By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Liberians have reasons to celebrate 10 years of sustained peace and tranquility in the country. Liberians, in this sense, do not only refer to those residing in the confine of the borders of the country, but also those outside in other parts of the world, as whatever happens after affect them. For too long Liberians have experienced spiral of violence which has resulted to death, destruction and displacement. The latest conflict was during the tenure of former President Charles Taylor when the nation was once more plunged into another civil conflict, involving the Liberian government and the former two warring factions-the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and also the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL).
It was in this wave of insecurity that a peace meeting was organized by ECOWAS with the government of the former warring factions and other stakeholders in Accra, Ghana. At the end of the talks then chaired by former Nigerian Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, an agreement known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by the main parties to the marathon peace talks. They include the government of Liberia, the former two warring factions- the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and also the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), along with political parties and the civil society.
As I said recently in a similar article, the challenge of that talk, which I also attended, was to have the former warring factions to cease all hostilities, and so the first annex of the peace accord is focused on that aspect. In that part of the agreement the parties agreed “to declare and observe a ceasefire beginning 0001 on 18th June, 2003,” and also “to refrain from committing any act that might constitute or facilitate a violation of the ceasefire” as provided for in the agreement. The ceasefire agreement provided the avenue for talks on the political future of the country, as that portion of the accord ended the state of hostility.
This was followed by discussions on other issues that culminated into the signing of the peace agreement. The peace agreement amongst other issues, covered the following: development of an international stabilization force; commencement of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme; restructuring of the security forces (Security sector reform); human rights issues/reconciliation; humanitarian issues; socio-economic reforms; reconstruction/rehabilitation; creation of the democratic space; formation of a transitional government, which will not include the current President in accordance with its June 4th 2003 declaration in Accra made at the inauguration of the “ECOWAS Peace Talks and elections.
Since the signing of the CPA on August 18, 2003, the country continues to enjoy peace; first with the ushering in the transitional government headed by Charles Gyude Bryant based on a formula and configuration agreed upon by the parties to the peace talks. This was followed by the democratically elected government of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005. Madam Sirleaf, who is now serving her second term was re-elected in 2011.
It was based on the relative peace in the country that events were organized by the Liberian government to commemorate this day, to serve as a reminder to all Liberians to do whatever is possible to sustain and keep the peace. The events included discussions by the Ministry of Information, which brought together key signatories of the accord. The events also included worship services held by Muslims and Christians. The decade of celebration was climaxed yesterday with a parade in the principal streets of Monrovia, which was followed by an indoor program at the historic Centennial Pavilion in Monrovia.
While it is an undeniable fact that peace does not only mean the absence of war, as there are things that must be done to sustain the peace, my blood always boils whenever I hear people referring to the challenges facing the country and making remarks such as, “we will return to war.” Whenever I hear this, I always wonder whether these individuals have experienced war or what really transpired when the state found itself in violence or in a war situation.
Whenever I hear this threat of war, my heart bleeds because I have seen the consequences of war and how it had dehumanized people; I have seen how it makes a country ungovernable; I have seen how innocent people have been killed; I have seen massive looting, hunger plundering of the country’s resources for the benefit of undeserving few; I have heard about how people were massacred in some parts of the country. I heard how people were killed because of tribal or religious connections.
Frankly, to say that all is well because of the absence of war would only be a fallacy and a deception. But at the same time, to make threats of war or reverting to the ugly past, when we are consciously aware that there are people still around who are fermenting violence which is my concern. For me, the best approach to these problems, such as poverty, unemployment, basic social services like water and light, is to keep speaking out and making demands on the government. The government is not only those in the Executive Branch, but also those elected in the legislature to seek our interest.
Today, as we celebrate decade of peace, there is concern because of the swelling U.S. rates to the Liberian Dollar. This is serious because as the Liberian dollar continues to depreciate on a daily basis, this is equally affecting the general price level, which is affecting the purchasing power of the people as prices are also increasing. The situation could be tantamount to pouring gas on a burning person. These concerns are genuine because of the ominous increment in the rate. But again while this is painful, we have to keep making demands on our leaders to work to solve this serious problem because it is common sense that when it is allowed to keep swelling without justifiable economic reasons, then, there is reason for concern.
Yes, today, we celebratev10 years of peace, but at the same time, let us consider those challenges which have the potential to threaten this peace. We should not be complacent, thinking that all is well. To do this would be like living in a fool’s paradise. All in all, my concern, let us stop making threats of war, as war solves no problem, rather it worsens a situation. Therefore, to sustain the peace, we should keep making demands and also seek dialogue to whatever problem. We should eschew threats of war or pursue the war path. With this, we are bound to succeed, as we can be likened to a group of people in a boat; if it sails well, we will be safe; conversely, if it doesn’t, we all will drown.
I Rest My Case.