Robust Transition! -CSOs Want Plundered Assets and Finance Retrieved

By Matthew Turry

MONROVIA:  A group of seven Civil society organizations of Liberia has implored the incoming Unity Party (UP) Alliance government to probe the out-going Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government and implement a very transparent, robust and inclusive transitional process.

In a statement read on their behalf yesterday by Atty. Mmonbeydo Joah of the Organization for Women and Children, the group also committed themselves to be steadfast, robust, and objectively critical in engaging with the current and incoming administration to hold them accountable for their commitments as well as core mandates.

The group which include the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Accountability Lab Liberia (Alab), Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Public Health Initiative Liberia (PHIL), Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), and Integrity Watch Liberia (IWL) urged application of due diligence in the transition process

Pointing out amongst other things that all government properties must be identified and documented with clear reports produced and disseminated to the public, the group noted, “This is important to avoid the mistakes of the past, including claims and counter claims that the CDC led government took over a very broke economy,” the CSOs told a press conference.

“Comprehensively audit the outgoing administration and prosecute those who will be identified to have abused public resources and assets,” the group of CSOs acting together indicated.

“In line due process of law,” the statement continued, “we call for an objective, thorough and an inclusive process that ensures that any public resources and assets corrupted are identified, retrieved, and used for the benefit of the public/population”, the group said.

The CSOs strongly recommended that the process be extended to the previous Unity Party led administration (2006 to 2017) during which some officials abused public trust and resources, for which they need to be held equally accountable, and urged the incoming government ensure accountability for gender equality to make up for the limited women representation in the Legislature.

Commencing their statement, the civil society organizations noted that Liberia has made remarkable peace gains after 20 years, since the conflict ended in 2003, and indicated that the election of President-elect, Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai from the November 14 runoff election marks an important milestone in terms of a peaceful transition from one democratically elected government to another.

Applauding all those who played important roles during the process, including citizens who exercised their rights to vote for various elect leaders of their choice, the civil society organizations and leaders congratulated Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai for his election as President from the November 14, 2023 Presidential Runoff Election, having obtained 814,428 (50.64%) of the total valid votes counted by the National Elections Commission as of November 18, 2023, with only 0.017% remaining nationwide.

Equally, the CSOs, with great joy, commended the President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah for honoring his commitment to Liberians and the world to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

“This joy stems from individual and collective efforts and resolve of Liberians to uphold and nurture their nascent democracy. As civil society organizations and leaders, we welcome President Weah’s concession speech, in which he said, ‘the CDC has lost the election, but Liberia has won. This is a time for graciousness in defeat, a time to place our country above party, and patriotism above personal interest. Let us heal the divisions caused by the campaign and come together as one nation and one united people.’”

Atty. Joah said the CSOs wholeheartedly applaud President Weah for not only doing so, but courageously conceding defeat by congratulating the winner (Ambassador Joseph Nyumah Boakai), prior to announcement of the final results by the National Elections Commission.

“This singular act is a show of strong will and commitment to preserving and strengthening Liberia’s peace and democracy, the latter of which is notably maturing,” the CSOs indicated, and stressed, “This solidifies Liberia’s position as one of the torchbearers and enablers of democracy in Africa, in the wake of coup d’états in many countries due to extension of presidential terms and election manipulation by a number of African presidents.

“To President Weah, thank you for allowing the will of the Liberian people to prevail, likely amidst intense pressure from some of your supporters and confidantes to do otherwise. We hope that this great legacy will be built upon by successful presidents, especially your successor,” the CSOs asserted in their statement, emphasizing that  Liberia has made history and endeared herself to the world by being one of the leaders of democracy in Africa, especially by holding credible elections and seeing peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Considering the multiple bad examples in Africa, especially within the West Africa sub-region, the group said the example that Liberia has set is highly commendable. “We are proud of the collaborative efforts of the government, NEC, civil society, the media, citizens, and other stakeholders that made this possible. We applaud our international partners for providing financial, technical, moral, and other support that significantly impacted the process, a final outcome which we are so proud of today.”

Notwithstanding these gains, the CSOs averred that they recognize the divisions currently existing within the Liberian political system due to heated campaigns that saw brothers, sisters, friends, professional colleagues, families, and others going against each other.

“We also note the cyber bullying currently unfolding on social media after the concession and therefore call all Liberians to put peace and reconciliation at the center of their agendas,” the group intoned.

However, they said while they encourage post-election peace and reconciliation, they are in no way calling for the abandonment of the need for true accountability for past actions, decisions taken, and any crimes committed. Genuine peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved in the absence of the rule of law and full accountability, concluding that they are committed to be steadfast, robust, and objectively critical in engaging with the current and incoming administrations to hold them accountable for their commitments as well as core mandates.

“If anyone thinks that CSOs will change gears and lower their standards, they are grossly mistaken.  We will continue to hold every administration to a very high standard, this new administration being no exception,” they maintained, and concluded, “We will continue to demand that public officials are more accountable to the people and that government dealings are transparent so as to weed out the menace of corruption which has destroyed the fabric of our nation for many years.”

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