Organizers of the upcoming national symposium on Liberia’s symbols and national awards have selected renowned Catholic Sister Mary Laurene Browne, to deliver the keynote address.
The symposium is scheduled for Friday, June 6, at the Paynesville Town Hall, outside Monrovia.
Friday’s symposium is the first major activity aimed at bringing people together to discuss the essence of the national awards project—the symbols and the possibilities for making a few important improvements where necessary.
The symposium will be held under the theme: “Reviewing Liberia’s National Symbols to Help Generate a National Identity.” It is expected to bring together Liberians from all walks of life including, women groups, the media, academia, and others.
Other prominent speakers will include the South African Ambassador to Liberia, Masilo E. Mabeta, Liberia’s Ambassador to Senegal, Brahima Kaba, the chairperson of the History Department at the University of Liberia, Dr. William E. Allen, and former Associate Justice and current chairperson of the International Human Rights Commission, Cllr. Gladys Johnson.
The one-day symposium, according to a statement, will set the stage for a close and critical look at Liberia’s national symbols and awards.
Since the 1970’s, Liberians have been calling for changes in the national symbols and awards to reflect the historical narratives and realities of all of people that the Liberian nation comprised.
It has been argued that the current symbols and awards do not represent the cultural breadth and historical depth of Liberians.
In 1974, President William R. Tolbert Jr., through an Act of Legislature, established a commission to review the Liberian Constitution, national symbols, motto, and anthem. The commission was headed by the then Minister of Postal Affairs, Mckinley A. Deshield, and 50 other representatives from the existing counties. The commission concluded that Liberians did not need major changes in the symbols, but suggested changes in the motto and wordings of the seal. Those were not done and have not been attempted up to the present.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (TRC) took the issue a step farther, referring to some national symbols as divisive. The TRC suggested that somehow, these symbols might have had a part to play in what led to this nation’s 14-year conflict.
A TRC-sponsored National Conference had recommended among other things, a review of the national symbols and awards.
Liberia’s 15-year development plan, the “Agenda for Transformation and the broader National Vision 2030 Initiative recommend the same in its list of priorities on peace and reconciliation interventions. It also proposed the establishment of “…a forum of Liberians of diverse backgrounds to discuss issues of national history, symbols and identity, and reconciliation.”
In reaction to this, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on February 6, this year, launched a National Symbol Review Project under the statutory authority of the Governance Commission with Dr. D. Elwood Dunn as Project Coordinator.
This week’s symposium represents several months of doing everything possible to make the project a reality. It is hoped that in the process, this nation’s ongoing constitutional review would be impacted, setting the stage for a new identity for a formerly, dichotomous (divided into two part) nation and people.