Liberian politicians and political parties are leaving no stone unturned about the country’s future ahead of presidential and representative elections next year.
Liberia’s 22 registered political parties are conferring in the provincial city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, southeastern region, on the decentralization policy of the state. Parties attending the conference include the governing Unity Party (UP) of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of Senator George Weah; the Liberty Party (LP) of Cllr. Charles Brumskine, the All Liberia Party (ALP) of businessman Benoni Urey; the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) of ex-governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Dr. Mills Jones; ex-president Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) of entrepreneur Alex Cummings, among others.
The conference which commenced Wednesday, 8 June is organized by the Governance Commission with support from the United Nations Development Programme. The Governance Commission has asked heads of political parties to ensure the issue of decentralization is included in their respective platforms for the 2017 Presidential and Representatives elections.
Speaking to this paper yesterday via mobile phone from Buchanan, the national secretary general of the Congress for Democratic Change or CDC, Mr. Augustus Janga Kowo said, his party welcomes in principle, the decentralization approach but added the CDC is watching with eagle eyes on how the process will be carried out.
According to him, the GC is seeking support from political parties to ensure that the pending bill is supported by their respective lawmakers in the Liberian Legislature for it speedily passage into law. He explained the decentralization policy should be conducted in a way it would not run into parallel lines, creating some political bottleneck in the future when the process shall have come to the fore.
He said the aspect of the policy that has to do with electing county officials, including superintendents, mayors, town chiefs and others, is something that should draw the attention of all. The CDC chief scribe asks if county officials are elected as desire by the Governance Commission, then to whom do they report in terms of coordination and good governance.
Mr. Kowo stressed that the CDC is seriously studying how to address the issue of chain of national powers in a smooth and administrative style that there won’t be power clash in the future. Decentralization reforms have become a major part of governance reform in postwar countries. After emerging from fourteen years of civil conflict, Liberia has begun implementing wide range of reform programs, among which decentralization has become a key issue.
Although there is consensus among actors – politicians, government officials and civil society activists – on the need to decentralize governance and service delivery, there remains disagreement on the scope, nature and timing of reforms.
Overtime, several steps have been taken towards devolution of power, including the promulgation of relevant policies and the deconcentration of services to the counties. There remain, however, a myriad of issues ranging from structural to legal and procedural steps – constitutional reform, revenue collection and expenditure which actors in the political system need to better consider while rolling out a decentralization program.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne