At Peace Talks: Delegates Brainstorm Over Comprehensive Peace Agreement

Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 23, 2003

Conferees at the ongoing Liberian peace summit in Ghana have been deliberating on a draft agenda put forward by mediators at the talks for a comprehensive peace agreement for Liberia.

The six items proposed agenda, when accepted will consider issues such as the creation of a democratic space in the country, human rights, elections, socio-economic reforms, reconstruction and rehabilitation and the formation of a transitional government to substitute President Charles Taylor and his government.

Liberian stakeholders at the peace negotiations are expected to discuss under the creation of a democratic space, constitutional issues such as fundamental freedoms including freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of movement. They are also expected to discuss the release of political prisoners as part of this agenda item.

Under human rights issues, the delegates are expected to brainstorm over the establishment of two commissions – an independent human rights commission and a truth and reconciliation commission. The possibility of establishing a war crimes tribunal on Liberia and the granting of amnesty to all fighting forces in the armed conflict are also expected to be discussed.

Regarding the issues of elections, delegates will attempt to review and reform the Liberian electoral law, its organization, supervision, monitoring and a timetable for elections. The conduct of census and voters’ registration and the delicate issue of constituency demarcation will be debated.

Institutional support and economic governance as well as budget control coupled with contract and a commission on monopolies are sub items to be discussed under socio-economic reforms. The issue of employment generation to support demobilization and reintegration of combatants is expected to be talked about under socio-economic reforms.

Moreover, the most crucial and controversial issue of governance, which calls for the formation of a transitional administration is the final item to be debated on the proposed agenda. Under this item, delegates are expected to discuss the mandate, tenure and composition of the expected transitional arrangement to replace the government of President Taylor.

Already, President Taylor has rescinded his offer to step aside in the interest of peace and stability in Liberia. The Liberian leader in a phone-in program, “Issues with the President,” broadcast on Kiss FM Radio in Monrovia Friday, contended that he would not accept an interim administration to replace his government and that he would not step aside until his tenure expires in early January, next year.

At the peace talks in Accra, President Taylor’s ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) has threatened not to participate in the political discussions unless the issues of the June 4 indictment of its standard bearer and the UN travel restrictions placed on the Liberian leader and some government officials as well as the granting of amnesty to fighters (GOL, LURD, MODEL) in the armed conflict were included as items on the agenda.

The NPP Chairman Cyril Allen argued that these issues were crucial to the attainment of peace, and as such, must be included and discussed.

Conversely, opposition parties attending the peace summit have thrashed out the NPP’s demands, considering it as a clever attempt to delay deliberations on a comprehensive peace agreement for Liberia.

The indictment of the president and the UN travel ban, the parties argued, are issues above the scope of the conference and should not form part of the political discussions.