Liberia obeys donors and renounces thieving
September 14, 2005
Agence France-Presse

MONROVIA, Sept 14 (AFP) - Liberia's government said Wednesday that it has signed a anti-corruption document that donors have insisted it must accept in order to get financial backing for the west African state, which is heading for elections after years of civil war.
"The government is pleased to announce that together with our international partners, we have agreed that GEMAP (the financial assistance plan) is indeed what our country needs," Information Minister William Allen said in a statement.

In signing the anti-graft text on Tuesday, the transitional government reversed its stance after interim government chairman Gyude Bryant angrily rejected it. The document is known as the Governance Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP).

"I will not sign that document," Bryant told reporters Friday at Monrovia's airport as he was set to leave for this week's UN General Assembly meeting in New York, saying it was unclear and that it was putting him under pressure.

But Allen said, "We have studied the plan and it is now responding to our expectations. The plan will be renegotiated after 36 months. So the government sees no inconvenience."

"We have finally signed it after a meticulous study of the entire document," the minister added. A European diplomat observed that Bryant had come under pressure to comply in the United States.

Liberia is gearing up for presidential and legislative polls on October 11, to end the transition period that began in October 2003, two months after 14 years of civil war.

The donor plan mean the authorities should channel income under the watch of the UN mission currently active in Liberia to crack down on widespread fraud, embezzlement and other financial corruption.

In its last report on Liberia, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) warned the country, which has close ties with the United States since it was founded as a state under US tutelage in 1848, could collapse into violence if nothing was done to halt corruption.

"Donors, in conjunction with ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the AU (African Union) and UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia), and on the basis of investigations carried out in late 2004 and early 2005 by ECOWAS and the European Commission, concluded that theft and fraud within the transitional government were so great that they were sabotaging any possibility for durable peace building," the IGC said.

However, Bryant was particularly enraged by a statement on September 8 by the International Contact Group on Liberia -- made up of the United States, Britain, the African Union, ECOWAS and the European Union -- suggesting a failure to sign the anti-corruption deal would mean the loss of foreign aid.

"Liberia risks losing a 44-million-dollar assistance package from the European Commission and other funds if the country refused to implement the GEMAP," the contact group statement said.

Bryant accused the ICGL of trying to turn popular opinion against him.

"If you think that you can use the public sentiment to pressurise me, you are making a mistake. I will not sign that document because there are certain things in there that are not too clear," he said.

Asked Wednesday about the change of heart, a European diplomat in Monrovia said "in the US, Gyude Bryant had his arm twisted to accept the plan."

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