Big Rush For Jobs At Liberian Peace Summit

Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 16, 2003

As Liberian political parties, civil society and warring groups brainstorm over the structure and composition of an interim arrangement to replace President Charles Taylor and his government, politicians attending ongoing peace summit in Ghana are quietly intensifying their lobby in a bid to head the government.

While others are visibly seeing goggling for the task, some are alternatively eyeing cabinet positions. At the same time, those considered as new comers in the political arena are seeking to head public corporations and other government functionaries.

Already, the M-Plaza, a private hotel playing host to the negotiations, has become a center of attraction for former and current government officials who have begun congregating at the conference center by their tens. Many of them have begun intense lobbying with representatives of warring and political parties for positions in the transitional government.

Delegates at the peace talks have been given 10 days as of Monday to formulate a comprehensive peace agreement for Liberia including the formation of an interim government that will exclude President Charles Taylor. Additionally, the deployment of a multi-national stabilization force headed by the United States is expected to quell Liberia’s long-running saga.

But efforts to formulate a transitional government have resulted into a huge rush, with more than 10 prominent Liberians including the LURD rebels wanting to take up the task.

Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the Unity Party (UP), Dr. Togba Nah-Tipoteh of the Liberia People’s Party (LPP), Dr. Marcus Dahn and Wesley Momo Johnson of the United People’s Part y(UPP), Gyude Bryant of the Liberia Action Party (LAP), Martin Sheriff of the Reformation Alliance Party (RAP), Alhaji Kromah of the All Liberian Coalition Party (ALCOP), George Toe Washington of the People’s Democratic Party of Liberia (PDPL), former councilman Oscar Jayee Quiah, Winston Tubman and Bishop Augustus B. Marwieh are amongst several prominent Liberians reportedly eyeing the interim administration.

The rebels Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) yesterday said it has forwarded the name of its head, Damate Conneh, to the Mediation Team as its candidate for the transitional arrangement. It is still not clear whether the other rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) intends to head the government.

A Poll (unscientific) conducted by a group of Liberian youth and exiled student leaders puts Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (L) at the top of all candidates for the Interim Presidency, followed by Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh (R) et al
As the goggling for positions continues at the talks, a poll conducted by a group of Liberian youth and exiled student leaders has put Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the top of all the candidates followed closely by Dr. Togba Nah-Tipoteh, Oscar Jayee Quiah and former interim leader Ruth Sando Perry.

So far, the man who is believed to be a potential presidential frontrunner Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine has said that he is not interested in heading the interim government because his vision to deconstruct and rebuild Liberia anew under the rule of law cannot be fulfilled during a transitional administration. But he hoped Liberians attending the talks would work together in putting forward a single candidate to replace Mr. Charles Taylor.

What is even more confusing in the face of discussions as to who heads the new government is that bulk of the 18 Liberian political parties are considering feeding candidates to ahead of the interim government. Other non-delegates including refugees in Ghana are finding difficult to fathom as to why such a big rush; and why politicians cannot agree on a single candidate.

It is no doubt that Liberians throughout the globe are justifiably impatient for a peace deal that will take into consideration their concerns for security and urgent humanitarian assistance, both of which are contingent upon a realistic framework for peace. Of course, a fragile cease-fire agreement alone cannot even guarantee their desire for urgent deliverance.

Since the signing of the truce between the Government and rebels on June 17, it is believed that much of the progress aimed at restoring peace to war-ravaged Liberia has been made outside of the conference.

Moreover, intense bickering among political parties, mainly over the structure and composition of the interim arrangement is responsible for slow pace of the peace process in Accra. On the other hand, the apparent reluctance of the Mediation Team to prevail on the parties for a final deal is also responsible for the stalemate.

Failure of Liberian stakeholders to find a common ground and settle their differences on how to proceed on the formation of the Government and the reluctance of parties to dissuade themselves of their individual ambitions in the interest of the suffering masses are but few reasons why the delegates have not been able to put forward a consensus candidate to head the arrangement.