Tomrrow, May 14, the nation bids farewell to one of its great sons, Charles Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL).
Mr. Bryant was elected Chair of the NTGL during the Comprehensive Liberian Peace Talks in Accra and Accosombo, Ghana in 2002-2003. It was a difficult and painstaking process that ended in a series of compromises among various civic and political groups, but particularly the various warring factions that viciously fought against one another during the 14-year Liberian civil war.
His was a difficult and challenging two and a half years at the helm of Liberia’s ship of state. His most important challenges were three-fold: to consolidate the peace, preside over the transition and to organize the 2005 presidential and general elections that led the country out of 14 years of war into democratic governance.
He appointed Counselor Frances Johnson Morris as Chair of the National Elections Commission, along with six other Commissioners: James Fromoyan, Jonathan K. Weedor, James Chelley, Madam Mary Brownell, Asamunah Kromah and Madam Elizabeth Nelson.
This stalwart team of Election Commissioners successfully organized and executed the elections in all 15 counties of the republic. The elections, the first since the war, was said to have been the most democratic elections in Liberia’s history because they were free, fair and inclusive. It was those elections that ushered the nation into an era of true democratic governance. With it came a new dispensation of constitutionally guaranteed personal and other freedoms, including freedom of association, of conscience, of speech and of the press.
The incoming President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, unlike Samuel Doe in 1986, took the constitutional guarantees of these freedoms very seriously and soon her regime became hailed as one of the most democratic in Liberian history.
That alone proved the resounding the success of Chairman Bryant’s stewardship as Chair of the Transitional Government. In his Induction Address in 2003, Chairman Bryant made many developmental promises. But these, while they were hailed an impressive oratorical beginning, were not seen as the Chairman’s primary responsibilities. For one thing, his time in office was too short. Beginning in October 2003, he had to race against time in setting up the Elections Commission, organize, with their active involvement, the first national general elections since 1997 and lead the country through all the complex electoral intricacies that could easily could have derailed the whole process.
But Chairman Bryant’s steady hand, his even-handed approach to problems, his quiet diplomacy and his determination to hand over to the war-weary Liberian people the development they had long dreamed of–a democratically elected government–these were the things topmost preoccupations on the Chairman’s mind.
Thanks be to God, he achieved all of these solemn objectives. He was able, on January 16, 2006, in the presence of the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU), the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its President Olesegun Obasanjo, the First Lady of the United States and that country’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and many other African Heads of State and Government, to hand over to the Liberian people a democratically elected government, headed by the winner of the elections, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
As his family and the nation bid him a final farewell, let us all remember him for the great service he rendered the nation as the interim Leader who transitioned the country from war to peace, and from political-military dictatorship into true democratic governance.
For the first time in decades, people are free to think, to assemble, to speak, to write, to print according to the dictates of their consciences, without any fear of any reprisal whatsoever.
Thank you, Chairman Bryant. Adieu! Good night.