The attention of this newspaper is drawn to a story carried in its April 4, 2019 edition under the headline, “Is Reconciliation Becoming Elusive –Liberia Peace-building Office urges adoption of National Reconciliation Policy urgently”.
According to the writer of the story, Daily Observer reporter William Harmon, the dissemination of hate messages though the country on social and other media, has become a cause of concern not only to well-meaning Liberians but to the international community as well. The story also reported that there are growing public concerns about the danger of the country slipping back into violence given the rising wave of mob violence and vigilante justice which the Police appear incapable of addressing.
It is against this backdrop, according to the writer, that the Executive Director of the Liberian Peace Building Office (PBO) Eddie Mulbah has called for the adoption of a national reconciliation policy in order to help curtail what it calls “the spread of unwarranted hate messages”, some of which are contributing to rising social and political tension in the country.
Mr. Mulbah made the remarks recently when he spoke at the launch of the “Advancing Reconciliation through Legislative Reforms and Civic Engagement,” project in Bentol. He maintained that reconciliation remains a vehicle for sustained long-term stability, which cannot be achieved without local participation and dialogue among stakeholders.
Since the cessation of hostilities in the country, Mr. Mulbah noted, Liberia is yet to develop what he called a national reconciliation policy that would heal the wounds and reunite the citizenship.
According to him the uncontrollable level of hate currently suffusing the airwaves can be attributed to the lack of a policy document on reconciliation which, according to him, could explain why high ranking government officials as well as leaders of political parties speak however they please without regards for tact or rectitude.
Additionally, Mulbah called for the establishment of what he called a national reconciliation trust fund in order to finance reconciliation initiatives in the country, stressing that the proposed Trust Fund is in line with the Strategic Road Map for National Peace-building, Healing and Reconciliation, which is a step down of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations.
While this newspaper agrees with Mr. Mulbah that the proliferation of hate messages need to be curtailed, it is however concerned but not disappointed that the local Peace Building Office has since its establishment pursued what critics have described as poorly conceived half-baked policy options as alternatives to the TRC recommendations on justice and accountability, which it continues to tout as reconciliation initiatives. This newspaper recalls for instance, Dr. Elwood Dunn’s scathing criticisms at the time, of the Peace Building Office’s “Strategic Road Map for Peace” as being grossly misaligned with the Vision 2030.
Implementation results of the so-called “Road Map for Peace” are barely cognizable and they remain at best questionable. Just how has pursuit of the Strategic the Road Map for Peace initiative on which millions have been spent, enhanced the attainment of Peace, fostered reconciliation or promoted justice, remains yet to be seen or felt.
The TRC recommendations called for criminal accountability (justice) as well as reparations, none of which received even the most scanty attention from the Peace Building Office (PBO) for the obvious reasons of placating a national leader, an alleged founding member of the National Patriotic Front (NPFL) and whose bitter opposition to the TRC was well known.
From all indications, according to observers, the PBO’s disposition towards the TRC report during the reign of President Sirleaf appeared to have been influenced and informed by an innate fear of presidential hostility to broaching issues of accountability, justice and genuine reconciliation and reparations.
The Daily Observer notes that, right next door in Sierra Leone, justice and accountability were addressed following the end of that country’s TRC process. Not only were individuals tried but reparations were paid as well. The Sierra Leone Peace Building Office according to reports provided seed funding to the Government of Sierra Leone as support to that country’s Reparations program. Today, Sierra Leone unlike Liberia, is at peace with itself and making rapid strides in its development efforts.
As the Chairman of the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE), Eddie Jarwolo, observed during the launch program, development partners have disclosed that they have spent over US$8 billion for peace-building and consolidation in the country since 2003, yet reconciliation is far from being achieved. Whether the PBO realizes it or not, Mr. Jarwolo’s revelation is indeed a stinking indictment of the direction of its policy pursuits and initiatives on national reconciliation.
And the Daily Observer cannot help but draw attention to what it sees as the PBO’s ingenuous attempts to carefully skirt questions of justice and accountability just as it did during the Sirleaf administration. The displayed reluctance of the Weah Administration to squarely address issues of justice and accountability appears to be influencing tested and failed reconciliation policy initiatives currently being advanced by the PBO, which soft-pedals on such critical issues of justice and accountability, absent which, impunity thrives and ultimately undermines genuine reconciliation.
PBO officials must keep on mind that now, more than ever, is time for Justice and Accountability to rank very high or first on the list of imperatives to foster peace and genuine reconciliation. Reconciliation must be based on Justice and this, PBO officials must come to terms with.