-Liberia Peace-building Office urges adoption of National Reconciliation Policy urgently
The high level of hate messages currently sweeping across the country has become a cause for concern for many conscious Liberians and international partners who are jittery about the state of affairs.
Many, especially CSOs like NAYMOTE and others, are beginning to panic with fear that the country has not learned from its ugly past and risks treading a slippery path of violence if care is not taken.
Social media and radio stations have been inundated with war of words and hate messages among Liberians, especially proponents of the government and supporters of opposition political parties. This situation is being exacerbated by harsh exchanges between government officials and opposition leaders along with their respective apologists.
Among those that are deeply concerned about these harsh realities is the Liberia Peace-building Office (LPO), which says there is an urgent need for Liberia to adopt a national reconciliation policy. The adoption of such a policy, according LPO Executive Director, Eddie Mulbah, will help curtail some of the unwarranted hate messages in the country—some of which, many believe, is contributing to political tension in the country.
The Peace Building Office is under the direct supervision of the Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and is responsible to provide strategic and policy level support to the government on peace building policy and reconciliation.
Speaking at the launch of the “Advancing Reconciliation through Legislative Reforms and Civic Engagement,” project in Bentol, Mr. Mulbah noted that reconciliation remains a vehicle for sustained long-term stability, which cannot be achieved without local participation and dialogue among stakeholders.
The launch was the beginning of the rollout of the project that will ensure the development of reconciliation plans for seven counties (Montserrado, G. Bassa, Bong, G. Kru, River Gee, Gbarpolu, and Maryland counties. The first eight counties were completed last year.
The initiative is a continuation of a nationwide reconciliatory project that started during and under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
“250,000 persons died as a result of the 14-year civil crisis. Sweat and blood soaked the grounds. Many people are hurt, while some are coping. We need to heal this country through reconciliation and we therefore need to stop the hate. It is not helping us,” he said.
The LPO head said the government continues to commit itself to reconciling the country, as doing so is the only medium through which it (government) stands to succeed.
Since the cessation of hostilities in the country, Liberia is yet to develop a national reconciliation policy that would heal the wounds and reunite the citizenship.
The absence of such a pivotal document, many believe, is the cause of the uncontrollable level of hate that is currently manifesting in the country. The absence of a reconciliation policy seems to explain why Liberians, especially top government officials and political leaders speak however they please without tact or rectitude.
“Other countries that come from war have policies on national reconciliation. We do not have as a government and country a national policy to reconcile us. So when concluded, this initiative would lead to developing a national policy on reconciliation. And that policy will guide you and me, as well as the governance process of the country,” Mulbah said, adding: “That will be a key outcome and the right trajectory for our country.
“If government is to take peace and reconciliation as cardinal component of its agenda, then we need to know why this is not advancing. You need to tell us. You need to make the suggestions,” he urged the participants.
Mulbah called for the establishment of a reconciliation trust fund in order to finance reconciliation initiatives in the country. The Trust Fund is in line with the Strategic Road Map for National Peace-building, Healing and Reconciliation, which is a step down of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations.
US$8 billion Spent, but challenges still abound
NAYMOTE Executive Director, Eddie Jarwolo, said it is unfortunate that Liberia’s development partners disclosed that they spent over US$8 billion for peace-building and consolidation in the country since 2003, but the government is far from being reconciled.
“This huge amount could have rebuilt a modern state but all went to conflict. Therefore, peace and reconciliation is key, especially now that UNMIL has left,” he said.
Jarwolo indicated that reconciliation, peace and trust building are very cardinal issues that the country needs to work on.
He indicated that the situation that took place recently in Weala, Margibi County where angry motorcyclists burnt two police stations and a magisterial court, clearly indicates that the people are losing trust in the justice system, as well as in the police.
“When the people wrote and gave the police 72 hours to intervene in the situation, they [the police], did not act swiftly. They were to make sure that the issue was addressed and the people had fair justice,”
“I think that if Liberia is to move forward, peace and reconciliation is key, especially among political parties, youth groups, tribal groups, religious groups. The issues about land ownership should also be addressed adequately. Accountability and transparency are issues that we also need to work on with seriousness.
With the project, NAYMOTE and its partners are generating issues that could trigger conflict in the country. NAYMOTE is focusing on the community engagement component of the project.
“This means that we are conducting 21 community meetings in an effort to get the people’s feedback on those things that have the potential to trigger conflict. Fourteen district level engagements to be held and a seven-county dialogue, where we will come out with our plan that we will work on sustaining peace and reconciliation in the seven counties.
The seven counties report will culminate in a national conference to complete the 15 counties’ reconciliation plans to be presented to President Weah, he said. Local steering committees will be established in the counties in order to give the locals the opportunities to manage the project and take ownership of it.
“This initiative is for the people, so we want to take leadership of it. We will only give the local committees the financial and technical assistances that they need to succeed—we are committed to doing just that,” Jarwolo indicated.
“We are working with the youth, women, traditional leaders, motorcyclists and other vulnerable groups to ensure that this initiative is a success.”
The event brought together scores of stakeholders from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, traditional leaders, youth groups and others.