Our traditional symbols, pictured above, the Double War Horn and the Peace symbol oppose each other. The Double War Horn is a call to the battle and the Peace symbol is a call to be calm. And yet, both these symbols are important in our old African belief system and complement each other. Just as in nature the sun and the rain, though opposites in function, actually complement each other and are crucial. Look at the mother hen and the rooster. When the young, upstart rooster tries to steal the hen’s babies’ food, she will attack and chase him away. But when the same rooster grows up a bit and comes to mount her, she can calmly agree so she’ll have more babies. There is a time to follow the warrior’s path for survival and a time to listen to the mother’s voice for peace. Some of our mothers and warriors knew this.
In Franklin O. Siakor’s account of the Kpelle people in the early 1900s, a powerful Kpelle warrior leader, Gbenyan Kollie Wolomean, was recruiting villages to join him to wage war. Nay Suaa Koko, a mother and female chief wanted peace. She ruled an area known today as Suakoko. As Wolomean began to move near Nay Suaa Koko’s village, she was forced to move her people. In the end she had to enlist the aid of all the elders to convince Wolomean that peace was in the best interest of all. He gave up the war campaign.
In 2002 the Liberian people were completely tired of war. President Charles Ghankay Taylor was being attacked on all sides by enemy forces. The international “peace keeping” forces were not allowed to intervene unless Taylor sat down. When the war spirit is on fire it is very difficult for a warrior to see the path of peace. That’s when Leymah Gbowee had to stand up. She was a mother and peace activist who was determined to do her part to help bring peace to Liberia. She was able to make her passionate peace plea in the presence of President Taylor. He agreed to attend the Accra Peace Talks.
Leymah Gbowee made certain her group of women activists from different facets of Liberian society were able to attend those talks. They used every active peace strategy at their disposal to rivet the peace talk participants’ and international attention on their determination. Then the lead negotiator in the Accra Peace Talks “put the spotlight” on the Liberian mothers’ steadfast pleas. The talks quickly became constructive ending in agreement. The warrior surrendered. It was the beginning of the peace we see in Liberia today.
Some people like to call these women “peace warriors”. And though war and peace are both a part of life and complement each other, they are paths. You cannot travel two different paths at the same time. You cannot wage war and promote peace at the same time. As the old African proverb says, “If you walk two paths at the same time, your body will soon split where it hurts the most.” And this is what is happening as the western powers dupe African governments into attempting to take both paths, war and peace, at one and the same time.
The path to peace is long and planted with many challenges and traps. Post-war populations must acknowledge that war has caused mutations in our characters that must be reversed to achieve the peace we yearn for. Let us move forward on this path to lasting peace for many, many decades to come.
Liberia Holds the Key