Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Open Letter to the Chairman of the Mano River Union
H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Chairman of the Mano River Union
President of the Republic of Liberia
Republic of Liberia
Ref: Policy Advice on the Crisis in Neighboring Guinea
Greetings of Peace!
This is my second time writing to you since you took over the leadership of our war-ravaged country. Over the years, I have made attempts to call your attention and the attentions of other decision makers, the citizenry, and the international community to major issues relevant to the socio-economic conditions of our people, the sustenance of the peace, the nurturing of our nascent democracy, and the overall development of our country. I have been speaking through my series entitled ‘Critical Issues of National Concern’ which is widely published by the Analyst Newspaper, the Public Agenda Newspaper, the Daily Observer and several online news outlets. In recent times, I have been opportune to secure a permanent column in the Nation Times Newspaper called ‘Cocorioko’ with the same aims, objectives, and mission of the series ‘Critical Issues of National Concern’.
As we hope to continue to live in peace and that those who wish to advocate for us and fight for freedom will continue to do so constructively, and this time through the democratic process and in the towns, rather than going to the bushes with the bullet, we have seen significant strides in the growth of democracy under your regime occasioned by the level of free speech, an ambience for free media operation, and the submission of the regime to criticisms from all ends. This progress is however, largely accredited to all of the democratic forces that rallied and agitated for change in this country.
In my last communication to you (see the July 30, 2007 of both the Daily Observer and Public Agenda newspapers) I addressed several policy issues regarding corruption and the need to go beyond policy writing to practical implementations in order to address local needs. That discussion was centered mostly on local issues.
Today, I am taking you off the shores to present a foreign case but with much local implications bordering on both the physical and economic securities of the people of Liberia and the entire Mano River Basin.
It is with great acknowledgment of your authority as a leader in the basin that I select you amongst four leaders to direct this note for immediate policy considerations and actions which if pursued decisively will avert what seems to be a threatening danger hanging over the innocent and impoverished people of Guinea, and the people of the Mano River Basin at large.
Guinea has been a shadow state for several years, largely due to the level of instability and violent military operations in its neighbors. Today Guinea is on the brink of completely falling into the vortex of violent conflict. As you may be aware, violent conflict in one country has the proclivity to spew out negative consequences on neighboring countries, and the international political system as a whole.
Liberia’s descent into a violent and internecine feud in the late 1980s was exploited by economic and political strongmen in the sub-region as a means of counterbalancing and getting through with parochial interests successfully. This was what led to the participation of multilateral actors in the Liberian civil war. As you may recall Madam Chairman, interests became complicated and the strategies of the warlords were to either support oppositions against regimes that checkmate their interests or to establish and unleash their own dissidents as a means of getting through with their objectives. Consequently, Sierra Leone’s weak state became a conflict-state, Guinea a shadow and fragile state, and Ivory Coast, the route of Liberia’s dissidents, lastly succumb.
This was ho w the Mano River Basin became polarized by instability, crimes, wars, economic decadence, and consequently, became an unnecessary burden on the international community. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast tasted full skill military wars; while Guinea remained unstable and fragile thereby making the then regime suspicious and overly autocratic.
The same ghost of violent crisis is haunting Guinea, and the lessons learnt from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast must be applied quickly to save the people of Guinea. You have the ball in your court as Chairman of the MRU to act, even though the Union has been a ‘sleeping watchman’ and ‘a toothless bulldog’ over the years, but you need to exert yourself beyond all to save the people of Guinea from dying.
My concern now is not whether the junta leaders participate in the ensuing elections or not. My concern is about calling for a concrete and forceful international action in favor of the innocent, unarmed and impoverished people whose freedom, right to happiness, and liberty are being suppressed by a politically unsophisticated and popularly rejected military junta.
Madam Chairman, may I now call your attention to several mistakes by the international community which they direct at regimes, but in no way threaten the livelihood of the elites and leaderships targeted. On numerous occasions, the international community as a means of punishing regimes imposes economic sanctions and travel bans on leaders. These leaders on the extreme use local resources for to consolidate their authority and manipulate systems at the expense of the people. They and their families live happily, and the purpose and intent of the sanctions become irrelevant. Adversely, the same people the international community intends to save suffer the worst.
The years of sanctions and bans on Zimbabwe did not affect the personal lives of politicians in the ruling class, but economically and socially relegated ordinary families, with girls as tender as 12 and 13 turning to prostitutes. The coup leaders in both Madagascar and Honduras who seized powers have local resources at their disposals which they manipulate for the survival of their families and to consolidate their local themselves against the intents of international sanctions against them.
In the same way sanctions will not directly affect the juntas in Guinea. The juntas must be persuaded to a deal with the oppositions and the civil society to restore calm immediately.
People are dying, and there are fears around the borders of war and terror. It is our people whose survival is being endangered by the situation in Guinea.
Liberia stands to suffer from all fronts if the appropriate actions are not taking to restore calm and reduce the chances of war in that country.
Madam Chairman of the MRU, you and I may recall that in the heat of the crises in Liberia, all of the nations in the basin became diplomatically hostile to each other. There were claims and counterclaims of support to insurgent groups in the basin to the extent that diplomats were expelled and leaders refusing to attend summits protesting the participation of other leaders.
In July of this year (2009), while preparing for an MRU heads of state summit in Guinea, similar thing occurred when the juntas claimed that dissidents were training in Foya, Lofa County (Liberia) to destabilized Guinea. This opened up a feud between the two countries and led to the cancellation of the planned MRU summit in Guinea due to your abrupt decision to boycott the meeting as Chairman. This decision came just after some members of your entourage had arrived in Guinea awaiting your departure.
The issue of how a conflict in one MRU country affects another or the entire sub-region needs not be overemphasized. Guinea now is a major exporter of local products to Liberia, and the security of traders between the two countries must be highly considered at this critical time.
Your positions on the situation since the self-catapulting of the purported National Council for Democracy and Development (NCDD) to power in Guinea have been highly laudable. Your call for an immediate international action must be supported by sufficient political will which you must rally with your colleagues in the basin and in ECOWAS to ensure the safety of the people.
May I now give several recommendations that you may need as Chairman of the MRU in the resolution of the political instability in Guinea.
It has been taught by history that emotional and power-drunk military leaders transform themselves easily into civilian leaders by stage-managing elections. We have an example in our records like many other African countries. You must therefore impress upon your colleagues that the NCDD must be encouraged to dialogue with the opposition as a means of establishing a government of National Unity closely monitored by the international community to pave the way for democratic rule. To believe that the NCDD will relinquish power and bar its members from contesting elections is inconceivable at this time considering Africa’s political history with the military. To further harass the NCDD as a means of encouraging civilian up-rising will give rise to mass civilian casualties or war as we have seen over the last few days. The most appropriate international action needed now is the facilitation of talks for a power-sharing government with a longer life span and the deferment of elections. Guinea needs an overall reform in its system of governance. There have been no effective constitutional authority and democratic system primarily due to the iron-fist style of the last regime that was very autocratic.
You must put, above everything, the safety and survival of the masses in Guinea. The CNDD must be warned against further civilian casualties, and must be given an immediate notice that it will one day account for its terror against our people.
Second, I also recommend that you build the most necessary security fortresses around the sub-region and warn your colleagues against harboring dissidents in their various countries. As Chairman of the Union, I admonish you to please consider the need for an MRU Peace and Security Council as a sub-regional body to preside over security issues and to promote peace initiatives in the basin.
Finally, as we all pray for and anticipate an immediate end to the crisis, it is prudent that we begin to liberalize immigration and cross-border trade policies so as to promote the spirit of integration in the basin as envisaged by the founders of the MRU.
May God Bless you and save Liberia and the Mano River Union.
Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei
Citizen of Liberia