There was a time in this country when peace was a holiday! Liberia had virtually lost its state status amongst the community of nations and was on the verge of trusteeship – thank God for ECOWAS and the United Nations! Today, people in political positions -not real political leaders – continue to ignore reality and behave as if we had never had a civil war!
By these few lines, I take the liberty to thank His Excellency President George Manneh Weah for his demonstration of statesmanship. He indeed saved our nation by ceding presidential power and conceding electoral defeat in his nation-wide address of 17 November 2023. In our Africa, where sitting imperial presidents twist constitutions for third terms, and stuff ballot boxes to rig elections which frequently culminate in political confusion, lawlessness, and even civil wars, President Weah’s acknowledgement of electoral loss is almost without example. Truth is that by November 16, the political tension was palpable – from destructive conclusions, irresponsible gossip, threats and counter threats, and claims and counter-claims of victory – all bore the potential to dump our nation yet again, “from the frying pan into the fire!’ Liberians are deeply gratified by President Weah’s singular show of statesmanship. History will be kind to him on this note. We pray that his example be the beginning of a new political culture for Liberia and Africa.
What is left now is for President Weah to deliver the goods he has promised – steer the nation through the peaceful transition process which he himself had benefitted from in 2018. Managing political transition is a new experience in Liberia because during the 103 years of one-party state rule under the True Whig Party (1877 to 1980), political transition of the nature described below never happened. Additionally, since 1944 when president-elect William V.S. Tubman took over from President Barclay, 2018 would mark the first time that a democratically elected president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, would turn over power to another democratically elected president, George Manneh Weah.
Political transition is a change in the political leadership of a country. The political dynamics in the change process involves all political parties. Political transition management on the other hand, is the process which ensures that the change, or transfer of power, is orderly and peaceful. Transition management is initiated at least six to eight months ahead when there is an anticipated change in political leadership. In Liberia, the institution that guided the process in 2017 working with all state institutions is the Governance Commission under executive direction of your humble servant. It began in March 2017, with capacity building of the Commission’s staff by local and international experts from Ghana. By May, the Commission made PowerPoint presentations to the President and the Cabinet on how the process should unfold. The rest is history. Suffice it to say that by this time in the transition management process the following actions and decisions ought to have been virtually completed to include the following:
- Handover Notes:
Every Minister, Deputy and Assistant Minister, heads of agencies, commissions and state-owned enterprises had prepared his or her handover notes including documents detailing status of all ongoing projects and activities, and other key decisions recently taken in order to inform successors and ensure continuity in government operations.
- Record of Public Assets:
Every ministry, agency, commission, state-owned enterprise, and the Central Bank of Liberia had submitted records of public assets cars, equipment, software, and financial statements for submission to incoming government.
Beginning 31st October, the sitting government ought not to enter into any new contract for goods and services or similar transactions financially obligating the Government of Liberia.
- Transition Meeting:
Representatives of government in power meets with representatives of incoming government to discuss:
- The Presidency: Preparations for president-elect to take over functions of government. This includes establishment of strategic priorities of the incoming administration and the support requirements – financial and otherwise – from the sitting government.
2. The Administration: Review of transition process and handover of copies of all documents prepared; and discussions on the way forward with interim activities of president-elect and vice president-elect; and activities preparatory to inauguration. This engagement is not a “commission of inquiry” on the part of the incoming government; rather to receive copies of documents, take notes and have sitting administration address basic questions and concerns relative to the turn-over and the inauguration. This meeting is official public record. It should be recorded.
The transition management process initiated by the Administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf happened largely on account of the political will of the President. There was no law mandating this nature of political transition. It was on account of this that the Governance Commission partnered with the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs and drafted a Political Transition Bill which, if passed into law, would obligate exiting governments to the effects cited above. May God save the State!
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