Lofa County — The Youth in Technology and Arts Network (YOTAN) with support from the National Endowment Democracy (NED) has launched a one-year project in Lofa County aimed at fostering the involvement of citizens in governance reform in rural Liberia.
According to the Founder and Executive Director, Donnish Pewee, the project is built on four of several recommendations made by the Governance Commission (GC) including intensive civic education, strengthening citizenship and reconciliation, and preparing citizens for participatory democratic processes that promote decentralization and good governance in Liberia.
Mr. Pewee who heads the team to four districts in Lofa County said the goal of the project is to promote and strengthen the contribution of citizens in the process of decentralizing governance in Liberia.
He explained that YOTAN is addressing issues that are closely connected with objectives two, four and five of the draft Local Government Act that seeks to guarantee democratic participation and control of decision-making by the citizenry through the establishment of democratic and political administrative structures in local governance, and providing for the democratic elections of local government officials.
He noted it is significant to sustaining the gains already made in the country with respect to democracy and governance.
Speaking to the media, Pewee avowed that the project will prepare citizens in responding supportively to governance reform process gear toward strengthening and promoting a devolved and decentralized system of government in Liberia.
According to him, the National Endowment Democracy (NED) and YOTAN support a greater and meaningful participation of all citizens in the national and local decision-making processes so that the development agenda for the community, district, county and country can be appreciated by all.
"The more citizens feel increasingly familiarized with all aspects of governance and nation building, the better it is for the country in terms of peace and stability which strengthens the rule of law and promotes democracy," he indicated.
He continues that under the project, YOTAN will apply community organizing and stakeholder engagement to maximize the impact of the project on the target beneficiaries.
The organization will also use capacity building and civic education to promote inclusive and accountable practices in local government decision making in the county.
These approaches, he maintained will drive positive interaction between policymakers and implementers and the citizenry as everyone feel a part of decision making in the county.
As part of the project, YOTAN team recently ended a week long community town hall meetings in the county to discuss the draft Local Governance Act, focusing on the decentralization of governance in the county and country at large, and constitutional provisions on the duties and functions of elected public officials and identifying the role of the electorates in ensuring that elected officials work to promote decentralization in the county.
At the same time, citizens of the county are calling on members of the Liberian senate to pass the Local Governance Act that is currently before them.
According to them, when the local governance act is passed, their local leaders will be accountable to them; adding that currently they are accountable to their employer and not to the people they are working for; something they said is causing serious problems for them.
The Youth in Technology and Arts Network (YOTAN) is a national nonprofit organization that envisions a society where youth are constructively engage and inspire to lead through Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) and empowered to create sustainable social, environmental and economic impact worldwide.
Since its founding in 2012, Pewee stated that his organization's values of enhancing youth development and civic engagement have guided it programs in Education and ICTs, Health promotion and Advocacy, Democracy and Good Governance, Social Justice and Human Rights and Livelihood.
It can be recalled that in 2015 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf presented a Bill titled: "The Local Government Act" to the 53rd National Legislature for enactment into law.
In the communication, President Sirleaf told the Legislature that the Bill is pursuant to Article 5 of the Liberian Constitution, which mandates the Legislature to enact laws promoting national unification and the encouragement of all citizens to participate in governance and benefit from the social, economic and political developments of the country, noting "we submit this Bill... which aims to decentralize the Nation's governance structure."
The President further explained that the Bill seeks to actualize the National Policy of Decentralization and local governance by establishing democratic and political administrative structures at the local government level.
"It also provides for the democratic elections of certain local government officials," she said.
The Bill, President Sirleaf emphasized, "adheres to the Constitution, which declares emphatically that Liberia is a unitary State; therefore, the decentralization, delegation, and devolution of powers and authority provided for in this Bill do not in any way alter, nor should be construed to alter the unitary government of the Republic."
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives and send to the Liberian senate where it continues to linger.