A cross-section of traditional leaders Internal Affairs Minister, Dr. Henrique F. Topka has urged traditional leaders across the country to take a lead role in securing peace here as the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL radually draws down its security personnel from the country.
Speaking over the weekend at the gathering of chiefs and elders in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, during the official launch of the Cater Center Chiefs’ Program under the Access to Justice Pillar, Dr. Tokpa said, the role of chiefs and elders is critical to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Country.
He said, it was now time for traditional leaders to take up the mantle of authority in their communities to buttress effort of government in ensuring peaceful in the nation even as UNMIL leaves. “Let me say this to the local government, as UNMIL peacekeepers depart Liberia in the near future, we expect the local government structure to be solely involve in maintaining the peace we now enjoy through its interactions with the people,”. He said.
The Internal Affairs Minister assured that he would work with the leadership of the Council of Chiefs and other stakeholders for the restoration of dignity and authority of traditional people throughout Liberia.
“I know that these efforts have been applied through different kinds of trainings, mentoring as well as technical and logistical supports, and I am also aware that a dispute resolution mechanism is to help resolve disputes using our local and traditional means, which is critical to supporting National efforts in the wake of UNMIL draw down.” He emphasized.
The Internal Affairs Minister is at the same time thanking the Carter Center for supporting traditional leaders to build their capacity in a way that allows them to perform their duties and functions as traditional customary leaders.
Speaking earlier, the Carter Center’s Chief of Party, Pewee S. Flomoku said the extension to Grand Bassa County brings to eight the number of counties the Access to Justice is being run.He said the program has proven positive, noting, that many traditional leaders including women and youth now understand their rights and responsibilities in their various communities.
Mr. Flomoku said through the Access to Justice Program, his organization works closely with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to enhance chiefs’ capacity in the areas of peacebuilding, advocacy and leadership at the community level.
He said former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife were happy to see the level of improvement Liberian traditional leaders are making in their communities and at the national level through the support with the Carter Center.
He then promised to strengthen the collaboration with the Internal Affairs Ministry and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders to further enhance the capacity of traditional and other community leaders including women and youth.
Meanwhile, Grand Bassa County Superintendent J. Levi Demmah has described as timely the intervention of the Carter Center in the county especially when UNMIL was drawing down, which poses greater demand for local leadership.
For his part, the Chairman of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia Chief Zanzan Karwor assured that his council will remain supportive to work of national government through the Ministry of Internal Affairs in ensuring a peaceful and stable country.
The launch of Access to Justice or Chiefs’ Program brought together over sixty (60) traditional leaders from across the country, who later participated in a two day training workshop. Topics covered during the workshop included the role of customary chiefs in the judiciary, peace, security, health promotion, law reform, and citizens’ ownership of government.
The Carter Center Chiefs’ Program is funded by the Swedish Government, USAID and others. While in Buchanan, the Internal Affairs toured the Grand Bassa County Service Center under the auspices of the Liberia Decentralization Support Program (LDSP) as well as ongoing works on the newly constructed Buchanan City Hall.