By Tina S. Mehnpaine and J. Lisa Lumeh
Ahead of the senatorial election scheduled for December 8, 2020, Messengers of Peace Liberia (MOP) in partnership with the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), have successfully concluded a two-day ‘Peace Talks’ with senatorial aspirants, youth-wing leaders from political parties, civil society organizations educational and youth-based organizations.
Held under the theme, “Shaping Peace Together by Igniting Dialogue for Peaceful Elections” 500 youths gathered at the Monrovia City Hall on December 1 & 2, 2020 to affix their signatures to remain calm and peaceful before and after the senatorial elections.
In her Peace Talk message, MOP Executive Director Gwendolyn Myers recalled that before Liberia’s 14 years of civil crisis, the country was one of the most peaceful nations. “Liberia was one of the most peaceful nations on earth. If we forget about our past, tradition, respect for human dignity and tolerance, then we’ll lose the peace we already have. We need to vote for senators that will guarantee peace,” she advised.
She named “hate, fear and greed” as the root causes of conflict in our society. “Young people must learn to overcome these unhealthy human behavior and attributes,” Myers said.
According to Myers, young people have tremendous potential that could be unleashed for peace. “All of us have the responsibility to ensure we live up to that potential. I am very proud to see young people from different political affiliations marching together for peace.”
A heated session followed, moderated by Clarence of OK FM, in which senatorial aspirants and political parties’ chairpersons were asked to share with youth strategies they’ve put in place to respond to threats within their parties.
In his response, incumbent Senator Darius Dillon called on young people to disengage from acts that will jeopardize the peace and security of the country. “I commit to peace. We should never ever compromise peace or engage in acts that will jeopardize the stability of our country.”
Dillon vowed that his campaign team and the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) are committed to the peace and security of Liberia. “We commit to peace; the Darius Dillon campaign, CPP commit to peace,” he said.
Mulbah Morlu, Chairman of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), serving as a proxy for Aspirant Thomas Fallah, said they have been victimized as an institution but have since remained peaceful. “Peace is all that we do within the limit of the CDC, though we have always been victimized as a political institution since our existence”, Morlu said.
He called on politicians to make comments that will promote peace.
MacDella Cooper, Political Leader of the Movement for One Liberia (MOL), said peace can only be obtained in a nation when both women, men, disabled and visually impaired people have equal access to power. “When you have a lopsided democracy, where women and disabled people are not inclusive in the democracy, do you except to have a peaceful nation?” she asked the young people in the room, all of who responded with a resounding, “No!”
Aspirant Phil Tarpeh Dixon, who also did not show up for the ‘Peace Talk’ but sent a proxy, Otis B. Kruah, his campaign team secretary, told the young people that “Phil is busy winning more votes from the electorates.”
According to Kruah, the So Phil Movement stands for the rule of law and policymaking is one way to sustain peace in any society.
Mayor Kojiee, at the opening ceremony on December 1, 2020 made a statement stressing, “We are here today beyond our own political interest, to seek the interest of our dear country Liberia.”
He said in the absence of peace, the economy is fragile, but with peace everyone is certain to live a free and independent life throughout the country. “With peace, all things are certain. You’re very certain if you have a peaceful environment because people have access to education, you have a business-friendly economy,” Kojiee noted.
The Mayor also highlighted the role of young people in maintaining the peace and called on them to desist from violence. “I am asking you to refrain from anything that will threaten the peace and stability of our country.”
He later applauded MOP for championing peace throughout the country and promised to work with the organization.
Youth-wing leaders of political parties, who affixed their signatures, included: Hassan Neweland, Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) youth-League; Henry Flomo, CPP Youth League; James K. Washington, LINSU; Rachel M. Benson, Movement for One Liberia; and Daniel N. Nills, Mano River Youth Parliament. The signing was witnessed by Jeremiah S. Swen, National Civil Society organization representative.
Also present at Peace Talk was Rev. William Tolbert, National Peace Ambassador, who expressed his excitement about being part of the program. “We have come from different backgrounds, ethnic groups, religious groups, and political parties, committing to maintaining peace,” he said.
Prabha Sankaranarayan, President and CEO of Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI), a peacebuilding organization, sent an endorsement message in a one-minute video, commending the City of Monrovia for partnering with MOP to bring together over 500 youth to hold peace talks, especially during the election period. “This is what it looks like for member states with interaction, their commitment to giving youth a greater voice in decision-making at the local, national regional and international levels.”
“I wish you well, as I know the youth peace talks will make a significant contribution to a peaceful electoral process in Liberia,” Sankaranarayan added.
Mayor Kojiee and Executive Director Myers led a parade from Vamoma House to the Monrovia City Hall with young people chanting slogans “Vote peace! Let’s maintain the peace before and after the election!”
MOP theatre team staged a drama, which gave participants a feel of what violence looks like when political leaders are aggrieved with election results and how youths can serve as peace ambassadors when these issues arise.