Liberia's new peace ambassador and leader of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) George Weah has expressed his conviction and love for the country, stating that there is more to unite Liberians than divide them.
Weah, accepting his appointment last week declared that "There is more that unites us than separates us, [and that] Liberia is ready to move forward to a brighter future and we can all get there through peace, unity and reconciliation."
Weah said he was prepared to carry on the responsibility of reconciling the nation, a task dashed by Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee (following a fall off with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf), but called for the involvement and cooperation of all Liberians and full political will to support the initiative by the government.
"This special appointment implies many challenges on the road ahead to securing sustained peace and security for our country and our future. We are mindful of this historical necessity, and aware of the delicate nature of the assignment.
He said in order to overcome the challenges, the government must have the political will to support this initiative to the fullest and facilitate the implementation of programs and recommendations that will be put forward in the interest of peace and reconciliation for Liberia.
"Reconciliation is not just the seeking of peace," the soccer-legend-turned-politician said. "It entails the search for peace through social justice, equal opportunities, equitable distribution of the national wealth and increased political participation."
He said all Liberians have the responsibility to show, by examples of tolerance, forgiveness and mutual respect, that they are committed to the search for sustained peace and guaranteed security based on these tenets. "I have consulted my family and the political party I represent. During these consultations we all agreed to put Liberia first than any individual interest, because, this is a noble service to the Liberian people and of great historical significance."
Weah said because everybody need peace, the machineries of aggression and coercion (which often disrupt peace) must be replaced by a system based on opportunities in which ALL the people have a stake in the prosperity and challenges of their country.
"It is this road map," he said, "we will follow in fulfilling our responsibility. It is with great honor and privilege that I humbly accept the appointment as Ambassador for Peace for the country that I love. The common ground we share is that we are all Liberians and want to see our nation grow and develop to its fullest potential. We can achieve this only through peace and reconciliation."
He said as Peace Ambassador, he will endeavor to seek full cooperation of all Liberians and the support of the international community; the roles of traditional leaders, religious leaders, civil society organizations, student and youth organizations, women's groups, UNMIL, the armed forces of Liberia, the Liberia National Police, former warlords, former child soldiers, market women, pem-pem boys and the disabled among others, are crucial in the reconciliation process, he declared.
"I have had the privilege in my professional and private life to advocate for peace and unity. My commitment to our youth and to the reconciliation process is unwavering. I have been a partner in peace for a long time and am glad to stand side by side with my fellow citizens and help to forge for a common ground," Weah stated, noting that President Sirleaf had assured him of the government's total support.
Meanwhile, many Liberians are expressing delight for the decisions of both President Sirleaf (appointing) and Weah (accepting) which they say is a genuine way of leading the country's reconciliatory efforts.
"I think this is one of the best decisions and a way of involving the opposition in the government," a lady said on Truth FM last Wednesday morning. "I am calling on all Liberians to put their differences behind and work with George Weah to reconcile this country."
Many Liberians are of the conviction that a Weah-led reconciliatory drive could help bring the people together since he is regarded as one of those who had a clean hand in the war that tore the country apart.
It is also unclear whether the government will release to Weah the controversial US$5million injected into the current fiscal budget for reconciliation. Many have argued that it is a waste of resources and that the money should be directed to health and education rather than to a purpose it will not achieve.
The Chairman of Liberia's Governance Commission, Dr. Amos Sawyer has welcomed the appointment and acceptance by Weah and said "you can never have too many people doing reconciliation when Amb. Weah brings a lot the table. He is a highly respected person by lots of people in our society and abroad, he is a celebrity and he brings all of that to the table".
Dr. Sawyer further said: "the appointment of George Weah is very important, he is not alone, we have to consolidate in building peace, upon which we can build this nation and Ambassador Weah can help to achieve this."
Weah will put together his own Plan of Action as to how he will proceed. The President said that, over several months, the National Steering Committee, with technical assistance from the United Nations system and others, has put together the Reconciliation Roadmap with much more specifics as to how it will be achieved.