In recent decades, the vast majority of armed engagements in the world occurred within states basically reflective of internal matters, rather than between states. Apart from perpetrating great human suffering in the immediate areas of conflict, civil wars have major impacts on stability and prosperity throughout the region where they have occurred, with no exception to the 14-year of bloodbath in Liberia which finally came to an end on August 18, 2003, precisely over 14 years now.
The hostilities of 14 years warfare in the country, from 24th December 1989 to 18th August 2003, in which an insurgent groups killed thousands of persons, ruined the various sectors and destroyed billion dollars’ worth properties across the country, have also witnessed 14 years of an uninterrupted peace across country, with this Year, August 18, marking 14 years that the guns have fallen silent since the Ceasefire and cessation of hostilities triggered by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on 18 August 2003 in Akosombo, outside Accra between the government formerly headed by ex-President Charles Taylor and the disbanded Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) featuring the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Political Parties.
The 14 years of an uninterrupted peace across the country which has witnessed two successive politically-driven democratic exercises (elections) of 2005 and 2011; General Elections which came about on the back of the assurances and commitment by Liberians to bury their differences and demonstrate the will-power in resolving all trials and tribulations in order to protect the years of fragile peace and co-existence in the interest of genuine peace and sustained stability.
This article also provides fresh insights and collection of reflections how we as people of Liberia got this far and the role played by international partners not forgotten the significant influences of our Liberian mothers who took the bull by the horn to force former war-lords and politicians to affix their signatures to the comprehensive peace deal.
It was on this faithful Day all the rebel organizations said “Goodbye to war! Goodbye, carnages! Goodbye guns and the days of solely making major decisions!” Obviously, the era that pronounced farewell to arms was not welcome on a bed of roses; it struck deep to the heart and went against their will, but due to an intense pressure from peace-brokers and non-violent Liberian women and peace advocates, the merchants of war had to cave in.
This cessation of gun battles was held under the patronage of the former President of Ghana and ex-Chairman of ECOWAS, John Agyekum Kufuor and the mediation of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not leaving out the former President of America, George W. Bush who as I collect said he “I wouldn’t take no for an answer, let Mr. Taylor leave now”.
Considering our ugly past to the present where Liberians and foreign residents can sleep in peace without the echoes of guns and other deadly weapons, or without the country being divided between factional lines, the 14th anniversary of uninterrupted peace and stability in the country demands an anticipated celebration that dignifies the kudos of the occasion.
This year’s celebration should be used to acknowledge consequential role of peace brokers and key players, specifically our non-violent Liberian mothers who, due to their consistent and persistent courage and bravery are credited for doing what others around the world had failed to do in pressurizing belligerent forces to face one another around the conference table to perform a nationalistic and patriotic duty by signing the fantastic Comprehensive Peace Agreement (APC). Their activities also drew international attention to the atrocities that were being committed in the country.
As such, credit first to the ex-war factions and their belligerent groups; the late Gyude Bryant’s transitional government that was able to piece together the fragmented puzzles that significantly oiled the political wheels thus resulting into the conduct of a peaceful democratic elections with the Ellen Jonson-Sirleaf’s administration being ushered in that thereafter continue to maintain the democratic space; not leaving out all peace brokers.
The departure of President Taylor on 11th August was particularly important in that it led to the necessary condition for the restoration of peace in Liberia. The entire ECOWAS community was thankful to Nigeria and its President for offering political asylum to the former President and deploying troops to help stabilize the country while on 4th August, the first troops belonging to the interposition force landed on the soil of Liberia, giving hope to the hopeless population that time, and the beginning of the era of silence of the guns became vivid coupled with the end of wanton killings and harassment of peaceful civilians.
The August 18 Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord which concluded with the departure of ex-president Charles Taylor from the political scene into exile and investiture of former president Moses Z. Blah in order to safeguard against the creation of a void that could attractively be exploited by violent interlopers either directly or indirectly and re-ignite chaos, followed by the inauguration of an Interim government under the command of a successful Monrovia-based businessman, Gyude Bryant.
The late Bryant’s administration, although was a difficult one due to its hybrid- composition, succeeded in bringing about a negotiated settlement of the conflict and successful disarmament and demobilization of ex-fighters; and ended the loss of innumerable lives, wanton destruction of our infrastructure, factors of production, properties and massive displacement of people which as an open secret also led to brain drain in the country.
Then came the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration with all eyes focused on to keep the peace, this display has witnessed a 12 years of an uninterrupted peace again came as a direct result of the Sirleaf administration’s initiatives undertaken and purposely supported by the people of Liberia and its development partners and key international actors.
Therefore, in the wake of the forthcoming 14th Centenary of lasting peace and stability in the country since the signing of the Accra Peace Accord, it is crucial to reflect on the significant contributions of our courageous mothers, and highlight the meaningful contributions of President Johnson-Sirleaf and all peace brokers including former Force Commanders of ECOMOG.
As a matter of reflection, Article XIII of the peace agreement states that Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shall be established to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.
The deal further states that in the spirit of national reconciliation, the Commission shall deal with the root causes of the crises in Liberia, including human rights violations and pinpoint cardinal issues that Commission shall, among other things, recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.
Liberia owes a duty under both international humanitarian and human rights laws to investigate and prosecute the heinous crimes, including torture, rape and extra-judicial killings of innocent civilians, committed in the country by the ex-warring parties in the course of 14 years of brutal conflict. In the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), our leaders need to display the confidence reposed in them by the people through their votes to bring to book all those responsible for the depopulation of the nation over the 14 years civil war to answer to the role they played in the long disturbing bloodbath.
Justice is indeed precious and beneficial, but where it is being delayed, obviously what is implied is then that the latter is also being denied; the issue of TRC’s recommendations must be addressed once and for all.
The various ex- armed factions targeted civilians and were responsible for massacres and systematic human rights abuses, and none of which was fighting for any recognizable cause or ideology. Tens of thousands of innocent Liberians have been brutally murdered in cold blood by armed factions that fought to have state power by force. The war was also characterized by the extensive use of child soldiers, boys younger than fifteen years old who were easy prey for all the factions.
It is crucial to reflect the significance contributions of our courageous, indigenous and non-violent mothers, and highlights their meaningful contributions, as such; this article depicts the heaviest price our mothers paid in the obtainment of tangible peace, which is the direct result of this new dispensation of a participatory democracy. This year’s anniversary of peace desires the befitting merriments and jovialities.
The late Mother Mary Brownell and several other courageous mothers and critical voices among the thousands of victimized women who refused to play to the threats of their male counterparts were undeterred by the havocs.
They stood their grounds and courageously echoed their voices by pressing the rebels’ leaders to play to the rule of non-violence and seek solutions from the conference table and not bullets. These strong and fearless women’s voices had a collective objective-the sensation of the long years of what is dubbed: the bloodiest war and the restoration of democracy, the process which bears witnessed to successive democratically demonstrated elections across the Republic also holds the truth reality of the silence of the guns of all types, shapes and manner including the bombs and terrifying smoking guns..
Out of an unthinkable display of bravery, our mothers extended their search for genuine peace to even unsafe military zones; in short, they ran the day-to-day affairs by also ensuring that the madness in the country be brought to an end; by that, they traded places, engaging influential and powerful global movers and shakers as well as world leaders as well as the wheelers and dealers who in some style and condition in pinning their serious attentions to the hell their country had been plunged into chaos.
During the 2003 peace talks held in the Ghanaian capital, Accra when belligerent groups displayed an improper behavior by delaying to sign the peace agreement to end the war, a group of indigenous Liberian women from diverse backgrounds took the bull by the horn, locked the doors to deny the participants from leaving the conference hall as a means of pressurizing ex-leaders of belligerent groups, political parties and civil society organizations to find a common ground and put end to imbroglio.
Our mothers’ rights and respects were violated, harassed, beaten and stripped of their goods and values, they were subdued and maltreated, while other women who could not stand the agonies were obliged to give themselves to the fighters to survive. But there were several other critical voices among the thousands of victimized women who refused to play to the whims and threats of their male counterparts.
At the heart of the male-imposed-looming predicament profoundly suffered by women, it became the very women, especially during the heyday of the bloody civil war in Liberia who braced the storm and took on the harsh, dangerous and terrifying terrains fending for their families as bullets were flying indiscriminately while their male-counterparts were stuck in complete seclusion in order to save their skins.
During the heat of the war when men were afraid to leave their homes for fear of being conscripted or tortured by rebel forces, it was the women who braved the storm to walk through the dreadful checkpoints to find food for their families. In the process, some women were unfortunately subjected to sexual abuse, beaten and tortured by combatants.
In the face of harsh visible intimidations and nastiness, the women without fears went across battle lines despite heavy fighting to spread peace messages. The painful experiences of women during the war were one of unanimity. Some narrated how they were subjected to eat human feces while others shared sorrowful memories of having forced sex with rebel fighters to spare their lives.
But this cruel treatment did not deter them from their non-violent advocacy for peace and an end to fratricidal civil feud in the country. Most war affected women were held hostage and used as ‘combat-wives for warlords and fighters, while others ‘were conscripted to head-load materials along forest tracks and cook and provide sexual services for the combatants. Moreover, they sacrificed their personal security and lives by openly undertaking lengthy periods of prayers and open-air fasting invoking the divine intervention of the ‘Father of Creation’ to end the war. And indeed, their efforts and sacrifices provided praiseworthy dividends.
Meanwhile, the last 12 years of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s leadership in a male dominated society like Liberia where almost everybody in the country is a politician and appears to have the solution to the tons of problems, will go down in history and soon not be forgotten.
The affection for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the contemporary politics of Liberia is in two-forth-depending on which of the sides you find yourself, however, let wait and see how the affection for the president is going to be when she shall had relinquished power to her heir. What is unknown is will people overcome with emotions and cry with tears; some will say it will be a unique movement; I guess while others will say wasn’t it better done; few will definitely declared that indeed, it was the best of time; again depending on which side of the Ellen’s political coin one may be seen; but the long and short of the matter will surely draw down the curtain of end of the Sirleaf’s era for the mother of four children, while for others, she will be departing the political scene with a varied warm handshake.
During these 12 years of difficult periods, the president experienced some tough time but was able to withstand the challenges and difficulties. The President’s 12 years will indeed be attended with mixed-feelings as one group highlighting the positivity while others would cling to the negatives, again, depending where one stands either as a pessimist or optimist.
The journey to reach this landmark has been a difficult one but she faced the daunting challenge and tackled ambiguity to remove barriers from her way. Yet, she kept the promise to keep the peace and stability although there are several unfinished businesses that still require substantive collective actions by all Liberians, if the country is to be on par with other rapidly, progressively and productively rising nations.
About the Author: Josephus Moses Gbala-hinnih Gray is an Assistant Professor at the University of Liberia Graduate School. He is a native born Liberian, hails from the Southeastern village of Kayken Chiefdom in Barclayville, Grand Kru County. He is an author, professor, diplomat and scholar with a wealth of rich credentials, including a doctoral in International Relations and Diplomacy, Master in International Relations and Bachelor in Communications. He once worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs as Programs Coordinator and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia as Assistant Minister for Public Affairs and later undertook oversea diplomatic post at the Embassy of Liberia in Paris with distinction as a Political Counselor and later appointed as Master Counselor to Geneva at Liberian Permanent to the UN and International Organizations. He is a graduate of the USA ICFA Global Journalism Program in Washington D.C., USA; he further holds post-graduate diplomas and certificates in International Relations , Journalism, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy Studies, Public Policy, Peace Studies, Digital Media, Conflict Management and Analysis, Project Management and Development Communications, from the United States of America, France, Netherlands, China, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Liberia. He has authored two books, published Two Graduate Studies Theses and a 600-page Doctoral Dissertation on the theme: “Geopolitics of African Oil and Energy: China and America New Strategic Interests in Africa”. He has written extensively and published over 50 articles on variety of contemporary issues. He can be contacted at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org