(May 8, 2017) Civil society organizations that supported the nationwide consultations on the Constitutional Review Process are calling on the Liberian Senate to deliberate and reach a conclusion on the propositions recommended for amendment by the House of Representatives. This exercise will set the framework for a possible referendum in 2018.
Liberia embarked on a Constitution review process in 2014 with the completion of 73 consultations held at the national and local levels including the Diaspora (Ghana and USA). Over 10, 000 Liberians from the 73 constituencies in all 15 counties and Diaspora participated in these public consultations. 35% of those who participated in these consultations were women.
On August 13, 2015, the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf submitted the final Constitution Review recommendations to the Legislature through the President Pro-Tempore to be studied for possible legislative action that could constitute propositions that would be submitted to registered voters for amendment through a national referendum.
The Legislative Committee on Governance, Judiciary and Elections of the House of Representatives discussed the relevance of the 25 recommendation submitted for consideration. They held public hearings and finally agreed on eight (8) recommendations that were submitted to the Liberian Senate since 2016 for concurrence. The Liberian Senate is yet to introduce or hold deliberations on the eight (8) recommendations.
The 8 propositions recommended by the Lower House to the Liberian Senate are:
- Reduction in the tenures of elected officials; President, Representatives (4 years) and Senators (6 years)
- Opening or restricting Citizenship to people of non negro descent,
- Acceptance or rejection of Dual Citizenship in Liberia,
- Enhancement of Women participation in National Affairs,
- That Traditional Liberians own their own land and be parties to negotiations with investors or concessionaires on said land.
- That the date for elections in Liberia be changed from second week in October of election year to second week in March of election year.
- That local leaders including superintendents and commissioners be elected.
- That the number of political parties be reduced to just four.
In furtherance of the above observation, the concerned civil society groups including (NAYMOTE, PMU, LDMI, IREDD and SAIL) wish to advance the following recommendations:
- That the Liberian Senate through a deliberative process makes its view heard on the eight (8) recommendations submitted to it by the House of Representatives.
- That the Committee on Internal Affairs, Good Governance and Reconciliation at the Liberian Senate, Chair by Senator Thomas Grupee takes leadership in introducing the recommendations on the floor for deliberations.
- That a joint working session between the Senate and House of Representatives be held to fully agree and take action on the eight (8) recommendations approved by the House of Representatives by passing a Bill of Referendum.
The amendment of the Constitution through a referendum will contribute meaningfully in addressing some of the governance challenges facing the country including dual citizenship, reduction of tenure of elected public officials, decentralization, and the elections of local leaders.
The concerned Civil society institutions are organizing series of events to create awareness on the 8 propositions recommended by the Lower House to the Liberian Senate and work with the responsible committees in the Liberian Senate to get the bill introduce, discuss and approve for referendum before the campaign process start for the 2017 elections.
The concerned civil society groups are working with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through funding from USAID but view express are solely the view from the concerned CSOs.