Disagreeing with Chief Negotiator Abdusalami Abubakar

By: Massa-Amelia Washington

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 8, 2003

As the quest to end fourteen years of carnage in Liberia draws near with the initial deployment of Nigerian peacekeepers and the United States and United Nations endorsements of peacekeeping forces to Liberia, negotiators in Ghana arguing the political future of the country, continue to advance proposal after proposal for an interim government. So far, reaching an agreement as per the kind of interim government Liberia needs to forge ahead is not proving an easy job as proposal after proposal fails to meet the approval of all parties involved.

In yet another attempt to address the situation, Chief negotiator Nigerian Former President Abdusalami Abubakar has proposed an interim government where he envisions a civilian non-factional president, and a vice president, speaker and deputy speaker to represent LURD, MODEL and the NPP government.

Contrary to the recommendation of the Liberian political opposition and contrary to the suggestions of some West African Heads of State, Gen. Abubakar wants for the three warring groups to nominate candidates for the three positions. He, however, wants for the persons nominated not to be any of their leaders. In other words, those who are classified as executive committee members, spokespersons, chairmen, etc. will be excluded from active participation in the interim government especially when it comes to assuming leadership role. Equally, those who are leaders of the NPP government are not eligible under the proposal. Each faction has to find somebody who is a member but not a leader to nominate. Awarding them the three positions means that the former Nigeria leader wants the rebels and the NPP government to be represented at the helm of power.

We welcome ECOWAS persistency in seeing Liberia ends its carnage. Efforts on the part of the conciliators are much appreciated, and President Abubakar must be lauded for his commitment to the restoration of peace in Liberia.

However, in the urgency to resolve this dilemma, let not good intentions be polluted by the creation of another "iron jacket solution" as was in the case with President Jerry Rwalings of Ghana and the LNTG II (Liberia National Transitional Government) interim government of Liberia.

In Ghana, it seems like some things are being taken for granted, and costly wartime lessons learned the hard way are perhaps forgotten. With all good intent, the latest Abubakar proposal has fallen short of applause, because it reminds one of past interim governments of the LNTG era and could be a recipe for disaster if implemented.

Like the newest Abubakar proposal, both LNTG I and II were created around pacifying warring factions and their creators to the detriment of the civilian population. Those defunct interim governments dominated by warring factions, though slightly different in anatomy, comprised power sharing Councils of State with members having equal authority to administer the affairs of State. Government ministries and public corporations were divided amongst the parties. The other two branches of government of government (legislative and judiciary) were also split. The warring factions gained full control of the country.

Factions sought after their own interest ignoring the bigger picture that is Liberia. As a result, each LNTG government came, got its share of the elephant meat and failed the Liberian people miserably. So, it becomes troublesome when another proposal resembling the LNTG's is advanced. Let Former President Abubakar be reminded that his predecessor, the late Gen. Sani Abachi also a broker of previous Liberian peace accords and promoter of the LNTG's, lived to witness the repercussions of that ill-negotiated peace accords.

Also, provision of the Abubakar proposal suggesting the exclusion of known rebel leaders from participating in the interim government would have little or no effect if this proposal is accepted. Reason being that rebel strong men like, Joe Wylie, Damante Konneh, George Dweh, Cheayee Doe, Tarty Teh, Charles Bennie, Bodio Siapoe, MODEL’s Chairman Thomas Nimely Yaryah, Thomas Baybo (also known as Gen.Boi- bleaju- Boi), Phillip Dwuye, J. D. Slangar, etc. will not qualify for any of the interim positions, but their benefactors like Alhaji Kromah, Roosevelt Johnson, and others, who have not yet openly claimed their place along side LURD or MODEL, but who have pulled the strings behind the scene, can emerge to leadership position in this new interim government, meaning that the entire purpose of discouraging war by not rewarding warlords, and their supporters the ultimate prize, and all of the hard work, and good intention of Former President Abubakar and other peace intermediaries would be in vain.