23 May 2002

Liberia: Reconciliation Amidst War: What Do We Expect?


Monrovia — Reconciliation, as we see and define it, is to settle disputes, resolve differing statements, bring into agreement or harmony and moreover, make friends again.When one reconciles, he is no longer opposed to his fellow men.

But this reconciliation Liberians are yearning for appears to be far fetched as a result of the war between government troops and the dissidents, coupled with a high degree of insincerity among the citizens.

Reconciliation is not only to ensure the cessation of hostilities, but to seek efforts in ensuring that the war cease. This should be joined with sincerity, commitment, dedication and consistency.

Quite interestingly, Liberians are noted for reconciling on the lips in difficult times, forgetting that their quest for reconciliation should be done with a fair mind and heart.

When the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation And Democracy (LURD) attacked Gbarnga, and subsequently Klay and Arthington around Monrovia, ordinary Liberians ran helter-skelter, while others called for the immediate intervention of ECOWAS.

The call for regional intervention was apparently due to the closeness of the dissidents to Monrovia, and not actually to reconcile and dialogue between the government and LURD rebels.

This inconsistency was clearly demonstrated by many people when government repelled the dissidents from Gbarnga, Arthington and Klay. The recapture of those areas by government forces saw Liberians jubilating and expressing gratitude to government for the takeover. After the successful military gains, little could be heard about ECOWAS' intervention in the Liberian crisis. In fact, some of those who had called for regional force, publicly questioned the role ECOWAS would play in the country, while others are demanding that the regional body's role be defined before it embarks on any peace initiative.

Although few people stressed the need for peace keepers in Liberia, as it was done prior to the 1997 special elections, but that did not seem enough, especially when the call is made inconsistently.

The quest for reconciliation is indeed worrisome in that the LURD rebels appear not to be ready to dialogue with the government and at the same time, the government also finds it impossible to reach a cease-fire agreement with the dissidents.

The Liberian Government indicated that to talk about ceasefire with the LURD would suggest a parity between it and the rebels. In the wake of all these developments, one would wonder whether the reconciliation Liberians so desire will be achieved.

It is difficult to believe that genuine reconciliation will be achieved when Liberians, who should be pursuing that path, are themselves not sure of what they want. The national conference bureau is doing its part of the work by setting the stage for the pending reconciliation conference in July this year, but the efforts of these Liberians should be complimented if the purpose for which the conference was proposed must be achieved.

Liberians from far and near are watching for the forthcoming reconciliation conference, not only because they want to attend, but because they want to see the sincerity and commitment demonstrated by those who are blowing the trumpet of reconciliation.

Liberia and Liberians can achieve true reconciliation only through dialogue, especially during this critical period in the nation's history.

In the 1990's, when the country degenerated in a hell hole, as a result of the war, it was ECOWAS that brought the conflicting parties to the peace conferences, which ended the seven-year war. Though there were several peace talks that produced alternative transitional governments, Liberians finally achieved their goals through those conferences. Similar initiative can be followed in order to get the needed peace and true reconciliation.

Another difficulty that could hamper the achievement of true reconciliation in Liberia is the implementation of resolutions from the conferences. Liberians are not good at practicing what they preach.It can be recalled that the many recommendations from the national conference on the future of Liberia, "Vision 2024," are yet to be implemented.

With the failure of Liberians to implement the resolutions from the Vision 2024 conference, how then can others be assured that the pending reconciliation conference will achieve its desired result.

Vision 2024 was held prior to the September 18,1998 street fighting, and it is yet to achieve anything, how sure are we that this other conference will yield any results, now that preparations are underway in the midst of intense fighting. Is it possible to have this conference when the guns are still sounding around the country? Even if it is held, will it achieve the desired results?

Much needs to be done to ensure that reconciliation is achieved. This can not be done by just saying it on the lips with doubts on the minds, accompanied by inconsistency, insincerity and a lack of commitment.

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