Stay Focused in Liberia
13 Jan 2006
While the inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as Liberia’s president on 16 January offers great hope, the country will only recover if the government and international community maintain their cooperative momentum.
Liberia: Staying Focused,* the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, describes a country aligned for potential success, but also finds the situation highly volatile, as shown by the post-election riots. If the newly elected government and donors work together in a good faith partnership guaranteeing a proper flow of funds that are used transparently, the country can make real progress. However, if that sensitive partnership fails, the door will be open for a future, disastrous insurgency.
“Liberians have experienced the consequences of war and want a chance to succeed”, says Mike McGovern, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “This new government, strongly supported as it is by the international community, is that chance”.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s inauguration completes a credible election process, the first of the country’s four major peacebuilding challenges. The remaining three are economic governance, security sector reform, and judicial reform.
The economy and the security sector are being addressed and must remain priorities. Getting them right will give Liberia an excellent chance at long-term success. Inadequate follow through on the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Plan (GEMAP), which provides for financial accountability, or the training of the new army would only endanger the entire reconstruction and peacebuilding process.
The fourth challenge, judicial reform, needs much more attention than it has received thus far. The new government will have to find creative solutions, and donors will need to provide significant funding.
Peace in Liberia can be sabotaged by any of three factors. The most obvious is destabilisation by ex-combatants, political losers, and outside actors. The second is an approach by the new government that, by emphasising sovereignty, gives donors an easy excuse to walk away. The third is that despite real efforts by the government, donors will lose focus, under-fund programs, fail to hold all actors to the highest accountability standards and look for the first chance to slip away.
“Liberia has taken a difficult step by accepting the loss of sovereignty GEMAP implies”, says Suliman Baldo, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “International donors must realise this entails major responsibilities on their part too”.