Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Henrique F. Topka has challenged traditional leaders to take over the peace of Liberia as the U.N. Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) gradually draws down from the country.
Minister Tokpa observed that the role of chiefs and elders is critical to the maintenance of peace and stability in the country, according to a release from the Internal Affairs ministry.
Dr. Tokpa said it was now time for traditional leaders to take up the mantle of authority in their communities to buttress efforts of government in ensuring peace in the nation even as UNMIL leaves.
“Let me say this to the local government, as UNMIL peacekeepers depart Liberia in the near future, we expect the local government structure to be solely involve in maintaining the peace we now enjoy through its interactions with the people,” he said.
The Internal Affairs Minister assured that he will work with the leadership of the Council of Chiefs and other stakeholders for the restoration of dignity and authority of traditional people throughout liberia.
Tokpa spoke over the weekend at a gathering of traditional leaders in Buchanan when The Cater Center expanded its activities to Grand Bassa County with a formal launch of the Center’s Chiefs’ Program under the Access to Justice Pillar.
“I know that these efforts have been applied through different kinds of trainings, mentoring as well as technical and logistical supports, and I am also aware that a dispute resolution mechanism is to help resolve disputes using our local and traditional means” he emphasized.
Speaking earlier, the Carter Center’s Chief of Party, Pewee S. Flomoku said the extension to Grand Bassa County brings to eight the number of counties the Access to Justice is being run.
He said the program has proven positive, noting that many traditional leaders, including women and youth, now understand their rights and responsibilities in their various communities.
Mr. Flomoku said through the Access to Justice Program, his organization works closely with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to enhance chiefs’ capacity in the areas of peace-building, advocacy and leadership at the community level.
He then promised to strengthen the collaboration with the Internal Affairs Ministry and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders to further enhance the capacity of traditional and other community leaders, including women and youth.
Meanwhile, Grand Bassa County Superintendent J. Levi Demmah has described as timely the intervention of the Carter Center in the county, especially when UNMIL was drawing down, posing greater demand for local leadership.
For his part, the Chairman of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia Chief Zanzan Karwor assured that his council will remain supportive of the work of national government through the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The launch of the Access to Justice or Chiefs’ Program in Grand Bassa County brought together over 60 traditional leaders from across the country, who later participated in a two-day training workshop.
Topics covered during the workshop included the role of customary chiefs in the judiciary, peace, security, health promotion, law reform, and citizens’ ownership of government.
The Carter Center Chiefs’ Program is funded by the Swedish Government, US Agency for International Development and others.