Who represents Liberians in the Diaspora/America in the Assembly?

(Open Letter to Gyude Bryant)

By Saah Charles N’Tow

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 23, 2003

Hon. Gyude Bryant
Chairman/National Transitional Government of Liberia
Executive Mansion
Capitol Hill, Monrovia

Dear Chairman Bryant

Please accept my congratulations for your selection as head of the new TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA. I am sure you aware of the enormity of the task ahead. My prayer for you is that all Liberians (irrespective of where they are) would consider doing everything in their power to make the next two years successful.

Sir, this is to inquire through your kind office about information, clarifications and prompt action regarding the representation of Liberians in the Diaspora/America. As we celebrate the commencing of final work towards durable peace, reconstruction and rehabilitation of our country, many Liberians in the Diaspora have been wondering when and how the slot allotted to Liberians in Diaspora was or is been filled? We are concerned that we have not seen or heard of a process for the selection/election of our representative to the National Transitional Legislative Assembly, as per article XXIV of the Peace Agreement recently signed in Ghana. Please consider this letter a call for your kind and prompt intervention in resolving this issue.

Sir, ARTICLE XXIV of the recent peace agreement signed in Ghana provides for the establishment a NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY (NTLA), where said assembly will reflect a broad spectrum of the Liberian society. In sub sections 3 (a) and (b) of the same article, the document specifically defines ‘broad spectrum’ as:

“(a) Each of the 15 counties; (b) The present Government of Liberia, the LURD, MODEL, the Political Parties, Civil Society and Interest Groups including the National Bar Association, the Liberian Business Organizations, Women Organizations, Trade Unions, Teachers Union, Refugees, the Liberians in the Diaspora/America and the Youth.”

The process of finding representatives for the groups named above as witnessed in other areas, has been a simple election or selection. On September 16, 2003, The Perspective Internet Magazine reported the following:

“In keeping with the recent Accra peace agreement for parties to the Liberian conflict and other stakeholders including the civil society and political parties to nominate their respective representatives to the Transitional Legislative Assembly (TLA), the civil society and political parties have begun the process.

Over the weekend, the Civil Society Movement of Liberia (CSML-L), which divided itself into its constituent groupings for the exercise, began the process of electing their representatives to fill the seven slots allotted to them. The various trade unions overwhelmingly elected the president of the Tailors’ Union, Mr. Yiafia Vakpa, while the pro-democracy and human rights organizations elected Mr. Conmany B. Wesseh of the Center for Democratic Empowerment (CEDE), as their choice for the TLA. The remaining five CSM-L slots are expected to be filled through the same process within the week.

On the political parties’ front, where each of the 18 parties have to be represented by a representative, the All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP) elected its Chairman, Mr. David Kortie to fill their slot.”

Reports from Ghana confirmed that Mr. Alphonso Nimene was elected to represent residents of the refugee camp in Buduburum, Ghana.

Sir, as a Liberian living in the Diaspora/America, I have followed the events unfolding in our country very keenly. Unlike other positions in the government, representation in the assembly requires an election/selection process. To date, it remains unclear as to whether the thousands of Liberians in the Diaspora/America have elected/selected a representative to NTLA. If one has been presented for consideration, then I am concerned that thousands of Liberians in the Diaspora/America may have been robbed of their right to participate in the election/selection of their representative. On the other hand, if a selection/election has not been made, I would like to know who would be responsible for guiding the process.

Sir, if our ultimate goal is to build an indestructible system of governance for future generations, then we must be provident in the decisions we make today. Those who lead us must be honest, transparent and accountable, while seeking to build an inclusive system. Liberians in the Diaspora are in great numbers to be relegated to the role of mute bye-standers, expected only to obediently endorse whatever is done or given on their behalf. I submit that it would be a miscalculation to isolate the more than 450,000 Liberian Diasporas in the Americas and elsewhere. The arduous task of rebuilding is one that must be seen as a collective responsibility, with fair treatment and equal access for all Liberians. If history has taught us something so far, it must be that most of our trouble are started or escalated when large groups of people are consistently marginalized and/or forced to live in squalor for long.

Therefore, as I wait for your kind and prompt response, please be aware that this letter was not my first attempt at trying to find answers to the questions posed here. For the past few days, I along with several other Liberians, including community leaders raised similar questions and concerns. To date, no one has produced any answers. I am therefore hoping that your office will do all in its power to provide us with answers.


Yours respectively,

Saah Charles N’Tow
A Liberian living in the Diaspora

Jacques Klien/UN Special Representative
General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the ECOWAS Chief negotiator
Commander of UN FORCES
US Ambassador