opinionBy Morris M. Dukuly, Sr.
Dear Fellow Compatriots:
In October, following the confluence of several unconnected and unexpected events involving the Presidency, the popular Liberian concept of "October Rain" was given a new life. "October Rains" are a euphemism for abruptness and unpredictability. They are considered special and have large and heavy drops; they come often without clouds forming and without warning; they are sudden. They also stop as quickly as they fall.
In December, until climate change became a new, threatening global phenomenon, rains were not expected to fall during this period of the year. When they do, they therefore engender surprise; they shock people. Yet like October Rains, they, too, come and stop suddenly. This past Monday, it drizzled in Gbarnga, Bong County. And yesterday, Tuesday morning, while I was at the Capitol Building, it also drizzled. Both Monday's and Tuesday's drizzles surprised me, as I am sure they did so many other persons. Such has been climate change!
A little more than a week ago, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pulled her own December surprise on the nation: to the astonished and disbelieving assembly of political leaders, the President announced that Ambassador George Manneh Weah would be Liberia's first "Peace Ambassador". I imagine jaws dropped! And applauses greeted the President's pronouncement.
Substantively, it was a bold and magnanimous act of leadership for the President to reach out to Ambassador Weah to ask him to help the Government with its work of peace building - and national reconciliation. It was also an act of great statesmanship and patriotism for Ambassador Weah to accept to serve as our country's "Peace Ambassador". The President and Ambassador Weah proved that they are national leaders, and understand that leadership is not often about doing something that is popular or common, but rather daring to do something that is right - and even unpopular. The decision to appoint Ambassador Weah was the right decision to make. The decision to accept to serve as "Peace Ambassador" in an administration against which Ambassador Weah contested the presidency and against which he is known to stand as pre-eminent opposition political leader was the right decision to make.
President Sirleaf did not have to appoint Ambassador Weah. Ambassor Weah did not also have to accept to serve as "Peace Ambassador". Both leaders knew this fact. In their joint decisions and actions, President Sirleaf and Ambassador Weah therefore proved that Liberia is bigger and greater than each of them - and all of us. I therefore thank and applaud President Sirleaf for her courageous leadership and decision. I also thank and congratulate Ambassador Weah for his patriotic decision - and wish him success.
Yet the appointment of Ambassador Weah is only the beginning. Much work remains to be done. Internal to their political parties, President Sirleaf and Ambassador Weah must endeavor to bring their partisans and supporters behind their decisions. In the appointment of Ambassador Weah, Liberia has gained; the chances for calming our troubled political waters have been enhanced. Yet many, particularly the politicians on all sides, have lost, and they will not tire or relent. Because when President Sirleaf and Ambassador Weah are communicating and working together smoothly for the common goal of achieving durable peace in Liberia, the politicians, those who carry "bones" back and forth between the two leaders, the "Chichipolis", will have lost: lost power, lost influence, lost fame, and lost the opportunity to make quick money lying to the two leaders. Then, there is the group of politicians, the political Nicodemuses, who thrive and prosper only in an atmosphere of conflict and chaos, because in such climates, they are not accountable; they exploit prevailing state of confusion and conflict for their own selfish political agenda and material good. The latter group comprises the political Nicodemus who perambulate between the Presidency and Ambassador Weah peddling lies back and forth, often counseling the CDC leadership not to cooperate with the administration or to engage in political activities that potentially undermine national peace, stability, security. I could hear this group say, "Man, this Old Ma, what is she up to again?"
These groups have momentarily lost! But, they will not relent. They will continue to scheme, to re-strategize, all in an effort to undermine the relationship between President Sirleaf and Ambassador Weah. But, I have no doubt that both President Sirleaf and Ambassador Weah understand this fact. In my view, one of the strategies that could be used to ensure that the enemies of peace do not succeed is for both President Sirleaf and Ambassador Weah to agree to communicate more regularly and more directly, not through intermediaries or emissaries. Some of the intermediaries and emissaries have their agendas, and unless they achieve such agendas, they will continue to ferment misunderstanding, chaos, and conflict.
There is also a second reason why I would like to thank the President and congratulate Ambassador Weah: No single political leader of this generation has the power and the ability to create and promote peace than Ambassador Weah. He is an icon among the youth regardless of ethnic, religious, and socio-economic standing. They listen to him. They idolize him. They carry out his instructions. They see in him their individual and collective future. This is awesome political power. Ambassador Weah now has the opportunity to work to harness the energies of his youth brigade for the greater good of peace and harmony in our country. If Ambassador Weah succeeds at creating the environment for peace, utilizing the creative energies and exuberance of his youth to expand and strengthen the writ of peace and security and stability across the length and breadth of our beloved country, he would have etched his name and place in the history of this country as one of Liberia's premier peace builders.
My Fellow Compatriots: We all must recognize that peace building is not a moment in time. It is also not the work of one individual, even if that individual has the stature and fame of Ambassador Weah. Peace, more enduring peace, will be occasioned when all Liberians work together to build peace, when we eschew tendencies that divide us and promote conflict: lies, gossips, rumors, greed, hate speech; false accusations, improper use of the media, selfishness and self-interest. Each of us has a responsibility for building peace in our country. This is what Dr. Amos Sawyer said, and I fully concur with him. We must therefore resolve to work with President Sirleaf and Ambassador Weah to assist them achieves peace for our generation - and peace for the future of our country. We must encourage the President to provide the material and financial support that Ambassador Weah needs to succeed. Ambassador Weah should recognize that there is tremendous good-will across this country that he can tap into to be a successful "Peace Ambassador".
Let me therefore say this to Ambassador Weah: You have been given an enviable but difficult political platform. The youth are a disparate group. They also have many concerns and needs. They have very high expectations fueled by the anxieties of that age group. They believe in immediate gratification. They will demand a lot from you materially and otherwise. They will see your new role as that of a Messiah, the great savior and provider. The role you have assumed is difficult, too; it puts you under the microscope. All young people and the nation are watching you. You have the first ingredient you need to succeed: you will be dealing with a base that loves and adores you - and believes in you. Lead them toward the land of peace and reconciliation. Some of your friends may give you advice that may lead you to pause, to rethink your decision, and to rethink your options. But, I have no doubt that you recognize and accept that Liberia's future belongs to you and the young people you are now charged with helping to lead toward seeing and accepting the imperative and significance of peace. The future of our generation, my generation, is now! Your future is tomorrow, which you have been called upon to help shape today. You have the best political platform that Liberia could offer you for the task. Utilize it to enshrine your name in our nation's history - and to lay the foundation of peace and prosperity for you and your generation. Don't listen to the detractors and apostles of cynicism and doom.
Thank you, Madame President! Congratulations, Ambassador Weah!
Together, let all of us work to build a peaceful, prosperous, stable, and secure Liberia for our generation - and for succeeding generations.
Morris M. Dukuly, Sr.
About the Author:
Morris M. Dukuly, Sr. is a Communications Specialist and a national and international consultant. He holds a Master's degree in Mass Communications and a Master's degree in Education from Temple University in Pennsylvania and University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, respectively. He has served as a Liberian Cabinet Minister, more recently as Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Mr. Dukuly also served as Speaker of the Transitional Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Liberia from March 1994 to March 1997.
Disclaimer: The Author did not seek or receive any assistance from anyone. The views expressed and all factual and material errors are his and his alone.