Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has urged governments to provide the platform for dialogue and work for equitable compromises.
“If governments can respond to grievances, provide a platform for dialogue and work for equitable compromises, people will feel less of a need to turn to violence and conflict to be heard,” Mrs. Sirleaf said during a speech delivered recently at the United States Institute for Peace or USIP.
Ms. Sirleaf’s comments come amidst a wave of violent protests against the George Weah-led Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC government under just two years since he ascended to power.Though she delivered the speech more than 6,000 miles away from the shores of Liberia, it appeals to the current political situation in the country, as oppositions make several demands here for an improved governance system.
Ms. Sirleaf argued that improving governance is important not only after peace has been achieved, but better governance can help prevent conflict from ever happening,
“It is therefore the duty of leaders to ensure that governments function, respond to the will of the people, are devoid of corruption, and allow all to participate freely and equally in the electoral process. Critical to this is allowing women and youths to be equal participants in governance and allowing their voices to be heard,” the ex-president said.
Meanwhile, earlier during her speech, Ms. Sirleaf gave an upbeat appraisal of the role women have played over the years in an effort to broker peace in conflict-torn countries such as Liberia and elsewhere on the African continent but are often or not given the prominence they deserve.
She said for example, despite the success of women in achieving peace, women were largely put to the margins of formal discussions and peace accord goals.
Ms. Sirleaf noted that out of the 37 articles in the peace accord (Liberia) women were only mentioned in four. In response, eight female observers to the agreement, from the Mano River Women’s Peace Network, created the Golden Tulip Declaration, which listed women’s priorities and established a follow-up committee to encourage women’s participation in the post-conflict process.
Ms. Sirleaf said Liberian women are not alone in their pursuit for peace. “Today, women the world over bear a greater burden of the effects of conflict and war. Of all people in need of humanitarian assistance, 75 percent are women and girls. Furthermore, sexual violence against women and girls is a tool of conflict used both by enemy groups and government-sponsored forces,” she Sirleaf observed.
Despite these achievements however, she noted that when it comes to resolving conflict and building peace, women are noticeably absent from official discussions and negotiations, stressing that the time is now for women to be active participants in peace process and leadership.-Writes Othello B. Garblah