Ever since it took office, the Liberian government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been calling for waiver of the country’s huge external debt. In solidarity with the government’s plea, some 40 civil society organizations from 15 African countries have ended a debt relief meeting in Monrovia, warning that Liberia’s debt is a serious impediment to the country’s fragile democracy and peace.
Liberia’s external debt now stands at three point six billion US dollars and the civil society groups have vowed to campaign for debt relief.
In a communiqué, the civil society groups called on the international community to immediately, totally and unconditionally cancel Liberia’s debt.
The debt relief and development dialogue was organized by the Center for democratic Empowerment, CEDE of Liberia in collaboration with the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development, AFRODAD based in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Ezekiel Pajibo is Executive Director of CEDE. He said, "We commit ourselves to show solidarity with the government and people of Liberia by putting the country's case to both the regional and international agenda. We will undertake civic education, consolidate the peace by supporting disarmament and promoting justice and reconciliation. We urge the international community to immediately and unconditionally cancel all Liberia's multilateral and bilateral debts so as to give the country a fresh start."
The Liberian government also has to content with a sizable domestic debt burden in the amount of seven hundred million US dollars.
Addressing the just-ended meeting, Liberia’s Finance Minister Antoinette Sayeh said due to the corrupt system of the past, some of the domestic debt are questionable.
Sayeh, a former World Bank employee, is hopeful that Liberia could benefit from multilateral debt cancellation. She says a multilateral debt initiative was introduced more than one year ago.
The head of the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development, Charles Mutasa wants the Liberian government to prioritize sustainable management of the country’s resources.
Graft, mismanagement and pillaging of Liberia’s resources by government officials have worsen the economic plight of ordinary Liberians over the years.
The Speaker of the Liberian Parliament, Edwin Snowe told the just-ended debt relief dialogue that if debt cancellation is to be possible, the government must tackle corruption.
He said, "If we want to look at the debt cancellation, we must first put our house in order. Allow me the first opportunity to publically extend thanks to CEDE and other civil society organizations for the fight against corruption in our society. We hope that we can turn a new page despite the accusations over the years, we hope we can turn a new page in moving Liberia forward. The cancellation of our debt of 3.6 billion United States dollars is in the right direction. We want to call on you to ask the international community to see reason in helping us, see reason in turning the page, see reason in accepting and welcoming the good policy that has been put in place by our government."
Meanwhile, the forty civil society organizations from 15 African countries are calling on the international community to facilitate the tracking and repatriation of Liberia’s stolen ealth accumulated by past leaders.