Report On The Founding Conference Of The Liberian Leadership Forum
August 28, 2002
1.1 The following is the REPORT ON THE FOUNDING CONFERENCE OF THE LIBERIAN LEADERSHIP FORUM (LLF) held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso July 8 to 11, 2002. Leaders of 10 Liberian political parties and 14 civil society organizations, and eminent individuals active in the pursuit of peace and democracy, joined by leaders of the armed opposition movement, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), concluded the conference with a commitment to rally the Liberian people and the international community around a plan to bring an end to the violent conflict in their country.
1.2 Guided by the vision to save Liberia and restore its honor and dignity, the leaders adopted the Ouagadougou Declaration containing the plan and established the LLF as a vehicle for dialogue among, and collective action by, political parties and civil society organizations.
2.1 In response to an invitation from the ECOWAS Secretariat and the Nigerian Government to a select number of individuals for a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria from March 14-15, 2002, some Liberian civic and political leaders from inside and outside the country meeting in the sidelines of the official protocol, discussed how to collectively address what they considered issues critical to saving Liberia and restoring “honor and dignity” to their country. Prior to this meeting, an idea to create a forum of Liberian leaders to help find solutions to the myriad problems of the country was gaining wide support. The thought was to create a vehicle that would bring political parties, civil society organizations and opinion leaders together in some unified fashion, to promote peace and democracy in Liberia.
2.2 In the Position Statement issued at the end of the meeting on March 15, 2002, the leaders said that they were “shocked by the political, social and economic disintegration” of their native land. The 32 signatories to Statement (hereinafter also referred to as the Abuja Agenda) identified three broad problem areas requiring urgent action, namely: security, reconciliation and free and fair elections.
2.3 Central to the Abuja Agenda is the creation of a secure environment for all who live in Liberia and neighboring countries especially those of the Mano River Basin. It observes that the current environment in Liberia is characterized by lawlessness and harassment of the populace, which often-times is targeted specifically at political leaders, journalists, human rights activists and students, many of whom have had to flee the country out of fear for their lives. Also commonplace is looting, banditry, and armed hostilities in many parts of the country, resulting in death, destruction and the uprooting of thousands of Liberians, large numbers of whom have been forced to seek refuge in other countries.
2.4 The Abuja Agenda therefore argues that security must include a ceasefire between the government forces and armed rebels; deployment of an international security stabilization force; disarmament, disbanding, and demobilization of all fighting forces; creation of a new national security system, incorporating a restructuring of the military and paramilitary forces; and the creation of mechanisms to address impunity, human rights abuses and other crimes.
2.5 It sees security for all as critical to the conduct of proper and credible elections and for genuine reconciliation. In that connection, it contends that the process of reconciliation in Liberia demands first and foremost the removal of the climate of fear and mistrust by creating an environment that provides for every Liberian the right of full, unhampered participation in the political process as a peaceful alternative to armed conflict.
2.6 The statement was submitted to the ECOWAS Secretariat through the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS and to the Nigerian Government through the Minister of Cooperation and Integration in Africa.
Post Abuja Consultations
2.7 The challenge after that meeting was “what next?” How were the views of the Liberian political and civic leadership to be translated into concrete actions? What mechanism was there to pursue the Abuja Agenda?
2.8 It was the search for an answer that necessitated the renewal of the process of consultations that started before, and continued during and after Abuja, among a number of political and civil society leaders, and subsequently among some members of the group appointed to draft the Position Statement during the Abuja meeting.
2.9 In continuation of the consultation process, a small group of individuals decided to create the Liberian Leadership Forum, as a network to promote peace and democracy in Liberia. Borrowing from the Abuja Agenda, the initiators of the Forum suggested that the vision of the Forum should be to take collective action to save Liberia and restore her honor and dignity.
2.10 Prior to after the meeting, a number of Liberian political leaders were engaged in consultation with Heads of State and senior officials of several ECOWAS member countries to sensitize them on the severity of the Liberian problem and the need for ECOWAS to be seized of the situation.
2.11 In spite of the fact that several initiatives had been undertaken before, during and after Abuja, no structure had been put into place to serve as the engine to drive the vision, agenda and activities of Liberian political and civic leaders in a collective, coordinated and sustained manner. It was acknowledged that many, if not all, political parties and associations and civil society organizations, as well as recognized national leaders, had committed themselves to changing the deteriorating situation in the country as described in the Abuja Agenda. The lack of coordination was what was undermining their ability to induce democratic change in the country.
Suggestion to Create the LLF
2.12 Recognizing the urgent need for a vehicle that would serve as a forum for regular consultations among, and collective action by, Liberian political and civic leaders to give life to the Abuja Agenda, some of the drafters of the Abuja Position Statement took the initiative to search for a solution and came up with the idea of creating the Liberian Leadership Forum.
2.13 As envisaged by the initiators, the Forum was to help political parties and civil society organizations to develop, define and promote programs and activities to build democracy and restore the country’s honor and dignity. The original drafting group from the Abuja meeting was constituted into the Working Group and its membership expanded to drive the process.
2.14 In order to gain legitimacy, the initiators of the Forum decided to circulate their proposal to the signatories of the Abuja Agenda and to an additional number of political and civil society leaders for comment. A criterion was set, the realization of which would be a vote of support for the creation of the Liberian Leadership Forum (LLF). The criterion was that there must be written and/or signature support of at least half of the signatories of the Abuja Agenda, 3 political parties, __ civil society organizations and an unlimited number of individuals. The original drafting group from the Abuja meeting were invited to join the initiators to form the Working Group (WG) to organize the Liberian Leadership Forum. With the positive response from all nine Abuja drafters and growing responsibilities, the WG membership was expanded to drive the process.
2.15 Over a period of three months the Working Group answered queries and received overwhelming support far exceeding the minimum criteria for political parties, civil society organizations and individuals supporting the initiative of the Forum and consenting to contribute to its realization.
Venue, Support and Invitees
2.16 Prior to and after Abuja, a couple of key political leaders carried out consultations with leaders within the West African Sub-region on the deteriorating situation in Liberia. Special attention was paid to the leadership of Burkina Faso because of their historical role in the Liberian conflict. It was at the end of one of the consultations between the Burkinabe leaders and former Interim President Dr. Amos Sawyer, and Unity Party Leader Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that the offer to host a meeting of Liberian leaders in Ouagadogou was made. In the statement issued at the end of that meeting, it was made clear that there was a policy change in Burkina Faso on Liberia and the Mano River Basin in favor of the people. With this information, the WG carried out broad consultations on the issue of an appropriate venue for the first conference of the forum. It was thus decided that the Working Group would utilize the offer of the Burkinabe Authorities to organize the conference to formalize the establishment of the Liberian Leadership Forum and set clear objectives and a program of action.
2.17 In addition to the commitment of material and financial support from the Government of Burkina Faso, the conference was given financial support by the Soros Foundation/Open Society Institute.
2.18 Against the background of other previously failed attempts to get the armed opposition group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to meet other Liberians in a public forum, it was decided that a conscious effort be made to engage the LURD leadership and impress upon them the importance of dialoguing with the widest possible participation of Liberian opinion leaders in order to chart a course for the country’s future out of the impasse that existed. An invitation from the Working Group was extended to LURD to attend the Ouagadougou conference. The invitation was accepted by LURD.
2.19 The Working Group thus invited a broad cross-section of Liberians to the conference: leaders of functioning registered political parties, including the ruling National Patriotic Party, civil society organizations involved in peace building and democracy promotion activities, the armed opposition Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and eminent individuals. Ten political parties, fourteen civil society organizations and a number of eminent persons attended. Representatives of the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS and the International Republican Institute (IRI) of the USA were also in attendance and observed the proceedings of all sessions of the conference.
2.20 Following broad consultations by the Working Group it was proposed and endorsed that the conference be chaired by Dr. Amos C, Sawyer, Former President of the Interim Government of National Unity and current professor of political theory and policy analysis at Indiana University at Bloomington, USA.
3.0 Opening Ceremonies
3.1 The formal opening ceremonies were held on Monday, July 8, 2002 beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Ouaga 2000 International Conference Center. In addition to the delegates representing Liberian political parties and civil society organizations, there were members of the diplomatic corps and officials of the government of Burkina Faso present. Mr. S.T. Eugene Peabody, a member of the Working Group, served as Master of Ceremonies. An opening prayer was said by Sheikh Kafumba Konneh, Vice Chairman of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia.
Welcome and Introductory Statement
3.2 In his Welcome and Introductory Statement, the Chairman of the Working Group of the Liberian Leadership Forum, Mr. Conmany B. Wesseh expressed happiness for the conference and went over the background leading to the convening of the conference. Mr. Wesseh said that the idea of the Forum was intended to evolve a network of political parties, civil society organizations and other prominent stakeholders in a collective campaign aimed at taking concrete actions to save Liberia and bring about peace, reconciliation and a democratic culture. He emphasized that parties and organizations that support and join the forum would keep their identities and would be strengthened through collective participation in the network.
3.3 The Working Group Chairman praised the decision of LURD to attend the conference and regretted the absence of the ruling National Patriotic Party and the Chairman of the National Organizing Bureau of the Government’s the proposed National Reconciliation Conference even though the NPP had responded positively and named representatives to attend. He thanked the Government and people of Burkina Faso for their generous offer to host the conference, the philanthropist, George Soros and his Open Society Institute for their financial contribution and the International Republican Institute of the USA for managing the Soros support. Mr. Wesseh then introduced the conference chairman, Dr. Amos Sawyer.
Chairman’s Opening Remarks
3.4 In his opening remarks, the conference chairman, Dr. Amos Sawyer lamented that Liberia “is in the throes of multiple crises” brought about by the failure to fully implement the Abuja Agreement of 1995/96. Dr. Sawyer indicated that the Ouagadougou Conference was yet another opportunity to build upon similar efforts by Liberian leaders in and outside of the country so as to move Liberia away from its multiple crises unto the path of peace and democracy. He thanked the President, Government and People of Burkina Faso for hosting the meeting and appreciated the courage of the Burkinabe Government to review its policy toward Liberia and in the true meaning of reconciliation admitting that it had been pursuing a wrong course. See annex 1 for full text of all statements made at opening ceremonies.
Greetings from Observers
3.5 Colonel M. Dixon Dikio, Principal Programme Officer for Peacekeeping at the ECOWAS Secretariat, in his capacity as the personal representative of ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, welcomed the initiative by the organizers of the conference and expressed the hope that the Forum would “condense all the positive aspects of previous efforts and initiatives and set positive beacons for dialogue and reconciliation”. He recalled the active involvement of ECOWAS in all efforts aimed at resolving the Liberian conflict from the start of the war to the conduct of the Special Elections of 1997. He renewed the call for immediate political dialogue and reconciliation between the Government of Liberia and the LURD under the auspices of ECOWAS and reiterated ECOWAS’s position that it would not recognize any unconstitutional take over of power in any country.
3.6 Mr. Jeff Krilla, the Africa Program Director of the International Republican Institute brought greetings to the conference and expressed the preparedness of his institution to contribute, within the limit of their mandate, to the success of the conference and the restoration of peace and democracy in Liberia. He also stressed the importance of the conference as a forum to bring Liberian stakeholders together to chart a course for peace and the establishment of the appropriate environment for holding free and fair elections.
Message from President Campaore
3.7 On behalf of His Excellency Blaise Compaore, President of Burkina Faso, the State Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Hydraulics and Fisheries, Hon. Salif Diallo to participants and wish them a pleasant stay in Ouagadougou. President Campaore was out of the country attending the OAU/AU Summit in Durban. Mr. Diallo stated that the meeting was one of great hope for Liberians and for the sub-region. Minister Diallo asserted that by hosting this conference, “Burkina Faso simply wanted to join its efforts to those of the international community, especially those of the UN, OAU and ECOWAS in the search for peace and democracy.” He pointed out that “Burkina Faso doesn’t support any one man or a single political party whatsoever, we are on the side of the Liberian people, peace, democracy and progress. As many among you in this hall, we contributed to the fight against dictatorship. But one has to acknowledge today that despite sacrifices made by the sister people of Liberia, the fundamental issues such as democracy and progress still remain questions raised and still to be solved in Liberia”.
4.0 First Plenary
Chairmanship and Agenda
4.1 The First Plenary Session of the Conference commenced at 2:30 P.M. on July 8, 2002. During this session, Dr. Sawyer was formally confirmed to chair the Conference. The conference program/agenda as proposed by the Working Group was discussed extensively and unanimously adopted with some minor modifications. It was agreed that the conference would be held in plenaries and breakout sessions and that consensus would be sought on all issues, where possible. Presentations at the plenaries would be followed by discussions.
4.2 A limited number of copies of a new publication by Mrs. Christine Tolbert Norman containing speeches of her late father, President William R. Tolbert, Jr. entitled “A Time for Change” were distributed to conference delegates. They were received with thanks.
Review of Peace Agreements
4.3 Following the adoption of the conference program, Counsellor Tiawan S. Gongloe, a human rights lawyer presented a Review of the Peace Agreements and the Role of ECOWAS and the International Community in Liberia between 1990 and 1996. In it he pointed out that during the civil war in Liberia, dozens of agreements and communiqués have been signed for the attainment of peace in Liberia. However, peace had remained elusive due largely to the partial or non-implementation of the accords and communiqués had been signed. But peace had remained elusive due largely to the partial or non-implementation of some of these accords. Counsellor Gongloe stated that all the peace agreements on Liberia were made within the framework of what was known as the “ECOWAS Peace Plan for Liberia”, which was adopted by the ECOWAS Standing Committee on Mediation and Security in Banjul, Gambia on August 7, 1990.
4.4 According to Counsellor Gongloe, the two key issues the ECOWAS Peace Plan sought to address were security and governance. On the issue of security, the Plan called for a cease-fire, the creation of a Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), the surrender of all arms and ammunitions to ECOMOG and an end to their importation. On the issue of governance, the Plan called for the establishment of an interim government, respect for the Constitution of Liberia and the holding of elections within 12 months. The Plan specifically called for an interim government to be formed at a conference of political parties and interest groups, barred heads of warring factions from heading the interim government, and disqualified head of the interim government from participating as a candidate in the elections that were to usher in the new government. These last two stipulations were violated by the Council of State arrangement that succeeded the Interim Government of National Unity.
4.5 Counsellor Gongloe expressed the view that the failure to complete the disarmament and demobilization of combatants before the special elections and to restructure the military and paramilitary forces were major contributing factor to the resurgence of armed hostilities in Liberia. He pointed out that there was no time limit placed on the restructuring exercise and the issue remained relevant to the search for peace in Liberia and the risk of reversing the gains made by the international community in Sierra Leone. His recommendation was for the international community to support the immediate deployment of an international security stabilization force to separate and disarm all combatants and restructure the military and paramilitary forces before any future elections in Liberia.
Summary of the Abuja Agenda
4.6 Mr. Conmany B. Wesseh followed up with a summary of the Abuja Position Statement of March 15, 2002. He reminded participants that the Abuja Statement declared in essence that security for all was fundamental to the restoration of peace in Liberia, for the resettlement of the internally displaced, for the repatriation of refugees and return of Liberians from exile, for the beginning of a process of reconciliation, and for promoting economic reconstruction. In order to achieve these ends, the Abuja Agenda recommended the establishment of a ceasefire between the government and LURD; the deployment of an International Security Stabilization Force (ISSF) to take charge of national security; the disarming, disbanding, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of all rival armed groups; and the creation, by the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations, of mechanisms to address acts of impunity including the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, boards of inquiry and special investigation committees to look into grave cases of criminal nature and human rights violations.
Reception by the Burkina Prime Minister
4.7 Prime Minister Yonli of Burkina Faso received in audience at his offices, the conference Chairman and heads of all delegations. He formally welcomed the participants to Ouagadougou on behalf of President Campaore and the people of Burkina Faso.
5.0 Second Plenary July 9, 2002
Report on the Political Situation and Collaboration in Liberia
5.1 A Report on the Political Situation and Collaboration in Liberia was presented by Mr.
George Bowah, Chairman of the Free Democratic Party and Vice Chairman of the Collaborating Political Party (CPP) who filled in for Counsellor Rudolph Sherman, Chairman of the True Whig Party and Chairman of the CPP.
5.2 Mr. Bowah’s comments about the sometimes discordant voices of the internal and external opposition led to a spirited discussion, with following conclusions:
(a) Recognition should be given to the fact that party leaders who are living outside the country are doing so mainly because they were forced into exile and as such should not be denied a voice in the activities of their party in the country. At the same, party leaders outside the country should act in the name of their parties only after due consultations with home-based leaders.
(b) That standard bearers in the 1997 election should be guided in their actions by the constitutions of their parties.
(c) That a special meeting of political party representatives should be held to explore ways to improve collaboration among the parties.
5.3 The participants noted Mr. Borwah’s appeal to all to attend the proposed national reconciliation conference to be sponsored by the Government. He regretted the failure of the government and the organizers of the national conference to attend the Ouaga Conference, as this would have been an opportunity to inform participants about the details of the proposed national conference. In the discussion that followed, note was taken of the actions of the government which were creating apprehension amongst the exiled community about going to Monrovia for the conference: the existence of the state of emergency; the continued arrest and detention of journalists; illegal searches conducted by military and paramilitary, amounting to witch hunting and the continuing practice of impunity.
Special Message from the Liberian Leadership Conference (LLC)
5.4 Mr. Harry A. Greaves, Jr., a member of the Working Group and a participant at the June 28-29 Liberian Leadership Conference (LLC) in Bethesda, Maryland, USA read a special message from Mr. Cletus Wotorson, the Chairman of LLC. Mr. Wotorson explained the purpose of that meeting as being “…to build bridges and engender trust and confidence between opposition political parties as well as between civil society and opposition political party leaders, to facilitate the establishment of cohesive interpersonal relationships necessary to implement a common agenda; further it sought to formulate the strategy for implementing that agenda to arrest the unspeakable level of anarchy that has permeated every part of our country and stratum of our society.” Mr. Wotorson regretted the communication difficulties that prevented participation of a delegation from the LLC. He however committed that the LLC will participate in all future meetings. The message and the Bethesda communiqué were adopted as working documents of the conference.
Position Statement by Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)
5.5 Mr. Mustapha Kamara, Assistant Secretary General for Administration of LURD and head of delegation, presented the Position Statement of his organization. In it he traced the seeds of the current armed conflict to the decision by President Taylor, after the 1997 elections, not to honor the military provisions of the Abuja Accord, converting the military into an NPFL militia, refusing to allow ECOMOG to retrain the military and ordering ECOMOG to withdraw from Liberia. He pointed to the murder of Samuel Dokie and members of his family, Madam Nowai Flomo and others, and to the assault on former combatants of ULIMO-J and the murders of innocent people on Camp Johnson Road on September 18, 1998 as further evidence of President Taylor’s desire to eliminate his former opponents rather than reconcile with them. The decision to form LURD and take to the bush was therefore an act of self-defence, he maintained.
5.6 Mr. Kamara stated the objectives of LURD as being the following:
· Removal of Mr. Taylor from power and creation of an environment for a “democratic beginning”, using the provisions of the Abuja Accord as the principal guiding instrumentality.
· Formation of an interim government of national unity following the removal of Mr. Taylor from power.
· Repatriation and resettlement of Liberian refugees, including the internally displaced.
· Creation of mechanisms to foster community-based national healing and reconciliation.
· Dismantling Mr. Taylor’s infrastructure of terror, putting an end to the use of Liberia as a safe haven for international criminals, and stopping the export of war by Liberia to its neighbors.
5.7 General remarks were made by Mr. Saa Philip Joe, Chairman of the Civil Society Movement of Liberia and Mr. Cyrus Badio, Chairman of the Association of Liberian Journalists in America. Each made an undertaking to sensitize and mobilize their memberships in working with the Forum to contribute to the realization of its objectives.
6.0 Third Plenary Introduction to Thematic Areas
6.1 In order to provide an opportunity for deeper discussion of the topics that had been selected for consideration by the conference, 5 break-out groups were created. Each group was led by a presenter, assisted by a discussant whose job it was to frame, in plenary, the issues which their group would discuss in their break-out session. At the conclusion of their deliberations rapporteurs from each group would make a presentation to the plenary, summarizing their findings and recommendations. The following are the key points made by the presenters and discussants:
Security, Human Rights and the Media
6.2 Counsellor Laveli Supuwood, former Minister of Justice and former Associate Justice of Liberia who served as presenter, assisted by James Kiazolu, President of the Press Union of Liberia, discussant, spoke of the origins and nature of civil rights and role of the government vis-à-vis these rights. He emphasized the inherent right of people to oppose governments that violate their rights. He stressed the failure of legal and social institutions to protect individual rights in Liberia and absence of the rule of law, stating that the creation and strengthening of institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights constituted one of the major challenges to conflict resolution and the building of peace and democracy in Liberia.
6.3 Counsellor Supuwood asserted that the power of government evolves from a social contract between the governed and the governor. General and specific rights, responsibilities and duties are contained in that contract to ensure good governance and social and economic development. When these fundamental rights are violated, the security of the person and conscience cannot be assured, thereby engendering the propensity for anarchy. It was also pointed out that the media is the instrument of free and fair exchange of views and information between leaders and those they govern. To be effective it must be genuinely independent. Issues such as constant harassment and arrest of journalists for publishing stories considered critical of those in positions of power, economic strangulation of media institutions aimed at reducing their capacities to publish, monopolization of the short-wave transmission of the electronic media, were some of the major issues highlighted.
6.4 Mr. Kiazolu noted the rapid decline of the media as a result of the war. Newspaper circulation was at an all-time low and journalists operated under increasing threats. They were being constantly harassed and arrested for publishing stories considered critical of those in positions of power. He stressed the need for the media to be genuinely independent in order to serve as an instrument for the free exchange of views between the government and the people. The monopolization of short-wave radio transmission by President Taylor’s radio station would come to an end, he suggested, if the decision to allow Radio Veritas to begin short-wave transmission were to be implemented. He stressed the need for the establishment of other short-wave broadcast facilities in view of the fact that radio is a more effective medium for empowering the citizenry in the Liberian context.
Elections and Challenges
6.5 Counsellor Marcus Jones, President of the Liberian National Bar Association was the presenter in this group, with Mr. Aaron Manneh, Acting Chairman of Liberian People’s Party serving as discussant. Their comments were as follows:
· The constitutional right to exercise one’s franchise by voting for a candidate of one’s choice should not be considered a privilege.
· The majoritorian system, not proportional representation is the preferred and constitutional system for the election of leadership.
· If elections are not possible come 2003, what mechanism should be put in place once the mandate of the present Government runs out?
· What solutions can be proposed to the problem of unreliable population statistics and the associated problems of the demarcation of constituencies and voter registration?
· How can one ensure the creation of an independent and credible judicial body that would play the appropriate role of presiding over matters arising from elections activities?
· What changes are necessary in the composition of the Elections Commission to ensure that it is seen and perceived to be balanced and fair?
6.6 Counsellor Izetta Wesley, an Executive of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia made a presentation on this theme and was assisted by Mr. Carlos Smith Secretary General of the United People’s Party. They both deplored the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian conditions heightened by the on-going armed conflict between the Government of Liberia and LURD. They called for an end to the war. They indicated that basic social services such as schools and hospitals in the conflict zones are either non-existent or not operational. Efforts by humanitarian agencies to supply food and medicines to people affected by the war were being interrupted or virtually brought to a standstill by the intensification of the armed conflict.
Economic Situation and an Outline for Reconstruction
6.7 This presentation was made by Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leader of the Unity Party and a former Minister of Finance, assisted by Mr. Willie Belleh, Secretary General of the Liberia Action Party and member of the Board of Governors of the Central Bank of Liberia as discussant. According to the panel, the Liberian economy is characterized by a negative growth rate, a US $3 billion debt burden, deliberate institutional destruction, sharply declining GDP and a high rate of unemployment of about 85%. Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf particularly stressed that this situation has given rise to pervasive corruption, gross dishonesty and unscrupulous greed. She pointed out that Liberia is today a predator state, a government economically feeding on the blood of its people by criminalizing the economy through such ruses as monopolizing the natural resources of the country and surrendering them to one man (exemplified by the “Strategic Commodity Act” enacted by the National Legislature). Some suggested corrective measures include creating an enabling environment to induce investment; restoring the legal framework to honor contractual arrangements; reforming the tax system; broadening the production base; reducing reliance on imported commodities; downsizing the bloated government bureaucracy, retraining and redeploying those affected by the downsizing; and developing private sector-driven employment opportunities.
6.8 Sheikh Kafumba Konneh, Vice Chairman of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia who was presenter for this topic, asserted that genuine repentance must precede reconciliation and that justice must underpin any serious reconciliation process. He suggested that there should be a spiritual, social and cultural retreat for repentance and reconciliation. He also called for politicians to curb their blind ambition for presidential power.
7.0 Break-out Groups
Five break-out groups were constituted according to the thematic areas as defined. Each group had very in-depth discussions using an approach that emphasized identification of the issues and making of appropriate recommendations.
8.0 Fourth Plenary - Break-out Group Recommendations
The following are the key recommendations endorsed by the plenary after discussion of the reports from each break-out groups:
8.1 Security, Human Rights and the Media
· Establish a ceasefire between LURD and the Government of Liberia through negotiation;
· Lobby for the deployment of an international stabilization force for peace, with the mandate of the force being to:
a) Monitor the ceasefire;
b) Disarm, disband and demobilize all armed groups in Liberia;
c) Restructure the military and para-military to ensure ethnic balance and avoid dominance by any of the former warring factions and retrain the new force;
d) Enforce the peace.
It was the view that the violations of human rights and the regular assault on the media would be aborted with a transformation of the security situation through the suggested measures.
8.2. Elections and Challenges
It was pointed out that all suggestions in this area were predicated upon positive adoption of measures stipulated in 8.1 above.
· There should be an organized voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons;
· A census or other acceptable statistical modeling technique should be used for the purposes of re-demarcating constituencies, establishing voting precincts and conducting voter registration. A vigorous voter education campaign should be conducted.
· As a result of the loss of confidence in the present Elections Commission by political parties and civic organizations, a 5-man independent elections commission should be constituted. Its membership should consist of 2 persons to be appointed by the President of Liberia and 3 persons to be appointed by the political parties and civil society with the consideration of balanced gender representation. The commissioners should elect their own chairman.
· Considering the special circumstances in which Liberia finds itself and for the sake of peace, a 3-man ad-hoc judicial commission should be appointed by the President to adjudicate on protests and contestation arising from the electoral process. The 3 persons to be so appointed shall be selected from a list of seven nominees submitted by the National Bar Association.
· In the event that the elections cannot be held in October 2003 as constitutionally prescribed, a national conference should be held to determine the form, nature and content of national governance.
8.3 Humanitarian Issues
· The war must be brought to an immediate halt; the fighting forces (GOL and LURD) must see reason to subordinate themselves to the greater interest of Liberia;
· The government, international NGOs and human rights organizations and LURD should ensure that a mechanism be put in place to stop the abuses and harassment of internally displaced persons (IDPs); that such mechanism should include the constitution of a commission to investigate reported abuses and harassments of IDPs with the aim of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
· A corridor should be opened by the fighting forces to allow the flow of humanitarian assistance to all affected areas of conflict in the country; all efforts must be exerted to encourage humanitarian and relief agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to all parts of the country and specifically, the GOL and LURD, respectively, should make the best efforts in assuming responsibility to ensure that humanitarian assistance is mobilized and provided to their areas of control.
· The international community should resume assistance to Liberian refugees in neighboring countries and other parts of the world, considering that the refugees are not likely to return home under the prevailing conditions.
8.4 Economic Situation and an Outline for Reconstruction
· Formulate short and long term plans consistent with the International Development Goals (IDGs) for the year 2015;
· Introduce and adhere to generally acceptable budgetary and accounting system;
· Strengthen legislative oversight of spending by the executive branch as required by the constitution;
· End monopolies on basic commodities (petroleum products, rice);
· Prioritize the rebuilding of physical infrastructures (roads, hospitals, schools, bridges, ports, etc.) and restoration of basic social services (sanitation, drinking water, electricity, etc.) as way of stimulating job creation;
· Promote Liberian entrepreneurship;
· Promote private enterprise as the primary engine of job growth and wealth creation;
· Reform and strengthen the judiciary;
· Determine proper role of government in economy (review performance of public corporations);
· Repeal laws that undermine the constitutional powers of the legislature (such as the Strategic Commodity Act);
· Support the development and modernization of small-scale farming;
· End logging activities that damage the environment and intensify reforestation;
· Reform and strengthen banking sector;
· Consider joining the West African Common Currency system; and
· Be a part of mechanisms for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
8.5 National Reconciliation
· Establish an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission and mechanism to deal with the culture of impunity; commission a body to study how the concept of an effective functioning Commission can be be put into effect;
· Set up an international panel to investigate all past rights abuses and other criminal activities as the best way of halting widespread impunity;
· Encourage political tolerance and networking among political parties;
· Encourage inter-cultural/inter-religious discourse, tolerance and accommodation;
· Encourage civic education in Liberia;
· Regret the failure of the organizing Bureau of the proposed National Peace and Reconciliation Conference and the National Patriotic Party (NPP) to have seen it fit to attend the LLF Conference, but welcome the proposed National Conference’s expressed objectives aimed at seeking to achieve peace and reconciliation in Liberia.
9.0 Cross-cutting Thematic Areas - International Contact Group
During the discussions, the issue of security, mobilization of the Liberian people to participate in the work of the Forum and mobilization of international support came up at every stage. While all political parties and civil society organizations present undertook to mobilize popular participation, a strong view emerged for an appeal to be launched for the setting up of an international contact group that would include key governments of West Africa, Europe and America. It was agreed by concensus that the Contact Group should include the governments of Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, the United States of America, Great Britain and France.
10.0 Special Closed Session of Political Parties
The leaders of political situation and collaboration in the country, leaders of political parties met in a closed session and concluded among other things that:
· They would honor the demands of the Liberian people to avoid repeating the mistakes of 1997 by forming alliances and mergers in order to reduce the number of candidates/parties that voters would be asked to support in the next elections;
· They will improve communication between their internal and external leaderships; and
· They will use the Forum as a vehicle for continuing collaboration with civil society leaders.
11.0 Special Diplomatic Meeting
During the course of the conference, the Ambassador of France accredited to Burkina Faso, Monsieur Maurice Portiche, Dr. Amos Sawyer and Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf held a briefing meeting at the French Embassy. During the meeting, a request was made to the French government to give support to the results of the conference generally and specifically to endorse the issue of the International Contact Group and the International Security Stabilization Force.
12.0 Fifth Plenary
Discussion and Formal Creation of the LLF
12.1 After a thorough review of the concept paper of the Working Group which centered on the establishment of an appropriate network movement, participants unanimously and formally endorsed the Liberian Leadership Forum as the vehicle for consultation and collaboration among political parties and civil society groups in and out of Liberia.
12.2 There was extensive discussion concerning the kind of organizational structure that should be put in place to carry out the decisions of the conference. Numerous models were advanced and debated. In the end, the conference agreed on retaining the current loose structure, whereby the Forum will serve as a network of political parties and civil society organizations. The consensus was that the Working Group had broad representation and had done a good job organizing the conference. There was no need therefore to create another entity, it was argued. It was therefore resolved that the Working Group be transformed into the Forum Coordinating Committee (FCC) with the responsibility to implement the decisions of the conference and manage the day-to-day affairs of the Forum. The FCC was further requested to take all steps necessary to integrate, where possible, other initiatives consistent with the objectives of the Forum in order to build a strong united front for peace and democracy in Liberia.
Discussion and Adoption of Final Declaration
12.3 The conference considered the draft declaration prepared by a Drafting Committee headed by Mr. Willie Belleh, Secretary General of the Liberia Action Party and including Messrs Mr. Dusty Wolokolie, S.T. Eugene Peabody and Harry Greaves. The conference unanimously adopted the document, in the form of a communiqué entitled the “Ouagadougou Declaration”. It is attached as an integral part of this report.
13.0 Closing Ceremonies
13.1 The formal closing ceremonies of the conference commenced at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, 2002 at the Ouaga 2000 International Conference Center with invocation given by Rev. William Brown, an executive official of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia. In attendance with the Liberian participants were members of the diplomatic corps resident in Ouagadougou and officials of the government of Burkina Faso.
13.2 In his special remarks on behalf of the newly established Forum Coordinating Committee of the LLF, the Chairman, Mr. Conmany Wesseh extended thanks and appreciation to all those who made the conference a success. He particularly thanked Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for the general support she provided in the form of resource mobilization and for making available her office facilities to the Working Group in preparation for the conference.
13.3 The Ouagadougou Declaration was formally read by two delegates one, a refugee youth participant, Ms. Ama Harris of the Coordinating Committee, representing civil society and Mr. Andrew Jaye, Acting General Secretary of the Liberian People’s Party, representing political parties.
13.4 The representative of the ECOWAS Secretariat, Col. Dikio congratulated the delegates for the fruitful discussions and promised to convey the outcome of the conference to the Secretariat.
13.5 Dr. Sawyer, in his closing remarks again extolled the Burkinabe Government for the courage in change of policy on Liberia, pointing out that he never imagine the day when he and many of his compatriots would be welcomed in Ouagadougou. He said Liberians have shown once again that they can work together for the good of their country and the sub-region and expressed the belief that Liberians are doing everything to join the comity of civilized people and win back their country’s honor and dignity.
13.6 On behalf of His Excellency Blaise Campaore, President of Burkina Faso, the State Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Hydraulics and Fisheries, Hon. Salif Diallo congratulated the participants for a successful conference and pledged the support and solidarity of the government and people of Burkina Faso for the resolutions and expressed the sincere wish for peace and stability in Liberia.
13.7 In his vote of thanks on behalf of all the participants, Mr. Gyude Bryant, chairman of the Liberia Action Party expressed deep appreciation of all to the government and people of Burkina Faso for the kind hospitality. Others singled out for appreciation were the Open Society Institute, the IRI and all the unsung heroes and heroines who contributed to the success of the meeting.
13.8 Mrs Jeanette Obetsibi-Lamptey who led the two-member Conference Preparatory team including Dr. Edward McClain to Ouagadougou working for the conference also thanked all and made the closing announcements including that concerning a meeting with President Campaore.
14.0 Special Courtesy Meeting with President Campaore
14.1 His Excellency, President Blaise Campaore received in audience all participants and observers at the Presidential Palace at 6 p.m. following the formal closing of the conference.
14.2 The Conference Chairman, Dr. Sawyer briefed the President on the outcome of the conference and presented him a copy of the final communiqué. He thanked the President on behalf of the delegates for the generous gesture in hosting the conference and the excellent facilities put at the disposal of the participants. Consistent with the conference decision, he requested President Campaore for his government to form part of the proposed international contact Group on Liberia.
14.3 President Campaore welcomed the delegates and congratulated them for a successful conference. He intimated that this was his government’s modest way of contributing to peace and stability in Liberia and the sub-region. The President lamented that although he sent a personal emissary to Monrovia to encourage President Taylor to join his fellow compatriots for dialogue, this was to no avail. President Campaore readily accepted his government’s participation in the Contact Group. He urged the Forum to designate a liaison team to coordinate with the Contact Group in getting the process moving.
1. The Ouagadougou Declaration
2. Post-Conference Press Release
4. List of participants/delegates
The Coordinating Committee
Conmany B. Wesseh, Chairman; S.T. Eugene Peabody; Harry A. Greaves; Nohn Kidau
J. Fonati Koffa; Dusty Wolokolie; Marcus Jones; James Kiazolu; Josephus Garley
Vivienne Wreh; Mr. G. Gediminar Flomo; Edward McClain; Jeanette Obetsibi-Lamptey
Report prepared by:
Dusty L. Wolokolie and S.T. Eugene Peabody, Conference Rapporteurs on behalf of the Coordinating Committee, Liberian Leadership Forum August 23, 2002.
Address all inquiries to:
Coordinating Committee of Liberian Leadership Forum
06 BP 397, Abidjan 06, Cote d’Ivoire
Tel. (225) 22 411 421 Cell.(225) 03 094 512/ 07 559 079/03 008 500; Fax (225) 22 449 887
Abidjan August 23, 2002