9 October 2012

Liberia: Reconciliation - Paralyzes Again; Gbowee Resigns, Citing 'Lack of Govt Support'

Photo: Liberia Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf addresses the U.S. council on foreign affairs.

When critics growl that the Sirleaf administration has done poorly on the domestic front despite monumental strides in enlivening the failed state, the evidence often pointed to is the lack of sound reconciliation agenda that would bring together former belligerent tribes and religions.

Pundits say the nation threads on a time bomb in the absence of genuine national reconciliation. Already, millions of offshore monies went in oblivion when recommendations of Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission hit the walls or were dumped over stiff rejection from the political administration charged with the responsibility to enforce those recommendations.

Nearly two years following the demise of the TRC, the Sirleaf administration experimented with another reconciliation group headed by Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee. But before inks got dry on the terms of reference of the new group, the team leader resigned, citing yet another noncooperation from Government. The Analyst reports.

There was fanfare in Liberia when two Liberian women,  President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and longtime gender equality and peace advocate Leymah Gbowee last year shared the world's most prestigious Nobel Peace Prize and brought them to the homeland. It was also widely speculated that the nonpresidential sharer of the prize fiercely campaigned for her "role model" in 2005 and 2011 to get Sirleaf elected. But it appears the two feminists will be parting company over two intractable questions that appear to defy solution--reconciliation and corruption.

Sirleaf was criticized by opponents when her scheme of things disbanded the TRC and when a new Commission then headed by Gbowee was set up as an apparent successor of the TRC which had taken colossal efforts, time and resources.

However, the President's Nobel Peace Prize colleague accepted to take offer, perhaps thinking that our long struggle for peace particularly during the dark days of war, coupled with Nobel Prize prestige, would do the trick that the TRC did not utilize.

Less than year, Leymah Gbowee has abandoned the assignment not only creating more dark clouds over the post-conflict nation's reconciliation needs but also nearly confirming that President Sirleaf's gray spot is actually the lack of genuine commitment to national healing and reconciliation.

The President has come under sustained criticism from opponents who often say her critical role or involvement in both the political struggle of the last three decades and the civil conflict have robbed her the moral high standing to reconcile the nation, but she has consistently fanned off these criticisms affirming her determination to reconcile the people of the nation.

Leymah Gbowee's resignation from the Commission meant to replace the TRC, according to pundits, is another big blow in the President's efforts to leave justify her reconciliation agenda and her overall fight against corruption.

In resigning her post on the reconciliation commission Gbowee made insinuations that indict President Sirleaf.

It can be recalled when Gbowee visited Paris for the launch of the French edition of her book 'Mighty Be Our Powers', she said: "People are very disappointed. We have a deficit when it comes to having a moral voice in the country."

She said she was guilty for not speaking out in the past, declaring her intention to stepping down as the head of Liberia's reconciliation commission in frustration at its lack of progress.

According to the former Sirleaf fanatic, not much has changed under the presidency of President Sirleaf, as a lot of people continue to face hardship while a minute few are bathing in plenty.

"What has changed? [President Sirleaf's] sons are on the board of oil companies and one is the deputy governor of the central bank. The gap between the rich and poor is growing. You are either rich or dirt poor, there's no middle class."

Gbowee said she was resigning as head of the National Peace and Reconciliation Initiative as "not enough is being done for national healing."

"I feel I have been a disappointment to myself and Liberia. Not speaking is as bad as being part of the system. Some may say I am a coward but the opportunity to speak out has come here. I will also speak about it when I get home."

Gbowee said in President Sirleaf's first term she developed infrastructure, saying, "But what good is infrastructure if people don't have enough to eat? Development in a land of hungry, angry people is nothing. When they get angry, they will burn it down because it is not connected to a large section of the population."

Govt Reacts

Meanwhile Government says it has accepted the Gbowee resignation, but not without registering its disagreement over Madam Gbowee's claims.

A Ministry of Information press release says the Government has made tremendous efforts in fostering reconciliation and genuine peace which as manifested not only in the current fiscal budget where reconciliation accounts for US$5m but also the genuine efforts by the government to engage in reconciliatory dialogues across the country.

The Government also recounted the establishment of the independent Human Right Commission coupled with the establishment of a Special Commission to navigate the reconciliation process across the country.

Meanwhile, the Peace and Reconciliation roadmap to which madam Gbowee and others contributed will be launched in November thus demonstrating government's continuous efforts to alleviate the issues of reconciliation as one of its over aching priorities.

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