President Ellen Jonson Sirleaf has dedicated a newly-constructed Memorial Site in honor of several Liberians who died from multiple causes during the 14-year-old armed conflict, spanning December 24, 1989 to August 11, 2003.
Bodies were collected from different parts of Monrovia and buried in a mass grave at the Du-port Road Waterside Community in Paynesville.
President Sirleaf called on all Liberians to see the memorial site as a "Process of everyone re-dedicating themselves to peace, national reconciliation and development of the Liberian Nation."
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the call on Wednesday, March 8, in the Du-port Road Waterside Community in Paynesville City, Montserrado County, when she dedicated the "Memorial Monument" in honor of hundreds of Liberians and foreign nationals who died in different parts of Monrovia during 14 years of armed conflict.
"Take ownership of this site and preserve it," she said.
The Liberian leader said even though on becoming the President, following the 2005 elections which brought her to power, one key decision she took was to accept the nominations of individuals selected to serve on the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC), as recommended by the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord, which ended the Liberian crisis.
President Sirleaf recounted that also, during the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Hearing of 2008 in Liberia, it was also recommended that there was a need for the establishment of the INHRC which, according to her, was adhered to.
She explained that as a result of this, since the establishment of the INHRC, working in line with the TRC's recommendations, the INHRC has located a number of places, where many Liberians, as well as foreign nationals were killed and buried in mass graves.
She said these places should be memorialized like what has been done at the Du-port Waterside, in a bid to add value to the spirit and souls of those lost ones, because Liberians are noted for caring for the dead, and properly burying their lost ones.
President Sirleaf acknowledged that while it is true that the INHRC members serve according to tenure, she was delighted to see the kind of progress that they have made, beginning with those who had been working at the commission from its inception, including those currently serving the entity for their achievements.
"What you have started here today is a clear manifestation that what you started sometimes ago must be achieved, as planned," President Sirleaf told the gathering.
She noted: "We have a roadmap that we can follow by memorializing the remaining 155 mass graves across the length and breadth of this country to bring healing to the spirits and souls of all those who were buried in those places and their beloved ones who are still alive."
The Liberian leader said it was clear that the INHRC may not be able to memorialize all of the 155 identified mass graves across Liberia before her administration leaves office.
However, she said, "We want to see what you (INHRC) can do for people to know and see what you are doing."
"Therefore, I charge you today to take charge of finding a way forward in memorializing all of the identified 155 mass graves across Liberia, even if you cannot finish it during our tenure, if it is completed during the next administration that will come after us, we will be satisfied."
President Sirleaf commended all those who provided moral, material and financial support to the INHRC, including the United Nations Peace Building Fund which provided US$59,000 with said fund managed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the construction of the memorial.
For his part, the INHRC acting Chairman James Torh, in brief remarks, said construction of the Memorial at the Du-port Road Waterside is a clear indicator that the administration of President Sirleaf is truly committed to genuine national peace, reconciliation and development of the Liberian society.
Commissioner Torh commended residents of Du-port Road Waterside Community for being cooperative with the Liberian-owned and operated construction firm, which executed the project, urging the residents to take ownership of the site by maintaining it at all times.
Also making remarks, the Head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, Farid Zarif, said the dedicatory ceremony was "a very sad day," considering the loss of thousands of lives during the war.
"I wonder whether there was any way to prevent this," Mr. Zarif said, adding, "We hope that everyone will learn from this loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and pray for a peaceful Liberia that such could not occur anymore."