The Officer-in-Charge of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Liberia, Stevenson Seidi, has disclosed a plan by which Providence Island will be declared a ‘World Culture Center’, but only if the Government of Liberia can ratify the Hague Convention.
Providence Island is the place the first group of former slaves landed in 1822, from United States of America.
Signed in 1954, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties is to protect cultural sites in the event of armed conflicts and the notion of military necessity.
Mr. Seidi said that there are numerous benefits Liberia stands to gain for the protection and promotion of its cultural heritage as long as the convention is ratified by the government.
He added that once the convention is signed, Liberia will benefit from six important opportunities, including the approval and preservation of cultural sites, which will in turn be of chief scientific value and a wealth of knowledge to the public.
“The ratification ensures social and cultural continuality between past, present and future generations. It also encourages and provides resources for employment,” he explained.
The program, held at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, on Capitol Hill, Monrovia on Wednesday, May 27, is the beginning of a two-day workshop under the theme: “Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”.
Rev. Emmanuel Bowier, a former Minister at MICAT, said that it is essential that the public begins consultation with members of the Legislature and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in order to ensure that Liberia is a signatory to the convention.
He added that it is about time that Liberians from all walks of life helped in protecting their culture and concentrating on teaching cultural values to their children, adding that Liberia can reclaim its cultural heritage through education across the country.
Rev. Bowier disclosed that the reason Liberia is not a signatory to UNESCO conventions is because in 1908 the government at the time had a problem with tribal people. “When the government gave a directive,” Bowier narrated, “the native people would go and ask their elders what to do, which would result, in most cases, in the opposite of the government’s directive. Therefore, the government put a halt to the Poror and Sande societies during that period, deploying the Liberia Frontier Force (now Army) inland from the border, where they they were previously assigned.
“The struggle with the tribes made us lose most of the cultural materials. But today some are in museums in the United States as well as in Europe, due to our recent political struggle,” he said.
Senator Conmany Wesseh said the senate remains committed in approving the UNESCO convention, but the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism should be able to justify the reason for the ratification. He said the Legislature would also like to know why has Liberia not signed this and other importnat conventions up to now.
“We need to train our children in the nation’s culture practices so that it becomes a daily priority in the lives of our younger generation,” Sen. Wesseh said.
He added that when a nation values its culture then the people of that nation becomes unified.
The Director for costum and culture at the Ministry of internal Affairs, William Jallah said that “Culture is the only property that our grandparents left behind and there is a need to have it protected.”
He added that it is their continued responsibility to teach Liberia’s culture, especially so to the younger generation, encouraging them to pursue their ancestral identity.
“We hope that the initiative will be extended to all the 15 sub divisions of Liberia, sparking a culture revolution among our people.”
He said that sadly parents are to blame for not being able to teach their children the value of their culture, which could give them an identity as a people.
“Our forefathers in their days were obligated to teach us the beauty of this nation’s culture. But nowadays parents are slow in teaching Liberia’s culture to their children.”
He stressed that the Ministry of Education needs to work with relevant authorities, including traditional stakeholders, to develop a culture program for school-going children.