Peace and reconciliation dialogues across districts in Bong and Margibi counties continue amid the ongoing political ‘wahala‘ in the country. An initiative of NAYMOTE Partners for Democratic Development, the fundamental objective of the dialogues is to consolidate peace during and after the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
“These events have been implemented at the county, district and community levels with the participation of diverse members of the county,” NAYMOTE Program Director Aaron Weah-Weah said in a statement yesterday.
These dialogues have led leaders in some of the project districts to set up Peace and Reconciliation Committees (PRCs) to take on peace initiatives including the organization of reconciliation dialogues especially between defeated representative candidates and those elected in their districts. Leaders in these committees are heard on radio talk shows discussing ways forward to reconciliation, educating citizens about their rights, roles, and responsibilities as well as advancing messages on the essence and benefits of reconciliation and peace in their communities.
The peace project, Weah-Weah noted, is to leverage ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts currently taking place in both Bong and Margibi counties as part of the National Peace Plan. At the end of the project, a five-year peace and reconciliation action plan will be developed to support the counties’ development initiatives.
Weah-Weah said that the dialogue is creating opportunities for district stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to have discussions on the trends of conflict in their communities, districts, and counties. It is also meant to pinpoint the sources, actors and consequences of conflict and how to use consensus to develop the ‘District Action Plan’ for reconciliation and peace consolidation.
Participants have identified social, economic and political marginalization as some of the issues of concern within their districts. “They also identified hatred, biased media coverage, high unemployment among youth, drug abuse, land crisis, power greed among local leaders, and corruption as other issues of contention.
Lack of accountability or information on the management of the county social development funds, poor handling of election matters/campaign, disunity among family members due to election results were other challenges that needed to be addressed,” he said.
The statement quoted Lakayta Township Commissioner Omega M. Sawyer as saying that local radio stations are the sources of misinformation. “We have few local radio stations and they are always spreading misleading information, especially about the ongoing situation between Liberty Party and the National Elections Commission (NEC),” Sawyer said, adding, “Radio stations are the ones creating the problems in our community because of the false information they are spreading.
My advice to these stations is that community radio stations need to stop misleading our people and they also need to be trained as professional journalists. This situation is making our people afraid and might drive business people away.”
The project is being implemented with support from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). So far, five district level dialogues have been conducted in Weala, Unification Town and Lakayta in Margibi County as well as Palala and Salala districts in Bong County. At least 200 county authorities, local leaders, women and youth leaders, representatives from the National Elections Commission, civil society organizations, Liberia National Police, and the media participated in five of the events in the two counties.
Participants in the dialogues appreciated the work of NAYMOTE, the timely engagement of the project as the just-ended representatives election has increased the need for such a project.
Participants in both counties have called for more of such engagements, which have provided them space to sit face to face and express their opinions on issues that are holding their districts back and intensifying disunity. “For too long we sit in our corners and talk about these issues, we have not had the time to face each other and to say what we are saying today. I am sure from this project we can settle our differences, work toward those things that will bring development and unity in our communities,” said Alfred Cooper, Lakayta General Town Chief.
During the project period, NAYMOTE is expected to conduct eight district level meetings, two county plenary meetings, four community dialogues and two town hall meetings with the support of the established Technical Working Groups (TWG) in both counties.