(April 2, 2019) Leading Civil Society Organizations in Liberia [Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL), Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) and Naymote Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE)] are deeply concerned over emerging national issues that have the propensity to derail political and economic gains made over the past 13 years. These concerns range from the management of the Liberian economy, respect for rule of law and the constitution, limited political will to robustly fight corruption as well as the dwindling of civic space for citizen’s participation in the democratic process, and freedom of press and of expression.
State of the Liberian Economy
We have keenly followed with dismay the deteriorating rate at which the Liberian Economy has weakened over the past 13 months. For example, the exchange rate between the Liberian Dollar and the United States Dollar is scarily plummeting, the costs of basic commodities have doubled over the past 12 months, despite the decision taken by the government to reduce tariffs on 2,000 commodities in May 2018. With the pace at which things are proceeding, if pragmatic steps are not taken by the government to salvage the economy, we are afraid that we would be heading down the slope of hyperinflation. This is making life unbearable for many, especially ordinary Liberians and rural dwellers, many of whom are without jobs and better livelihood opportunities. Generally, short-term measures undertaken the CDC-led government, including the “25 million mop of exercise” have not worked, thus leading to perpetuation of the problems. On the other hand, the Liberian Legislature seems to be dragging its/her feet in providing the necessary administrative oversight in helping to resuscitate the economy and improve the governance landscape.
On the State of corruption
We want to commend the government for establishing committees to investigate a number of corruption allegations and scandals, including the national housing authority corruption saga, the alleged 16 billion missing money and the US25 million mop up exercise as well as establishment of the Concession Review committee to review all existing concession from the previous government.
While we applaud the government for these steps, we are extremely disappointed in the slow pace at which these investigations are proceeding.
For example, in February 2018, the President ordered the review of all concessions entered into by the previous administration. More than one year since the committee was constituted, it is yet to make public its findings or update the public about the status of the review exercise. Additionally, in April 2018, the President ordered an investigation of Exxon Mobil Fraudulent acquisition of oil block 13. Till date, outcome of that investigation has not been made public. This is compounded by limited political will to comprehensively audit the past administration and prosecute those who allegedly misapplied public resources as well enforce existing laws and policies, including the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, part 10 of which provides for officials who make decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types to declare their assets, incomes and liabilities before taking office.
On the Provision of Basic Social Services
Our monitoring efforts across the country have uncovered rapid decline in the provision of basic social services, particularly health. Our evidence shows that conditions at health centers are extremely alarming. In all of the 15 political sub-divisions, there is a complete breakdown of health service delivery: there are no essential drugs and supplies at health facilities as well as fuel to run generators at health centers and county administrations. This places citizen at risk and exposes the vulnerability of our health system to preventable diseases outbreaks including Ebola and have the potential of worsening our already high maternal mortality of 1072.
On the Respect for the Rule of Law and the Constitution
There is an apparent resurgence of lawlessness and disrespect for the rule of law and institutions of governance. For example:
The District # 13, Montserrado County electoral violence saga which report is yet to be released is troubling;
The investigation of alleged vandalism and firing at District # 10, Montserrado County involving Rep. Yekeh Kolubah;
The attack on Roots FM radio station;
Violence in Glan Town, Gbei & Doru Nimba on January 2019 that led to 2 deaths
The mob violence in Ganta City, Nimba County on March 2019 that led to 2 deaths
Increase in the report of rape cases and violence against women
The burning down of Weala Police Stations and Magisterial Court in Margibi County. We the undersigned civil society organizations strongly condemn the use of violence of all form as a means of seeking justice. We want to state emphatically that violence has no place in our society and the Liberia national police must take frantic steps to restore law and order and public confidence and trust in the police.
According to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, in 2018 alone (over a period of nine months), 1,484 SGBV cases were reported, and of the total, 971 were rape cases.
We call on the president of Liberia to take leadership in the fight against corruption
We call on the president, the legislature and government at large to ensure the respect for the rule of law and the constitution of Liberia;
We call on the Liberia National Police to be proactive and more efficient in the discharge of their duties;
We call on all citizens, particularly young people to stop the use of violence as a means of seeking redress and rather use constitutionally established channels for grievance redress;
We call on the government to conduct a comprehensive audit of the past administration
We call on the government for the timely completion of all the ongoing investigations it has launched and the completion and release of reports by a number of committees it has constituted;
We call on the government to invest and build the capacity of LRA to enhance the country’s domestic resource mobilization;
We call on the government and international community to support a national conference to come up with a solution to salvage the economy;
Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)
Harold Marvin Aidoo, Sir.
Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD)
Eddie D. Jarwolo
Naymote Partners for Democratic Development