Undoubtedly, ex-soccer icon George Manneh Weah won the 2017 presidential elections based on the popular mandate of the Liberian people. The United People’s Party (UPP) was among dozens of grassroots political institutions that threw their lot with the Coalition for Democratic Change which unseated the then-ruling Unity Party. Now, three years into his first term, the same UPP is sounding a serious caveat to President Weah and his government, warning that although he is popular, if the general living conditions and the community security situation in the country do not improve by the next presidential election, and Liberians live up to the meaning and spirit of a multiparty democracy, where the process is free, fair and transparent, President Weah will be unable to win the Presidency for a second term.
“Popularity alone is not sufficient to govern the country in a manner that makes the people safe and happy,” the UPP Executive Committee cautioned in a July 23, 2020 Open Letter to the President.
“Mr. President, please do not underestimate the meaning and implications of Article 1 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia: It states that “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments,” the UPP said, noting that President Weah has the constitutional right to a second term of office, provided he wins the presidential election which will be held in 2023.
“We, in the United People’s Party, believe that if you take appropriate steps, that will ease the current economic and community safety situation in the country, you no doubt will enhance your chances of winning a second term of office. However, if the general living conditions and the community security situation in the country do not improve by the next presidential election, and Liberians live up to the meaning and spirit of a multiparty democracy, where the process is free, fair and transparent; we do not believe you will be able to win the Presidency for a second term,” the UPP warned.
The UPP further noted that the Liberian people are not happy as things stand today. “They have been unhappy for a very long time because, the basic social services that cause them to feel safe and happy are not available in their communities, although, year after year, spending entities of the government are provided funding in the national budget,” the UPP lamented.
National Planning Council – The Way Forward
The United People’s Party believes, although the Weah administration faces daunting challenges regarding enhancing the current economic and community safety situation in the country, there is still hope for the CDC in 2023 if President Weah works hard to effect the necessary changes.
“There are 123 spending entities of government including ministries, agencies, commissions, which together, constitute the Executive Branch. Each of these entities has been created by Law, and through the national budget, is allocated a certain amount of funds every year. The money they are given is expected to organize and deliver specific types of basic social service for which they were created,” the UPP observed.
“Mr. President, in order to improve the current general safety and economic situation in the country, we, in the United People’s Party, by this open letter, recommend that you now establish a National Planning Council,” the UPP implored.
According to the UPP, the Council shall serve as a presidential advisory group and not as an alternative to the Cabinet or agencies whose mandate shall include monitoring and evaluating the performance of the various spending entities in real time, as well as the impact of ongoing government development plans, policies, programs and projects on the communities.
The National Planning Council would connect the dots and evaluate the complimentary links between various spending entities as they implement programs and projects, so as to evaluate and determine the extent of impact against prior conditions; and recommend changes and adjustments in policy and implementation strategy options, to ensure achievement of intended results.
“The Council should comprise not more than 16 eminent citizens, who are well versed in issues of governance and matters of economic development of the country. The National Planning Council is not designed to supplant the Cabinet whose members are appointed, with fiduciary obligation, to organize and administer implementation and delivery of the basic services that should make the citizens safe and happy,” the UPP recommended.
The concept of a National Planning Council as technical advisors in administering national affairs is not new, the UPP noted.
“It is a standard feature in the practice of good governance. Many successful Heads of State in Africa and other parts of the world use this mechanism to enhance prospects for success in managing the affairs of State. As far as UPP is concerned, you, Mr. President, should be among successful world leaders. We hope you will give this recommendation a favorable consideration as a matter of national priority. It could turn the current situation in Liberia around for the better. The sooner you establish such a presidential advisory body, the better. Time is becoming your greatest enemy,” the UPP cautioned.