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Post June 7: Concomitance again?

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June 7 has come and passed. There was no direct violence, and everyone behaved well. The demonstrators chanted and danced till they were told to go home. The security people were friendly and didn’t hesitate to engage in conversation with the demonstrators. It was a great show of maturity of Liberia’s democracy. The Coalition of Patriots (COP) issued a petition that was later presented to the Office of the President through a staffer of the Ministry of State. The petition from the demonstrators contained several demands, ranging from the dismissal and prosecution of certain officials to macro-economic and social issues. As it stands, the Weah Administration has yet to acknowledge receipt of the correspondence. COP held a press conference to announce a new date for demonstrations if the administration does not comply with its demands.

Last week, President George Weah gave a speech where he called for a national stakeholders’ conference to address critical issues facing the country. Liberians have yet to react to the call but the all-powerful “international partners,” who weigh heavily in Liberia’s day to day governance, have applauded it. It is just a matter of time before they get everyone on board. At times, It seems as if Liberia’s policy decisions and pronouncements from both the opposition and the government are meant only to get the approval of the “international partners.” This dependency on foreign opinion in making political decision undermines Liberia’s self-reliance and confidence.

Liberia is not a fragile nation. It went through a destructive war and is now faced with the realities of nation building. May be the state still has to get its acts together and govern appropriately.

The COP has a new date for another demonstration if the administration fails to heed to its demands. Certain of those demands are feasible, immediately, like the firing and prosecution of certain officials. Although it may be difficult to force a president to fire a trusted confident, it can be done. People who were thought to be untouchable in the Sirleaf administration were pushed out of the door, one after the door, true different forms of pressure. Some of these people around President Sirleaf were called “prime ministers” but they had to be discarded because they were too toxic to her agenda and administration.

There is another demand that is feasible now: the implementation of the Coe of Conduct. The President making his assets public and demanding that all his appointees follow suit is a constitutional requirement and should not be a problem for the administration. If the administration decides to trample on this constitutional requirement, there is no reason to trust that it will uphold the Constitution.

Finally, the issues of the missing money at the Central Bank as well as the US $25 million are matters of of criminal nature and can be resolved immediately, by removing political roadblocks.

The issue of war  and economic crimes court has been gaining momentum. But does the administration have any obligation to set up such court, given the background of the TRC? The framers of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord decided to go adopt the reconciliation process. This was understandable because the chief deciders in Accra 2003 were the warring factions, along with a Taylor administration also emanating from a warring faction. Therefore, a war crime court was not in their interest. Will the implementation of a War Crime Court go beyond Accra CPA?

A national conference of some sort is more than needed. Long before becoming president, Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had said that convening a national conference would one of her first priorities. It never happened. There are hanging constitutional amendments, old laws and other national issues that need to be discussed and dealt with. Such a conference could decide on what issues should be put on a ballot for a referendum. The issue of war and economic crimes court could be one of the issues to be included.

Here comes the tricky part: what comes first? The COP deadline or the President’s national dialogue? Should Liberians be pushing for another demonstration to get immediate solutions to urgent and critical issues or should they give the administration time to organize its conference?

This is a no-man’s-land in political negotiations. It Is was in such case back in the 1990’s that our negotiation team came up with the term “concomitant.” What comes first?

A few questions need to be answered in the days ahead: What is the position of opposition  political parties who endorsed the June 7 demonstration? Are they for the dialogue or for more protest under the guide of COP? Can COP generate the same level of enthusiasm and following it did  on June 7? What political mandate does COP have and will have at the end of the process? ? Is the administration ready to take concrete steps to show that the national conference is really meant to be a serious dialogue and not window dressing? What roles for civil society, the private sector, academia and the media?

The revolution is just entering another phase.

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