Liberia Country Report
May 3, 2012 - Monrovia, Liberia
Liberia Country Report
2012 ushered in the second term of the President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf with inaugural activities followed by the appointment of government officials. The full cabinet; with about 35% retention of former Ministers and less than 20% for deputies and assistants, has been nominated, confirmed and commissioned. There was a major merger of the Finance and Planning Ministries to form the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Affairs. The new government is dubbed as the government of ‘generational change’, because it features youthful minsters, which is a reflection of one of the President’s campaign promises to have more youth involvement in the governance and national decision-making processes.
The State of the Nation address under the themes “Reflecting the Past, Claiming the Future” was delivered by the President to the 53rd Legislature and the nation in January, and again the President summarized her agenda for the next six years on the need for the passage of several crucial bills by the Legislature, ensuring that the economy has the right climate for prosperity youth empowerment, reconciliation, freedom of expressions, strengthening of the anti-graft commission by giving it prosecutorial powers and overall, calling on all Liberians to join hands with the government to build on the gains made during the first six year term.
The Decentralization Act has been passed into law, which creates the platform for constructive engagement of CSOs in popularization and understanding of the Policy, preparations for constructive participation in local government elections and functioning and the several other processes and activities.
Paramount on the civil society agenda for government to address are: issues of genuine national healing and reconciliation, addressing corruption legally, the new national visioning process, accountability of the legislature to the people, strengthening of the education system and creation of job opportunities for youth and the most recent and worrisome, discovery of OIL. All other issues have before now been very contentious and CSOs have raised the hue about these issues not being addressed properly therefore with the announcement of the discovery of oil, the nation is pondering on whether this is a blessing or a curse. Concerns are being raised about whether the National Oil Company has the expertise and experience to handle the oil industry, what mechanisms have been put in place since the creation of the company six years ago, what legislations are in place to ensure that the citizens benefit from the proceeds of sale and the role of civil society, including the appointment of the President’s son as the head of the National Oil Company. Suggestions are being made to learn from the examples of the problems created by oil in Nigeria and the relatively well-managed oil sector of Ghana.
A crucial test of the country’s human rights records has surfaced with the issue of LGBT rights. A pro-gay activist raised the issue of recognition of gay rights, which has sparked heated pro and con debates among the populace in the print and online media. The activist’s mother’s house was reportedly burnt down, his appearance on a live radio program ended in a close encounter with an angry mob that was bent on inflicting bodily harm. He was rescued by the police and driven off to an unknown destination, while the legislature weighed in debate by introducing two anti-gay bills making "same-sex sexual practices" a second-degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and the second making same-sex marriage a first-degree felony, with sentences ranging up to 10 years in prison. Word from the Executive through the President’s Press Secretary is that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will not sign into law any bill supporting same sex marriage; "This government opposes gay rights," he is quoted as saying. The debate goes on with several organizations working on LGBT issues proceeding with caution amidst the negative sentiments being expressed by the lawmakers. The leaders of the Movement for the Defense of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia (MODEGAL) are working underground for fear of further reprisals.
The National Visioning process for Vision 2030 Liberia Rising commenced in earnest with the President and National Visioning Secretariat holding county level consultations, which will lead up to a national conference in mid-2012. The national visioning consultation is part of the broader national reconciliation and development agenda and seeks answers to five important questions: Where have we come from as a nation? Where are we today? Why are we here today? Where do we want to go? And how do we get there? The consultations are continuing at the district levels.