By Professor Augustine Konneh, PhD., Director General-Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
On July 26, 2017, we shall celebrate the 170th independence anniversary of our nation, as well as observe the 14th year of calm since the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord. The latter finally ended two violent rounds of the Liberian civil war.
The uniqueness of the two fêtes is their occurrences at a defining moment of national political transformation: not since 1944 had the nation seen a peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another.
At the end of the internecine civil war, all Liberians vowed solemnly to consecrate a project for peace. Our war experience was so horrible that peace became compelling. There was simply no alternative to peace, if life had to return to normality for each and every one of us. Consequently, we have enjoyed 14 years of peace and stability.
Subsequently the government, under the dynamic leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ushered a Truth and Reconciliation process based on restorative justice. All those at the center of the conflict came forward and told their stories and asked for forgiveness. This allowed us to turn a new page and move forward as a nation.
Beyond this, the government instituted a reconciliation program to address ethnic and land conflicts. The various ethnic groups that had been in conflict before and during the war, counties, religious institutions, schools and universities, as well as many civic organizations responded to the call for reconciliation and peace.
The program became active in various parts of the country, including the Palava Hut approach based on the time honored tradition of resolving conflicts through open and consultative discourses to arrive at consensus. The government has also addressed land disputes by setting up the Land Commission, which is restoring land to their legal owners with much success emanating from the commitment of conflicting parties to the judicial process.
Today, we are proud to state that much has been achieved in reconciling a nation once in turbulent conflict and establishing harmony and peace. There is now a growing consensus that Liberians are willing to bury the hatchets and move on with their lives. Consequently, we have witnessed two successful general elections. Preparations are now in high gear for the third national election this October. This political trend is indeed evidence that peace is finally here to stay, thus returning Liberia to the proud place as a bastion of stability in the comity of nations.
We must not rest on our laurels. Despite this astonishing success in achieving a considerable measure of peace and stability, we must continue to work together in sustaining the peace. This is the central meaning of this year’s theme for our 170th Independence Day.
To make social, economic and development progress all hands must be on deck, from the plains of Cape Mount to the shores of Maryland, and Atlantic coast of Montserrado to the mountain range of Nimba. What is urgently needed to sustain the peace is a common national identity to foster inclusive economic growth as one nation for sustainable development.
Sustaining the peace is only necessary but sufficient for transforming our society as a kaleidoscope where each one can see himself or herself and play an active part in its development.
Indeed, there will always be challenges, but we can overcome them if we come together and are united for peace. We must always remember the exhortation of our national anthem: “In Union Strong, Success is Sure. We cannot fail.”
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!