“Stop Forced Initiation”

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Chief Karwah and Min. Sirleaf sharing ideas

Minister Sirleaf advises Traditional Leaders

At the ongoing National Traditional Leaders Conference in Ganta, the Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA), Varney Sirleaf has advised the traditional leaders and chiefs to stop forcing anyone to join their Sande and Poro societies.

Sirleaf gave the warning yesterday at the second day of the meeting, when he said it was not good to force anyone who is not part of the custom or who is not willing to join, because if the person is eventually freed, he or she will certainly reveal all the secrets of the society.

“The MIA wants to put an end to the practice and also stop holding pastors hostage,” he said.

The MIA, with support from The Carter Center, with funding from USAID and Sweden, is conducting a three day National Traditional Leaders’ Conference in Ganta, Nimba County to explain the Pro-poor Agenda of the government.

Minister Sirleaf told the chiefs that they were invited to share ideas together on how to move the country forward.

He outlined several agendas, including decentralization, the importance of the County Service Centers, communal farming, chieftain and municipal elections.

Minister Sirleaf stressed the importance of farming, and because of that, he challenged all the chiefs to engage in farming and take communal farming seriously.

“Farming is the best way we can get rid of poverty,” he said.

“Communal farming brings people together in peace and harmony and through the communal farming, settle their differences whenever they meet,” Minister Sirleaf said.

One of Nimba Chiefs, Robert Sehnean greeting Min Sirleaf, upon his arrival

Prior to the arrival of Minister Sirleaf, the chiefs in day one session, suggested to reintroduce house tax as another means of generating revenue.

In response, Minister Sirleaf said the reintroduction of house tax, as the chiefs have suggested, was not bad, but it needs to be agreed upon unanimously so it can be taken into consideration and it should be something that everybody understands and nobody will be forced to pay like those days in the past when people were mishandled for failure to pay their hut tax.

During the closing session today, all the chiefs and traditional leaders will be coming up with a resolution on their reaction to the “Pro-poor Agenda.”

Dr. Brandy talked about “Land Governance for peace and development  and how it will be implemented under the Pro-poor Agenda, while other speakers from Gender, Governance Commission, Liberia Revenue Authority each explained their entities’ roles.

The chiefs’ responses to the Pro-poor Agenda appear to be positive or at least satisfactory, because nearly all the suggestions and questions to the speakers were all in support of it.

“We now understood what the words “Pro Poor” mean and since it is government for the poor, we all put our ideas together to make our country fine again,” one of the chiefs said.

Development partners, including USAID Director for Democracy and Governance, Emily Krunic, US Embassy, Swedish Embassy, EU, ECOWAS and representatives from the three branches of government are expected to be at the closing.

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