President Ellen- Johnson on Monday and Tuesday participated in the National Forum of Traditional Chiefs and Elders in Liberia, organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The President Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai met the traditional leaders on Monday, in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also attended the closing ceremony of the National Forum at Providence Island on Tuesday. Both the President and Vice President were gowned and honored at Tuesday's program.
Speaking Monday at the Foreign Ministry, the Liberian leader informed the Chiefs and Elders that her administration is concluding plans to transfer power to them across the country. She briefed the local leaders about a decentralization plan that will cover a number of actions, including the construction of local offices of Ministries and Agencies; the setting up of local Security Councils and a process that will see the election of local leaders in the not too distant future. She also told the traditional leaders that she was determined to break from the past when power was concentrated at the center, in Monrovia, with the rural areas left to just follow.
"We will make sure that when the owners of businesses and homes in rural areas pay taxes and other levies, some of the money will be used to undertake developmental activities where the monies were raised," President Sirleaf said. She advised the traditional leaders against abusing the authority that will be given to them, and to use it in the interest of the state and the people they govern.
Speaking earlier, Internal Affairs Minister Blamo Nelson briefed the President about the convened National Forum, which aims to bring traditional leaders on board the government's decentralization program and encourage rural participation in governance. He told President Sirleaf that some 185 traditional leaders from the 15 political sub-divisions of Liberia, including Chiefs, Zoes and Elders were participating.
Addressing the gathering, the head of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, Chief Zanzan Kawah, praised President Sirleaf for recognizing the importance of traditional leaders, and committed to work with her government to sustain the peace and bring development to the people.
"Now that you have recognized traditional leaders, every noise at our borders will be monitored and reported," Chief Kawah said. Other Chiefs and Elders also commended the government for the decentralization initiative and pledged their full cooperation.
On Tuesday, July 10, the traditional leaders held the Forum's closing ceremony at the Providence Island, in Monrovia. A 13-point resolution was presented to the President and Vice President which, among other things, endorsed the Decentralization Policy; the decentralization of financial benefits; the inclusion of traditional leaders in rule of law and governance initiatives across the country; the endorsement of the New Education Law of Liberia; denounced the growing abuse of freedom; paying of local officials on time and in the assigned areas; training of more health workers, including traditional midwives, across the country; the revision of traditional practices that could be harmful; provide increased support to rural farmers; support for peace building, reconciliation and healing program including the National Palaver Hut program; the holding of Chieftaincy and Municipal elections; and the passage of the legislation establishing the National Traditional Council of Liberia. The resolution acknowledged that the Sirleaf administration has done extremely well in managing the affairs of the country.
Speaking at Tuesday's program, Vice President Boakai praised the traditional leaders for their demonstration of support for the administration and the Ministry of Internal Affairs for organizing the program. He assured the traditional leaders that government remains supportive of their activities and to the decentralization process.
President Sirleaf thanked the Ministry of Internal Affairs for organizing the event, as well as those who provided support to the Forum, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Carter Center. She praised the Chiefs and Elders for coming to Monrovia and sitting with government officials to talk about and promote decentralization. She promised to review the resolution and act appropriately. She assured the traditional leaders that Liberia will be better than what it is when all work together, adding that we will realize that we have done the right thing in the end. "It is important for all Liberians to participate in these activities because the go government belongs to all," President Sirleaf concluded.