Threats to Peace, Stability from Within

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The threat to Liberia’s peace and security is internal and no longer external, as “significant diplomatic efforts have been made” to build Liberia’s relations with her neighbors, says Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh.

There was a time in Liberia, he recalled, when the actions of our neighbors or “agents using the borders and territories of our neighbors,” posed a threat.

“Today we are at peace with our neighbors” because “significant diplomatic efforts” have been made by the Liberian government, declared Sannoh.

“Therefore there are no external threats [from our neighbors] that we should be that much concerned about. So the threat to peace and stability in Liberia is internal,” he emphasized.

The Justice Minister said that keeping this peace stable cannot be entirely left in the hands of formal institutions, and that there is the need to look at the involvement of “non-state actors.”

He stated that the government has realized that cross border cooperation is important for the maintenance of peace and stability.

Minister Sannoh made the observation recently when he spoke at a two-day international stakeholders’ workshop on peace, security and justice in West Africa.

The workshop, held on July 2 and 3, mainly involved international peace actors. It followed a previous two-day workshop attended by only national actors — traditional leaders, including town chiefs.

Organizers of the workshop, in their concept note, stated that contributions of chiefs and other social groups and systems to peace, security and justice, sometimes receive little attention and are poorly understood, particularly in international circles and this can have important effects within Liberia.

They added that to contribute to greater understanding and discussion of these questions, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra, Ghana, along with the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, have set out to investigate the nature and scope of the interaction of state, non-state and international providers of peace, security and justice in more detail.”

The main aim of the international stakeholders’ workshop is for participants to consider their own and each other’s contributions to peace, security and justice, to explore the nature of their engagements with each other, and to discuss what potential there might be for better engagement.

The stakeholders’ gathering, which was held under the theme, “Understanding and Working with Local Sources of Peace, Security and Justice in West Africa,” was sponsored by the Australian Government, through KAIPTC in collaboration with the University of Queensland.

During the proceedings, which was held for mainly “peace agents,” including Liberian traditional leaders, Major General Obed B. Akwa, Commandant of KAIPTC, said the idea of holding the conference was to research into the role of traditional leadership in peace and security.

According to him, the role of traditional institutions in peace and security cannot be overemphasized “Because there are some areas within our country where you can’t find the regular soldier, police or state security agency operating; yet there is peace and tranquility. The reason is that we have traditional security institutions which are able to bring about this peace and security through their usual normal practices.”

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