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Liberian Lawyer Challenges Use of Foreign Forces During Election

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  • Butty interview with former TRC chairman Jerome Verdier

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James Butty

Media reports suggest Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf may be considering the use of Nigerian troops to strengthen security for Liberia’s October 11 general elections.

The Liberian Daily Observer newspaper Monday called on President Sirleaf not to “withhold such vital information from the people.”

Liberian Information Minister Cletus Sieh told VOA he was not prepared to comment on the matter.

However, Jerome Verdier, former chairman of Liberia’s disbanded Truth and Reconciliation Commission said President Sirleaf has no legal authority to unilaterally bring foreign troops into Liberia.

“Firstly, the United Nations is there [in Liberia]. The United Nations has responsibility for security in Liberia.  I think it would be illegal to bring in foreign troops without the consent, or acquiescence, of the United Nations,” he said.

Verdier said President Sirleaf must seek the approval of the Liberian legislature.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf looks on during the closing session of the 17th African Union Summit, at Sipopo Conference Center, outside Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (File Photo - July 1, 2011)
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf looks on during the closing session of the 17th African Union Summit, at Sipopo Conference Center, outside Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (File Photo - July 1, 2011)

“Secondly, is whether the president has the authority to do this unilaterally? No, the president cannot do it alone, that is, exercise sovereign authority.  She must seek the immediate consent of the national legislature. Besides that, there is no justifiable reason for inviting foreign troops into the country,” Verdier said.

The Liberian Daily Observer quotes Senator Abel Massaley as saying that the arrangement to deploy Nigerian troops in Liberia was in line with the 2003 Accra Peace Accord that ended Liberia’s long civil war.

But, the Daily Observer said its research shows the Accra Peace Accord did not authorize an elected government to bring foreign troops into Liberia.  The paper said the accord did allow the Transitional Government of Liberia to bring foreign troops into Liberia in case this was needed.

A former Liberian official, who served in the government of former President Samuel Doe, told VOA on condition of anonymity that, in 1990, President Doe did ask the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] to send foreign troops to Liberia.

But, Verdier said President Sirleaf cannot use the 1990 situation as a precedent because the situations are different.

“In 1980, actually, President Doe requested assistance from Nigeria, not necessarily ECOWAS. But, when the war went out of hand, ECOWAS approached the government of Liberia that there will be a need for them to come in, and ECOWAS troops came in whether the government of Liberia consented or not…But, this is peace time in Liberia and so the analogy cannot be the same; there is no basis except to preserve the president in power.  This is warmongering,” Verdier said.

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