A consortium of civil society organizations has called for concrete measures aimed at promoting genuine national reconciliation and unity in Liberia.
The civil groups observe that the unity of the Liberian nation remains a critical challenge 50 years after the launch of the National Unification Policy in the country by the late President, William V. S. Tubman.
They made the observation at the 50th-Jubilee celebration of the National Unification Day recently in Monrovia.
The celebration, which took place at the Liberia Chambers of Commerce on Capitol Hill, coincided with anniversary of the integration of Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties into the Republic of Liberia and under one system of governance in 1964.
The Unification and Integration Policy initiated by the late President Tubman, among others, bridged the social, political, cultural and economic differences between the settler and indigenous populations in Liberia.
The program marking the 50-Jubilee celebration was organized by the Better Future Foundation (BFF), in collaboration with the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation of the University of Liberia (UL), Montserrado County Peace Committee and the Liberia House of Prayer, among others.
According to BFF president, Augustine Arkoi, the celebration was organized for Liberians not only to review the history of National Unification Day but also to rekindle in the minds of the citizenry the significance of this Day in building, expanding, and maintaining bridges of genuine national reconciliation, peace and unity in post-war Liberia.
Rev. Arkoi pointed out that many Liberians still hold the view that since the country’s independence in 1847, true unification and integration of its entire people are yet to be realized.
“To a large extent, Liberians are primarily divided and segregated by class, ethnicity and religion. This is usually hidden under the ‘country – Congo’ divide, which is a major impediment for our country to move forward,” he added.
Nevertheless, participants in the program recalled that the Tubman Unification and Integration policy laid the groundwork for a peaceful Liberia.
They, however, expressed disdain and repugnance that since the death of President Tubman, changes in the attitudes of Liberians, especially amongst the upwardly mobile social and economic classes towards the disadvantaged, poor and indigenous populations remain a pre-condition for genuine national development.
According to the participants, sentiments of brother and sisterhoods including citizens having mutual respect for each others remain sadly low in Liberia today.
According to the civil society groups, this situation is one of the major factors for Liberia’s continued socio-political suffocation, stifling growth in its economy without significant development.
At the Jubilee celebration, a resolution was adopted by the participating organizations, which subsequently advanced a number of recommendations.
“We the sons and daughters of the Republic of Liberia, including the peoples of Lofa, Bong, Grand Gedeh & Nimba Counties, marking 50 years of existence, hereby agree and resolve that we will endeavor to harness, be respectful and tolerant of the diversity, deal truthfully with each other and will work collectively to uphold the values of our communities and improve living conditions,” among others.
Among topics discussed at the program were “Political Dialogue: History of National Unification Day – Its Influence and Impact on National Unity, the Country and the People, and the Way Forward.
Thematic Presentations which also characterized the observance of the 50th Jubilee National Unification Day were made by a number of scholars and intellectuals from a broad spectrum of the Liberian nation. They included John Perry, Professor of the University of Manitoba, Canada.
The presentations were followed by interactive dialogues involving both panelists and participants.
In his Goodwill Message delivered at the occasion, African Union’s Special Representative to Liberia and Head of Mission, Ambassador H. Oluwatoyin SOLAJA, praised the National Unification Day program organizers.
Ambassador SOLAJA indicated that peace and reconciliation are paramount and that there is a growing need for all Liberians to unite and develop their motherland after over a decade of civil war.
Mano River Union Resident Representative to Liberia, Lawrence Morris, for his part, disclosed that as part of the Union’s ten-year agenda, it will continue to collaborate with other partners at home and abroad to develop a culture of peace in Liberia and other countries in the Mano River Union basin.
Also speaking at the occasion, as a proxy of United States Ambassador, Madam Debora Malac, Mr. Christine De Angelis, Political and Economic Counselor of the US Embassy, lauded BFF and its collaborating partners for Liberian Peace and Unification, saying “ten years of peace and 50-years of unification day is a major milestone.”
In remark, the Chairman of Bong County Legislative Caucus, Henry Yallah, who commended the program organizers, challenged Liberians to embrace genuine national reconciliation and healing.
Mr. Pewee Flomoku, Deputy Director of Carter Center, said Liberians should use the occasion to advance the need for supporting Traditional Elders in Liberia to present lectures on the importance of Liberian culture and traditional values at higher institutions of learning in the country.
The program was also graced by an array of other dignitaries including Amb. Beverly Goll Yekeson of the Liberia Crisis Center, Evelyn Kandakai, Former Minister of Education, Chairperson of the Universal Peace Federation, Senator Thomas Grupee, Chairman of Nimba County Legislative Caucus; Clarence Massaquoi, Lofa County Representative in the Lower House of the National Legislature, and with support of Zoe Emmanuel Pennoh, Chairman of Grand Gedeh County Legislative Caucus; among many others.
The presiding officer of the conference, Madam Mary Brownell, commended all partners and supporters, including the Liberia Peace Initiative, the Government of Liberia and UNMIL for their commitment to consolidating Liberia’s fragile peace for a prosperous and sustainable future.