Ruthie Ackerman has an article on The Daily Beast about the root causes of recent deadly clashes in Lofa County. (Hint: weak rule of law institutions, not religion or ethnicity.) She includes this important observation:
More danger seems to be on the horizon after Liberia’s Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization revealed that it is traveling to neighboring Guinea to search for the perpetrators of the violence in Lofa County. Guinea borders Liberia to the north and is just a few kilometers away from the capital of Voinjama. Looking to “outsiders” or “foreigners” as the culprits of violence is nothing new in the region. When violence broke out in Guinea last year, the government pointed the finger at Liberia. The problem is that by making foreigners the scapegoat of the violence, anger toward anyone deemed an outsider continues to brew. This is particularly troubling for Mandingos, who, although Liberian, are considered by many to be foreigners.
Big hat tip to Glenna for pointing out this Wall Street Journal piece on defense contractors expanding to justice sector work in Liberia and elsewhere. This is not new; PAE (a Lockheed Martin company) has trained prosecutors in Liberia for years. What is new? Using defense contractors to, “test an emerging tenet of [US] security policy[…] ‘smart power’ […] blends military might with nation-building activities.”
- Does it work? The WSJ reported several years ago that the US refused to reveal the details of its contracts with defense companies to the Liberian government, despite the fact that these companies were training Liberia’s army. I imagine the US has done studies to evaluate the effectiveness of these contractors, but I wonder if the Liberian government has been allowed to see these studies.
- What are the long-term implications of the short-term presence of these contractors? Could their presence somehow supplant the work of local civil society groups?
An excerpt from the article:
Others worry that once defense firms get into this business, their longstanding relationship with the U.S. government will end up driving more money into these initiatives, no matter the results. “It’s sort of like the soft-power industrial complex,” says William Hartung […]
Up until tonight, I had read in my life only two articles on Liberia that involved serious investigative reporting. The first was a piece in the Wall Street Journal a few years back about the US Embassy refusing to tell the Department of Defense how much money they were spending to train the Liberian army. The second I’m not going to mention, but it appeared in a Liberian paper.
So tonight’s article marks the third. (Hat tip to Brad.) Jina Moore and Glenna Gordon have a piece in Foreign Policy that documents why courts, lawyers, and the parliament do not have physical copies of the country’s complete legal code: Philip Banks, a former Minister of Justice under Sirleaf, has copyrighted many of the volumes of legal code!
…Banks led a team of lawyers… to codify the country’s newest laws. The project…won just over $400,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice…
Defending himself in an interview with FP on Oct.27, Banks says he numbered, bound, and indexed the newer laws — intellectual work that he claims as his original property. Banks says the DoJ funding wasn’t enough to cover his costs. So when DoJ declined to give him more, he asserted a claim of copyright on the work, according to an explanation of the issue he sent by e-mail to a justice sector consultant in 2006. It’s a claim he has appeared willing to relinquish several times for sums between $150,000 and $360,000, according to the e-mail exchanges, which were obtained by FP.
Banks and the group he worked with are trying to sell the copyright to the Liberian government for a few hundred thousand dollars.
Read the whole article here.