— Celebrating the United Nations’ contributions to Liberia’s post-war recovery
It is quite ironic that, as the United Nations (UN) celebrates its 78th anniversary today, October 24, under the theme: “Equality, Freedom and Justice for All”, Liberia is in the process of choosing its corps of leaders — president and legislators — to steer the ship of state for the next six years. Politics aside, the timing could not be more propitious given that, as a nation, we would not be where we are today, if not for God first — and the UN.
Liberia has a long and complex history, marked by both periods of peace and prosperity, as well as conflict and instability. We are all too familiar with the civil war, which began in 1989 and lasted for 14 years, left the country in ruins and an estimated 250,000 people killed, with millions more displaced.
It wasn’t until 2003, that the United Nations Security Council established the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to help the country transition to peace and democracy. UNMIL’s mandate included supporting the Liberian government in its efforts to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate ex-combatants; reform the security sector; establish a rule of law; and conduct free and fair elections.
UNMIL deployed over 15,000 troops and police officers to Liberia, and played a critical role in helping the country to stabilize. The mission also provided significant support to the Liberian government in its efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and institutions.
In 2018, UNMIL withdrew from Liberia after 15 years, having successfully completed its mandate. The country has since held three peaceful presidential and legislative elections, and has made significant progress in rebuilding its economy and social services.
And even after UNMIL’s 15 years, plus the extra five years up to now, Liberia’s peace has been tested severely and shown that, in spite of serious divisions among our people along tribal, political and even socio-economic lines, Liberians have resolved to never return to war.
The challenges of poverty, corruption, and high unemployment also remain as do Liberia’s vulnerability to climate change and other external shocks.
These are growing pains, but we are getting there.
Meanwhile, the United Nations continues to support Liberia in its efforts to sustain democracy and the rule of law. The UN Country Team in Liberia is working with the government and other partners to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to create a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world for all.
In hindsight, Liberia has been like a child learning to ride a new bicycle. At first, the child needed the help of an experienced rider — and a pair of training wheels — to hold the bike steady so that the child does not fall and get hurt.
All the training and support from the United Nations and other development partners were part of the confidence-building mechanism to prepare us for the moment when we would be able to manage our national institutions, as well as economic, security and social structures, increasingly without being hand-held.
Now, the key challenge, it seems, is how well we are able to transition through our democratic cycles without the state falling apart again.
However, we are also at the point that, if we happen to have doubts about which direction to take as a nation, we have our constitution. The values of “Equality, Freedom, and Justice for All” which are enshrined therein, are the foundation of Liberia’s democracy and are essential for building a just and equitable society.
Equality means that all Liberians are created equal and have the same rights and opportunities, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion, or social status. Freedom means that all Liberians have the right to live their lives free from fear and oppression. Justice means that all Liberians have the right to be treated fairly and to have access to justice.
These 2023 elections are an opportunity for Liberians to put these values into practice. They are an opportunity to choose leaders who will uphold these values and who will work to build a better future for all Liberians.
This is the moment to show the United Nations — and all our international partners who are cheering us on from the sidelines — that all their hard work and commitment and resources provided us over the years to help us get thus far, shall not be in vain.
We still have higher heights to climb, but we need a change of mindset, of speech and, therefore, our way of doing things.
An old African proverb goes: “The bird that flies the highest is the one that fears the ground the least.”
However, most of our people still go by the mindset that: “He who is down fears no fall.”
Should we continue to be down, expecting to potentially fall, or should we aspire to soar and defy our fear of falling?
To our UN partners, happy birthday, yaaaa! Thank you for all you do. God bless you!