CRC Releases Methodologies for Constitution Review

Symposium participants listening to Vice President Boakai
Symposium participants listening to Vice President Boakai
Photo Credit: CRC

The Constitution Review Committee met with cross-section of Liberians on January 24-25, 2013 at a Symposium organized by the CRC in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission at the James Fromayan Conference Hall of the National Elections Commission under the Theme “DEVELOPING AN APPROACH TO REVIEW THE LIBERIAN CONSTITUTION.

It can be recalled that the Government of Liberia established a constitution review committee on August 27, 2012 and appointed five eminent Liberians to organize and lead the process for the review of the 1986 Constitution. The President later increased the number to six by appointing Reverend Dr. Jasper Samuel Ndaborlor.

The Liberian Government believes the review has become necessary to up-grade the 1986 constitution so that it addresses current democratic realities and those of the future. In an effort to achieve success, the CRC has embarked on a “Buy In” process by which the people of Liberia would establish ownership of the process and decide on how they want their country to be governed.

Since 1847, Liberians had been governed by a Constitution framed by few persons to govern over a million people until the military coup of April 12, 1980 which gave birth to the People’s Redemption Council. Though the 1847 Constitution was amended many times, the Military Government thought it was necessary to write a new constitution to reflect the aspirations of the people of Liberia. Thus, the 1986 Constitution was drafted by the Amos Sawyer Constitution Drafting Commission and revised the by Edward Kesselley’s Constitution Advisory Assembly.

Under the operation of the 1986 Constitution, Liberians experienced disruptions of normal life which was climaxed by 13 years of civil war. The thoughts of many Liberians were directed to many governance issues which informed the need for reform processes in post-war Liberia.

The Chairperson of the CRC, Cllr. Gloria M. Musu Scott welcomed participants to the Symposium and told them that they were invited so that the committee would benefit from their expertise. She pointed out that the methodology of the CRC would be BOTTOM TO TOP APPROACH in order for all Liberians irrespective of social, economic, political, religious, and ethnic differences would own the process. Cllr. Scott allayed the fears of participants in that the process would lack independence and clouded by official interferences by informing them that the committee’s terms of reference require that they be independent in the execution of their mandate and that the determination of what constitutes the views of citizens on a particular article of the constitution or another value for inclusion in the constitution would be without undue influence or manipulation and all such proposals and recommendations shall be submitted to the President for onward submission to the legislature; and if approved, submitted for referendum.

The Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, Dr. Joseph N. Boakai who declared the symposium opened told participants and Liberians that the Government of Liberia gives full support to the process and reiterated Government’s commitment to the independency of the CRC.

The CRC says its independence cannot be compromised because constitutional review is based on the principles of legitimacy, transparency, integrity, honesty, and people. Critical minds might see the involvement of the Law Reform Commission and the Governance Commission as a road link to compromises. But Cllr. Scott says the two commissions’ nature of technical and professional support will be determined by the CRC and assured. The committee believes the review of the constitution will result in the citizens of this nation taking earth shaking decisions which could alter forever the foundation and face of our nation. During the review, Liberians will need to determine among other issues:


a. Who is a Liberian?
b. Can persons of other races, other than persons of the Negro race become citizens?
c. Can dual citizenship be permissible?
d. Should the powers of the President be reduced?
e. Should the role of traditional leaders be given constitutional protection or guarantee?


The Chairperson of the Committee said if the process is fraught with confusion, the citizens would have no confidence in the outcome. Analysts and political parties including civil society agreed that independency is key in the credible outcome of the process.

At the symposium, issues bordering on constitutional provisions were raised. For instance, the civil society representative cited article one as lacking enforcement powers and therefore not protective of citizens; article 97 as violating article one; and article 11b not being enforced as far as women are concerned.


Political parties’ representative Abraham Mitchell said article 54 contradicts article one while article 27b portrays Liberia as a racist state and that article 97 need not to exist in the constitution as it was only an exit strategy for the PRC. 

The presentations created healthy democratic debates with views for and against. Both Justice Henry Reed Cooper and Veteran Journalist Kenneth Best voices were strong in support for article 27b with economic domination over Liberians and discriminations against Liberians by people of non-negroes race cited as the rationale for up-holding article 27b. The National Traditional Council Leader Chief Zanzan Kawor said the 1986 constitution does not operate in favor of traditional leaders and called for its re-visitation.


He also feels that many provisions of the constitution lack executing powers. For example, Chief Kawor cited article 34e which empowers the Legislature to establish claims court but up to date, no such court has been established. He wants executing powers that would compel the implementation of provisions. He further wants the Committee to review Article 77 with the hope of reducing the number of political parties to two or four.

The President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate who served as one of the panelists urged the CRC to conduct opinion survey and have the participatory involvement of districts, counties and the Diaspora. He wants a non-partisan approach and involvement of each citizen and hearing their opinion no matter what they are.

The Senate Leader urged the CRC to engage local languages and the media in the process and to carry out massive civic education as local people and many Liberians do not know what the constitution is. He wants the Judiciary and Bar Association to be involved since they deal with the constitution directly. For his part, the Indiana University Center for Constitutional Democracy (CCD) Professor David C. Williams who served as facilitator expressed appreciation that the symposium has been one of participation. He said if this spirit is followed, the constitution, when altered, would be stabled because the people themselves would have altered same and therefore would be loyal to it.

The Indiana constitutionalist observed that the Liberian Constitution concentrates more powers in the President than the Legislature. Some of those power are cultural and some constitutional. He spoke extensively on the unitary form and indicated that the federal system is best suited; but Liberians need not to engage the system in a hurry.

For his part, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the Legal and Judicial Systems Division of UNMIL expressed appreciation to the CRC for organizing such an interactive forum. He however advised that the CRC would need to work out mechanisms to deal with conflicting positions and establish procedures on how the CRC would identify solutions and how an agreement would be formed on conflicting views. He promised UNMIL assistance in those areas. The views expressed at the symposium on many more constitutional issues and problems have generally laid the premise that Liberians are ready to review their constitution.