A US State Department awareness program for mitigating local disputes in Liberia ended yesterday in Gbarnga, Bong County.
The program brought together stakeholders, including county authorities, chiefs, women and youth representatives, civil society organizations and UNMIL.
Mr. Martin Sopp director of the program told the participants that the objective is to support the Government of Liberia through peace and reconciliation as well as promote county security mechanisms.
He added that the intent is for the local leaders to take responsibility for their own immediate security and work alongside the uniform security.
The program was first implemented by Tetra Tech DPK in 2012 in Lofa and Nimba counties and later last year replaced by another US-based organization known as ‘The Kaizen Company.’
“Despite changing the contractor,” Mr. Sopp said, “the program remains the same.”
He explained that from 2012 to 2013, the pilot project under Tetra Tech was successful, and based upon the achievements in the two counties, the partners decided to provide more funding to increase the number of counties to three.
The program is structured into three components, including the county security council headed by the superintendent, the district security council headed by the district commissioner, and the community forum headed by a civilian personnel.
These structures serve as an early system to security and peace among the citizens since they are there to respond to the situation before it escalates into a full conflict that would cause destruction to lives and properties.
The ‘Community Forum’ considered as civilian government, addresses issues that have the tendency to cause insecurity. If it cannot be settled at that level, they will have to report it to the District Security Council, which comprises security actors.
If the issue could not be settled at that level, it is then reported to the County Security Council for proper redress, but if it cannot still be settled at that level, then it will be reported to the National Security headed by the President.
The program is expected to run for three years, beginning this year, and targeting two districts, including Panta and Suakoko in Bong County to be followed by two community forums within the same district.
The launch of the Security Council is expected to take place in a couple of weeks, and subsequently to be followed by the formation of the District Security Council as well as the community forums.
Bong County Superintendent, Selena Polson Mappy, expressed happiness about the project, adding that with the coming of the MLDL program, she believes most of the disputes would be handled amicably.
She urged the citizens to embrace the idea so that the program can succeed, noting that it is the same elders and chiefs who are called upon whenever such a situation arises.
“People come to you to settle problems so what we are trying to do is to create an institution at the community level for the residents to resolve their own problems. When it works, it can be replicated in the rest of the county and the country at large,” said Jonathan McCaskill, head of the MLDL program.