Is it Too Soon? If so Now What?

By James F. Kollie, Jr.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 17, 2003


My understanding is that the new National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) has been seated with it’s structure gradually been formed. Parties to the conflict have started sending names of their nominees of the various posts allotted them. I think, except for the legislative assembly that has some re-election to conduct, everything is gradually falling in line. Liberians are very hopeful or let me say prayerful that this time around things will work out for the better. They cannot wait for the day when they will have to return home. Families will be happy to see one another and friends will reunite again. The stories will be told of how each got over various wars ranging from Dec. 24 1989 to April 6, 1996 and then including world wars I, II and III (2003).

It is our prayer that this transition will pave the way for all of this to happen. While it is true that we be hoping, praying and besieging the Almighty to bring our stories to a happy ending, it is also the realty that we need to guard and manage this transition as carefully as possible.

In order for us to guard and manage this transition, it is my thinking that we need to be asking some the tough questions now. Or it is too soon? I know that the Bryant government was just seated about 2 or 3 days ago but time waits for no man and if we can get these national debate going and find answers to some of the questions, the transition would be well managed and Liberia will be off to a good start. The New Democrat has already started clocking Chairman Bryant’s days and if I am not mistaken, he has about 719 (-) left and believe me, this will not be increasing but rather decreasing which means that we race against time and this means we need to act as fast as possible.

Against the supra mentioned, I have got a few questions that I thought worth asking. My hope is that there are some brilliant people who have got some answers and we could share this with one another as we chart the course of this transition:

You see, I am asking this question against the background of recent history in one of transitional governments. I am sure we all know exactly how J. Milton Teahjay challenged the authority of Cllr. Kpormakor when the then chairman decided to fire him for whatever reason ( I am not interested in the merits of the Cllr. Kpormakor’s reason). If the question of authority is not addressed thoroughly or spelled out quite clearly, this could be recipe for disaster or a malfunction in the government. Let’s assume that Mr. Bryant has the right (authority) to fire any of his ministers whether they were appointed by warring faction or not, does he also have the right (authority) to replace them with confirmation from the assembly (legislative)? Is there any point in time when the various factions will be dissolve while the NTGL is still in power? The reason for this is to see if there is ever a time when appointees will be acting in the best interest of the Liberian people or how long they will continue to exercise their fiduciary responsibility under the principal-agent relationship. Are appointees accountable to the Government and people of Liberia or are they accountable to their principals who give them the job? Recent history is the case with former Vice President Peter Nyengawo who owed so such loyalty to Prince Y. Johnson (INPFL) that he would refuse to serve the Liberian people as vice president in the Interim administration of Sawyer only because Prince Y. Johnson asked him not to.

There has been a major debate over the setting up of a war crime tribunal for Liberia to prosecute those who committed crimes against the Liberian people. My understanding of this might be myopic but it is best that I ask this question rather than wonder in my own mind endlessly without clue. Will the war crime court take into consideration those who may not have physically tortured or killed people but who may have squandered or plundered national wealth for their self-benefit? If these people fall into that category (which is not my argument), will they only have to go to jail and do time while their heirs enjoy what they don’t deserve? Is there is a provision for restitution whereby these people are made to return national wealth that they have been keeping?

I see that Lusini Kamara is returning to the Finance Ministry. This is sad. I am sure that his family and friends might be trying to reward him for his numerous contributions to their war effort.

There is a need to make government a decent place for people to work but not a get-rich-quick place. We need to discourage those who have that kind of thinking that they can get anything they want from government and go with impunity. This is wrong.

If the question of restitution is properly debated and aligned with Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Repatriation, they will bring healing to our country and at the same time send out a very strong message that we don’t appreciate people misbehaving and believing that they are above the law or can get away with impunity.

I don’t know how far back this restitution of national wealth should date, but I am certainly convinced that it should include the recent past, now, and going forward. I am sure that we can hire expect and seek the cooperation of foreign banks and financial institutions to report on all financial matters of Liberian nationals especially past and present government officials and their families. This way, we will be able to see what these people have taken away from the national coffers and placed into their private bank accounts.

As you can see, I don’t have answers to any of the questions raised and my thoughts are even deranged but my point is clear. I am a Liberian with deep love for my country and want this transitional process to produce the kind of result that will set the stage for a new and prosperous future. I trust those facilitators who are guarding the process especially Klein and Abdulsalami. I am sure that they will listen to some of these concerns and lend their full support to the Liberian people if they ever decide to implement some issues relating to War Crime, Power and Authority for the NTGL and Restitution.

I will pen off here and hope to have set the stage for a national debate on this issue.