Can A National Day of Peace Come Without A Well Written History?

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In our last Tuesday edition we published a story of a proposal initiated by River Gee County Senator Conmany Wesseh, calling for the adoption of a National Day of Peace to be celebrated on August 18 every year.

This proposed National Day of Peace, if adopted by the Senate, would allow programs to be organized under the motto, “Never Again to War.” In his letter to the Senate, Senator Wesseh said that activities of the day would include peace festivals characterized by cultural and sporting activities.

The proposal suggested that special Peace Medals be awarded in two categories at separate ceremonies – one named “The People’s Medal” to be awarded to people believed to be promoting and maintaining peace in the country, while the other should be the “State Medal of Peace,” to be awarded by the Liberian President to those individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the promotion and maintenance of peace in the country.

Though the National Legislature is yet to conduct hearing to determine the merits and demerits of the proposal, the fact that reconciliation is still a challenge in Liberia after the civil crisis leaves no doubt in the minds of Liberians that our peace is fragile. Liberians are still apprehensive of the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). There is fear that even as we go into election, there may be violence.

But with the cooperation of Liberians in maintaining the peace, buttressed by efforts of the international community, it is certain that Liberians are no longer interested in war and will allow no one to engage in such. Since warlords made a solemn commitment on August 18, 2003 to end the destruction that took place in the country, citizens have demonstrated by words and actions that they reject war and embrace peace and stability. Therefore, if this proposal is endorsed, it would become a working tool which shall definitely enhance reconciliation and the peace.

However, there is one thing to consider alongside this proposal if we should be successful in our quest for peace building, reconciliation and national development. This has to do with a well written history of Liberia, free of bias. It may be recalled that three of the salient concepts that came out of the Vision 2030 initiative was the decision to rewrite our history and to redesign our National Seal and Flag. Alas! ever since these projects were proposed over four years ago, we have heard little of them.

Yes, we are aware that the History Project was undertaken by the Governance Commission, the one national institution which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf assigned, along with few others, to undertake the conceptualization and implementation of Vision 2030. This was punctuated by the political high stakes of the devolution of power and the decentralization of Liberia.

What has happened to all this?  We still see the President of Liberia appointing Town, Clan and Paramount Chiefs, District Commissioners, City Mayors and County Superintendents. Are we to assume that all the money, time and effort that went into Vision 2030 have gone in vain? Should this be pathetically the case— and we hope and pray that it is not—then our plea for the writing of Liberian History is purely academic. Yet the importance of a comprehensive history of our country can never be overemphasized.

Because we Liberians do not know our history, we continue to suffer the menace of social discrimination. If available, a well written history would enlighten Liberian students about their past to know from whence they come. Liberians need to know the history of the war that affected them for 14 years and beyond. History reflecting the contributions of all citizens and all ethnic groups would encourage all to participate actively in nation building, since their roles are acknowledged. But when it is partial, acknowledging certain people and discrediting others, it results into sectional and tribal discrimination, as the case currently stands.

Let us cite at least one historical instance of a country whose people are tremendously improving on their past. The Chinese are people of tradition like Africans but very hard working. When they began the construction of the Danjiankou Dam in the Southern Province in the 1960s every Chinese was compelled to work regardless of status. They built the dam and diverted the river to the north to supply the capital, Beijing. Interestingly, the museum in Danjiankou City has all of the bamboo mats and rudimentary equipment used from the beginning to start this major project that is counted among the great projects of the world.

What can we find in our museum on Broad Street to remind and teach us?

Senator Wesseh’s proposal for a national day of peace would enhance our understanding of peace and harmony. But the effort would be far better appreciated when we have a comprehensive and balanced history that will reflect Liberian cultural values and identities. Knowing ourselves through history will help us to understand the distinctions between us and other nationals, and we will be able to appreciate ourselves and work conscientiously towards our own development agenda.

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