The work is meant to give an introspective analysis of the initiatives and efforts made so far to retrack Liberia on a peaceful path. Since 1979, the foundation of peace in Liberia has been shaky. Hence, an in-depth analysis of efforts in post war Liberia is logical for the purpose of history.
No one living in Liberia during its best days of peace and progressive development in the 1960s and 1970s would have believed that we could wreck our own country. But it did happen. Great enmity befell us; we were torn apart, gnashing our teeth at one another and flexing our muscles and swords at one another. Indeed, “Things Fell Apart”. Warring factions sprang up, wicked war lords were born and destructions upon vivid destructions raged. In the end, we reached the never-promised land of divisions and animosities.
And so, great and tireless efforts have to be made to mend our broken pieces. Periscoping these efforts, reviewing their methods and results, with the view of learning and pointing out our mistakes and building new frontiers and methods of peace are the aims of this work.
For definition, a periscope is a telescopic instrument mounted on vessels and ships for viewing their environments of travel. As for us Liberians, our eyes, ears and minds as well as the situations of life we find ourselves in post-war Liberia make us an instrument of viewing our fragile peace.
And this work discusses five major components of the peace we have carved. The stakeholders have been both local and international actors. There may be other minor components, but we believe that they can be interwoven in these major ones.
I. The Security Sector
The foundation of peace in any nation rests on its security sector. The details have to do with its loyalty to the state and people, its professional training and maturity, its modernization in terms of equipment and its pro-active intellect in defending its people. Most importantly, it must be a unified force without internal divisions, for divisions breed insecurity.
However, all of the above qualities of our old AFL diminished beginning from the 1990s when our civil crisis ensued and intensified. Many top bras crossed over to various warring factions, giving up their loyalty to the state and that posed serious security problem for the nation. In fact, more than fifty percent of the remaining remnants became loyal to the government only on tribal or personal interests. That is why during the final sessions of the peace conferences, the AFL was considered as a warring faction in Accra.
Logically then, it had to be dissolved and be reformed for the sake of sustainable peace. And so it was. That is why in its place, an international force had to come and keep the peace until its reformation. And the security sector was so reformed.
The biggest question now is, “in the absence of an international security force, can the reformed security sector keep the needed peace?” We can squarely say that many efforts have been made. But we think that answers to this great concern rest solely on other intelligent questions:
• Was the reform done by force or negotiations and consensus of the former security men?
• Have they been well settled in terms of compensations for their services rendered before the wars?
• Are they satisfied or disgruntled?
• What have been the benefit packages for the widows and orphans of those securities personnel who died during the crisis?
• What kind of sustainable civilian life program has been put in place for those former security personnel?
As we periscope the peace initiatives and efforts, serious considerations must be given to these questions. From history, we know that when Fidel Castro took over the mantle of power in Cuba, he transformed all of the prostitutes and drugs addicts into doctors and nurses. Not only that, but he also transformed most members of the former security sectors into useful technicians. And they became useful civilians. These were aimed at securing and keeping Cuba’s peace.
When we periscope our peace, we need to consider the feelings and aspirations of our people. What are they saying about the reformed security sector? Is police harassment of drivers on the increase? Is the immigration working well or are we having more influx of illegal immigrants because we have certain interest group at these check points?
Our reformed army is then expected to be peaceful and not as the brutal days of the 1980s or as inhumane as the days of the rebels. Such viewings of our entire reformed security sector are necessary for maintaining our peace. It all boils down to the point where we want our reformed security sector to be civilian friendly, constructive in terms of peace maintenance and pro-active in defense of our Mother land and its people.
The truth is that from any national security sector world-wide, peace reigns when that sector is serviceable and dependable and not only a mounted presidential clique that reins brutality and death against its people as were the days of the 1980s and 1990s in Liberia.
II. The Economy
The second component of peace maintenance in any nation is its economy. What Liberians did experience between the Tubman and Tolbert regimes was a growing economy. Tubman opened the door and laid the foundation; Tolbert then built upon the foundation and buttressed it.
Between the two eras, mining companies like LAMCO flourished; rubber plantations including LAC were established, good banks like ITC and Chase Mathatan were opened; and well established airlines like Pan Am and UTA were here. While the doors of better supermarkets like Sinkor Shopping Center and the best of department stores like Brawico were opened, our governments of the days also opened the doors of many public corporations like LPRC and LPMC. Our air and sea ports were growing and improving annually in economic terms. And so employment was on the increase. Thus, there were jobs for the skilled and unskilled, for the professionals-in-training, the cadets and students. And so, there was growing peace and happiness.
In sharp contrast, the days of the 1980s started the destruction upon the economy. Banks and some department stores closed and left. Airlines shut their doors and flourishing public corporations began to sink economically. As if these woes were not enough, war-lords of the 1990s came and wrecked the economy to the ground. Seeing such destruction, the BBC Focus on Africa reported in 1990 that our country has been set back economically for one hundred years. And we are on that path.
This well known historical analysis brought us to where we are today. The concern now is how do we get out of this mess and maintain our peace. What are the priority economic development targets that will help us maintain our peace? What efforts have been made? And how can they be maintained.
In practical economic terms, we are feeling the burning pains of recession, although theoretical efforts are being made. When a nation resurrects from war, its basic necessities like better roads – old and new must be its priority to ease the movements of people; electricity must be restored; pipe-borne water or at least community reservoirs must be available. Government taxes and tariffs must be lowered to reduce high costs of living; a man’s wages or salary must be able to sufficiently keep his family up. In addition to these, the costs of medication and education must be free for at least some years to alleviate the cost of post-war economic burdens.
Besides, the costs of services like rent and transportation must be low. In Liberia, political commodities such as cement, our staple food, rice, and petroleum must be lowered in prices, especially in a post war situation. In our particular Liberian situations, as long as our post war costs of living are hard and hash, peace cannot be guaranteed – it will always remain fragile. Why? This is simple. When we reflect on the causes of the wars and retrospect on their damaging effects and find ourselves in worse situations than our better yesterdays, then the wars became more and more senseless. And anger raged.
As we periscope, we find out that the real change has not yet come; promises are locked up in theory; papa cannot come, and mama staying home is good for-nothing. And we know that when the sacrifices of people yield no fruits, peace is then never guaranteed.