By George Harris & Robin Dopoe
With just days to the United Nation’s Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) official departure (March 31, 2017), traditional groups of communicators yesterday held a farewell program in honor of UNMIL and its Public Information Office.
The program which took place at the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET)’s Hut, opposite the Airfield Fish Market, brought together eleven traditional communication groups that had worked with the Community Outreach Unit of UNMIL’s Public Information Office.
The traditional groups of communicators include; WIPNET, Liberia Crusaders for Peace, Balawala International Foundation, Musicians Union of Liberia, Traditional Peace Theater, Development Education Network of Liberia, Liberia Youth Network, Lofa Youth, Youth United Against Violence, and Harmonizers of Flomo Theater.
The Chief of UNMIL Public Information, Madam Lyn Robertsons, thanked the traditional communication groups for spreading UNMIL’s peace messages across the country, especially in rural communities over the years.
“As traditional communicators, you have taken our message that has been crafted by the international community in your country to places we could not have gone. You tread in mud, you have taken canoes, you’ve taken helicopters when you needed to, you slept on the job just to get to the people who really needed to hear those messages. You have taken our messages to the grassroots, you have taken our messages to communities that would not have been heard or be able to consider what we wanted to say to them, UNMIL thanks you for that,” Madam Robertson said.
In her closing remarks, she urged traditional communicators not to be quiet but to remain vocal in their distinct roles in sustaining the peace.
Echoing the same sentiment, the Special Representative of United Nation’s Secretary General, Farid Zarif thanked them for braving the storm to communicate with rural communities when other modern communication means were not available in Liberia.
“People who could not find even half a loaf of bread to feed their children, how could they have afforded to have access to computers, WiFi internet, cellphone or radio? You filled the gap, you did the job against all the odds. You went out, you ignored all the physical, geographical and weather challenges. You marched on, you reached the farthest of towns in other to bring the message of peace that was not able to reach them without your help, thank you for that,” said Zarif.
Zarif added that the event was an occasion to reflect on all the efforts invested in creating high public awareness, which he said currently, set an example that other countries can learn from.
“Truly this is not an occasion for us to engage in such praises. It is time for us to acknowledge all the work that has gone into bringing the level of public knowledge and awareness higher; to a point that you produced probably the best example of peaceful, participatory, incredible election not only in Liberia but throughout this region. Because of your work, people did the right thing,” said Zarif.
Earlier, the President of Liberia National Culture Union, Kekura Kamara, pleaded with the UNMIL to recommend traditional communicators to work along with other UN-Agencies that are present in Liberia to continue to spread other developmental messages across the country.
“Your mission was peace-building. Now that we have peace, we the traditional groups of communicators want to be here with your recommendation to work with the UN. We are talking about the UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, all of the groups that are remaining on the ground. There is a need for communications because, without it, people will misinterpret communications. But when we go to them and organize a forum, a theater, organize community outreach programs they easily understand through our dramas, songs, and dances. This is why there is a need to keep the group of traditional communicators,” Kamara said.