Comprehensive Peace Deal Under Review At Peace Talks
-VP Blah To Act As President Until…

Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 21, 2003

Delegates including warring and political parties and representatives of civil society groups attending the Liberian peace summit in Accra have begun reviewing the draft of the comprehensive peace agreement for Liberia. West African and Western mediators seeking peace for the country released the document Friday night.

The peace deal, which is subject to debate and subsequent adoption and signing, is meant to bring about a negotiated settlement to the country’s long-running civil conflict. The delegates have up to Tuesday to study the draft agreement and make their observations.

The 50-page document on the road map for peace in Liberia comprehensively covers the issues that have caused peace and stability to elude Liberians over the last two decades.

Governance, national security, human rights, national reconciliation, democracy and most importantly the crucial issue of demilitarizing the country, among a host of subjects, form the central focus of the draft peace deal.

It calls for a total security sector reform. Under this arrangement, all irregular military and paramilitary forces will be dissolved.
Among them are President Taylor’s elite Anti-Terrorist Unit(ATU) and the Special Operations Division(SOD) of the Liberia National Police. The proposed peace deal calls for a restructured national army and police force, which will be formed on the basis of competence. However, the maintenance of law and order will meanwhile be the responsibility of an interim police force monitored by the international stabilization force, which is expected to oversee security during the transitional period. Additionally, the interim police force will only be allowed to carry side arms.

On the crucial issue of reconciliation, the document calls for the establishment of the South African-type of Truth and Reconciliation Commission to provide the forum that will address issues of impunity.

Also, in order to address the perennial issues of bad governance, a reform commission on governance shall be established to promote the principles and strategies of good governance thereby breaking the culture of political patronage which has also eluded Liberians over the years.

The proposed commission will also tackle elements that are inimical to the establishment of true democratic governance in the country.

The formation of a provisional administration to replace President Charles Taylor who has accepted an offer to go into exile is another cardinal issue in the draft agreement.

It is expected that Vice President Moses Z. Blah will act temporarily as President of Liberia until the new transitional government takes office in September, this year.

The interim arrangement to replace the NPP-led government will be called the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) with a life span of not more than 16 months.

The new government will have the same structure as provided for under the constitution of Liberia - the Legislative, Executive & and Judiciary branches of government.

Only duly accredited delegates will elect the President and Vice President of the NTGL at the ongoing Accra Peace Talks. The proposed document prohibits leaders of the three warring parties - the Government, LURD and MODEL from occupying the presidency, vice presidency and cabinet positions.

Moreover, anyone serving in the transitional government in whatever capacity will not be qualified to run for elected position during the 2004 general and presidential elections.

The transitional government will only have a 13-man cabinet instead of the more than 21 currently existing. Apart from the already existing ministries, some of which will be merged, two new ones will be created. They include the ministries of Maritime Affairs and Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs. The latter is expected to address the growing humanitarian and refugee crises facing the country.

There have been no official reactions from the political parties, belligerents and civil society groups as to their views of the deal yet. However, some conferees at the talks view the draft agreement as the best framework for peace in Liberia. Besides, representatives of the factions are unhappy about some of the provisions in the draft peace deal, apparently the one disqualifying their leaders of heading the new transitional government.

The two rebel groups reportedly met Saturday to review the draft peace agreement. At the same time, a meeting of political parties to discuss the draft agreement was boycotted owing to a rally organized by one of the contestants for transitional president.