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Trusteeships Proposed for Failed African States

Reuters reports that international funding for Liberia could be cut if the transitional government fails to agree to a plan to ensure that financial support is not squandered. The plan is called GEMAP. It would allow foreign experts to manage revenues collected at sites where in the past funds have been diverted by corrupt officials. Examples include airports and customs offices.

The plan allegedly has the support of several candidates running in the parliamentary and presidential elections set for October 11th. Donors hope the polls will set Liberia on a course for democracy and good governance after 14 years of civil war.

But at least one analyst says Liberia – and several other African countries described as “failed states” – lack the structures for sound governance. The analyst, Stephen Ellis, described the problem in an article in this month’s Foreign Affairs journal. He writes that Liberia, Somalia, Burundi and other countries may do better under the guidance of international trust bodies, or trusteeships.

Dr. Ellis is a senior researcher at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands. He told Voice of America reporter William Eagle that ruling elites in many of Africa’s failed states benefit economically and politically from disorder, and show little interest in seeing an efficient state emerge. On the other hand, he says even under a trusteeship, reconstruction could take from 10 to 50 years. International oversight would help ensure that revenues are applied to development, and do not become a source of graft. He says a similar idea is being applied to oversee the use of oil revenues in Chad.

Dr. Ellis says the trusteeships would include a strong indigenous component – such as an international corps of administrators made up of exiles to help run the governments. Grass roots political institutions -- such as local initiation societies in West Africa and subclans in Somalia -- could also be recruited to help govern.