Liberia: New Head Promises Overhaul of Divided National Civil Society Council of Liberia

Monrovia — The new head of the leadership of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) has pledged to revive that institution from dormancy and division to contribute to the development of Liberia.

The induction of Loretta Pope-Kai as National Coordinator and other members of (NCSCL) officers should have been held in December last year but was delayed over elections allegations of malpractices following a period of tense campaigning. An investigative committee dismissed the allegation last month, setting the stage for the ceremony to go on.

"We are ready to serve," Mrs. Pope-Kai told a small ceremony in Monrovia on Tuesday. "It is a well known and undeniably a reality that the civil society movement in Liberia has been sadly idle with excess of challenges from poor leadership to inadequate coordination."

Mrs. Pope-Kai added that the council must organize, discipline itself and "clean its space" to give voice to voiceless people. She said that would help gain the trust of international partners and bring leadership to a "lion that has slept for so long.

Before she took to the podium, earlier speakers had called on her leadership to unite the council.

Richard Hoff of the NGOs Coalition of Liberia on Natural Resources, who served as keynote speaker, said it was "painful" that the outgoing head of the council Madam Frances Greaves did not attend the program. Emma Younger Bolder and Barley Tokpa, who protested the elections results, also did not attend. "You have the responsibility to pick up the broken pieces and mend the wounds where they have been badly damaged," Hoff said.

Edward Mulbah, who chaired the ad hoc committee that administered the elections, pledged his support to help the group unite and claim its rightful place. "We stand ready as ad hoc committee and personally to support you and your team to convene the first reconciliation dialogue of the council," Mulbah said.

Mrs. Pope-Kai responded by pledging to implement the recommendations of the committee that investigated the allegations of elections malpractices, including reconciling the council. Then she made a detailed presentation of her manifesto, the same she campaigned on three months ago.

"The void that we have created by our actions and inactions has, unfortunately, taken an indelible toll on us and thus rendered the civil society movement almost entirely toothless," she said.

She promised to build a viable institution with strong policies, systems, procedures and processes that would adequately facilitate transparency and accountability. "If we must come with equity, our hands must be clean from the very start," she said. She added that she would achieve institutionalization by incorporating civil society organizations within the council. She said, "We have realized that our activities as an umbrella union for the civil society movement are not properly aligned, coordinated and supervised; everything seem to be happening in disjointed fashion."

Mrs. Pope-kai she would build a secretariat her leadership would supervise to coordinate the affairs of the institution when it decentralizes into regions. This secretariat will run its activities directly under the clear supervision of our leadership. "This will also see some regional coordinators benefiting from some levels of education and training programs to include but not limited to mentorship and refresher initiatives, professional development seminars in and out of Liberia."

Regional and grassroots institutions are integral to her plan for the council's sustainability and succession. She said she would empower community-based organizations with fundraising strategies, training and mentorship here and abroad to make them grow.

She decried civil society organizations politicizing their advocacies and said it was important that the group to be neutral to advocate in a political environment. "We have so sadly become vulnerable to patronage politics, heavily characterized by divide-and-rule, unhealthy politics to the total disbelief and against the very interest, will and health of the society and people whose rights and wellbeing we are supposed to advocate."

Mrs. Pope-Kai will serve a three-year term.

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