Liberia

Liberian Project - Two Week Fact-Finding Mission / 2005 Elections

October 2 -16, 2006 | Executive Summary

Liberia

At the end of the second civil war, in 2003, its economy had ceased to function and its institutions and infrastructure lay in ruins. Over 100,000 combatants had to be demobilized, lest the cycle of intense fighting and fragile ceasefires resume. When the peace accords were signed in summer 2003, the United Nations, the United States, the European Commission, and the World Bank - in conjunction with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) - tasked themselves with establishing stability and overseeing the rebuilding process.

This group decided that a two-year transition period and 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops would be needed to establish security before democratic elections could be held. Unfortunately, the corruption that had characterized the presidency of warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor continued apace under the transitional government of Gyude Bryant. By 2005, the Bryant government's misappropriation of donor money and its resistance to accountability measures threatened to undermine the rebuilding process and raised new questions about the viability of lasting change in Liberia.

For all intents in purposes, rebuilding will begin in earnest under the presidency of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Elected in the runoff election of 8 November 2005, Johnson-Sirleaf is a former World Bank economist and finance minister in the Tolbert Administration who, in her campaign speeches and in her public addresses since being elected, has touted cooperation with the international community as a necessary part of the rebuilding process. As this report will show, the restructuring of most government ministries, including the military and the judiciary, will be necessary and in some cases is already underway. For this process to succeed, however, Liberians must be included as partners and must eventually take ownership of the institutions they help to rebuild.

In October 2005, Friends of Africa International (FAI) undertook a two-week fact-finding mission to Liberia. The mission was planned to coincide with the 2005 elections. FAI observed the first round of elections, spoke with officials from the Ministry of Health, community-based organizations (CBOs), and local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs and INGOs), as well as internally displaced persons and ordinary Liberians, about the present situation and the rebuilding process. These discussions and observations inform the present Report.

It was apparent that judicial reform, economic governance, security, the reinstatement of the rule of law, and the re-establishment of basic health and education infrastructures are all pressing issues - issues which have been prioritized by the international community and by donors. They are examined to varying degrees in this Report.

FAI also identified HIV/AIDS as an issue of special concern, for which strong advocacy and technical expertise is needed - especially within a governmental context. The ongoing reorganization of the government and its infrastructures represents an opportunity to redefine and reinvigorate the national response to HIV/AIDS. A multisectoral government approach to the fight against HIV/AIDS would seem to have a much better chance of succeeding if policy and programming is developed for and incorporated into the relevant ministries at the structural level - from the ground up - rather than applied to them on an ad hoc basis. The fact-finding mission identified public health policy as an area in which FAI could play an advocacy role.

Needs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS programming into all relevant governmental ministries - especially the ministries of health, education, justice, and defence - and the development of inter-sectoral policies and mechanisms to coordinate the government's fight against AIDS.
  • The development of a governmental mechanism - such as is seen elsewhere in Africa - to coordinate the work of Liberian civil society HIV/AIDS organizations, and to match them with appropriate donors and provide them with the technical expertise they need to access funding and other resources which the government itself may not be able to supply.
  • The collection and importation of viable, culturally appropriate models for HIV/AIDS care, prevention, and administration from high prevalence countries. The governments and civil societies of Uganda, Botswana, and other African countries that are experiencing success in their fight against AIDS have much to offer, by way of example, to Liberia. While the cultures are different, there are parallels in terms of infrastructure, funding, and the difficult relationship between traditional culture and modern medicine. One form this could take would be peer training - the training of Liberian government officials by experts from other African countries.Download the full report