Liberia is commemorating a historic period (2003-2013) of relative tranquility following nearly 15 years of brutal civil conflict. The war ended in August 2003 with the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement among warring factions and civil society in Accra, Ghana which led to a subsequent return to democratic governance.
With the support of the international community, particularly ECOWAS and the United Nations as well as friendly nations, the first post-war democratic elections were held in 2005, which produced Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the pioneer female President not only in the tiny West African nation of about 3 million people, but the first ever on the entire continent.
Since October 2005, civilian governance has remained the hallmark of the political process with the Sirleaf Administration enjoying a second term in office amidst high level of corruption and widespread mismanagement of public funds so much so that transparency and accountability seem to have been thrown out of the governing process.
Despite the silence of guns in the past 10 years, the essential ingredients of peace such as equal opportunity, development, jobs and a strong judiciary and security system are still elusive safe for the presence of UN peacekeepers here or else this country would have returned to the war years. With huge number of youths, including ex-combatants roaming the streets daily without jobs, the reality is that the prevailing discontentment in the population is explosive thus; rendering the peace we celebrate today very fragile.
In other words, peace does not necessarily mean the absence of war, but sincerely exerting those efforts and taking tangible steps to bridge the increasingly widening gap between the minority rich and majority poor in our society. One decade after the guns were silenced, we are still grappling with the availability of basic social services such as pipe borne water and electricity, very crucial to the economic revitalization of any nation. Additionally, the general state of the economy is unstable with lip service being paid to food production. No nation can truly boast of peace if it can’t feed itself because such show off is short live.
Nepotism and cronyism in government seem to have made one group of citizens feel that the national cake is their exclusive inheritance that they can use at will and at the disadvantage of their compatriots. When lawmakers sit on Capitol Hill and apportion the national cake as they think, while majority of the citizens, who elected them into offices walk with bare feet from one village, town or clan to another in search of medication, while US$13 million donor assistance go missing without any trace, how far can we sustain the peace celebration?
We absolutely agree with Lutheran Bishop Reverend Dr. D. Jensen Seyenkulo that “Many around the world do not trust our peace. They do not trust the peace that we celebrate. Our friends are not sure of us.” They hold such perception about us because the basic ingredients of peace alluded to above are absent from our body politics. Unless we view the governance process as an opportunity to serve rather than to lord over our compatriots, using the nation cake like private resources, the crab mentality of pulling one another down in the quest to get to the top will continue to be the order of the day at the detrimental of genuine peace, stability and economic growth.
Ten years after hostility, Liberians still hold onto those attitudes of exclusion, marginalization, religious and tribal sentiments. We believe out rightly defrauding the state for selfish desires is the only way to succeed. How far can we go with peace, holding onto such mindset? Genuine and sustainable peace will continue to elude us as a nation unless we sincerely pursue and utilize those missing ingredients that would consolidate the fragile tranquility currently being enjoyed.