24 June 2013

Liberia: What's Next, After the Peace Fiesta?


MONROVIA CAME ALIGHT last week when a group of international soccer celebrities arrived and participated in a sports fiesta meant to drum up support for George Weah's national peace and reconciliation program. Sport is widely exclaimed to be a unifying force and there is no doubt that the activities of last week must have played some part in the peace and reconciliation efforts entrusted with soccer icon-turned politician George Weah by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. There is no doubt that young people of Monrovia, who are obsessed with sports, particularly names of soccer icons who came into country, must now be animated, and that government officials—former arch opponents—who embraced one another at one point or another last week, must have by now  taken their position on the road to peace. But the question hovering in the air, however, is: What's next?

WHILE GEORGE WEAH and all those who made the events of last week possible deserve ample commendations for visibly breaking grounds for post-conflict reconciliation and peace—the first time in decades—it worth saying that a few football games, grandiose street parades and honeyed orations are not an end in themselves. The depth and magnitude of Liberia's reconciliation problems, given the country's distant and recent history, deserve a process far beyond fanfares and pageantry. It calls for a more sustainable, robust and widely embracing engagement because lurking beneath the pomp and pretenses are deeply rooted enemy camps at community, ethnic and regional levels, in addition to seething discontentment across the country. The victims of the civil war and the victims of political misrule whether now or before and their victimizers are gazing at each in what seems to be an observance of shaky truce that can burst into flames at any time.

WHAT ARE THE conflict flashpoints? What are the troubled areas? Who are those Liberians that have been living with pains of injustice and bigotry? What are the unsettled issues and who are those bearing disgruntlements from the insensitivity towards those issues? How much resources are available to sustain an engagement that will research the aforementioned questions and provide reasonable redress? And more so, what is the place of the TRC report the in current peace and reconciliation efforts—the issues of justice and reparations?

CERTAINLY, GOVERNMENT HAS begun to expend taxpayers' monies and it would be folly to bask in the belief that the chronic reconciliation questions facing the country can be resolved with a few soccer matches and formal speechmaking events in Monrovia. Before the George Weah commission, there were the TRC, the Leymah Gbowee Commission amongst others; all these cutting their daggers deep into the cash vault of the nation without delivering the desired result: peace and reconciliation. The TRC report produced following painstaking endeavors appear to be quashed. The Independent Human Rights Commission, thought to be a successor of the TRC, has been lamenting legal and financial inadequacy. It was become a big pension scheme—management and staff taking salaries without producing on their cardinal mandate. Gbowee had to resign for inadequate funding and other reasons she believed stood in the way of her peace and reconciliation assignment.

THE QUESTION HAS been whether the Weah commission and government have learned a lesson from the faltered efforts of the past. Would the renewed peace and reconciliation efforts under Weah's directorship run into the intrigues of politics and the conceited agendas of individuals and groups and lay waste another lumps of taxpayers' money? Will the government do its part by providing the logistical and material support to a full-scale peace and reconciliation project without doing the political thing of blowing and biting? Is Weah genuinely committed to doing the Liberian people's job or is he poised to convert the assignment to a personal political advantage? These are questions that are boggling after the huge sports for peace carnival in Monrovia last week, and Liberians are waiting to see what happens next.

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