Former Foreign Minister Dr. Toga Gayewea MacIntosh is proposing abolishment of Liberia’s 15 political subdivisions or counties to instead, demarcate the entire country into three geopolitical areas: Western Region, Central Region; and Eastern Region with each having its share of the Atlantic Coast beach and sea.
He says existing counties falling within these demarcated boundaries are to be the second layer with their respective districts becoming the third layer, moving in that order up to the clan and village level.
He made the suggestion here Wednesday, 4 December at the Governance Commission in Sinkor, Monrovia while delivering the keynote address at the official launch of a Governance and Decentralization Resource Center for the Commission.
Dr. MacIntosh himself a former chair of the Governance Commission says the call for decentralization in the country is not in a vacuum or one that should be tinkered with, as it touches on three fundamental issues: Liberia’s sustained socio-economic viability and equitable distribution of growth and wealth, effective social and political participation in national and local governance processes; and accountability in the national development process.He emphasizes that first and foremost, the geopolitical aspect of decentralization should be dealt with followed by the governance aspect and then the institutional aspect.
On the governance aspect, the renowned Liberian economist, development policy planner and diplomat explains that respective heads, beginning with a “Regional Administrator” thru the district levels should be elected by the people of the concerned constituency, saying, “Similarly, each region should have a Regional Legislative Assembly with representatives elected from the districts within the constituent counties, who shall spent two-thirds of legislative time at their respective regional sessions and one third at national sessions. Matters concerning the growth and development of the specific region shall constitute the agenda of the regional assemblies. Regional positions on national issues are to be consolidated and presented at national legislative sessions.”
He says each county shall have two elected senators, as with the present case, who shall spent one-third of legislative time within the region and the other two-thirds at the national Senate.
Lastly, on the institutional aspect of decentralization, he details that each region would have all major public institutions and agencies with Deputies heading respective ministries/agencies to be supported by subject-area Directors and professional, technical and administrative staff. “A small office is to be established in the capital city with the Minister as head to be supported by a Principal Deputy and a core team of specialists”, he adds.
He urges the Governance Commission, through its Center for Governance and Decentralization to seize these ideas and conduct seminars, working sessions and consultations, to define a viable way forward. “Let me say without reservation, that lessons from elsewhere in Africa have shown that effective decentralization around the three aspects that I have mentioned has yielded greater benefits for the concerned peoples on a sustained basis”, Dr. MacIntosh assures.
He stresses that governance is all inclusive, real and dynamic, noting that it is impactful both on those that govern and those that are governed, continuing hat governance is a process within a system that poses responsibilities on the shoulders of those that govern. “This means that both governors and the governed are all integral components and beneficiaries, and there is no room for putting a halt to the process.”
The Resource Center is established under the auspices of USAID-LEGIT and UN Women, among other partners. It contains both physical and digital components, including a library stack with resource books, documents and reading materials on governance, gender, and decentralization. About 75 percent of its facilities is digital, with access to subscribed research portals to online libraries, links and networks, respectively.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Governance Commission, Cllr. A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike in opening statement notes that knowledge is power and very important, adding, ”The work that we do here requires knowledge.”Chairman Nwabudike continues that the GC is the only agency that has accurate records on government’s assets across Liberia.
“This work started from my predecessor, Dr. Sawyer and others that worked here before us”, he expresses in recognition of contributions of past officials of the Commission.
Cutting the ribbon to the Resource Center, the Director for Democracy and Governance Office at USAID, Ms. April O’Neill, beams with excitement over the realization of the facility after lending support. Story by Jonathan Browne