Friday, July 1, 2011

Amos Sawyer and Governance Commission Shows Teeth

By: ralph geeplay

GC Chair Sawyer

The critical issue of governance and leadership in Liberia has always been a source of conflict since the country’s founding, because political authority is highly centralized in the Liberian context and power repeatedly abused by the Liberian president.

While much has been said and written about this issue, not much has been done in Africa’s first independent republic to rectify it. The basis of that clash is the so-called appointing powers established in the Liberian constitution. The country, says pundits, has most of its innumerable problems blamed on an imperial presidency.

There is uproar currently in the country and the Diaspora about the wrongs this scenario portends, and the slippery slopes to tyranny it has become. The fume is rising and people are taking note that this exploitation of the nation’s body politic must not be business as usual.

To solve the issue the Amos Sawyer-led Governance Commission (GC) is showing resolve and hammering the point that local authorities be elected by their own people instead of directives flying out of Monrovia like saucers. The commission especially wants county superintendents elected.

Even with Liberians going for a national referendum this summer, the Liberian Legislature has seen no reason to make it an agenda issue, since reducing the powers of the president is the singularly most important referendum issue that could possibly shape the nation's political system. The Liberian Assembly, however, has been silent again and again on this issue despite public indignation.

As it is today, modern Liberia is marred in under development and inefficiency due to flaws in the Liberian constitution, say analysts. Without the decentralization of political authority, socio-economic growth becomes elusive in the country. Because of this the rest of the country besides Monrovia has been consigned to the back of the room. "No joke about it the system of government that grants absolute authority to the President of Liberia and relegates the other counties other than the capital, Monrovia, to second class status needs to be revisited” wrote Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh on the website of The Liberian Dialogue, November 28, 2008. Sungbeh raged against such abuse emanating thereof, calling it “impediments that has hampered Liberia’s development." He has not been alone.

Why must major policy statements and acts as far as law making is concern, comes out of the executive branch time and again, and especially the Governance Commission?

Not that the Governance Commission can not be a national policy directorate and advisory on national issues but its thoroughfares and actions has been bold, even daring to say the least, because the Liberian lawmakers are silent and indisposed on major issues. They have become followers instead of leaders

Just this week Amos Sawyer was at it again announcing another push to see that local leaders are elected. Appearing before the Liberian Legislature in August 2010, Mr. Sawyer questioned why Article 54 was left out of the “constitutional provisions slated for the referendum." 

“Our failure to act now will deny Liberia the opportunity to move forward,” the former interim president said last year. “If we have a system where superintendents are elected, the sovereign power of the people is expressed,” conceded the Chairman of the Land Commission, Cecile Brandy.

Look at some of the acts the Governance Commission has written and submitted since 2005: The "Corrupt Offenses Act, Anti Corruption Act, Law and Land Reform Acts, Asset Declaration Act, Whistle Blower Act, and the reduction of presidential and legislative tenures of office, which surprisingly President Sirleaf says she will sign into law if it passes the assembly.
Weh - Dorliae

The Governance Commission has been unrelenting in hammering this point. Its Commissioner for Decentralization, Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae has written extensively on the issue as well. In his well-received 2004 book (Bushfire Ventures), “Proposition 12 for Decentralized Governance in Liberia: Power Sharing for Peace and Progress,” Weh-Dorliae railed against the all powerful presidency for its historical misuse of power, while offering an all-embracing explanation on the way forward to transferring political power out of Monrovia and the presidency. He has been a catalyst at the commission on this issue and his efforts are not going unnoticed.
Today, it is hard to imagine Liberia without Monrovia, or Monrovia without Liberia. Even the Monrovia we talked about today is so backward and unidentifiable that when the late South African reggae star, Lucky Dube visited Monrovia in 1999, he was already on Broad Street, when he turned to the driver and asked, “When are we reaching the city center?”
This is so because serious political leadership has never been introduced in municipalities across the country, and capable talents cultivated to expose our culture that we can all be proud of. Would John Morlu make an excellent Mayor of Monrovia? Your guess is as good as mine.
Where are the museums, convention centers, libraries, parks, malls and recreational facilities that all major metropolitans boast off? Even garbage collection is a Herculean task; the simplest of them all. It is neither planned nor excellent recycling bins and methods introduced in a modern era for environmental considerations. Monrovia is a city crying out loud for a competent mayor, not the vigilante zealotry that Madam Mary Broh demonstrates in the streets.
As a Liberian, I would probably vote for a mayor that runs for the presidency; the one who could fix Monrovia or Harbel and make the Montserrado or Farmington Rivers environmentally friendly, while introducing programs that improves the lives of its residents.

I wish Winston Tubman was the Superintendent of Maryland County coming into this election year, to show the citizens of Liberia what were his achievements in Harper.
It would have benefited the citizens immensely had they really known what a Supt. Charles Walter Brumskine would have done in Buchanan to better the lives of residents in Grand Bassa County, as he challenges the incumbent for the presidency this crucial election year.

And how about Dew Mason and his neo socio-liberal politics? What would he have done differently to impact the lives of Liberians as an elected regional official?
We have no template to gauge our opposition politicians. Their records are as thin as paper but who can blame them: the system was set up against them with all powers vested in the presidency.
The Governance Commission must be commended for the many reforms it has introduced to move Liberia forward. Let’s be frank here, a lot of these politicos will chase the presidency forever and never get there, but they could still make a difference by leading ably on local and national issues.

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