The Donors Conference Delegates Row

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 19, 2004

The latest row between the Legislative and the Executive branches over the selection of the delegation to the Donors Conference marks the dawn of a new day in the life of "democracy" in our land. Even if it means that members of the lawmakers have rejected some names in favor of those within their ranks, howbeit former factional bosses to be rewarded a "cool-off" paid vacation, we could be seeing the death of the old "rubber-stamp" Legislature. Since when did we experience the exercise of "checks and balances" among the three branches of government? Good or Bad, folks, we have to hail the essence of democracy embedded in this current exercise. Could we be on the road to democracy, finally? Hopefully. We shall see.

So, Chairman Bryant’s list of delegates has been kicked back into his face. That’s Ok, since he’s not going to be filing all objectors to a jail cell, or worse yet, sending some "big boys" to visit them at night or pre-dawn to "conk" them in the head. So thrilled, I am going to quote KOJAC. "We’ve come a long way, baby".

While it is all well and good, the implementation of a "checks and balances" system is to be conducted in good faith. Several factors come into play in such exercises. The lawmaker has to go strictly with the facts of the issues on the table. Objections made simply in the subjective sense, or those made with airs of collusion derived from sheer majority representation is counterproductive. Benefits to be obtained from decided issues should be nation-oriented. For instance, this current row on appointees should be resolved with a strong consideration given to, first and foremost, "know-how", and then of course, to cost. That is, is this person knowledgeable in regards to a Donors Conference? If the choice is between two delegates, let’s line up pertinent items in their credentials and award points. Let’s not fall to the old game of sending "Joe Blow" down there because he has a Ph.D., or he’s just a friend. Quite bluntly, we must, at all cost, refrain from delegating just any "Tom, Dick and Harriet !" Yes, "Harriet". Time we give the women their just due "equal time."

The Donors Conference for Liberia. What’s at stake here?
This big event just around the corner is chaired by the World Bank. This name is a shortened version of the full name, "International Bank for Reconstruction and Development". Needless to say then, that this world body, roughly sixty years old, dating back to the end of World War II, is about to do for Liberia what it (Bank) does best. A few notable beneficiaries of its services are two of the world’s economic giants, Japan and France, and currently, Iraq.

When Mr. Comany Wisseh, Legislative Assembly, charged that he was not sure whether the Transitional Chairman, Mr. Bryant and his cabinet had the full understanding of what is about to take place, it became a matter of concern requiring some research by this writer. The following is that was discovered.

Heading the list of what needs to be done for a "beggar country", Liberia, in this case, are SECURITY and STABILITY of government. Inherent in the security element is the DDRR program yet to be fully executed. Nonetheless, strong external, and to a lesser degree, local forces, have prevailed on the warring faction to disarm. Despite the false start of the program, we have been receiving rave reviews about the willingness of the fighters to turn in all weapons - a very good step forward. Our nation, therefore, has a strong argument to make in this regard at the conference. We are going to shift the "Rule Of Law" to the stability element, since it is an integral block of good governance. Here, the jury is still out, but the recent installation of the Judiciary is a strong move in stating our case. But since justice has been on vacation for a period spanning our distant past, there is a back log of work awaiting the "all-new-and-improved" Judiciary. The sooner the Judiciary is fully empowered to get to work, the more favorable we will be judged, and the more attractive we will appear to the donor group, as far as the "stability of government" requirement. The conference in New York is not where it all ends. Reconstruction and Development through donors, via the World Bank, is a dynamic process. In other words, assuming we put up a good show in New York, let not the "white chicken" syndrome befall us, that we start up getting high praises, only to put down some "white doo-doo" in the short distance. We all know what follows then - disenchantment on the part of our donors. Down the drain will go donors aided reconstruction. God help us if we can do it by ourselves.

Let’s see some highlights on how it’s been done in the past.
Regarding the Donors Conference on Iraq, this is what Mr. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, had to say, "...if an elected government and secure environment are established in Iraq, the World Bank will pledge $3-5 billion to assist the country over five years. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) would provide $2-4 billion in balance-of-payments financing..." While we might not be entitled to such high figures, it’s safe to say that we would get a commensurate accordance if we set the prescribed standards.

So much for the exercise of democracy lauded above. On a serious note, who gets to go to the conference? Again, let’s listen to what the Mr. James Wolfensohn, had to say about what transpired at the Donors Conference on Iraq, specifically about the level of success achieved. "And I would say that the thing that impressed me most was the quality of the Iraqi representatives that we had there, who seemed very clear in what they want to do."
You see that? And here we are fighting to make it a vacation trip to New York!

We already have the key donors at such conferences showing interest in the peace and reconstruction of our country. The European Union, a block of key donors, has been working with ECOWAS. The United States has already pledged nearly a half billion dollars for a combined peacekeeping and reconstruction effort. China and Japan have a reputation as perennial donors in such international efforts. China, we all know, has conspicuously shown strong interest in helping rebuild Liberia. Japan can be counted on to continue her giving ways, but let’s not expect anything to be handed to us on a "silver platter". Just showing up in an assortment of colorful oversized gowns, head ties greeting the skies, and just going through the motions with a smile on the face, will not do it! These only work at fashion shows, which take place, true in the same New York, but at other venues. Outside the major players mentioned thus far, there also will be in attendance representatives from other countries. A knowledgeable delegation is what it is going to take to get this job done, a delegation equipped with the necessary information on the extent of help needed in the areas of infrastructure, education, health services, industries, with agriculture as a key component. On the issue of infrastructure, let’s forget about reconstruction. The "re" needs to be dropped, and emphasis placed on "construction", period. Here, we are talking about the need to request help not just for the rebuilding of a couple of "war-torn" highways and a few "pot-hole-riddled" streets in inner city, Monrovia. Let’s go for broke and put in for a "network" of roads - FM’s, namely, Farm to Market roads. With this particular endeavor will come a much needed decongestion of Monrovia. All this running away from the villages and towns simply to come to Monrovia, where there aren’t even enough jobs to accommodate the "exodus", would, in a short period of time, be stamped out. The quickest way to build a nation is through a network of roads expanding the movement of manpower and production. Let’s table putting a computer at the desk of every student! What is proposed here therefore, is a BLUEPRINT for a NETWORK of ROADS to be presented in making our case at the conference. How well can we present our case without putting forth bold steps as to what our country needs? Call it a dream. But let’s go ahead and present it anyway.

Don’t forget debt relief. Believe it or not, the donors are aware of how it does not make any sense for a country striving to rebuild to be straddled with debt payments. Make them realize that so are we. Why do you think the United States, in its rebuilding campaign of Iraq, sent its former Secretary of State, Mr. James Baker, to tour the world, meeting Iraq’s creditors? While it might be argued that the timing of such an undertaking is not right, let’s go ahead and present a case for that, anyway. We can later on send emissaries to our creditors to seek debt relief or perhaps, outright debt cancellation.

Anchoring all this reconstruction bid is good governance. It is the fruit by which we shall be known. It is the tell-tale sign on how robust the international involvement in the reconstruction process is going to be. The chair of the Committee on Good Governance, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, has voiced out, and rightfully so, the delay in getting this agency going. Here is another good argument for the conference that we have yet to capitalize on. The establishment of this committee undoubtedly would make a good sell at the conference. Why we are waiting for the "eleventh hour" to implement this essential segment of the Peace Accord, is anybody’s guess. One could guess that we are putting that off to "Liberian Standard Time". That’s business "as usual". Didn’t we pledge to do away with this practice?

For the sake of our country, let’s be diligent in putting together a delegation capable of presenting our case to the donors, and getting the job done. This issue is too important to be handled with subjectivity and whim.