Extending The Joint Council Of Chiefs & Elders Meeting To The Entire MRU Basin: A Necessary Step For Durable Peace And Genuine Reconciliation

By Morrison O.G. Sayon 0886591509 ogsayon2007@yahoo.com

Thank God for my office, The INQUIRER that afforded me the opportunity to have travelled all the way to Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County after 16 hours of drive to cover the Much-publicized Joint Council of Chiefs & Elders Meeting held in the green city of Zwedru. I say green city because of the trees that cover the entire city.

Admittedly, My major interest in the Zwedru Meeting was to give a fair coverage to the planned demonstration by some aggrieved Grand Gedeians who had threatened to stage a demonstration against President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government in lieu of their 19 kinsmen who are in jail facing court trial for their alleged involvement in cross-border attacks in the Ivory Coast. So while on my way to the county my thought was that though the JCCEM was important but it was my secondary agenda because as we all know, good journalists are always interested in “hot” news. And so the hot news then was the pending demonstration.

But again, thank God that nothing of such occurred or heard of in the city or any other part of Grand Gedeh County as the Grand Gedeians were very eager and enthusiastic in receiving their guests from Cote d’Ivoire, Monrovia and other parts of the country who have converged to partake in the JCCEM.

The JCCEM was a result of recommendations from the High Level Quadripartite meeting held between the Governments of Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. During that High Level quadripartite Meeting, it was agreed that 108 representatives of Chiefs and Elders drawn from communities and provinces along the border of both countries shall form part of the JCCEM in Zwedru.

Again let me be frank here, the Zwedru meeting provided a unique platform for discussion and exchange among the Chiefs, Elders and administrative authorities as a means of ensuring continued security, reconciliation and peace in the border regions.

As I said before, the JCCEM was a unique platform in addressing many of the challenges as our Elders and Chiefs were able to identify some of the root causes of conflicts and how these issues can be resolved. That is why I personally think that the communiqué signed between the Liberian, Ivorian Chiefs and Elders which was crafted following the four-day meeting made some of the best and finest recommendations for the total attainment of lasting peace and genuine reconciliation in the Mano River Union (MRU) Basin.

My impression was that the Chiefs and Elders were allowed to discuss the issues by themselves, debated on several topics including how peace, reconciliation and social cohesion can be consolidated along Ivorian, Liberian border and mechanisms for regularized dialogue and information exchanges intended to foster peace and security. The Chiefs and Elders were also given the opportunity to go in group discussions where they were able to identify the problems affecting the people of the two countries and reported them with recommendations.

In short, they themselves decided the outcome of the JCCEM something I think was one of the best frameworks in sustaining and maintaining peace in the MRU Basin. Now that all of the recommendations from our Honorable Chiefs and Elders from Liberia and Ivory Coast have been forwarded to the two governments for their consideration, I believe that this new method of preserving the peace and addressing the issues of reconciliation and security can be replicated in the MRU Basin especially among Chiefs and Elders of Liberia and Sierra Leone considering our ugly past history.

In my candid opinion and wisdom, I believe that it would be a cogent idea to extend the JCCEM platform to other countries of the MRU Basin (Guinea and Sierra Leone) as a means of addressing some of our bitter pasts. This method introduced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Liberia and the Ministry of Interior of the Ivory Coast must be a template in promoting peace and nation healing between Liberia and her neighbors.

I specifically mentioned Sierra Leone because of the civil upheaval that devastated the two sisterly countries and its consequences in which both countries were accused by the other of supporting subversive activities against the other as clearly seen with the 50 years sentence of former Liberian President, Charles Ghankay Taylor in a British Jail all because of the Sierra Leonean crisis. We can’t absolutely be sure that all sides or citizens are satisfied with the Taylor verdict and sentencing but can put the past behind us through the organization of such meeting of the Chiefs and Elders because there is an adage in Bassa that says, “The old folks know where the heart of the crab is located in its body.”

What I noticed during the deliberations is that the meeting was not intended to shift blame on any individual or group but to look at those issues and find amicable solutions to them and that’s why the Zwedru meeting is a success story. As I put down my pen, let me say here that indeed, I saw sincerity, frankness in the eyes of the Chiefs and Elders because they knew that their presence in Zwedru was intended to mend the broken fences and YES; they did just that with honesty, sincerity, opened minds and I’m convinced that this process when extended to the people of Sierra Leone and Guinea it will definitely sustain regional peace, genuine reconciliation and security in the MRU Basin.

Let me now commend the Governments and people of La Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia through their Interior and Internal Affairs Ministries for being thoughtful in organizing such a meeting of the minds which I think is a systematic attempt intended by the Ivorian and Liberian Governments to determine potential areas of conflict.

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