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Liberian Political Leaders Review Options For an Interim Government - 2003-07-11


Negotiations are under way among Liberian groups in Ghana on forming an interim government to replace President Charles Taylor, if and when he steps down from office. VOA's English to Africa reporter James Butty spoke with several political party leaders in the region about the options.

According to the Liberian cease-fire agreement, Liberians are supposed to come up with a framework for an interim government by July 17. The parties involved in the negotiations are the Liberian civil society, political parties, the Liberian government, and the two rebel groups: Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

"The political parties have agreed that, yes, we need a transitional government and that government should be tailored pretty much to our constitutional requirements of governance, operating under the three branches of government," said Gyude Bryant is leader of the Liberia Action Party. "There should be a head of state, a vice head of state. There should be the unicameral legislature and there should be a supreme court and the entire judicial system."

Mr. Bryant said the interim government should have the responsibility of disarming the various armed groups, resettling and repatriating Liberian refugees, and working with the United Nations to conduct elections.

"We expect an interim of inclusion," said Thomas Nimely, the chairman of the rebel group MODEL. "We had agreed for the Taylor government to take part in the interim government. However, we have to be sure that the people that are coming in from the Taylor government come in with genuineness. What we mean by that is that a few days ago, the defense minister proposed that the vice president of Taylor becomes the chairman of the interim government. This is not one of our expectations. We proposed that when the interim government sits, some parts of the constitution will be suspended. So that means that Taylor and his vice president will leave together."

Mr. Nimely says MODEL wants a smaller interim government and a restructured national police and military. He says MODEL's first priority is to repatriate Liberians from refugee camps in West Africa. Mr. Nimely also says MODEL wants the interim government to serve between two to three years.

Sekou Conneh, the chairman of the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) said his organization is not too concerned about the make-up of the interim government.

"Our organization concern is to liberate our country from Charles Taylor," he said. "When Taylor steps down, I continue to say that the Liberian people will get together to have an interim government with an interim head. We are not choosing anybody; we have not decided on anybody, and we are planning to get together to decide who to head the interim government. The only thing our organization supports is one president for the interim and one vice president. We don't want five-man council, and we don't want three-man council. That is not in the interest of the Liberian people."

Some Liberians meeting in the city of Philadelphia last weekend suggested they do not want any Americo-Liberians to lead the proposed interim government. An Americo-Liberian is a Liberian who is a descendent from freed American slaves. But Mr. Nimely of MODEL says such action is too divisive.

"From 1847 to now, I don't think there is any Americo-Liberian in Liberia," he explained. "If they do, then they will be pretending to be Americo-Liberians. They will be denying their identity as Liberians. We don't want to use phrases that will bring division and disintegration in our society."

Mr. Nimely said MODEL wants an impartial and patriotic interim leader, a person who would be committed to bringing peace to Liberia.