6 January 2014

Liberia: Reject Violence for Sustainable Peace and Progress

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Because of the major reforms instituted to revive the economy, Liberia has attracted more than US $17 billion in foreign direct investment in the reactivation of the mining, agriculture and forestry sectors. Oil exploration has become a new potential in Liberia's private sector development.

I have decided to share these few points in contribution to the awareness that while the country is faced with challenges, progress has been steady. Among the challenges is unemployment, especially youth unemployment. Another challenge being that while striving to develop the country and create jobs to improve the living conditions of the people, the government is also struggling to control corruption, an aged-old vice that has the propensity to continue to undermine the country's progress.

Thanks to the level of free speech in the country, Liberians are becoming increasingly aware of their rights and responsibilities in a democratic system and are holding those in leadership accountable.

Nevertheless, while we exercise our democratic rights to openly express disagreements or to protest, we should be mindful that such actions do not degenerate into lawlessness or violence that could undermine our fragile peace. It goes without saying that Liberians risk reversing all of the impressive gains our country has made thus far if we allow lawlessness to prevail again.

Liberians must remain vigilant to ensure that the disgruntled and criminal few are not given opportunity to disrupt our country's peace and progress. We must no longer allow those who exploit public disaffection for self-aggrandizement to drag our country into conflict.

As we enter the 2014 Senatorial election season and also in anticipation of the 2017 General and Presidential elections, it is incumbent upon all candidates, political leaders and their supporters to conduct themselves within the confines of the law.

The youths, who are often used by unscrupulous individuals to spread anarchy, must be cautioned that those who encourage you to manifest violence are out to destroy your future. For example, do not allow others to incite you to vandalize or burn down your school or medical facility in your community out of frustration due to shortage of teachers and instructional materials, or because of inadequate medical service. How your education or health services would be advanced by destroying what is already available? We cannot expect more businesses to be established in order for more jobs to be created if businesses that are operating get attacked and looted every time people jump in the street to protest.

Finally, the President is highly commended for continuing her Stakeholders Consultative Meetings, such as her recent meeting with the National Traditional Council of Liberia, which are intended to constantly brief stakeholders on the government's policies and programs and solicit their input. This is a process aimed at fostering a spirit of reconciliation and unity amongst Liberians.

As the President noted recently, "it's time for us to unite to work and rebuild our country. Put disunity and confusion aside and let all Liberians join hands in the process."

Gabriel IH. Williams is the Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Embassy of Liberia in the U.S. A former Deputy Minister of Information and acting President of the Press Union of Liberia, he is author of Liberia: The Heart of Darkness.

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