“Disappointment in what appears to be a Political Misjudgment”

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 3, 2002

EDITOR’S NOTE: On March 28, 2002, Mr. Cletus Segbe Wotorson sent a letter to the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, regarding the recent Liberian Reconciliation meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria. Mr. Wotorson was presidential candidate of the Liberian Action Party (LAP) and the Alliance of Political Parties in the 1997 elections. Find below the full text of the letter:

Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas
Executive Secretary
Economic Community of West African States
ECOWAS Headquarters
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Fax: 234 9 314 7662

Mr. Executive Secretary:

Allow me to extend my warm greetings `and congratulations to you for your recent preferment as the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, and my gratitude to ECOWAS for its leadership and willingness to host, organize and coordinate the March 14-16 meeting which brought several Liberian personalities to the great capital of Nigeria towards the serious business of reversing the deterioration of our country, healing the wounds in our society and creating a sustainable democratic environment for all Liberians in my dear country, Liberia. I would further like to express my thanks and appreciation thru you, to the His Excellency, President Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Nigerian people for their kindest hospitality in hosting the meeting in their country.

Permit me, Sir, to register my utmost disappointment in what appears to be a political misjudgment in denying participation of the political parties as institutions in the referenced meeting, which, some of their members had conceived and in consultation with the political parties, sought ECOWAS support in hosting it. Mr. Executive Secretary, it was in consideration of the deteriorating situation in our country that the political parties initiated the process of organizing a Leadership Forum which, on solicitation, your predecessor accommodated in recognition of the incompleteness of the implementation of the tenants of the 1994 Abuja agreement that resulted in the election of a President of Liberia. The concept was for leaders of political parties, who ultimately represent the voices of the majority of the Liberian people, to sit together with the current government to define ways to enhance the democratic process launched in our country by ECOWAS in 1997, through special elections under a proportional representation arrangement, following enormous sacrifices by the Sub Region.

It was against this background that the concept of representation by institutions at the March 14-16 meeting was agreed on by all concerned parties, and the original list of participants was made and circulated. Our experience has proven that lasting peace, stability and security of all Liberians would depend on inclusively and successfully doing what needs to be done. For an institution that serves as trail blazer for the empowerment of democratic institutions, one wonders about the reasons why institutional representation was abandoned and replaced with the subjective personalized representation. (See lists 1 and 2 of March 6 and 8 respectively).

It was further frustrating that such an important meeting that would have provided the finest opportunity to dialogue with the Liberian powers and the political stakeholders was missed, and the initial agenda and objective were fundamentally deviated from, downgrading the leadership Forum to the level of a “Preparatory Meeting”. If as a preparatory session, one wonders whether ECOWAS intends to do the democratic process that it sacrificed so much to launch in Liberia, by refusing the political institutions, the custodian of that democracy, the right to participate in political discussion: and one that they initiated.

I believe that opportunity missed is not necessarily lost. So allow me, sir, to offer that for any such future meeting, it would be expedient and necessary for objectivity to underpin all proceedings, ensuring transparency. I would also hope that the timetables for future meetings accommodate comprehensive discussions. While a two-day meeting may give conveners something to celebrate about, it is most unlikely to create ample opportunity for frank, honest and fruitful dialogue by and amongst Liberians. In the final analysis, permanent peace and a more conducive, inclusive and democratic socio-political environment has to be created from Liberians jawboning, disagreeing, expressing grievances and at the end holding hands and singing their National anthem, not because it makes good photo-opt, but because they will be pleased that they had the opportunity to sit and identify some of the problems that got us where we are today, and extract solutions for their mitigation.

Let me close with an introduction of myself. I am Cletus Segbe Wotorson, former Minster of Lands, Mines and Energy (Tolbert Government), Chairman of the Board of Directors and Managing Director, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (Doe Government), Assistant Professor, University of Liberia, Standard Bearer of the Liberian Action Party and Standard Bearer of the Alliance of Political Parties in the 1997 elections. In the supreme interest of our country, I collaborated with Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other political leaders in the numerous consultations and supported, up to the 8th of March, the undertakings that contributed to the materialization of this meeting. As a political party leader, I decided against traveling to Abuja in the absence of a formal invitation; a telephone message from an unidentified person, devoid of an agenda and an objective was totally inadequate. Furthermore, and as a member of a political institution with shared responsibilities of making functional any framework of democracy, I could not participate in political discussions, which appeared to have marginalized Liberian political institutions.

We are prepared to attend any future meetings, designed to discuss the future of Liberia and which will recognize the relevant role of political institutions.

With sentiments of my highest esteem,

Sincerely yours

Cletus Segbe Wotorson

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