Immediately after his arrival on Tuesday, August 27 at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), the visiting president of the African Bar Association (AFBA), Hannibal Uwaifo, says Liberia has been selected as the host for both the national security and human rights components of the 2019 annual conference, for the first time in the history of the association.
Uwaifo is in the country with his vice president for budget and finance, Ibrahim Eddy Mark, to finalize discussions on the annual conference.
He informed journalists that the security meeting has been scheduled for October 2019.
Cllr. Uwaifo said for the annual conference, there still remains further discussion and he was optimistic that they will come out with a genuine conclusion at the end of his visit.
Established in 1971 as a non-governmental organization for the purpose of uniting individual lawyers and national legal associations in Africa, the African Bar Association (AFBA) was created by a group of progressively-minded lawyers as a federation of national legal associations, corporate and unincorporated legal entities and individual lawyers.
On the issues of the national security and human rights training, Uwaifo said it will be conducted by senior military and para-military officers, who themselves are lawyers.
He said the training will focus on armed forces/security: terrorism, counter insurgency, armed conflict, military justice and human rights.
“We are going to get lawyers who are military generals to facilitate the training,” Uwaifo emphasized.
He added that some of the trainers will come from Canada, US, Britain, France and Russia.
“They will be training us lawyers and security personnel on how to protect human rights in the event of conflict and the international laws on human rights and the rule of law,” Uwaifo noted. “It will also concentrate on the security personnel behavior in dealing with issues concerning civilians, that will not result into human rights violation.”
The AFBA president said initially, the 2019 annual conference was scheduled to be held in Cairo, Egypt. However, because of the prevailing security situation in that country, as well as the difficulty in obtaining visa, the organizers were compelled to choose Liberia as the alternative venue.
“The Government of Egypt refused to even give visas to lawyers, because some of our fellow lawyers are still being held in various prison facilitates around the country. Maybe they are afraid that hosting the conference there will give us the opportunity to deal with the issue. This is why they refusing to accept lawyers’ visa applications,” Uwaifo said.
According to him, other international conferences have been cancelled on similar grounds. “The United Nations and the African Union have also cancelled their meetings in Egypt, because of the same reasons so we have to do likewise, Uwaifo told reporters.”
Uwaifo also used the occasion to make a passionate appeal to the George Weah administration to accept their proposal to host the 2019 annual conference in Liberia.
“Holding the conference will help boost the country’s economic activities… the hotel businesses will get more customers,” the AFBA’s president said, explaining the benefit to Liberia if the Association were to be allowed to host the conference here.
He said, the conference will bring together lawyers and senior military generals and security experts from across the African continent, Europe, Canada and the US.
Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, president of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) welcomed Uwaifo to the country. According to the LNBA president, he met Uwaifo sometime ago during one of their executive council meetings, where Uwaifo expressed his desire to help work with the LNBA to improve the legal system in the country.
“At that meeting, Uwaifo kept talking about working with the LNBA and the AFAB has now chosen Liberia for the 2019 annual conference and the national security training,” Gongloe recollected.
He said the conference comes at a time where the LNBA and some members of the legislature are considering the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia.
“These meetings will enforce our desire to end impunity in the country with the approval of the war a crimes court, a paramount concern of the LNBA under my leadership,” the LNBA’s president reveled.
Gongloe also assured his guests about their preparedness to work with the government to ensure a successful conference in the country, something he said was the first in the history of the LNBA, which is the oldest bar in Africa.
He also called on his fellow lawyers to take advantage of the conference to strengthen their knowledge of the legal system.
“This is a knowledge-sharing gathering and we are going to benefit from those legal and military experts during the conference. So please do not miss the gathering,” Gongloe pleaded with his members.