Former Interim President, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, has stated that the days of imperial governments in Liberia are diminishing and will soon be a thing of the past.
Dr. Sawyer, who is Chairman of the Governance Commission (GC), said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has already begun to dismantle the “imperial presidency,” through the present decentralization process that is now being implemented by the Unity Party-led administration.
“With respect to the ‘software’ of our development agenda, we have achieved some milestones in promulgating policies on decentralization, accountability and the rationalization of the public sector, among others,” the former Interim leader stated when he addressed the 96th University of Liberia (UL) Graduate School Commencement, held at the university’s Fendell Campus in Louisiana, Montserrado County.
Dr. Sawyer, who led Liberia during some of its darkest periods, stated that there is the need to also show stronger commitment to implementing the decentralization program.
He added: “Long before the first Poverty Reduction Strategy was conceptualized, the people of our country had made it known that the over-centralization of authority was against their wishes; that it limited their participation in governance and restricted their access to development opportunities.”
He told those who have said that Liberia cannot afford the cost of decentralization, that to the contrary, “Liberia cannot afford the cost of not implementing decentralization. It is wrong to consider cost only in financial terms. We must also consider cost as far as it applies to advancing the common good, ensuring peace and stability, and ensuring equity and justice.”
He maintained that implementing decentralization requires bold action just as the creation of new counties fifty years ago by President Tubman required bold and courageous actions.
The former Interim Government head stressed that critical right now is the completion of the program of “de-concentration” within the next two years by establishing county service delivery centers under the coordination of the superintendents; completion of the harmonization of internal boundaries; passage of the Local Government Bill and stimulation of local economies.
Wednesday’s commencement climaxed several weeks of convocation activities of the UL.
Speaking further, Dr. Sawyer stated that this year’s UL commencement convocation is different from those of former years and linked it with decentralization.
“The holding of multiple graduation ceremonies is an exercise in decentralization which is an appropriate response to challenges of expanding size and enrolment, diversity of schools and colleges and the growth of graduate studies. The University has already seen that in time, it will have to incrementally decentralize many aspects of its management in order to build stronger colleges and schools,” he stated.
“We must encourage and support this process of transformation. With 35,000 plus students in 10 or more schools, colleges and special programs, admission and registration, budgets, staff recruitment and research management might be among the areas needing institutional review in order to enhance efficiencies.”
Dr. Sawyer said the place of the graduate and professional schools is critical in the development of a strong university because they are the citadels for high level training, including training of trainers.
“As the University of Liberia has begun to expand its graduate and professional programs, it has the obligation to ensure high quality and protect the integrity of its graduate programs. We must support it in this effort.
Graduate programs which operate in environments where educational standards are typically low face the pressure to accommodate lower standards.”
Following his speech, the UL authorities awarded Dr. Sawyer and four former presidents of the University the honorary degree of Honoris Causa. Those former UL presidents included Dr. Al Hassan Conteh, Dr. Ben A Roberts, Dr. Frederick S. Gbegbe and Dr. Patrick L. Seyon.
Fifty four students earned the Degree of Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law; Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm) Degrees were conferred on 29 men and women; while 35 students earned the Degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.).
For the Master of Arts (M.A.) Degree in International Relations, 17 persons were awarded, while 15 and 24 men and women were awarded the Degree of Master of Arts (M.A.) in Educational Administration and the Degree of Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Regional Planning, respectively.
Also 21 persons got the Degree of Master in Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting. For the Degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Banking and Finance, 35 persons obtained it; while 21 took the Degree of Master of Business Administration in Management.
Similarly, 33 persons got the Degree of Master of Public Administration (MPA) and 21 in the Degree of Master of Public Financial Management.
Fifty-eight earned the Post-Graduate Diploma in Public Procurement Management and 21 obtained the Degree of Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Conflict Transformation.