When the hostility which marked the violent death of thousands of Liberians and destroyed multitudes of State owned and individuals properties came to an end almost seven years ago, many doubted the readiness of the Liberian people to leave behind violence and stick to peace. Despite the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in Accra – Ghana, many people still entertained fear that the country was bound to revert to violence given the fact that similar accords were signed in previous years , which yielded no positive results. It can be recalled vividly, that when the Interim Government headed by Gyude Bryant was finally put in to place and subsequently began administering the affairs of the country, the rumors of threat of another round of war continued unabated.
Perhaps, the most delicate aspect of that historic Peace Accord which inevitably was seen by many as a recipe for the country retuning to civil war, was the very composition of the Interim Government which was crafted purely on factional lines. From the very beginning, it was reported that some of the signatories to the Peace Accord had shown preferences for certain key positions in Government as prerequisite for agreeing to any peace deal. Whatever was done to appeal to the minds of the various warring factions, at the end of the day, peace was achieved.
Admittedly, the journey has never been rosy as was expected; wounds created by years of violence needed time to heal, the institutions that mattered in moving the country forward were greatly affected in all negative terms. The nation’s external image in all aspects was dented and branded as a failed State. As a result, Liberia was completely isolated from the rest of the international community. This was a difficult time for a country which once served as a beacon of hope for many Africans especially with in the sub-region. But the woes of Liberia did not start with the recent civil war; it goes far beyond that to encompass the failed political arrangement which ignored the rights and privileges of the ordinary people who make up the significant number of the population. One commentator described it as marginalization. From this perspective, one understands that the civil war which reduced the semi-prosperous nation (Liberia) to a war ravaged, impoverished and a pariah State could not have taken place in a vacuum. That story can be told in another essay.
While it is difficult to ignore the negative impact of the civil war, I am cautiously confident that with our collective resolve, those bitter experiences are now part of history, and that the effort to rebuild Liberia to become a vibrant and prosperous nation has assumed a new momentum. I am also confident that the tendency to brand the country as a fragile nation perpetually, is fading considerably for the simple fact that our democratic institutions are being strengthened gradually. The presence of the Governance Commission, the Land Reform Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, National Human Rights Commission and other auxiliary committees being formed to forster peace and reconciliation are welcome developments in pursuit of lasting peace and stability in new Liberia.
Yet, the willingness of the opposition to engage in dialogues that will help create a genuine atmosphere of calmness to avoid tensions and unnecessary distractions, is yet another opportunity for Liberians to purge themselves of parochialism, envy and tribalism. I totally disagree with those blaming both sides for this initiative. The decision by the President to invite all Liberians including the opposition to join hands together in moving the country forward, is a positive sign capable of placing the nation on the right trajectory of progress given the fact that nation building is a collective endeavor which takes into account the inputs and concerns of all citizens irrespective of political affiliations. Once we accept this notion, the harmonization of views and efforts to address the legitimate concerns of all stakeholders will ensue simultaneously.
Similarly, that opposition who have swallowed their pride and come forward to denounce violence and proclaim peace and reconciliation as the way forward, are on the right track of history. This is no time to beat our chests and insist on creating tension as this has not been in the interest of any one in the past and could not be now because in the long run, violence is not sustainable. Evidently, we all have in one way or another suffered from the effects of war and it is only fools that can be brought under such humiliating conditions which have reduced us to beggars, prostitutes, refuges, and all such vices. Prior to the war, Liberians knew little or nothing about some of these things too awful to be described by this writer, but we know that the effects of war brought so many unpleasant experiences to our society which we are now trying to grapple with. We all also know how degrading it can be when a country credited for excellent role in setting agenda for others to follow is reduced to a pariah State and cut off from the rest of the world. Such was the situation in which we found ourselves during the civil war.
The role of the Liberian youth in consolidating our nascent democracy cannot be ignored. Having been part-takers of the conflict and fought alongside various factions, the youths have been manipulated, in some cases misdirected or brain washed to engage in all sorts of violence with destructive consequences not only against individuals but also the state at large. During the war, there were reports of massive looting and destruction of public facilities by youths either acting on their own or instructed by a hidden hands. Most of the killings were allegedly committed by the same youths serving under various factions. Even when the hostility ceased and the calm returned, it became fashionable and I believe it is still fashionable that the slightest misunderstanding from any quarter in Monrovia attracts the attention of the so called youths who will now turn this into full blown violence. This situation has given rise to a suspicion that in the absence of the United Nations Peace Keepers, the Liberian Youths cannot be brought under control. This awful line of thinking is what continues to be on the lips of some of those disgruntled youths who believe in lawlessness.
Frankly speaking, the impression being created by some of our youths is not unconnected from the assertion made above unless there is a serious effort on the part of the youths to change for a better and adopt positive attitudes toward life. In the midst of a mounting call for a generational change, the Liberian youths have a lot to prove that in this democratic era, they are ready to go through the maze of life rather than follow a short cut which can only lead them to a confused state of mind and helplessness. It may also be wise for the youths to equip themselves in the amour of knowledge which would make them to stand up against those who may want to use them to advance their own selfish interests. The Youths must resist the temptation of being seen as instruments for sabotage and destabilization. The current democratic dispensation by all measure, is on the right track, and can be taken to a higher level when all Liberians especially the youths avail themselves of the opportunity to help keep the momentum going without any distraction. To be continued.
Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs
Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations