Former UNMIL envoy, now Vice President for Peace Programs of Carter Center Jordan Ryan has expressed optimism in Liberia’s ability to take over its own security when UNMIL draws down by September 2016.
Mr. Ryan believes the country has done a lot of work and has developed an appreciable level of capacity over the years, but stressed the need for more community involvement and the use of alternative dispute resolution.
Mr. Ryan said doing so will help maintain a strong, peaceful, and hopeful nation ahead of UNMIL’s departure, which he noted is going to be perhaps one of the biggest and most important transitions Liberia has ever faced.
“It’s (Liberia) got a lot of the capacity that has been built already, there’s a lot of hard work that’s been done… “… the justice system is working, though not perfectly; but there is an understanding that more needs to be done of having the community being included,” said Ryan.
According to a release, the Carter Center Vice President spoke over the weekend in Gbarnga City, Bong County, following a special reception ceremony in his honor, by traditional leaders and local authorities. Mr. Ryan, who left Liberia Saturday, was in Liberia’s Central region as part of a weeklong visit to assess the impact of the Centers work in the country and see firsthand progress in sustaining the peace.
Youths, women group, the elderly and over twenty traditional leaders including Paramount, clan and general town chiefs along with Bong County Acting Superintendent Anthony Sherif, held a special reception ceremony in his honor and in appreciation of The Carter Center’s interventions.
Our reporter says it was a jubilant scene, as the traditional leaders gowned Mr. Ryan with one of the best locally made gowns and admitted him into the local chieftaincy with the name ‘Paramount Chief Flomo Wennah’. They were particularly grateful for the Center’s for training them to know their rights and responsibilities amicably settle disputes including land matters and tolerate gender equality.
“Those days were seen as property of our husbands and banned from taking part in discussions with men, but through Carter Center’s programs we are now being placed in positions of leadership,” said a female Paramount Chief Mary Marteh.
“If Jimmy Carter was living in Liberia we were going to reelect him,” Suakoko Clan Chief John exclaimed as they narrated to Mr. Ryan how the Carter Center’s work is impacting them. Chief John, in his 70s, recounted the Center’s intervention during the Ebola crisis and how it empowered them to take anti Ebola messages to their people across the length and breadth of the country, an effort which contributed to the eradication of the disease.
Also speaking, Paramount Chief Arthur Wennah pleaded for the Carter Center to continue its programs and also consider providing logistical support, such as construction offices and providing vehicles for them. The Carter Center is working in seven counties, implementing four programs: Freedom of Information, Mental Health and Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs.
For his part, Mr. Ryan expressed delight over the strong collaboration among women, youth and the elders in promoting peace. The release said Mr. Ryan however reaffirmed the Carter Center’s commitment to continue working with Liberians through its projects but urged the need for citizens to continue to work together.
“First I have to say is deep thanks to you, your leadership; your ability to go out to the people and keep issues at the fore front through mediation. “I am so glad that the little the Carter Center does, you have taken it and pushed it out even further,” said Mr. Ryan, adding that his institution was glad to have played its role in fight the Ebola virus. He also paid tribute to the Liberian staff working for the Cater Center.
“Well, at the Carter Center we are wage peace. We are warriors for peace. We fight against disease and build hope. “And you are living examples of people who can wage peace, fight disease and build”, Jordan said in response to his honor and conference of a Paramount chief title.
While in Bong County, the former UN envoy visited the Peace and Justice Regional Hub on the outskirts of Gbarnga, when met with managers of the facility. The hub, which serves Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties, was built by the UN to help make justice accessible to the people and enable rapid respond to situations that may arise in the area.
Just before traveling to Bong County, Mr. Ryan held meetings with series of senior government officials discussing critical issues surrounding government’s plans ahead of UNMIL drawn down and the 2017 general and Presidential elections.
The officials include the Acting Chair of the Cabinet, Defense Minister Brownie Samulkai, Vice President Joseph Boakai, Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly and former Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwengale and officials of the Justice Ministry among others. During these meeting, the officials thanked the Carter Center for its support to Liberia and urged the Center to look toward exploring new avenues of assisting the country.
They also made proposals for The Carter Center to support Liberia decentralization program and also partner with government in tracking the country’s growth rate. Shortly before his departure for the Roberts International Airport, Mr. Ryan also met the Chairman of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders, Zanzan Karwar. Chief Karwar added his voice in appreciating the Carter Center and called for support to empower traditional leaders, among other things. The release concluded.