Chairman, Governance Commission, Liberia
Decentralization, Balancing the Central and Local, Containing Patronage Pressures
corruption, decentralization, depoliticization, donor relations, managing diversity, patronage, performance management, presidential appointees, reform sequencing, land reform, spoilers, consensus-building, peace-building, judicial reform
Thu Jul 16 2009
Amos Sawyer discusses the Liberian experience with decentralization, land reform and public sector reform. He speaks about further complications, including the aftermath of war and the role of property in exacerbating it; the inefficacy of, and lack of trust in, the judicial department; the unavailability of representative opinion polls; and the relationship between property holdings and women’s empowerment. Sawyer begins by explaining the goals of land reform in the country, and the tortuous process of building support for land reform among the populace, nongovernmental organizations, international donors and the cabinet, and building credibility for the government. Sawyer reflects on public-sector reform and the challenges of coordinating reform throughout the government, especially in relation to patronage and ghost workers. He speaks about corruption reform in the police, judiciary and bureaucracy through the Anti-Corruption Commission, and its effect on institutional memory. Sawyer also reflects in detail about the role of international donor agencies, and the need for contextually sound goals, implemented with patience through cooperation instead of myopic adherence to narrow goals. Lastly, he discusses the role of spoilers in the Liberian reform process, and emphasizes the necessity for visionary leadership.
At the time of the interview, Amos Sawyer was chairman of the Governance Commission in Liberia, which was set up under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2003. He was the president of the Interim Government of National Unity in Liberia between 1990 and 1994. Sawyer earned a doctoral degree in political science from Northwestern University, and after his presidency was a research scholar at Indiana University in Bloomington. He also wrote two books: Beyond Plunder: Toward Democratic Government in Liberia, and The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia: Tragedy and Challenge.