Liberia - Our Country
Liberia has gone more than 10 years in the process of reforming its governance system since the end of the civil war in 2005. It continues to enjoy gradual improvement in the security situation of the country and in the past 10 years the country has not suffered any large scale violence in proportion to the scale witnessed in the 14 years of civil war.
This post war period has created space for much needed reforms in all sectors including public and financial management, security sector and rule of law, reform of the judiciary, constitutional review process, land reform and the proposed decentralization program of the country. A major dividend has been the successful hosting of two successful, although contested post elections, moving to a third post war democratic transfer of power, with the presidential elections in 2017.
The security situation however continues to face a number of challenges among which are the funding and logistical needs of the police, immigration and other security apparatus. The drawdown of the Peace Keeping Mission of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) continues, standing at (30 June 2016) 1240 military personnel and 606 observers, police staff, international civilian personnel, local staffs and UN Volunteers, making a total strength of 1846, compared to (July 2013) 15 000 military personnel, with 1525 police officers, military observers and staffs, making a total of 16 525. In 2014 UNMIL completed a ‘three phase’ military drawdown, at which time half of Liberia’s counties were without a stationed UNMIL military presence, thus transfered responsibility for security to the Government of Liberia.
The tragic events of 2014 must be mentioned, when the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) ravaged the country bringing all sectors, beginning with the health sector, to a virtual collapse and affected all sectors, leading to a human toll of around 4000 citizens. During this period, the reform process of Government came to a halt. It is only in late 2014 – early 2015 that the country began to get a grip of the situation and resumption of government and private sector program activities. Since then the country has been declared Ebola free by the WHO twice, firstly in May 2014; the disease re-surfaced and health authorities took control, qualifying the country as Ebola free for the second time in August 2015.
On the economic front Liberia, having reached debt waiver, has entered into some 68 concession agreements, the majority of which has been dubbed by post award audits as not being in compliance to Liberian laws. A foreign direct investment portfolio of around $16 million is said to be negotiated. Around this investment regime has arisen waves of local citizens’ protests for lack of participation and insignificant benefits derived from investments especially in the extractive industries. Conflicts have ensured between local people and investors, with Government exerting itself to manage these conflicts, but in most cases doing this in excess. As outlined in Liberia’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, major institutional reforms are underway in Liberia. These include but are not limited to security sector reform, land reform, public procurement, law reform, among others. The Government Auditing Commission (GAC) has undertaken audit of over 50 government ministries and para-statal yet prosecution for most of these is yet to happen.
The Anti-Corruption Commission is established but has capacity gaps to ensure it is effective and making impact, with a Bill before the National Legislature to give that body prosecutorial powers. After almost two years the Freedom of Information Act has been passed and now being tested. The Constitutional Review Committee has recently submitted its report to the President with around 25 Propositions; the Report has been submitted to the National Legislature for review prior to it being subjected to a National Referendum.
With all sectors of the country affected by the past civil war, and reconstruction and reforms underway, there is still much to be achieved. Peace is by all accounts still elusive and fragile, given that all the fundamental causes that contributed to Liberia’s civil conflict are to be addressed. Provision of basic social services (health, education, energy, roads and infrastructure, water, among others) are still a long way to be achieved.
But to achieve it we need a strong and empowered civil society. That is why we, as a Civil Society Organization, see it as our mission to train and support members of the civil society and advocate for them at the national and international level. We want to improve the lives of Liberians, we want to strengthen our country. It is a long way to go, but we are willing to fight for our goals. For Liberia.