By: Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.
What Is Peace with Respect to War?
Peace with respect to a war situation such as that which is taking place in Liberia suggests armistice (truce or ceasefire). It means that those who are at war with one another agree to stop the shooting and killing to reach a peace agreement that will ensure that the one will no longer inflict pains and injuries or death upon the other.
It also indicates that those who assume the leadership of the country will unite the people and preach messages of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, instead of seeking revenge and marginalizing one group of people.
Further, peace in my opinion means that the limited resources of the country will be wisely used to uplift the economic, social, and political lives of the citizens to ensure that their daily basic needs are met instead of a handful of individuals ransacking the coffers of the nation while the clear majority starve and die from starvation, illnesses, and curable diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, Ebola, diarrhea, etc.
In addition, peace means everyone will abide by the Constitution and statutes of the land and that nobody will be above the law so that basic utilities such as electricity, safe drinking water, paved highways, well-equipped and efficient schools, hospitals, and health delivery systems will be prioritized and provided for the citizens.
Moreover, peace infers the empowerment of post war Liberian citizens to contribute toward the reconstruction and rehabilitation process after a prolonged bloody civil war that crippled the national infrastructures of Liberia, and claimed the lives of a quarter million people.
Why Was the Liberian Peace Process Derailed?
The Liberian peace process did not go as planned because many political, economic, and social factors upset the flow or process to establish and implement the mechanisms needed to guarantee and maintain lasting peace in Liberia.
Some of the mechanisms that were established included: (1) formulating guidelines that may lead to the attainment of sustainable peace and stability such as the ECOWAS Peace Plan, and the disarmament of warring factions and Liberian warlords;(2) the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to identify problems that led to the beginning of the civil crisis to avoid their recurrence in the future; (3) the institution of rule of law whereby those who perpetrated heinous crimes against Liberians and humanity shall be held accountable for the consequences of their actions to prevent the recurrence of rebel insurrection and the mass destruction of human lives and properties in Liberia; and (4)the dire need to put an inclusive national government in place that will ensure the peaceful transition of the Liberian people from a state of war to a state of peace.
In my opinion, this can only be achieved if perpetrators or key players in the Liberian civil war are not elected to high positions of public trust during the 2017 presidential and general elections. I stress these points because during the past two elections, Liberians did not heed my advice. I hope this time around they will in the 2017 elections to erase the skepticism Liberians have about the peace process in their homeland.
Why Are Most Liberians Skeptical of the Present Peace Process in Liberia?
Most Liberians are skeptical of the present peace process in Liberia because most of those who terrorized the Liberian people are the ones in power in Liberia today.Some of the law breakers (rebels) are the law makers. They are also the “interpreters” of the law, and some of them are executors of the law as well. Therefore, the reality on the ground is that Liberians are being generally governed by warlords and perpetrators who rose to prominence through the barrels of guns—belligerent warlords and former armed combatants that killed the Liberian people’s mas, pas, brothers, sisters, and loved ones! These individuals are in the majority in the Liberian government, and far out number genuine law-abiding Liberian civil servants that were duly elected based on merits.
Also, to secure their positions and their showy parade in the corridors of power in Liberia, former Liberian warlords and their cohorts paid themselves huge salaries, ransacked the coffers of Liberia with impunity, and strangled the Liberian people economically and politically under the watchful eyes of international “peace negotiators”.
This is the complete opposite in neighboring Sierra Leone where those who breached the law had to face the law and suffer the consequences of their own actions. Further, Liberians cannot boast of sustainable peace when all of Liberia’s borders are porous and subject to future armed invasions, and when those residing in Liberia are not fully protected from future rebel invasions, mayhems, and atrocities. In addition, we are not certain what the reaction of former Liberian warlords who are contesting in the 2017 elections will be if they do not emerge victorious. Hence, there is a dire need to strengthen the security organs of the Liberia and our borders so that we do not have another rebel incursion after the elections.
Outside of these prerequisites, it is safe to say that the Liberian civil war still rages on and that what is obtaining in Liberia today is not sustainable peace but a temporary semblance of the cessation of armed hostilities while the economic and political warfare against the masses continues unabated. Unfortunately for the Liberian people, the United Nations fulfilled its duty of protecting those it favored to run Liberia and has now withdrawn as the term of office of its favorites ends.
This was the basic reason the ECOWAS Peace Plan for Liberia was covertly interrupted and derailed because all the guidelines that were set by ECOWAS were not adhered to by belligerent parties to the conflict who had their cake and ate it as they pleased! Therefore, it is safe to say that the UN was itself a major party to the Liberian conflict and it left the scene not implementing the task it was sent to fulfill: to ensure that genuine rule of law was reinstated and to bring Liberian war criminals to justice as the UN does in western countries where there are war and economic criminals! On the contrary, the UN leaves vulnerable Liberians in the care of their perpetrators, to be eternally enslaved in their own homeland, while foreigners reap the riches of Liberia.
The Liberian Civil War Is Not Over Unless…
Therefore, in my analysis, the Liberian civil war is not over unless a legitimate government is elected by the people that does not have perpetrators at the helm of power in Liberia; and when said elected government constitutes an inclusive national team that incorporates members of various ethnic groups of the Liberian society, particularly those that were singled out to be annihilated by the rebels. The war is not over unless Liberians can learn to put right where right belongs, and to stop glamorizing violence, mayhem, and lawlessness, as the ‘acceptable’ norms of the Liberian society; or, when Liberians stop electing individuals that broke the law, committed high treason, and caused Liberia to go a thousand years backward in terms of the mass destruction of human lives and properties.
Moreover, the war is not over when over 80% of Liberians are unemployed and are unable to fend for themselves and/or can hardly earn one U.S. dollar a day to buy something to eat. The war is not over when over 90% of Liberian citizens are illiterate (over sixty percent of whom are children and adults within the age range of ten to thirty-five years of age that cannot read at the second or fourth-grade level). Finally, the war is not over if Liberians traumatized by the Liberian civil war are not treated to address their mental health, psychological, and psychiatric needs to rehabilitate and help Liberian war victims regain self-consciousness.
Some of the rehabilitation processes requireestablishing vocational and technical institutions through which those with limited education can acquire technical skills in electricity, plumbing, construction, auto mechanics, agriculture, and other forms of technical and vocational trainings that will prepare postwar Liberian citizens to earn earnest livelihoods so that they may eventually reintegrate successfully into mainstream society. Therefore, I urge all Liberians to vote right, and to remember the old Liberian saying: “First fool, dat fool; but second fool, dat pure too-too”!
A word to the wise is quite sufficient!
Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.
February 24, 2017