Liberia and Sierra Leone: Rebuilding Failed States
Africa Report N°87
8 Dec 2004
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone are failing to produce states that will be stable and capable of exercising the full range of sovereign responsibilities on behalf of their long-suffering populations. This is essentially because they treat peacebuilding as implementing an operational checklist, involving fixes to various institutions and processes, without tackling underlying political dynamics. At best, Liberia is on the path Sierra Leone entered upon several years earlier. A fresh strategy is needed if both are not to remain shadow states, vulnerable to new fighting and state failure. The international community needs to make genuinely long-term commitments – not two to five years, as at present, but on the order of fifteen to 25 years – to enable new political forces to develop.
In both countries the operational checklist includes deployment of peacekeepers; disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of fighters; repatriation of refugees; and judicial and security sector reform; with elections as virtually the final step. The time frame – two to five years – is too short. Individuals with criminal pasts are treated as viable political interlocutors. The judicial and law enforcement institutions never functioned effectively, and thus their repair without reform is no solution. New national militaries are untested, and their adherence to constitutional order uncertain. Voices from civil society who could catalyse real change tend to be marginalised, while the economy is left vulnerable to criminal capture.
A more radical strategy is needed. After restoring security, the international community should more quickly give greater political responsibility, while simultaneously targeting its interventions to help build non-political and professional law enforcement and judicial institutions to establish the rule of law, protect civil rights and foster a public space within which citizens can hammer out their own solutions. In Liberia it should also assume responsibility for revenue collection from ports, airports, customs, the maritime registry and export of timber and diamonds: because the collection of revenues is presently obscured from the beginning, it is easy to engineer corruption. But once funds begin entering the treasury transparently, it should be up to Liberians to decide how to use them, though international monitors, as part of independent and public oversight of procurement, should still be available to help civil society prevent gross abuse.
The same problem exists in Sierra Leone, but this prescription probably cannot be applied because its elected government is already in place and unlikely to give up so much control. Stop-gap measures there focus on trying to insert accounting mechanisms at the final stages of the revenue process, by which time much has already disappeared. However, the long-term security sector commitment has already been promised by the UK. Other steps needed are to protect freedom of press and expression better, to give the Anti-Corruption Commission prosecutorial powers, and to establish a public complaint mechanism applicable to newly-elected district governments.
The proposed approaches can only have a chance of succeeding within a much longer time frame than the international community has hitherto been willing to envisage. Liberia and Sierra Leone took decades to decay, and it will take decades to restore sustainable security and political and economic structures. The new Peacebuilding Commission proposed by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which reported to the UN Secretary-General on 2 December 2004, could be the institutional vehicle needed to implement the long-term commitments required in these countries, and many others around the world.
1. Pay quickly outstanding pledges for reconstruction ($276 million), especially the $42 million UNMIL needs to jump-start reintegration of ex-combatants who have been disarmed and demobilised.
2. Shift the focus of reintegration programs toward education and agriculture, including infrastructure (roads, processing equipment) that will support agricultural production.
3. Give greater political and operational support to civil society.
4. Fund independent oversight of government procurement as domestic professional auditing capacity is built.
5. Provide long-term funds based on implementation of a national strategy for law enforcement and justice sector reform.
6. Convene a working group to prepare the political, technical and administrative modalities of a mechanism to assume responsibility for revenue collection for a projected fifteen to 25-year period, including an oversight board with mixed international and Liberian composition but controlled by the former and supported by a team of experts (forensic accountants) and international customs officers.
7. Work with Liberian civil society leaders to organise a national roundtable conference to develop consensus on a national strategy to be pursued after the October 2005 elections.
8. Promote discussion between Gios and Mandingos to reduce the threat of ethnic violence.
9. Enact legislation to guarantee all citizens (including youths and women) equal access to land use and to prevent rights to such use acquired by working and improving land from being revoked by traditional authorities.
10. Maintain timber and diamond sanctions until after the 2005 elections, then subordinate these sectors to the new revenue collection mechanism.
11. Extend military observers’ tours to one year, the entire period to be spent at a single site, so as to increase their ability to gather useful information.
12. Take more coercive measures to collect weapons now that the official DDR deadline for turning them in has passed.
13. Develop a program of targeted disarmament/ development projects for ex-combatants and the communities into which they are reintegrated based on the “StopGaps” program in Sierra Leone.
14. Give a long-term (fifteen to 25-year) “over the horizon” security guarantee to Liberia similar to that given by the UK to Sierra Leone.
15. Provide incentives for Liberians resident in the U.S. to participate in rebuilding their home country, for example by not interrupting green card or citizenship application processes if they leave the U.S. to participate in rebuilding, investment, and governance initiatives.
16. Target financial crimes committed by members of the U.S.-based Liberian diaspora, and block U.S. bank accounts in such cases.
17. Shift the focus of development funding to programs directed toward education and agriculture, including infrastructure (roads, agricultural processing equipment) and increase funding to security sector reform, especially in order to build barracks for army and police.
18. Give greater political and operational support to civil society and train district councillors in basic accounting and administrative skills to facilitate their ability to work transparently.
19. Provide long-term funds based on implementation of a national strategy for law enforcement and justice sector reform.
20. Extend military observers’ tours to one year, the entire period to be spent at a single site, so as to increase their ability to gather useful information.
21. Give prosecutorial powers to the Anti-Corruption Commission on a temporary basis (five to ten years), provide it adequate financial and human resources, and move quickly to implement a comprehensive reform of the judicial system.
22. Publish all budgets from ministry level downward, using the model of the Local Government Act of March 2004, require candidates for public office to declare their assets both before and after assuming office, and assure freedom of the press, speech and association.
23. Work with donors to promote agriculture, first assuring self-sufficiency in rice production, and then shifting toward greater diversification, higher productivity, and local value-added processing.
24. Enact legislation to guarantee all citizens (including youths and women) equal access to land use and to prevent rights to such use acquired by working and improving land from being revoked by traditional authorities.
25. Establish effective control over diamond resources, applying Kimberly process procedures.
26. Confirm the long-term "over the horizon" security guarantee to Sierra Leone for a 25-year period.
Dakar/Brussels, 8 December 2004