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Confidence Crisis May Hunt Traditional Council

When the National Traditional Council of Liberia – a grouping of Liberian elders, chiefs and zoes headed by Zanzan Karwor, chose to intervene in the ongoing unfortunate conflict among members of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, many had thought it was actually an achievable venture.

As “fathers, mothers and elders” of the land as they have always claimed, the Council’s reconciliatory role had earlier been welcomed, especially when many Liberians had thought it was an independent body that could mend the fences, of course, employing the necessary traditional conflict mediation principles.

But as it stands, it may all be over for any further role of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, owing to what many Liberians may now be concluding that its lack of traditional conflict-resolution ingenuity – judging from its latest public expression and position too.

The Council, through its leader – Chief Zanzan Kaewoe, told a Tuesday news conference in Monrovia that House Speaker J. Alex Tyler must resign, attributing such conclusive decision to the failure of the Speaker and his supporters to attend a planned meeting on Tuesday at 1:00pm, as well as his alleged call for the President of Liberia to resign too if he should.

Karwor had, a few days before, met with the two opposing sides in the House of Representatives, raising the hope of many Liberians, but short-landed without any comments on the outcome of such mediation – only to assure that he and officials of the council would then meet with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who was accused of being at the core of the conflict among members of the House of Representatives.

Whether or not the President was ever met, Chief Zanzan Karwor could only say far less than nothing about such effort, but to render a conclusive judgment on Tuesday, August 23, 2016, against the Speaker and supporters on the basis of “default and threat”.

Just as the unfortunate situation in the House, we must all be reminded that most conflicts have roots from differences of some kind – differences in information, in values and beliefs, in roles and functions, as well as differences in perception.

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Other causes may include lack of trust, fear of the consequences and competitiveness, especially over scarce resources. Whatever the cause, Thomas F. Crum, in “The Magic of Conflict”, recommends 5 strategies to adopt to deal with conflict – something absent from the mediatory role of Chief Zanzan Karwor and his Traditional Council. These strategies include avoiding (especially useful when the issue is far more important to others), accommodating (Useful when the issue is far more important to others), forcing (Good for when quick, decisive, action is called for or you need to implement an unpopular decision – but only if commitment isn’t needed), compromising (Although giving everyone some of what they want isn’t likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome), compromising ( works when the goals are mutually exclusive) and collaborating (When time isn’t an issue, working through difficult feelings and different perspectives can lead to a much better solution and stronger commitment to that solution) – either or some of which are always used in traditionally resolving conflict.

Either of the foregoing Chief Karwor and his National Traditional Council failed to adopt in their role, but to jump into conclusion. It is no secret that the decision was purely based on sentiments, considering the failure of the council to meet with the President, as well as inability to continue to pursue its mediatory role and the expressions from the chief.

We think this latest development creates some confidence crisis in any future interventions of the council because of the lack of trust and independence. 

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