The Center in Liberia
Liberia emerged from a prolonged and terrible civil war in 2003. The roots of the conflict were largely constitutional: an excessive concentration of power in the president and the marginalization of the indigenous population, which constitutes a majority of the citizenry. To avoid repetition of the war, the Liberian government is seeking to address the underlying constitutional issues which still remained, and the Center has assisted in that process.
The Center’s Liberia program consists of one central project:
- Assisting the government of Liberia in constitutional and governance reform
Constitutional and Governance Reform in Liberia
The Center advises Liberia’s Law Reform Commission, and Center members have helped to write Liberia’s law reform and anti-corruption statutes. The Center also helped to draft the statute that set up the constitutional reform process and currently serves as an official advisor to that process.
In cooperation with Liberian scholars, Center personnel wrote the first-ever treatise on the meaning of the Liberian constitution. The text of Liberia’s constitution is similar to the text of the U.S. Constitution, but the courts have interpreted those words quite differently on either side of the Atlantic. The treatise therefore examines the meaning of the Liberian Constitution as defined by many decades of Supreme Court precedent, and provides a baseline for considering reforms to that constitution.
In 2013, the Constitutional Reform Commission asked the CCD to assist in the development of a process of public consultation which would increase the public’s engagement with the reform process. The goal of the public consultation process was to gather information about the needs and desires of the people of Liberia, in order to assist the Constitutional Review Committee with the design of amendments responsive to the people’s needs, and then to provide public education about the final proposed amendments so the people could cast informed votes in the referendum that would be required at the end of the process. The Center developed guidelines to ensure that the process would be welcoming and inclusive for all of Liberia’s people, including women, youth, the disabled, and rural people who do not speak English.
In March 2014 CCD personnel traveled to Liberia. They spent a week meeting with the Law Reform Commission and drafting a series of proposed amendments to Liberia’s constitution. A delegation of Liberian leaders traveled to Bloomington in September 2015 to refine these proposals before presenting them to the Legislature.