December 6, 2023

Local Officials frown on Local Government Act

Local officials from across Bong and Montserrado Counties converged at a one day dialogue of traditional leaders under the flagship “The Women Situation Room (WSR)” initiated by the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) to discuss the Local Government Act 2018, its implementation, and impact on the local governance structure of the county, especially women.

The dialogue took place Tuesday, March 3, 2022, in the Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia. The forum included superintendents, traditional chiefs, mayors, and commissioners among others.

The Local Government Act 2018 is the law passed to give the legal effect to most provisions of the National Policy on the Decentralization and Local Governance. The aim of both the policy and the law is to ensure Government is decentralized so for people to have more opportunities to participate in decision-making and policy development at the local level as a means of strengthening democracy and promoting socio-economic development.

During the discussion, the local officials outlined barriers and negative perceptions to women’s inclusive participation and leadership. They said, most part of the Act is not executed, adding that the Act is not having a holistic impact on the local officials, saying most of the local cities are not in the national budget thereby undermining the operation of most local officials.

Esther Walker, Bong County Superintendent urged CSOs to advocate for gender balance in the counties, mentioning that there is no woman in the local leadership of Gbarpolu County, she said the situation needs serious attention and added that gender inclusion will make a greater impact in the counties and the nation at large.

Arthur Kolleh, one of the oldest commissioners of the Zota District noted that representatives should be Keen on the budgetary allotment for cities that are left out of the National Budget. Arthur Kolleh was followed by John Tucker, the Superintendent of Todee District like other speakers, he informed the gathering that women have been marginalized for years and that it is now time that men will see their counterparts and begin to give them the equal opportunity at all levels.

Mr. Tucker added, “Men have failed in many ways. Even now there are not many women yet in the local governance structure of the country. I think it is now time we give them the chance.”

Serving as a facilitator, the Acting Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mr. Boniface S. Kolee noted that women should not be left out but brought together side by side to work for the development of the country. “They have been marginalized for years and there is a need that we bring them closer and give our support to them for leadership.”

Following the discussion of the local officials, the Establishment Coordinator of the influential Liberian-Based Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security, Counsellor Dr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh admonished the local authorities who are coming to seek WSR approval for public commit themselves to their decisions.

She said the lawmakers who are elected already, the local officials have the right to call them to assembly to account to them. Madam Chesson-Wureh added, ” The role of the legislators is to put those necessary things that are to benefit the districts and not to give hand out”, adding that “The role of the legislature is to put it in the budget and not to build roads and clinics.”

“Get to them, let them know what your Issues are and when they are going to resolve them with a timeline, because you voted them into power and they must be accountable to you”, Cllr Chesson-Wureh added.

Attending the program were some prominent women including former Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia Cllr. Frances Johnson Morris, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Olubanke King Akerele, and former Monrovia City Mayor Ophelia Saytumah amongst others.

Reported by: Stephen G. Fellajuah
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