other actions that might adversely affect the transitional process and the larger democratic project. I sincerely regret my inability to serve at this time for the aforementioned reasons.


George Klay Kieh, Jr.