Let 2017 Election Be A Start of National Reconciliation
It is with a heart full of gratitude to God that we Liberians continue to breathe the breath of peace with the help of the Economic States of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and International Partners.
A Message to all Presidential Aspirants and District Representatives
Liberia, for decades, embraced a norm that induced poverty, ethnic divisiveness, hatred and bitterness from the very foundation of our existence as a nation.
To date, this practice has caused total disintegration of the nation’s socio-economic institutions; and hindered the effort to develop the country due to internal divisions and constant clashes between the groups of people referred to as “Americo–Liberians”, “Congo”, and the “Indigenous”, and has trickled down to their descendants.
We must recognize that these flaws, and perhaps the many unknown, led the country to experience different types of struggles, which have had a lasting impact on our nation and its people throughout our history. To name a few that have had lasting impacts on our people and the nation include:
The Mysterious death of President Edward James Roye, the first dark skin President of Liberia in 1872 as well as those of the Coleman Brothers in 1955.
The 1979 rice riot, which led to the death of more than 300 Liberians who sought equality and basic survival.
The 1980 military coup, which led to the death of President William R. Tolbert and the execution of 13 prominent former government officials, many Liberians, and other nationalities of all walks of life.
The November 12, 1985, abortive coup d’etat led by the late Commanding General Thomas Quiwonkpor resulting in the deaths of journalist Charles Gbeyon, scores of University of Liberian students, and many other Liberians.
The 1989 civil war that killed more than 250,000 people including at least 200 people who sought refuge in the Lutheran Church; and displaced many others in neighboring countries and distant lands. The civil war also killed the President at the time, CIC Samuel K. Doe.
Though we sought resolutions, it was difficult for our leaders to ensure peace due to deep-rooted hurts and bitterness among Liberians. Liberia became the breeding ground for wars – at which point, the bullets, knives, grenades, displacements made no distinctions between “Americo-Liberians”, “Congo” and “Indigenous” Liberians. We all suffered the consequences of the seed our forefathers planted.
We are grateful to God for almost 15 years of tenuous peace. Thanks in part to our fellow Liberians, the United Nations Peace Mission, AU and our ECOWAS brothers and sisters for helping us sustain this peace.
They supported an interim leadership that paved the way for the disarmament of more than 100,000 fighters from warring factions in 2003. A democratic election was held, and Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf elected as president. Since 2005, the country continues to experience some degree of stability, albeit a high rate of unemployment and poverty.
Even though the country has experienced relative peace; much has not been done by the government to foster reconciliation and healing among the Liberian people. The development of socio-economic institutions remains a challenge.
Therefore, a coalition of peace-loving Liberians in the reconciliation community at home and abroad, wish to have the Presidential Candidates immediately address the following issues as the country moves towards national elections on October 10:
Reconciliation – By telling the Liberian people how they intend to reconcile the nation to bring about total healing, justice, peace, and stability in the country.
The challenges facing hundreds if not thousands of former child soldiers and ex-combatants around the country who have not been rehabilitated; but, have been re-integrated into society with little or no education nor, marketable skills to sustain themselves and their families.
The legacies of war, economic and social injustice, and poverty in our Liberian Society as a way of improving the lives of every Liberian, irrespective of ethnicity (tribal background), religion and social, economic status. We need a clear vision and plan for those who were or are traumatized by the atrocities of the past.
The enabling environment that would allow the opportunity to address any current rifts between Liberians at home and those in the Diaspora concerning the issue of dual citizenship; given that, no Liberian should be discriminated against for living abroad due to displacement as a result of civil unrest or voluntary departure.
How the recently passed Mental Health Bill serves as a foundation to address the myriad of mental health crisis, occasioned by the cumulative impact of trauma experienced by a broad spectrum of Liberians.
How this election should set the stage for candidates to begin thinking about how they intend to reconcile a broken nation and its people. We encourage the winning administration to use the time to bring together the entire nation, whether people voted for them or not in the spirit of national unity.
Rape-Rape has been a serious issue in the past few years and continued to be a problem in today’s society, where victims and their families find it difficult seeking justice, and coping with their hurts and pains.
Unfortunately, “sex for money” has become a survival mechanism for many in the country; especially, the underage youths.
Our next leader must be ready to address this critical issue in our society. Also, there is a need to address the mental and emotional wounds that come with prostitution and help the victims become more dignified citizens of the nation.
Liberians should know by now that we have gone through enough, and must avoid future wars.
Our objectives should be centered on rebuilding and reconciling with each other at home and in the diaspora. We can do this under a leadership that has clear goals to create a stable and peaceful environment for its people.
If we desire to preserve our heritage, integrity, and unity then, the next leader should set a platform for national reconciliation which will lead to the establishment of a National Reconciliation Commission.
True reconciliation will stimulate peace and will help sustain lasting harmony among various communities, open doors for us to accomplish economic development to improve the lives of those in poverty and help us treat each other with dignity and respect.
Our people must feel safe to live in their communities, those in the diaspora must feel safe to return home and live among their own people. Our next leader must guarantee the safety of life and property of all Liberians.
Let the task of true reconciliation begin with this election.
Rev. Frank J. Stewart, Jr., 973-234-2932
Mrs. Magdalene Garmondeh Harris. 301-613-0687
Mr. Saywalah Kesselly. 646-533-3207
Mr. Putugah Takpaw Phenon. 404-979-1931
Mr. Jauz E. King, 0775474950
Mr. Julius Karpeh, 0880780398