NAYMOTE-Partners for Democratic Development with support from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) over the weekend kicked off a series of dialogues to reconcile differences among stakeholders in Margibi and Bong counties.
According to NAYMOTE’s executive director Eddie Jarwolo, the reconciliation dialogues became necessary because of stakeholders’ troubled pasts coupled with misunderstanding among the residents resulting from the electoral processes.
The reconciliation dialogue launched in Weala, Margibi County is part of a series of engagements aimed at creating inclusive and participatory civil spaces for reconciliation in the country, particularly during and after the elections.
The dialogue provided stakeholders with a broad knowledge about the essence of reconciliation and the benefits of reconciling citizens on their differences.
The first dialogue model will be adopted and replicated simultaneously across the two counties to complete eight planned dialogues of four per county.
Forty (40) stakeholders from Weala, including commissioners, chiefs, representatives from the teachers association, National Elections Commission, Superintendent’s office, Technical Working Group (TWG), political institutions, Ministry of internal Affairs, Civil Society Organizations and Community Based Organizations, participated in Saturday’s event.
Participants reflected and discussed the history and source of conflicts in their respective districts; mapped out conflicts, including current trends, sources and actors of conflicts in the district, consequences of the conflicts (political, social, and economic); explored local mechanisms for reconciliation (actors and on-going reconciliation efforts); and developed their district’s action plan for reconciliation.
From their discussions, several issues were highlighted by community residents as sources of conflicts in the past that continue to affect their districts. They included corruption and greed, bad leadership, misinformation and hatred, generational gap, broken culture-disconnect between educated and uneducated, tribal and religious identity crisis, slavery, loyalty and tolerance.
They also stressed that use of ‘primitive modes of communication’ by the older people in the district, land conflict, delayed court trials, political interests, media institution or community radio stations supporting a particular candidate, salary inequalities as other responsible factors.
“Salaries are not evenly distributed and not encouraging, especially for government employees and civil servants. I’ve been working for government for many years, but on a yearly basis, I sacrificed all of my time and resources working but just cannot realize the benefits, because my salary is not even sufficient to take care of my home and send my kids to school,” stated Anthony Kollie, instructor and resident of Weala district, Margibi.
“Hatred is the key issue affecting us as residents of Margibi County, mainly Weala District. I don’t know why we envy each other so much to the extent that we don’t want to see each other progressing,” observed William B. S. Julue, Cinta Township Commissioner, Margibi County.
At the end of the event, a reconciliation dialogue plan was developed by participants which included a recommendation for community and religious leaders to host large meetings, public forums/gatherings across the district and organize sporting events (football games) to mitigate envy/hatred among residents with the intent to unite them; town hall meetings and interactive discussions between elders and youth to educate the youth about the dangers of spreading misleading information, etc.
They also proposed the need for county authorities to be accountable to the citizens by providing them information about their social development fund.
They also proposed the need to investigate rumors and avoid spreading misinformation that might hamper the growth and development of the district.
NAYMOTE program officer, Joshua D. Cleon, thanked the participants for attending the dialogue and called on residents to support the work of the TWG, county authorities as well as ensure the proper implementation of the Weala District Reconciliation Dialogue Plan.
As part of the event, NAYMOTE collaborated with the county superintendents and completed the setting up of the TWG in Margibi and Bong counties. The first dialogue held in Margibi County will be adopted and replicated simultaneously across the two counties to complete eight planned reconciliation dialogues, four per county.