Tribute for Rev. William R. Tolbert III, Liberia’s National Peace Ambassador

The late Rev. William R. Tolbert III

The Angie Brooks International Centre for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security wishes to express shock and dismay at the brutal killing of Liberia’s National Peace Ambassador as yet another escalation of the wave of violence of killings being faced in our nation.

We had earlier in late September met with the Minister of Justice along with other women Elders to express our concerns on the mounting killings and was well received by him. Given the recent upsurge of murders, we have called on the United Nations (UN) system to use their good offices to strengthen GOL’s capacity for investigations into these matters by making available some two or three experts. We have since also met with the Minister of Justice to convey these sentiments to him and delivered our communication to the UNRC in the interest of transparency. We believe that the onus is on the entire nation and our international Partners to assist us in this situation as they did in the case with EBOLA and are doing in the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. 

As such, we are herein launching an urgent appeal to all our Partners (the EU; the Swedish Mission; the ECOWAS and the AU) to help and provide expertise to the GOL to practically enhance the Government’s actions regarding the security imperatives they have put in place recently. This is also applicable to our Brothers and Sisters in the ECOWAS Sub region. To the ECOWAS Authority, these are early warnings. We have together, paid the price in the past for this fragile peace in ‘Mama’ Liberia. We are facing what is nothing short of what might legitimately qualify as “triggers’ of Violence. 

In this connection, we quote the late Peace Ambassador, William R.  Tolbert III‘s own words on 14 May 2019 on National Unification Day when he said the following; “Peace is not an event but a process “Rather”, he said, “we must be prepared to do what is necessary to Sustain the Peace we deserve following years of conflict. Thus, we must be proactive and initiate appropriate interventions with sustaining our national peace purpose; unity as the focus and sincerity of will and commitment as our driving desire.”

But our Peace Ambassador is now gone - brutally murdered as several other Liberians, including yet another former President’s son; John Hilary Tubman, in the very recent past. Something must be done. No one is safe until everyone is safe. We launched a book on Sustaining Liberia’s Peace on 4 November -- virtually with our Chief Launcher, former ECOWAS Ambassador Tunde Ajisomo. We had to ask for 2 minutes of silence internationally, virtually, during what was termed Geneva Peace Week, as a recognition of the mourning for our nation’s Peace Ambassador -- a man for whom Reconciliation and Peace were his modus operandi.

Rev. Tolbert never ceased to work for Peace and Reconciliation, notwithstanding the assassination of his father, President William R. Tolbert II in 1980. The world must be asking what kind of people are we Liberians? We ourselves must surely be asking what happened to us as a people and as a nation.

Here we recall the book by the late Henry Andrews (former Minister of Information during the Tolbert’s administration) in the wake of his experiences during the war years Cry Liberia Cry! Then there was also the voice of the late Catholic Archbishop Michael Francis Kalopa when he was honored with an Award in 1986 and in receiving it said ‘I am not against the Government but I must be the conscience of the nation’. Surely a challenge to all of us.

At the same time, let us not forget the charge of the late Bishop Edward W. Neufville II of the Episcopal Church of Liberia on 13 January 1998 on the departure of the ECOMOG Peacekeepers from Liberia:

“ECOMOG has always been referred to as peacekeepers, but if we must maintain the peace, the entire Citizenry of this Country must now become a national peacekeeping force, not using the barrel of the gun, but the powerful weapon of love, guided by the golden rule, ‘Do unto others as you wish they should do unto you’. If we cannot together keep the peace we cannot together live in peace.”

“In order to keep the peace every Citizen must act and behave responsibly and respect the rule of law, where there is no respect for law and order there is bound to be tension and lawlessness in the land. As a national peacekeeping force, we Liberians must respect human and civil liberties of others, uphold the dignity of every human being; acknowledge and honor the sacredness of human life.”

We must heed those words - again the work towards their realization was the essence of the Reverend Tolbert’s life - the nation’s Peace Ambassador. Indeed, can one not picture the late UNSG Kofi Annan whose life work was also for Peace, looking down on Liberia from above and just shaking his head, reflecting with sadness, that Liberia may be on the precipice once more, even after sending the largest UN peacekeeping force! We must be vigilant and guard our sacred heritage after so many of our people and international peacekeepers have paid dearly with their lives for this our Peace. 

Aye Mehn! Aye Mehn! Aye Mehn!

As the Angie Brooks International Centre for Women’s Empowerment Leadership Development, International Peace and Security, has worked closely with our late Peace Ambassador (his wife was also one of our staff over the years) and our work for peace having been recognized all over by both the African Union as well as the UN Security Council, we cannot remain silent as our own backyard is burning!

Unexplained deaths must be further investigated and the Citizenry informed. This, in turn can only contribute to renewed credibility in the Government at a time when the issue of Governance is an important consideration in qualification for the MCC which the nation may have failed to achieve this year but continues to be an aim for next year, as a function of improved performance on the key variables that proves determinant!

May God rest the soul of our late Peace Ambassador and may his death not be in vain! To the Tolbert family; to Henrietta, relatives and friends and to our nation, we say “Your never Mind Yah!” God is in control. Our deepest sympathy and prayers.

At a time like this, when our nation is clearly burning (figuratively) and traumatized, we the citizens need to hear the voice of our President himself. Rev. William R. Tolbert III was reconfirmed by President Weah as the National Peace Ambassador. Where is our President?

OluBanke King-Akerele

Chair of Board - Angie Brooks International Centre For Women’s Empowerment Leadership Development, International Peace and Security (ABIC)

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Republic of Liberia) with some 25 years of international service with the United Nations System at Senior levels representing the UNSC for development at several duty stations in Africa