Atty. Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
It is not a gain saying that after many years of conflict, the Liberian nation is faced with many challenges. One of such is how to reconcile the country which had been engulfed in all kinds of conflicts, including that of land ownership and differences among individuals and tribal groups. As a result, Liberians have been striving to achieve reconciliation. That is, reconciling issues and problems, between or among tribal groups and also individuals because these are some of the little things that usually snowball to greater things thus resulting into serious situation beyond control.
Sometimes, these little conflicts and misunderstanding which are considered as being trivial, unexpectedly affect the peace and stability of the country, or even the political governance of the nation. This is why when one hears of efforts to bring about reconciliation among or between people or groups; such is welcomed, as it could also contribute to the process because these little conflicts or misunderstandings sometimes have greater implication beyond the individuals involved.
And so when I heard and read online reports that certain individuals in the society have reconciled their differences, I found myself in a state of ecstasy. In its account of the development during a program organized by Peace Ambassador George Weah in Monrovia, the FRONTPAGE Newspaper online last Friday, with a story captioned: “ Repairing Bad Bloods: Ellen & Bhofal; Mary & Solo Kiss and Make Up For Peace Sake,” reported a dramatic scene during the occasion. It said that the Centennial Memorial Pavilion was a scene of excitement and laughter on Thursday when the President of Liberia did the unthinkable; walking to her fiercest critic, Representative Bhofal Chambers (CDC-Maryland-District 3) and shook his hands.
Furthermore, the paper said the President made the gesture after delivering one more powerful speech on reconciliation and peace during the launch of the 18-year Reconciliation Roadmap chaired by soccer legend George Weah. It said she stunned everyone when she made the unbelievable announcement: “Now I will pause by doing something that I would not have done any other day. I am going to walk over and shake the hands of Rep. Bhofal Chambers.” She then walked up to Rep. Chambers and the two hugged amidst cheers, a huge round of applause and a standing ovation leaving the Maryland lawmaker with tears in his eyes.
Later, President Sirleaf said, “as Liberians, let’s seize the opportunity to reclaim our future; we face many challenges, but every Liberian deserves a better tomorrow for themselves and for their children. Let us join hands as we move towards this new and reconciled Liberia filled with hope, promise and prosperity.” Quoting United States President Barrack Obama, President Sirleaf reminded Liberians about the true meaning of peace and reconciliation. President Obama said, “Peace is about attitudes not just politics.” To further paraphrase it, when peace is challenged, you have to choose whether to show the courage to resist in the interest of sustaining peace, or succumb to the fear that leads to destruction and despair,” she said.
For his part., the paper reported that the Maryland lawmaker said he and the President have turned a new page in the interest of the people they serve, yet noting that he will continue to stand up for what he believes in especially matters that affect his people.“Well I was weeping for the state. I felt there has been so much to be considered. The Liberians are being underserved and it is my prayer that we work collectively to ensure that prosperity will come to our people; there will be unity progress and there be justice; I believe ecclesiastically, there is time for everything. Now it’s time that we start a new page; not to say that the people’s interest will be abandoned. We remain unbending in seeking the best interest of our people and this is our focus.”
Similarly, the paper reported that As the President and Chambers’ reconciliation euphoria filled the air, her strong loyalist, Mary Broh, the dethroned former acting mayor of Monrovia, walked up to her bitter rival, Rep. Solomon George (CDC-Montserrado-District 7), hugged him and both were all smiles shaking hands. “We’ve had some differences and I think today is the day to put everything aside and make peace, embrace with sincerity,” an excited Broh stated.
The former Mayor also announced to reporters that Rep. Munah Pelham Youngblood was her niece and both women posed for photographs as the cameras rolled. As the newspaper rightly reported that, “Broh and the Legislature had been at odds for what many called her disrespect for that body. Many members of the House of Representatives including Youngblood and George have publicly disagreed with Broh creating bitter acrimony between them. Broh and George were lately in an altercation in which a video of the lawmaker insulting the former Acting Mayor went viral on YouTube creating shockwaves at home and in the Liberian Diaspora.”
Indeed, I am happy for this latest move or action because I have been one of those who have been seriously concerned about this bad blood between these individuals, for which I even wrote articles on the matter. In one of the articles, I humbly appealed to President Sirleaf to “reach out” to Honorable Chambers, who was once her loyalist, as he was very bitter about her.
Honestly, I do not know the origin or reasons for this bitterness on the part of the lawmaker, but it is believed that his bitterness stemmed from a concession agreement which presumably or reportedly did not go his way. Again, let me say that I do not really have the facts as I am still searching and ruminating on the issue. But one thing I know, for sure, is that it is only the lawmaker or the President that can really say what caused this bitterness or bad blood. Howbeit, I am aware in a democratic setting, there will always be disagreement and critical views on issues of national concern, which is healthy to uphold democratic tenets. But the situation with the lawmaker was so different that many felt that it was something quite different than that of the concession agreement.
While the scenes at last Thursday’s program is commendable, one is left to ask as to whether this was really done with all sincerity and honesty because there have been similar situations in which people showcased the issue of reconciling, only to find out that it was not done with sincerity and honesty. As it is said in Liberia, I hope this is not a “white teeth and black heart,” situation, in which one deceptively exhibits a situation of forgiveness facially with smile and laughter, while inwardly, this is only a show, as the person remains unforgiving in his or her heart. Besides, I hope this was not a public relations stunt because strangers are in the town.
I am raising this issue because my late grandmother, then an octogenarian, always told me in simple and plain talk, “My son, you can ask a person holding a stick to put it down, but not what is in the person’s heart. Literally, she meant that because one sees a person holding a stick, the person can be asked to put down the stick to avoid trouble, but on the issue of reading what is in the person’s heart, this is difficult because no one knows what is in another person’s heart, or what that person inwardly intends to do.”
And so in this situation; we have seen these individuals, visibly displaying that they have put the ugly past behind. But the million dollar question is how sincere and honest are they because if it did not come from their hearts, then it is a mere charade and unnecessary public relations? Reconciliation must come from within, which requires change in attitude and behavior as they relate to utterances and communication.
To conclude, I certainly agree with the United States President, Obama, as quoted by President Sirleaf that, ‘“Peace is about attitudes not just politics.”