Gyude Bryant

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Gyude Bryant
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL)
Term: August 2003 – January 2006

After Charles Taylor left Liberia for Nigeria in 2003, the nation was under the temporary leadership of his Vice President, Moses Blah. During this time, representatives of the government of Liberia, the various warring factions and ECOWAS were meeting in Akosombo and Accra, Ghana, having peace talks for a transitional government that would lead the country into national elections and a stable government.

These final peace talks began on June 4, 2003 and ended on August 18, 2003. Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, negotiations were reached between the Liberian Government, The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group, The Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) rebel group and the Political Parties, selecting business man Gyude Bryant as a neutral party to head the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL).

Charles Gyude Bryant was born on January 17, 1949 in Monrovia, although he was of the Grebo tribe from Maryland County. He earned a Bachelor’s of Economics from Cuttington University College in 1972. He was also into politics and served as an official of the Liberia Action Party (LAP). Bryant was a business man heading a heavy equipment company and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Church of Liberia when he was selected to head the NTGL.

He began his term as Liberia’s 6th interim leader on October 14, 2003. He was not well known in political circles at this point and was selected because the agreement of the accord did not permit any member of the warring factions to head the transitional government. He was assisted by Wesley Johnson and the 2 rebel groups held half the cabinet positions.

The transitional government would work with international organizations to maintain the ceasefire, carry out massive disarmament and lead the nation back to peace. This was seen as a time and opportunity to transform governance in shattered Liberia. The Peace agreement allowed the creation of the Government Reform Commission that would assist the Interim Government in transparent and accountable management of government contracts and activities ensuring they were all legitimate and acceptable.

The international partners including the World Bank, ECOWAS, IMF, USAID and other US institutions were tasked with providing the technical assistance in helping the NTGL achieve this goal. UNMIL took over the peacekeeping mission from ECOMOG and would help in restoring structure in the government.

The NTGL was enthusiastic about these changes and Bryant passed Executive Order No. 2 which centralized revenue authority at the Ministry of Finance and government accounts at the Central Bank. Other measures included the formation of the Interim National Elections Commission, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Concessions and Monopolies Commission and the General Auditing Commission.

In an attempt to curb corruption, Bryant asked the European Commission (EC) to audit the government and reveal the level of corruption that had ensued under the Taylor administration that had just ended. The lack of documentation and accounts from the Taylor era prompted the EC to audit the NTGL instead.

The European Commission audits concluded in early 2005 and included the Central Bank of Liberia, Bureau of Maritime Affairs, National Port Authority, Roberts International Airport, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company and the Forestry Development Authority. Its findings were reported to the partner organizations and the UN Security Council in March 2005.
Per Dwan and Bailey, the results were the most comprehensive empirical evidence to date of the extent of corruption in Liberia; so dramatic were the data that the EC did not immediately release them for fear of the reaction they might provoke.

Concerned that government corruption rendered the peace process fragile; ECOWAS began its own investigation of the NTGL with Bryant’s consent. The Liberian judiciary resisted, government officials were uncooperative and the Liberian Institute of Certified Public Accountants asked the Supreme Court to prohibit government officials from participating. The high court refused their plea and ECOWAS was able to conduct the investigation that also found a high level of corruption in the NTGL.

With this level of corruption, it was obvious that the NTGL was not committed to governance reform. Although hesitant based on the audits, the international partners came up with GEMAP as a solution. This was met with objection and a counter plan, the Liberia Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme (LGMAP) from the NTGL claiming that 2 provisions of GEMAP were an infringement on Liberia’s sovereignty. After much delay from the NTGL, pressure on Bryant from Washington, New York, Brussels and other partners, as well as the threat of foreign aid withdrawal forced him to sign GEMAP on September 9, 2005, right before he left office.

– Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme (GEMAP): partnership between the Government of Liberia and the international community (UN, EU, ECOWAS, AU, US, IMF, WB) to improve governance, enhance transparency and accountability of public financial management, procurement and granting of concessions. The Agreement was conceived in direct response to concerns about the mismanagement of public resources during Liberia’s post-conflict transition and the threat it represented to the peace process. Elements include provision of internationally-recruited advisors with co-signature authority to key revenue generating Liberian institutions, training and capacity building;

– multi donor trust fund initiatives:
(i) infrastructure: Liberia Reconstruction Trustfund (LRTF), World Bank
(ii) education: UNICEF
(iii) health sector: DFID

-European Commission, 2008

With the help of the international partners, the NTGL made much progress in restoring peace to Liberia. Many fighters were disarmed and warring factions disbanded. A large number of refugees were also resettled. Elections were held in October 2005 with a runoff in November when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected. This goal of the peace agreement had been achieved and in January 2006, the new administration assumed power. It was unfortunate that the economic and governance reform was greatly hindered by political and technical challenges.

Bryant returned to private life and was not active in the Liberian government or politics. In October 2007, the Liberian Government charged him with embezzlement and economic sabotage, claiming he had misappropriated more than 1.3 million US dollars while heading the NTGL. They asserted that the ECOWAS audit and their internal audit had revealed several top officials misusing public funds. Bryant would stand trial and be an example of the government’s anti corruption stance.

In a speech to the nation Monday, President Sirleaf promised to prosecute anyone involved in corruption in her government or in previous administrations. The Liberian information minister says the indictment of Mr. Bryant will put corrupt officials on notice.

-VOA News, Oct. 2007

The former head of state maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal. His lawyers claimed he was entitled to sovereign immunity from prosecution as he was the head of state when the alleged crimes occurred. The Supreme Court approved his trial in August 2007, stating that he was not an elected President, but head of an interim leadership created by the CAP. In December he was arrested when he failed to appear in court, but was later released.

Eventually the charges were dropped in 2010 when the government that claimed it had proof from the ECOWAS audit and its own investigation failed to prove its case. Shortly after, Bryant met with President Sirleaf to thank the government for its decision and discuss their common concerns.

Bryant died on April 16, 2014 at the JFK Medical Center in Monrovia. According to his wishes, his family asked that there was no state pageantry over his remains. Hence, there was no Official Gazette, flag draped coffin, laying in state, 21-Gun Salute, military function or any form of state display. President Sirleaf delivered the eulogy on behalf of the nation. Bryant was laid to rest on May 14, 2014 in Crozerville, Monteserrado County.


References

Azango, Mae. Bryant Laid to Rest: Liberians Witness Emotional Funeral. Front Page Africa Online. 15 May 2014. Web.

Bryant to Head Liberia’s New Transitional Government – 2003-08-21. VOA News. 21 Aug. 2003. Web.

Butty, James. Gyude Bryant, Liberia’s Sixth Transitional Leader, Dies at 65. VOA News. 17 Apr. 2014. Web.

Cook, Nicolas. Liberia’s Post-War Development: Key Issues and U.S. Assistance. Congressional Research Service. 19 May 2010. Web.

Joint Annual Report on Liberia. European Commission. Sep. 2008. Web.

Dwan, Renata & Bailey Laura. Liberia’s Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme (GEMAP). A joint review by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Peacekeeping Best Practices Section and the World Bank’s Fragile States Group. May 2006. Web.

Former Liberian Leader Bryant Charged With Embezzlement. VOA. 27 Oct. 2009. Web.

Former Liberian Transitional President Arrested for Corruption. VOA. 01 Nov. 2009. Web.

Former National Transitional Government Chairman Gyude Bryant Pays Courtesy Call on President Sirleaf. The Executive Mansion. 29 Sep. 2010. Web.

Gyude Bryant: Charges dropped against Liberia ex-leader. BBC News. Africa. 27 Sep. 2010. Web

Letter dated 7 June 2005 from the Panel of Experts on Liberia addressed to the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003) concerning Liberia (UN S/2005/360). 13 Jun. 2005.

Liberia’s new consensus leader. BBC News. 21 Aug. 2003. Web.

Sawyer, Amos. The Legacy of Charles Gyude Bryant. Liberian Observer/Daily Observer. 21 Apr. 2015. Web.

Sieh, Rodney. “Proclamation of Death: Charles Gyude Bryant, II, Ex-Interim Prez.” Front Page Africa Online. 21 Apr. 2014.

Yearbook of the United Nations. Sixtieth Anniversary Edition. United Nations. 2005. Web.


Last updated: November 16, 2019