By Togba-Nah Tipoteh
The news in Liberia and around the world is that Dr. Mary Nema Brownell is dead. Yes, she is dead but certainly not gone. Dr. Brownell is not gone because she remains in the memory and work of thousands of people who worked with her and whose lives she touched. What you are about to read is on the work of Dr.Mary Nema Brownell, as she influenced societal decisions here in Liberia and elsewhere in the world. I know about her work because I worked with her in societal endeavors for over thirty years. The story of her work is being told here to help us all to solve the most important problem in Liberia and in many countries of the world. This most important problem is: Raising Awareness and Motivating People, especially young people, to know that there is is no need for violence because there are non-violent or peaceful ways to solve problems.
THE DAY LIBERIA STOOD STILL
Liberia stood still on January 10, 1997 because of the leadership that Dr. Brownell showed in working with patriotic Liberians to use non-violent methods for disarmament in the midst of the Civil War in Liberia. On that day, you could not find more than twenty persons together on Broad Street, the largest street in Liberia. The people stayed home in response to the Stay Home Appeal made by Dr. Brownell and other patriotic Liberians. How did this Appeal come about? Whenever the leadership of Civil Society sensed that a major societal problem would be coming up, they got together in the Office of ArchBishop Michael Kpakala Francis at the Catholic Secretariat near Dr. Brownell’s home on Snapper Hill, Ashmun Street in Monrovia to hold consultations on how to prevent the problem from taking place.
This consultations included Dr. Mary Nema Brownell of the Liberian Women Initiative (LWI), ArcBishop Michael Kpakala Francis of the Catholic Church and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL), Shekh Kafuma Konneh of the National Muslim Council of Liberia and the IRCL, Bishop Arthur Flomo Kulah of the United Methodist Church and the IRCL, ArchBisop George Daniel Browne of the Episcopal Church and the IRCL, ArchBishop William Nah Dixon of the Pentecostal Church and the IRCL and me, in my capacity as Chairperson of the Interest Groups of Liberia. Dr. Brownell and I worked very closely with the IRCL. When the decision was made, in consultation, that the Stay Home Action to Promote Disarmament should be held, the consultation was widened to include the most active workers and youth groups. In this way, the entirety of Civil Society agreed to hold the Stay Home Action for Disarmament on January 10, 1997. This was People’s Action to use disarmament as the way to stop the Civil War.
To mobilize the people for the Stay Home Action, Dr. Brownell, ArchBishops Francis and Dixon, Sheikh Konneh, Bishop Kulah and I got on the radio delivering statements and messages, while Mr. David Kiazolu of the National Muslim Council of Liberia and the IRCL went with the Musical Group Tijajlu into the market places. On the day of the Stay Home Action, the people responded very well by staying home to the point that Mr. Charles Taylor, with his Minister of Justice Francis Galawolo, could not get one store or market place to open on that day. There was no report of any form of violence on that day!
Of course, the Laws of Liberia provide for peaceful demonstrations. However, as intelligence information flowing to the Civil Society leadership to the effect that some persons were to be planted by the government, in any demonstration, to act violently, Civil Society decided correctly to hold the Stay Home Action rather than hold any demonstration in the streets, thereby preventing violence.
THE ACCRA COMPREHENSIVE PEACE ACCORD (CPA)
The leadership of Dr. Brownell inspired Women’s Groups to the point where women of Liberia became determined to sit in rain and sunshine at the Fish Market in Sinkor until the Civil War stopped, while other Liberian women went to Accra, Ghana, where they locked the Conference Hall, in which Liberian Delegates, including warring factions, and Foreign Partners were discussing ways of ending the Civil War in Liberia, and declared that the Hall would not be reopened until the decision was made to end the Civil War. History now records that the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) was signed by the Delegates in the Conference Hall and it became a part of the Laws of Liberia. The action of women was seen throughout West Africa, through the Mano River Women’s Peace Network, and extended to the Kingdom of Morocco, where the women got the King of Morocco involved in the Peace Process of Liberia. It was the CPA that paved the way for Liberia to be where we are today with NO GUNS FIRING AROUND, thereby creating the space for us to work for Justice, the indispensable ingredient for peace.
THE EBOLA CRISIS
Although Liberia had the worst case of the ebola disease in the world three years ago, Liberia became the first country to end the ebola crisis. How did such a feat take place? True, there were many individuals, organizations and countries working to end the ebola crisis in Liberia, but the work of the organization called Servants of Africa Fighting Ebola (SAFE), was exemplary with the leadership of Dr. Brownell. When ebola was on the killing march in Liberia, the old and successful formula of cooperation, involving Dr. Mary Nema Brownell, Sheikh Kafumba Konneh and me, went to work under the SAFE Umbrella.We brought into the leadership fold Mrs. Frances Greaves of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia. Using our mass communication skills through many volunteers around the country with message-planted megaphones and text messages to cover Liberia, spending one million Liberian dollars, while governmental and inter-governmental entities said that they spent over half a billion United States dollars fighting ebola in Liberia.. The key to the success of SAFE is Community Ownership. When the anti-ebola message was delivered by Credible Messengers, the Communities in Liberia embraced the message and took ownership of the anti-ebola process, leading to placing ebola into the dustbin of history.
UNIVERSAL PEACE FEDERATION
On account of the international leadership role for peace played by Dr. Brownell, Liberians and people of the world recognize and appreciate her global work. Serving as the Chairperson of Universal Peace Federation/ Liberia provided leadership not only for Liberia but for the global community, as Dr. Brownell became Global Peace Ambassador. Under her leadership, Liberia became a place where people from abroad came to hold consultations and conferences on violence prevention, peace-making and peace-building. Under the umbrella of the Universal Peace Federation/Liberia, Liberians in government and civil society continue to go abroad to share the Liberian post-conflict experience with others and learn from others as well.