– A Critique
By Martin K. N. Kollie, Liberian activist and columnist
Article 10 Section 10:11 of “The CPP Framework” seemingly defeats the purpose and the genuineness of a viable opposition collaboration that is based on ideological conviction and philosophical belief(s). The framework is contentious, contagious, and undemocratic. It needs a careful relook and a critical readjustment. Like I said, this framework is a “carte blanche” for patronage and protectionism. Here’s why.
Liberians are overly desperate for a more genuine alternative after 24 months under the failing regime of footballing President George M. Weah. Such unquenched desperation has largely been triggered by entrenched corruption and the abuse of power. Is CPP a dependable option? Can CPP nexus this desperation with corresponding CHANGE and real hope?
The Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), which is a composition of CDC, NPP, and LPDP, has already lost public confidence and trust. The Weah-led government has become so unpopular in a relatively short period as a result of governance breakdown and poor leadership. It is a fact that most Liberians are now turning to “The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP)”, which includes UP, ANC, LP, and ALP. The CPP has positioned itself and is seen in some quarters as a viable alternative ahead of 2020 and 2023 polls.
The CPP is not perfect, but it seems better than CDC. It has somehow shown responsible and accountable leadership. Can CPP maintain such morale and guarantee public trust? The latest “CPP Framework” is saying something else and it is a cause for concern. Though there are some major actors within the CPP with good intentions to redeem Liberia and inspire the lost hope of Liberians, but there are some with bad intentions mainly to parochially pursue self-interest and self-indulgence.
The CPP must be cautious and vigilant to weed elements with such ulterior motive out of their ranks. I read through self-centered “CPP Framework” during the weekend. While I applaud the CPP for achieving this milestone and sealing a deal for a possible political marriage ahead of 2020 and 2023, but any course of such nature must place the overwhelming interest of Liberia and Liberians above competiting individualistic interests.
While the 25-page Framework of the CPP may look good, but certain provisions have rendered the entire document as a “Carte Blanche” for Political Patronage and Protectionism. The framework is more of a breeding ground for “job-seeking” and “power sharing”. The CPP must be different from the CDC and it must demonstrate such difference through intents, words, and deeds. Section 10:11 to Section 10:11.10 of this framework is problematic or contentious in our opinion.
Section 10:11: Guidelines for Presidential Appointments – Executive Branch of Government:
Section 10:11.1 of CPP Framework:
“All Constituent Political Parties shall be represented in the Cabinet. Cabinet positions shall be allocated among the constituent political parties and all other qualified Liberians whether or not they are members of the Alliance.”
Critique #1: This provision points to a “power sharing deal”. It is similar to the following peace agreements or peace accords that were signed by ex-warring factions to share governmental positions among them:
- The December 21, 1990 Banjul III Peace Accord between NPFL, INPFL, and Bowen (Remnants of Doe’s Army);
- The July 25, 1993 Contonou Peace Accord between NPFL, ULIMO, and LPC;
- The August 12, 1994 Akosombo Peace Accord between NPFL, ULIMO, and AFL;
- The August 18, 2003 Comprehensive Peace Accord between LURD, MODEL, GOL, and Political Parties.
Critique #2: The CPP must position itself as a viable opposition and an honest alternative, and not as a collaboration of job seekers and power sharers. It is not compelling or binding for all political parties to be represented in the Cabinet or for cabinet positions to be allocated among constituent political parties. The CPP has a lot to appreciate and consider from “The Adama Barrow’s Promise and The Opposition” in Gambia. This pattern does not only usurp the constitutional function of the President, but it directly infringes on Article 54, Article 55, and Article 56(a) of the 1986 of Liberia.
- Article 54: The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission:
- cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers;
- ambassadors, ministers, consuls; and
- the Chief Justice and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts;
- Superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political sub-divisions; e members of the military from the rank of lieutenant of its equivalent and above; and f marshals, deputy marshals, and sheriffs.
- Article 55: The President shall appoint and commission Notaries Public and Justices of the Peace who shall hold office for a term of two years but may be removed by the President for cause. They shall be eligible for appointment.
Section 10:11.2 of CPP Framework:
“Constituent Political Parties shall recommend qualified members for appointment to Cabinet, junior cabinet, technical level positions, local government administration subject to all applicable laws.”
Critique #1: The question of loyalty comes in if political parties are going to recommend their parties’ faithful or adherents for appointment. Who will those appointees be loyal to? Their various political parties or the government? Their various Political Leaders or the President? At whose pleasure are they going to hold their respectful offices? This course of proceeding does undermine the intent and the essence of Article 56 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
1) Article 56(a) “All cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls, superintendents of counties and other government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to this Constitution shall hold their offices at the pleasure of the President.”
Furthermore, let it be known that the President reserves every right to reject or consider any recommendation of appointee(s) according to the Constitution. What if the presumptive president of the CPP does reject a preferred nominee from any of the collaborating political parties? This could breed disintegration and brouhaha.
Section 10:11.1 “provides a compelling ground for all political parties to be represented in the Cabinet while Section 10:11.2 provides a non-compelling ground (recommendation) for the consideration of political representation. Isn’t this a contradiction and doesn’t this suggest vagueness?”
Section 10:11.3 of CPP Framework:
“Only known, active, and visible members of Constituent Political Parties shall be recommended by the parties.”
Critique #1: This specific provision is a “carte blanche” for patronage and protectionism. Whose interest is CPP trying to protect in this framework? So, only a few “known, active, and visible members” should be privileged to hold governmental positions? What about those who are not “known” but active and visible? What about those who are only active but not known and visible? What about those who are only visible but not known and active? What about those who are not even members of CPP but are Liberians? Section 10:11.3 of this framework renders the entire CPP inequitable and inconsiderate. It was based on similar reasoning and bad precedent that some of us condemned the “CDC Blacklist” in January 2018.
Critique #2: Liberia belongs to all Liberians regardless of political affiliation. Whether one is in the CPP or the CDC, every Liberian has the right to work in government and out of government. Section 10:11.3 defeats the purpose of national integration and unity. It is a breeding ground for sectionalism, tribalism, abuse of power, nepotism and corrupt practices.
Critique #3: Section 10:11.3 undermines Article 5 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia:
Article 5: The Republic shall:
a) aim at strengthening the national integration and unity of the people of Liberia, regardless of ethnic, regional or other differences, into one body politic; and the Legislature shall enact laws promoting national unification and the encouragement of all citizens to participate in government;
- b) preserve, protect and promote positive Liberian culture, ensuring that traditional values which are compatible with public policy and national progress are adopted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the Liberian society;
- c) take steps, by appropriate legislation and executive orders, to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism, and such abuses of power as the misuse of government resources, nepotism and all other corrupt practices.
Critique #4: Section 10:11.3 also grossly contravenes Article 18 of the Liberian Constitution.
Article 18: All Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation, and all shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work.
The CPP has to understand that there are scores of qualified and competent Liberians who are willing and able to work, but they are not attached to any political party. Also, there are skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled Liberians that are non-partisans. Shouldn’t this group of Liberians work because they aren’t “known, active, and visible” members of the CPP? To even uplift such a provision which points toward “protectionism” or “protecting” CPP’s “known, active, and visible members” is not only disturbing but it unravels a concealed motive of patronage and witch-hunt. I encourage the CPP to focus more on creating decent jobs or employment opportunities for unprivileged Liberians and not to deprive other Liberians from accessing employment based on political grounds. Section 10:11.3 even contradicts Section 10:11.2 and Section 10.11.1.
“Constituent Political Parties shall recommend members in the counties for local government positions. Only known, active and visible members in the county shall be recommended by the parties for local government positions.”
Critique #1: The National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) trekked on similar path and it failed. The National Patriotic Party (NPP) also failed when it chose to foster this politically disingenuous approach. The moribund Trug Whig Party (TWP) is a notable example of such failure. The Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is miserably failing because of similar mentality. It cannot just be about “Grab, Get, and Go”. This “CHANGE” that the CPP seeks cannot and must not be only about JOB. Political Reciprocity and Political Patronage have done more harm than good to Liberia. The government MUST be and should work for all Liberians.
It is not a bad thing to recommend for job. But for CPP to prioritize this discriminatory pattern in its framework or keep emphasizing the recommendation of only “known, active, and visible members” is a cause for alarm. Such course of action will lead to non-cooperation and non-compliance in various districts and counties. Those who are not “known, active, and visible” will be compelled to rise up against those who are “known, active, and visible”. This section of CPP undermines the spirit and the intent of participatory governance and inclusiveness. It incentivizes exclusivism or exclusivity. The CPP must abide by the tenets of pluralism or pluralistic democracy. The days of oligarchy, elitism, or a one-party system are gone.
Other Contentious Sections:
“For the purposes of this framework, each Constituent Political Party shall define full make-up of its national executive committee.”
“For the purposes of this framework, each Constituent Political Party shall define full make-up of its county executive committee.”
“Recommendations from the parties for local government positions shall be made by the county executive committee of each Constituent Political Party to its national executive committee.”
“Recommendations from constituent political parties shall be made by the executive committee of that party.”
“All recommendations from the Constituent Political Parties shall be submitted to the Decision-Making Body of the Alliance which shall ensure compliance with this framework.”
“When the head of a ministry, agency, commission, authority county, or district is appointed from one party, all deputy head positions shall be filled by recommendations from other constituent political parties. Positions shall be distributed according to the methods procedures set up pursuant to Section B (3).”
General Critique: The CPP must be different from the CDC and such difference must be shown through intents, words, and deeds. The struggle all of us (politicians, activists, journalists, etc.) are involved with cannot be just about job-seeking and power sharing. It should and must be about transforming Liberia and inspiring the lost hope of all Liberians.
The CPP Framework has made us to think about the Berlin Conference of 1884 when 13 nations in Europe as well as the United States of America met to work on a joint policy to divide or partition the African Continent. This was the Scramble for Africa. Is the CPP Framework “the Scramble for Liberia”? I hope not!
The framework isn’t exact in terms of what it aspires to achieve especially in the interest of the Liberian people. For instance, the document is calling for the “recommendation of appointees from constituent political parties” and at the same time calling for the “compliant consideration of those would be appointees from constituent political parties”. It is scaring to even say “Positions shall be distributed according to the methods and procedures set up pursuant to Section B (3).”
In most cases appertaining to the provisions supra, the CPP Framework delegates the executive power and constitutional authority of the would be Commander-In-Chief (CIC) to various County Executive Committees of constituent political parties, the National Executive Committees of constituent political parties, and the National Executive Committee of the CPP. This is a usurpation, an infringement, or an abrogation of the presidential function(s). In fact, there is nothing in our Constitution that guarantees Section 10:11.10 of the CPP Framework.
What must the CPP do going forward (Recommendation):
- The CPP must immediately abandon its ‘job-seeking’ and ‘power sharing’ quest and focus more on concrete conversations pertinent to crafting a doable roadmap for genuine national development and/or a realistic plan (visionary manifesto) to improve and invest in areas like agriculture, education, health, social welfare, job creation (youth employment), infrastructure, technology, transportation, energy, private sector investment, foreign policy formulation, housing, tourism, security, rule of law, accountability, transparency, peace, reconciliation, etc.
- The CPP must be cautious about what it puts out as a document or a framework (e.g. even as a draft);
- The CPP must carry out broad-based consultation(s) with different stakeholders before releasing a document of such nature. Inclusiveness and public participation are crucial to democratization.
- The CPP must focus on promoting grassroots ownership pertinent to such process or framework. The masses must be involved at all levels and have a direct say even in the drafting process of any document including the CPP Framework;
- The stakeholders of the CPP have to be mindful of the fact that they are not the only opposition political actors or players in Liberia. All must be incorporated in an effort to defeat and unseat Pres. George M. Weah ahead of 2020 and 2023 polls. Therefore, I encourage CPP to reach out to The Rainbow Coalition et al;
- Going forward, I want to reemphasize the importance of openness, honesty, patriotism, boldness, and genuineness in the CPP and among key players.
Beyond this end, the willingness of the four (4) collaborating political parties to come together is a historic milestone and we applaud them for this giant-sized step. At all times, such collaboration must be guided by firm conviction, aspiration, and belief for a New Liberia. It must place the interest of the people above self.
The CPP cannot be the preacher and at the same time the sinner. CPP has criticized CDC for pursuing self-interest and witch-hunting. The gospel of CPP must correspond with its deeds. Liberians do not need good messages only but upright and patriotic messengers as well.
The four (4) political parties cannot just come together because they want to share public positions among themselves. I hope that the CPP is different and will be the difference that Liberians have been yearning for. The CPP Framework needs a careful relook or a critical readjustment. Liberia first, Liberia last!