5 February 2013

Liberia: CDC Unhappy With Army, Oil Sector

The Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has criticized President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's 2012 Annual Message delivered recently; citing series of issues it claimed were poorly handled during the period under review.

The CDC noted that President Sirleaf intentionally omitted detail on oil discovery here and progress made so far as well as failing to comment on the new electoral laws being drafted for possible passage by the Legislature.

Addressing a press conference on Sunday at the party's headquarters in Monrovia, acting National Chair Garblah Williams, claimed the Sirleaf Administration has shown less attention to the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), noting the current posture of the Commander-In-Chief toward the army is clear indication of the bitter experience of Madam President and some current officials, including Dr. Amos C. Sawyer.

The party emphasized that the C-I-C did not provide any strategic vision for the army as she did for the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) in her message.

"We are reminded that Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and a few other prominent Liberian political figures, such as Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, suffered extreme brutality at the hand of the AFL in the mid 1980s. Although today's AFL is now reformed, the brutal history of the AFL appears to bias policy preferences and choices against army development. Current security sector reforms favor a strong national police presence.

How much of this preference is due to strategic factors and how much is due to fears of the re-emergence of military dictatorship as seen in the 1980s remain unclear", the CDC said through Deputy Secretary Samora Wolokolie.

According to both men, who read the statement under the authorization of CDC National Executive Committee, the party over the next several months will subject the conditions of the AFL to public review and scrutiny.

They added that credible evidence available to the party shows that vast amounts of army resources under the direction of the Ministry of National Defense are being siphoned into personal projects.

"We call on the House and Senate Committees on National Security to summon a joint hearing into the affairs of the army. The hearing should invite army defectors to explore the factors underlying their defection.

Such a hearing is a gateway to lending visibility to the policy issues affecting the AFL and to secure the public's buy-in on the future of the army. We argue that shrouding army development in secrecy is a serious threat to national security.

The CDC would submit a national security briefing paper for purposes of the joint hearing", the statement read, challenged President Sirleaf to commission a performance report on the AFL within the next two months.

The party, further disclosed that during the President's address to the Legislature, she failed to comment on the oil industry, despite the huge controversies surrounding development in the oil sector.

It said the entire country would have appreciated information on the current state of oil discovery, prospecting, awarding of oil blocks and issues bordering on the national oil policy.

"We note that the administration of NOCAL needs to be brought under closer scrutiny. NOCAL is currently devoting only a marginal fraction of its budget to developing Liberian oil experts in a variety of disciplines."

"If the country is to be protected, Liberians must increase their capacity in the oil sector, which is presently dominated by foreigners. We propose that capacity building consumes at least 50% of the current NOCAL budget, a far cry from the meager 10%. This would develop a legion of Liberian hydro-economists, geologists, geophysicists and many other technical experts 2017", the CDC pointed out.

It said oil exploration should be restricted to the already awarded blocks, and that no new blocks be awarded until the commercial viability of current blocks is ascertained, emphasizing that oil revenue be restricted to infrastructure, education and healthcare.

On national reconciliation, the party expressed shock that President Sirleaf did not mention the appointment of Ambassador George Weah as Peace Ambassador in her address.

"We welcome the appointment of Ambassador George Weah as Peace Ambassador, and assert this is the most credible signal the President has sent, in terms of imparting strategic leadership and visibility to the reconciliation challenge."

But added that a National Peace Ambassador cannot single-handedly 'reconcile Liberians' as many mistakenly believe, since the factors and forces affecting reconciliation lie far beyond the purview of any single Liberian.

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