MIA – THEN, NOW AND ONWARDS:
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Nation’s oldest and largest institution, has seen significant reforms since its establishment in 1864, known then as the PARISH. The changes were manifested in all key areas, including its Mandate, Nomenclature and Structure.
In the first few decades of the young Republic, the territorial influence of government could be extended and felt only a few hundred kilometers in-land from the coast. Interaction with the rural masses was very limited. Therefore,the institution’s responsibility was, to Administer Local Governance which basically involved Collection of Taxes, Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility, and Seeking the Welfare of the People.
As the years passed and Liberia advanced in age, experience and international recognition, so also the scope and demands of Local Administration broadened andnecessitated fundamental changes with the times. Thus, the name of the governing entity was changed from the PARISH, first, to DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR (1927), then to MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND URBAN RECONSTRUCTION (1971), and again, to MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS (1982), the present name.
Along with the change of names also evolved the structure of the institution.Under the PARISH, was a single Department of Administration with Divisions and Sections to handle specific duties. Under the INTERIOR DEPARTMENT, special Sections such as Native and Tribal Affairs, and Native Appellate Court, were created to deal with tribal and cultural matters. Under MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND URBAN RECONSTRUCTION, The two large Departments of Rural Development and Urban Affairs were created; and finally under INTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTRY, the Rural Development Department was merged with the newly created Ministry of Rural Development at the time, now Ministry of Public Works, and the Department of Operation was created in its place.
The Ministry has since remained Internal Affairs, before and after the civil crisis, with four large Departs of Administration, Operation, Urban Affairs and Research and Development Planning, which comprise Divisions, Bureaus and Sections that carry out requisite activities.
In the early 1970’s when the two new Departments of Rural Development and Urban Affairs were created, the Ministry’s mandate took on a new dimension making it development oriented as it undertook development of rural communities, and urban centers throughout the country. In all 15 Counties, selection, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects have been a perennial process. Some of the projects are undertaken directly on government funding, while others are funded by development partners, such as: roads and bridges; local administrative buildings; commissioners’ residences; schools; clinics markets; peace huts; latrines; wells; etc.
The administrative structure of this immense public institution is in two tiers; Central Administration, and Local Administration.
· Central Administration is the corps of personnel assigned at the Headquarters or Central Office of the Ministry with specific duties and functions of administering the affairs of the political sub-divisions of the Country. This body of personnel includes:
1. The Minister
2. Deputy Ministers
3. Assistant Ministers
6. General Staff
· Local Administrationis the sum-total of personnel who run the various political sub-divisions of the Country as Local Government. This leadership structure comprises the following:
1. County Superintendent
2. County Inspector
3. Statutory District Superintendent
4. District Commissioner
5. Township Commissioner
6. Paramount Chief
7. Clan Chief
8. General Town Chief
9. City Mayor (Municipal Leader)
The metamorphosis of the Ministry over the years did not only cause meaningful reforms at Central Administration. It also took place on the local level evolving both the political subdivisions and their leadership.
A. Political Subdivisions: The nascent Republic which started out as Settlements comprised the three Counties of Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Sinoe. In time, the Counties of Maryland and Grand Cape Mount were added. Later, Bong, Nimba, Lofa and Grand Gedeh were created, making them nine. Political maneuverings after the military coup and the civil crisis raised the tally to the current fifteen: Bomi; Bong; Gbarpolu; Grand Bassa; Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh; Grand Kru; Lofa; Margibi; Maryland; Montserrado; Nimba; River Gee; RiverCess and Sinoe.
B. Local Leadership:While the leadership structure remained relatively intact, it too has seen some refinement, in chain of command, and in transparency:
1. County Superintendent
2. County Inspector
3. District Commissioner
4. Township Commissioner
5. Paramount Chief
6. Clan Chief
7. General Town
8. Mayor (Municipal leader)
Local Governance – The New Dimension:
In 2006, the beginning of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration, Local Government Administration began to see a new dimension of governance system that is gradually transforming the development landscape and changing the mindset of both the Leaders and the Governed. Leaders are more open, responsive and accountable, while community dwellers are playing a greater role in development activities, (decision-making and participation).
A. Objectives:The objectives of this new governance system were, to make both Leaders and the Governed more aware and responsive to their rights, limitations, responsibilities, potentials and their duty to the State, among others.
B. Social Cohesion:The gradual positive change of mindset under the new system of Bringing Government Closer to the People clearly began an erosion and replacement of the old system of ‘Everything being Decided and Controlled from Monrovia’.
C. Level of Achievement: Before the civil crisis and up to 2006, the old government policy of Centralized Control from Monrovia, made development very slow. Implementation of projects decided in Monrovia did not have support and participation of the people and became white elephants (abandoned, un-used).Since 2006 however, the level of the Ministry’s achievement has greatly increased:
· All public structures destroyed during the war have been re-built or renovated (schools, clinics, markets administrative buildings, etc.)
· Feeder roads and bridges constructed or rehabilitated.
· Local Government Administrative Channels strengthened.
· Selection, financing and implementation of development projects decentralized.
· No more administration of Sassy-wood to witchcraft suspects.
· No more Trial by Ordeal (Putting hot cutlass on the foot of suspects.)
· Local Leaders more responsive, dutiful and transparent.
D. Impact on the People: Implementation of the new government policies since 2006 has improved local governance immensely transforming rural lives and communities throughout the Country.
· Government expenditure more effectively managed.
· More development projects completed and fully utilized by the people.
· More special programs successfully implemented with people participation and ownership, under MIA supervision:
1. Nation Policy on Decentralization Policy
2. MIA 5-year Development Plan
3. National Locality Directory
4. Personnel Re-documentation.
5. Streamlining Local Administrative Structure (Boundary Harmonization).
6. National Identification Registry.
7. Effective Management of Access to County and Social Development Funds.
8. National Roadmap to Peace Building, National Healing and Reconciliation Vision (Vision 2030).
The historic achievements of the Ministry in the relatively short period, 2006 – 20013, encapsulated in the brief outline above is no doubt credited, first to her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, under whose Administration, and by whose appointment, three very distinguished Sons of the Soil (Ambulai B. Johnson, Harrison S. Karnwea and Blamoh Nelson ), ably supervised implementation of those specific policies and plans that yielded these notable results, each in his own style of leadership.
1. Ambulai B. Johnson – (Intellectual, Pragmatist, Teacher, Workaholic). Credited with Modernization, Capacity Building, Structural Reforms and Human Resource Development.
2. Harrison S. Karnwea – (Pragmatist, Shrewd Entrepreneur, Profoundly Dedicated, Workaholic). Credited with ‘Taking Government to the People’, and Setting the Stage for Implementation of the National Decentralization Policy.
3. Blamoh Nelson – (Political Activist, Advocate for Positive Change, Workaholic). Credited with Accentuating dignity of the National Culture and Traditional Leadership, as well as Formulation of Frameworks, Guidelines and capacity for smooth transition to a new fully Decentralized Liberia.
4. Morris M. Dukuly, Sr( A Seasoned Journalist, Pragmatist and Dedicated Agent of Pursuit of Execellence) served from May 2013-to October 2015. He is credited for gaining international support to key programs of the Ministry inclduing the Liberia Decentralization Program, Disaster Relief and others. Through this effort, the Decentralization program took a giant step with the launxh of the National Deconcentration Platform which is seing the establisments fo County Service Centers throughout the Country. The first Cunty Serivce Center was opened in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County in June 2015, with others line up to be opened sooned in Bong, Nimba, Lofa, and Margibi Counties before the end of 2015. In October 2013, Mr. Dukuly successful coordinated the holding of a Joint Council of Chiefs Meeting in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County. This meeting was a joint effort by the Governments of Liberia and the Ivory Coast towards building peace along bordering communities.
Given the level of development achieved at this point in the second term of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Administration, Local Governance in Liberia is now teetering on a pedestal of hope and resolve of the Liberian people, at the cross-roads of,patriotic sacrifices for a better tomorrow or reckless complacency and selfish individualism, certain to cage the Nation in perpetual mediocrity; (TO BE, OR NOT TO BE).
Former President of Cuttington University, Dr, Henrique Flomo Tokpa is the current Minister. I was appointed in early January 2016. He subsequently went through confrimation by the Liberia Senate and took over on February 8, 2016.
The degree of patriotism and collective resolve to put away petty differences and give our individual best in our various walks of life, will determine how fast we will go, and how soon we will get there, if we will.
There are four departments; Administration, Urban Affairs, Operations and Research & Development Planning.