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October 15, 2012

Liberia’s CDC Discusses Institutional Building and Reconciliation

by James Butty

Liberia’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), considered the country’s main opposition political party, has lost the last two presidential elections. 

It has been criticized as lacking the support of many of the country’s professionals and intelligentsia.  CDC founder George Weah told VOA recently the party has begun strategizing for the 2014 senatorial election and the 2017 presidential election. 

Over the weekend, the CDC-USA branch held a consultative forum to mark the inauguration of its officers. 

The topic of the forum was Institutional-Building through Reconciliation.”  Arthur Watson, former president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, told the forum that Liberia needs institutions that are transparent, efficient, and void of nepotism and corruption.

“When we build institutions and ensure that everyone operates within the framework of those institutions, we prevent conflict in our country.  When our legal institutions are strong and not beholding to any one person, not even the president of the nation, each person will play by the same rules and be accountable and held to the same standards.  Our people will feel safer because they will have equal access to due process under the law,” Watson said.

Another speaker, Abraham Massaley, called for a strong and effective national legislature.  He criticized the legislature as weak and ineffective.

Massaley proposed that the best way to make legislators accountable is to elect senators every six years, instead of every nine years.

CDC Institutional Building Forum

“The term of office for senators and representatives needs to be short enough to maintain an accountable link with the voters," he said. "Obviously, electing senators for nine years imposes very minimum responsibility on them to account to voters.  The more frequent our senators and representatives can face the voters, the more accountable they will be."

“Anyone who has read the recent FrontPage Africa article about increment in legislative salaries and benefits totaling more than $10,000 per month per legislator will agree with me that it is far too costly to maintain an unproductive senator in office for nine years than to hold elections to replace such a senator.  This is why I call on the CDC to lead the opposition to campaign vigorously for constitutional reform before, or during, the 2014 senatorial election,” Massaley said.

Samuel Tweah, former national chairman of CDC-USA, said institutional building is paramount to the CDC having lost two presidential elections.

He said the CDC should not just criticize the current government.  Instead, it must offer itself as the alternative.

“Any strategy in the CDC that focuses on [President] Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is not seeking re-election, is fundamentally unsound and flawed.  We need to show how we will be different from her,” he said.

Tweah said the CDC decided to launch its institutionalization campaign because the party realizes that no political party in Liberia can win an election if that party is overwhelmingly rejected by the country’s intelligentsia.

He said the CDC has also begun to address the concerns of some in the international community who have wondered whether the CDC, as the largest opposition party in Liberia, can govern.

“They have a stake; they’re spending a lot of money and so they want to understand the fundamental question: Can the CDC govern?  Can we trust the future of Liberia with the Congress for Democratic Change?  Can it marshall the capability to deliver outcomes that are sustainable economically and politically. That question, I would say, the CDC is beginning to address,” Tweah said.

There have been dissensions recently within the CDC resulting in the defection of some staunch members.

Massaley called on the CDC to first begin to reconcile itself, as it attempts to lead the way for national reconciliation. 

“There are no permanent enemies in politics.  In any large organization, such as the CDC, there will always be the struggle for competing ideas and interests.  But, in the end, the interest of the party must be the rallying point for party unity.  However, I am not implying that betrayal of the party interest be swept under the bus,” Massaley said.

Former member of Liberia’s disbanded Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Massa Washington, called for reconciliation through legal, economic and social justice. 

She called on the government to implement recommendations of various national commissions, including the TRC that called for accountability for gross human rights violations.