Liberia: Pathways From War to Peace

By Mohamedu F. Jones

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 8, 2003

Characteristics of Liberia’s civil war
· Occurs within and across the borders of Liberia.
· Has regional origins and spillover effects.
· Involves numerous external actors (disclosed and undisclosed).
· Central dynamic is political power and access to privileges (lawful and unlawful) associated with political power.
· Multiple and interconnected causes.
· Protracted; subsided and escalated.
· Sporadic violence and threats of violence have become the accepted social norm.
· Many of the dynamics of the civil war today are independent from its original causes.
· Conflict is embedded into the fabric of Liberian life; has destroyed many rural cultural institutions.
· Conflict is now an expression of cleavages within the country’s social, political, economic and cultural structures.
· Comprise “predatory” social formations.
· Ethno-nationalist elements are present.
· Conditions in the country over the last 25 years have made young people, particularly males, susceptible to mobilization and manipulation for violence by political leaders and conflict entrepreneurs.

I. Why does civil war in Liberia continue?
This inquiry presents a fundamental premise on which to formulate any “path towards peace.” Multiple peace agreements were signed. Peacekeepers came. Free and fair elections were declared. Constitutional governance resumed. Peacekeepers left. However, peace was definitely not assured. Two years into the term of the Taylor administration, the civil war flared up again - full force. Why did the conflict restart? Could it be that factions were planning to launch a fresh assault all along? Was there a lack of faith in the entire peace process beginning with the peace accords up through the elections? Had all the factional differences not been resolved? Are misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance sufficient grounds to seek to remove a Liberian president by force of arms? Do constitutional and human rights violations offer sufficient reasons to remove a Liberian president by force? If a president’s administration is efficient at economic management and delivery of governmental services, but violates the constitution and human rights, or in the reverse, is inefficient at economic management, but upholds the constitution and protects human rights, are any of these scenarios sufficient to justify force of arms to remove suh a president? If they are, what are the thresholds, and who determines when they have been crossed? Is it ever legitimate to launch war against a first term president with an election date certain? Can we, the Liberian people, develop the ways and means to live together peacefully again? Is our form of government and/or constitution suitably adequate to our circumstances? Why were we Liberians here in the U.S. largely silent when Voinjama, Foya, Robertsport and Tubmanburg were under attack? Why did it take until August 1, 2003 for the United Nations Security Council to demand, “that all states in the region refrain from any action that might contribute to instability in Liberia?” (Resolution 1497 (2003) Finally, what do we need to do to keep the civil war from starting again after these peacekeepers leave? Within the parameters of these and similar questions, and how we as a nation and people resolve them, lay a portion of the road map of the path to peace for Liberia.
Some of the essential elements of transition from war to peace are:
· Political commitment of the various conflicting factions to abide by the agreements to end hostilities.
· International capacity to enforce peace.
· Defining a new security framework for sustaining the peace.
· Elaborating a generally acceptable, inclusive and transparent system of post-conflict governance.
· Designing and implementing a wide range of post-conflict recovery measures: economic. social, political, infrastructure, societal.

These elements complement each other and are organically inter-related.

II. Post-conflict governance: successor authority
Under Article 50 of the Constitution, the term of the current incumbent President of Liberia ends on January 19, 2004 (the third working Monday of the year). It does not end on the day that the current office holder was inaugurated, notwithstanding that the calendar six years is reached on that day. The 1997 elections were held extra-constitutionally, which also meant that it was held on a date other than that which is appointed by the Constitution. Following the inauguration, the Constitution was proclaimed by the Legislature to be in full force and effect, which act automatically means that the term of constitutional office holders do not end until the day appointed for their successors .to assume office. However, any constitutional official may resign before his or her term is over.

The question of a successor authority is a fundamental issue that Liberians must resolve as part of the peace process. There are multiple models that may be employed in respect to instituting a successor administration. Related to this question is the matter of legitimacy of the successor authority, which needs to be taken into account.

A. Strict constitutional compliance
This model envisages strict compliance with Articles 63 and 64, the provisions for filling vacancies in the offices of President and Vice President of Liberia, created by reason of death, resignation, impeachment or incapacity. Even under this model, a person not currently in government may constitutionally assume the office of the presidency.

B. Hybrid: blending constitutional and extra-constitutional

This model blends constitutional changes with extra constitutional changes in arriving at an
acceptable successor authority. For example, under this model, office holders of the political branches, executive and legislative, might be replaced and members of the judiciary would remain in office. The hybrid model mixes constitutional provisions and extra-constitutional measures in determining the successor authority.
C. Completely extra-constitutional
Under this model, the constitution plays no role in determining the successor authority. New office holders and positions are determined as part of the political resolution of the crises. The successor authorities to President Doe’s administration used this model. Proposals circulating in Accra that call of multiple vice presidents would fit this model.

D. Civil administration
Liberia will require the mobilization of significant development resources and technical assistance, including non-Liberian personnel, to:

· Restore economically critical infrastructure;
· Support essential health and education services;
· Expand economic opportunities; and
· Improve the efficiency and accountability of government.

III. Extraordinary successor authority
A. United Nations Trusteeship or Receivership
In Kosovo and East Timor, the UN peacekeeping mission is "multidimensional." In these two countries, the United Nations peacekeepers temporarily took over the functions of governing.

1. Receivership
In September of 1999, East Timores voted for independence. Since they could not be independent overnight. The international community came to the conclusion that East Timor would be run for a temporary, transitional period, by the United Nations. This was unprecedented. Under the plan, the United Nations and the peacekeeping force would provide an administration, judges, tax experts, all the expertise necessary to run a country, in addition to security.
Although the United Nations did not use the word “receivership,” East Timor presents the closest illustration to a receivership. This was clearly a situation where the country needed international support, and the international community recognized that providing such support is part of the peace building process.

2. Trusteeship
United Nations Trusteeship was the system of UN control for territories that were not self-governing. It replaced the mandates of the League of Nations. United Nations Trusteeship is provided for under chapters 12 and 13 of the Charter of the United Nations. Major goals of the System were to promote the advancement of the inhabitants of Trust Territories and their progressive development towards self-government or independence. The trust territory was actually administered by a United Nations member state, and called the “Administering Authority.”

The aims of the Trusteeship System have been fulfilled to such an extent that all Trust Territories have attained self-government or independence, either as separate States or by joining neighboring independent countries. The Trusteeship Council suspended operation on 1 November 1994, with the independence of Palau, the last remaining United Nations trust territory, on 1 October 1994. By a resolution adopted on 25 May 1994, the Council amended its rules of procedure to drop the obligation to meet annually and agreed to meet as occasion required -- by its decision or the decision of its President, or at the request of a majority of its members or the General Assembly or the Security Council.

3. The Case of Liberia
It is unclear and without precedence, how the United Nations could lawfully become the successor authority in Liberia and assume governance of the country under either the notions of trusteeship or receivership. Even if a legal means could be found, it is also unclear whether the United Nations system could or would want to assume the responsibilities associated with such a role or the implications attendant to it.

IV. Post-Conflict Elections
The question of determining when elections are to be held is another major issue facing Liberians. Some of the options are: (a) setting a calendar date certain or (b) outlining conditions precedent that must prevail for elections to be held or (c) utilizing a combination of calendar date and conditions precedent standard. The calendar and conditions combination standard require specific conditions to be obtained by designated dates. If the conditions exist, the next step is taken. If the conditions are not met, the calendar is adjusted accordingly.

Another integral function of elections to be considered is its management. Competent electoral administration is fundamental to the transition process. There is a multiplicity of options. One option is the United Nations as elections administrator.

Forms of Assistance
There are two main categories of United Nations electoral assistance: (i) standard electoral assistance activities, and (ii) major electoral missions that are normally conducted within the context of comprehensive peacekeeping operations.

Major electoral missions require a mandate from the General Assembly or the Security Council and are considered exceptional activities of the Organization. Such missions are normally a central element of comprehensive peacekeeping operations that include an electoral component. To date, the United Nations has provided the following types of electoral assistance in the context of major missions:

Organization and conduct of an electoral process: If the United Nations is mandated to organize and conduct an election or referendum, the Organization assumes the role normally fulfilled by national electoral authorities. This mandate requires the establishment of a system of laws, procedures and administrative measures necessary for the holding of free and fair elections, as well as the actual administration of the electoral process, e.g. the establishment of a legal framework, the registration of voters, and the proper conduct of elections in accordance with international norms. Due to the cost, scope, and lead-time required, among other factors, this type of assistance operation is unlikely to be undertaken except in special post-conflict situations characterized by insufficient national institutional capacity to organize elections.

Post conflict intervention measures in Liberia

Intervention measures in post- conflict Liberia would need to focus on the following:

· Re-establishing a framework for governance at all levels;
· Reinforcing active involvement of the civil society, institutions of moral persuasion as well as for inculcating civic leadership among the youth;
· Creating the conditions for “jump starting” the economy by restoring and/or establishing key financial, legal, and regulatory institutions;
· Initiating measures to repair social and physical infrastructure; support health and educational needs;
· Promoting measures for reactivating dormant capacity for agriculture production;
· Promoting measures targeting war-affected populations through reintegration of internally displaced people as well as demobilized combatants and soldiers;
· Revitalizing local communities and creating a system of financial intermediation through small grants and micro-credit assistance;
· Promoting measures for skills development and job creation through apprenticeship programs and labor-based rehabilitation works.