Liberia: Staying Focused
Africa Briefing N°36
13 Jan 2006
2006 is a decisive year for Liberia and with it West Africa. Just as Liberia once dragged its neighbours into a horrific war, it could now – with good policy and strong donor support – become an anchor for stability in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s inauguration as president on 16 January 2006 completes a credible election process, the first of the country’s four major peacebuilding challenges. Economic governance and security sector reform, the second and third challenges, are being addressed and must remain priorities: getting them right will give Liberia an excellent chance at long-term success. But inadequate follow-through on the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Plan (GEMAP) and the training of the new army will endanger the entire reconstruction and peacebuilding process.
Donors imposed the intrusive GEMAP regime on the transitional government because of their acute concern at the lack of accountability for reconstruction funds: accepting GEMAP is a heavy price for any government to pay, and donors have as a result some further responsibilities of their own. They must now put money on the table, including funding slowed or frozen in 2005, and channel as much of this as possible through government ministries. The urgent need is to repair decimated infrastructure as soon as possible: there is no electricity, piped water, telephone lines, or sewage system, and many roads are often or always impassable. There also needs to be established quickly an IMF Staff Monitoring Program and an accelerated path for forgiving the country’s $2.9 billion debt.
The fourth challenge, judicial reform, needs much more attention. Very little has yet been done: the new government will have to find creative solutions, and donors will need to provide significant funding.
Dakar/Brussels, 13 January 2006