Some Contentious Issues in the Draft Peace Agreement

By Wellington Geevon-Smith
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 22, 2003


The ‘Draft Comprehensive Peace Agreement’ presented by Mediators at the ongoing Peace Conference on Liberia created mixed feelings among the delegates. Equally, it is impregnated with some contentious issues that should be addressed before it is too late.

Part Three Article IV, Section 2 [Page 14] says “The International Stabilization Force will conduct the disarmament of all combatants of the Parties including paramilitary groups, but not including the Armed Forces of Liberia.” This means the two rebel forces, government militias and Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) will be disarmed but not the AFL.

In Liberia today, personnel of the ATU, AFL and government militias are the same, the difference of the day is the matter of where the particular security man is assigned. They should all be disarmed to avoid sending the ‘boys’ to the AFL and the empty shells of the ATU and government militias remain for the sake of formality.

There is no specific time frame attached to Part Four Article VII, Section 1a [Page 17] which states that “The parties agree that all Irregular forces shall be disbanded within ‘………’ Months from the signing of this agreement. It is advisable for the mediators to attach time frame and not to leave it to the ‘good judgment’ of the armed parties. At the end, different interpretations would evolve.

The draft document recommends an interim government to be called the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). For the transfer of power, it suggests
in Article XIX, Section 1a [Page 27] that “With the exit of the current President of the Republic of Liberia, the GOL shall be headed by the Vice President as prescribed by the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.” The draft falls short to state WHEN the Vice President will take over but mentions in Article XX, Section 2 [Page 28] that the “NTGL shall be inaugurated and fully commence operations by ‘…….’ September, 2003 and its mandate shall expire on the third Monday of January 2005 when the next elected Government of Liberia shall be inaugurated.”

“The LURD and MODEL shall be dissolved and cease to exist as military forces ‘……..’ days as of the effective date of this Agreement..”, according to Article XX, Section 5 [Page 28]. There is no specific ‘time’ committing the two forces to cease to exist and in its current form, the document relies on the judgment or goodwill of the armed groups.

The mediators’ draft, Article XXIII, Section 4 [Page 32], calls for a 50-member unicameral Legislature to be named ‘National Transitional Legislative Assembly’ (NTLA). For the composition of the NTLA, the mediators recommend that the Government of Liberia takes 10%, LURD 10%, MODEL 10%, Political Parties 20%, Civil Society and Special Interest Groups 10%, Technocrats 10% and Counties 30%. Who are the ‘Technocrats’ and what is the yardstick? The reality of Liberia is that the few ‘educated’ people, be it technocrats or politicians, make the membership of the political organizations in the country. Allocating extra seats to the ‘technocrats’ with different political interest is not far from being a recipe for confusion. It is practicable for the 10% allotted to the so-called ‘Technocrats’ to be added to the political parties.

The draft appears to discourage the use of force in acquiring state power. Article XXIV, Section 2 [Page 33], says “No LEADER of any of the warring parties i.e. the GOL, the LURD and the MODEL, shall be the President or Vice President of the NTGL.” But this provision is somehow in conflict with Annex 2 under the sub-topic: ‘The Transitional Presidency’, Section 2, which states “The nominees for the Offices of the Transitional President and Vice President shall exclude MEMBERS of the warring parties.” The ambiguity there lies between ‘LEADER and MEMBERS’ and should be clear.

One of the most contentious provisions of the draft Peace Agreement is Article XXIV, Section 3 [Page 34]. It says “All persons who serve in whatever capacity within the NTGL shall not contest for any elective office during the 2004 elections to be held in Liberia.”

Delegates and some observers at the conference are jittered about the provision and argue that the phrase “whatever capacity” is ambiguous. They are murmuring for the provision to be modified. "Is the document suggesting that anybody, from the President to the janitor cannot contest"? wondered a politician who argues that the decision is not fair.

Young political activists observing the conference say the draft seeks to put a halt to “re-cycling” but want for the affected positions to be spelt out. They prefer from the President to Assistant Ministerial position or its equivalent in the Liberian bureaucracy.