12 November 2012

Liberia: Advocacy Gurus Consolidate - Morlu, Verdier, Toe, Saryee, Others Form Think-Tank

When the history of Liberia economic and political struggles for rights and rice is written, it would remain incomplete without mention of Diaspora Liberians, particularly those residing in the United States. There is no doubt about the fact that the country's voluntary and political exiles, from their vintage point in the United States, have constituted the chief linchpin of the struggles, infusing inspiration among home-based allies and attracting broad international attention and support to issues of bad governance, tyranny and exclusion at home. Every political regime in the last four decades grappled with this confederacy of exiled advocates and lobbyists, and it appears the chicks have come home to roast for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a noted ideologue of the this confederacy for forces. The Analyst reports.

A group of respected Liberian advocates and reformists have conglomerated under the banner Liberia Institute of Public Integrity (LIPI), a non-partisan public policy think tank and advocacy group on Liberian issues.

The LIPI organizers are currently in the United States but were in Liberia months ago variously engaged in transparency, anti-impunity and accountability advocacies. They include former Liberia Truth & Reconciliation Commission (LTRC) Jerome Verdier and a follow Commission Massa Washington.

The TRC investigated the Liberian crisis, dating back to 1979, and released a voluminous report that documents horrors and mayhems along with those who perpetrated them against the people of Liberia.

President Sirleaf disbanded the TRC under controversial circumstances triggered, amongst other things, by the inclusion of the President and other Liberians on a list of alleged warmongers the Commission recommended banned from active politics for 30 years.

Human Rights Advocate Aloysius Toe who was persecuted during the brutal regime of Charles Taylor in line with his advocacy for human rights and accountability and known for his biting critique of the Sirleaf administration and Dan Saryee, one of Liberia's contemporary civil society icons, are also members of the organizing committee of LIPI.

The LIPI founders also include John S. Morlu, former Auditor General of Liberia, who President Sirleaf refused re-nominate for that prestigious position following his first four year term against wide-spread public outcries against the action. Morlu is credited for an unprecedentedly robust public accountability fervor that entered the Sirleaf regime under his tenure as Auditor General.

In a release issued, the organizers say they finally came to the conclusion of forming LIPI after nine months of critical reflection and intense debate on the fate of democratic consolidation in Liberia.

According to the LIPI organizers, there is a void in the political, economic and social discussions in Liberia and a complete lack of alternative policy position in Liberia's public discourse.

"LIPI seeks to fill that void by providing cogent and timely alternative policy positions based on sound research, empirical evidence, and cost-benefit analysis," a released from the think-tank says.

"LIPI recognizes that since 1847, each administration has managed to build some infrastructure, including health facilities and educational institutions. But it is irrefutable evidence that all administrations, including the current administration, have failed to tackle the key issues considered most responsible for the 14-year civil war and the continuing impoverishment of Liberians, in the midst of abundant resources."

The group says the key issues include grand corruption, nepotism, impunity, waste and abuse and reconciliation. Other issues, according to the group, are economic marginalization, politicization of the civil service, lack of system and respect for the laws of Liberia.

LIPI observes that Liberia's major challenge has been the lack of genuine and authentic leadership to promote good governance.

"U.S. President Barrack Obama was correct in asserting that election is just one aspect of democracy; governance after elections is as important," the think-tank asserted, adding, "These eight (8) issues have undermined good governance practice in Liberia since 1847 to date."

The release further noted that LIPI is also dedicated to contributing original scholarly research in their eight areas and providing innovative ways to address these long standing issues.

All of these issues weaken private enterprise, stifle human development, undercut social service delivery, undermine the rule of law, and dwindle economic development and capital formation, LIPI laments.

Without action-oriented efforts to address these issues, the group says, it is inconceivable to see how Liberia will lift itself from the bottom of the Human Development Index, and from the lowest ranking of the poorest countries in the world.

"Further, Liberia will not become a middle-income country by 2030 or be free from foreign aid unless these eight issues are resolved," the organization also noted.

LIPI says it will reach out and build coalitions with non-governmental organizations (including youth, women and student organizations) to facilitate their effective participation in the reform process in Liberia.

According to the group, it will also engage the Liberian Government, international organizations and foreign governments in fighting its thematic issues in and outside of Liberia.

"Our approach will utilize the most time-tested means to generate domestic and international actions," the group said.

Other members of the organizing committee of LIPI, the release says, include Ernest Maximore, Liberian Journalist; Charles K. Sunwabe, Jr. Esq; Sie Patrick Tuon; Julius Suku; J Kerkula Foeday, Former Student Leader, University of Liberia.

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