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Dialoging for common ground

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The settlement of benefits of former soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia or AFL continues to attract public attention, especially when there are crucial national issues on hands. At the time progressive efforts were being (and continue to be) made against the spread of the Ebola Virus, especially upon being discovered in Liberia’s northern Lofa County, about a hundred widows of former AFL soldiers took to the streets on April 1, 2014  onto the grounds of the Capitol Building in a peaceful protest in demand of the benefits of their late husbands.

At the core of their “peaceful” protest was a call for an intervention to the Liberian Legislature for the Executive Branch of Government to meet up with their obligation by remitting to them (widows) the ‘just’ benefits of their deceased husbands. The widows of the former AFL soldiers, through their leader, Esther Myers, had accused the Government of Liberia of failing to fulfill its promise of remitting to them the amount of US$23m  in 2013 as just benefits- a claim dismissed by the Civil Law Court following a petition filed by the widows, through their Lawyer Atty. Dempster Brown.

The April 1, 2014 protest by the women followed a commitment made by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf after the Court’s ruling to compensate them and other disbanded AFL Soldiers at the end of a thorough vetting exercise under the auspices of the Bureau of Veteran Affairs- an exercise completed since then. The government’s commitment for a dialogue is yet to be a reality and that payment to the women is selective, according to the widows’ leader (Esther Myers).

It must be noted, however, that it is always irritating and disgusting that every time while concentrations are on serious nationals matters, the attention of Liberians will always be distracted to issues many would consider “non-issue”. In the case of the disbanded soldiers and widows of the former AFL soldiers, there should be no need to even have a situation such as protest or demonstration when this matter was very easy to have been addressed.

Whether or not to pay the amount of US23m as “just benefits” to them, DIALOGUE was the only compromise or way out of this matter; and surely, a common ground would have been reached only and only if such dialogue had taken place between the widows and disbanded soldiers and Government of Liberia. While many may regard such continuous protest action by the AFL widows and disbanded soldiers as exercising democracy as it relates to their rights, it is also not a good internal and external public relations for the Government of Liberia every time these aggrieved Liberians appear on the streets and at public places to protest.

It is in the interest of us all for a meeting of the minds between the government and aggrieved parties toward a final resolution to this conflict. In this dialogue there must be compromises in the interest of peace and reconciliation so that we don’t have a reputation of such ugly situation. While the Government of Liberia has begun payment to some and may already be committed to the rest, the disbanded AFL soldiers and widows of their colleagues must be reasonably understanding in terms of payment, owing to the exogenous and numerous obligations with which the government is engaged.

In other words, as we appeal to the Government of Liberia to make final settlement to these Liberians once and for all through constructive dialogue, our compatriots-the widows and disbanded soldiers must put all others behind them and accept whatever compromise that would be put forward by the government, should there be a meeting of the minds as the way out of the dragging and embarrassing situation.

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