International Press:

Liberia obeys donors and renounces thieving

September 14, 2005   
Agence France-Presse

Anti-Graft Plan Endorsed to Cheers From World Donors
September 15, 2005


The Governance Economic Management Assistance Programme (GEMAP):
Liberia under tutelage?

Liberia's transitional government recently agreed with a controversial document that for the next 36 months will place the country under tutelage of a team of foreign financial experts who will have co-signatory powers. The document is known as the Governance Economic Management Assistance Programme (GEMAP).

The non-Liberian financial experts will be occupying key-administrative positions in the Central Bank of Liberia and the five main revenue generating agencies:

  1. The National Port Authority
  2. The Forestry Development Authority
  3. The Bureau of Maritime Affairs
  4. Robertsfield International Airport
  5. The Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation

GEMAP is an anti corruption document which - though negotiated by the transitional government1) - was imposed by international donors2) willing to assist the country in its reconstruction and recovery programme after the end of the civil war, but who saw the funds being diverted from their use because of theft, embezzlement, fraud and other financial corruption.

1) The initial Plan called LEGAP leaked in mid June 2005.

2) The International Donors form the International Contact Group on Liberia, composed of: USA, Great Britain, African Union, ECOWAS, European Union, UN/UNMIL, IMF and the World Bank.

Is it not the first time in Liberia's history that the dependence on foreign funds led the country into serious problems. On one occasion in the nation's history it triggered a coup d'état. It also led to the appointment of foreigners in strategic positions, in 1906 and 1912. The most notorious loan, however, which seriously endangered the country's sovereignty was the loan that accompanied Firestone's investment in Liberia (1926). Liberians were so relieved when the loan was finally repaid, under the Tubman administraton (1944-'71), that they erected a statue for President Tubman to express their gratitude.

In the present case (GEMAP) the tutelage has an even more complicated background. The country is slowly recovering from the devastating consequences of the 14-year civil war. The funds needed for this recovery are beyond Liberia's own means. Moreover the fragile peace which must make this recovery possible is maintained by a costly international peacekeeping operation, UNMIL, amounting to US $ 760 million (2006 budget) and involving some 15,000 UN peacekeepers and 1,100 international police officers. The UN peacekeeper mandate was recently extended until March 31, 2006.

After the October 11, 2005 elections a new president and government will be installed in January 2006. Donors, as well as ordinary Liberians fear a weakening security situation in case the available funds (both from Liberian sources and from international donors) are squandered and not efficiently used for the country's recovery. This makes the tutelage evolving from GEMAP different from the Receiverships imposed by the 1906 and 1912 loans or the loss of sovereignty resulting from the Firestone loan.

Be that as it may, ordinary Liberians have lost their confidence in their leaders and their politicians. As one Liberian commented: "This (our) country needs an external force to run the country and keep the peace." (private correspondance author). It brings back memories of President Arthur Barclay's view expressed in his first Inaugural Address. That was a hundred years ago, in 1904. Also then the admission that Liberia needed external assistance was a controversial one. 

Controversial loans and their malignant consequences were:



© fpm van der kraaij  / September 2005