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|‘Dropping Dead from Frustration’: Decade of Peace Lost on Disgruntled Liberians||| Print ||
|Written by Mae Azango email@example.com|
|Friday, 16 August 2013 18:35|
Monrovia - As Liberia celebrates ten years of peace and stability since the arrival of UNMIL in 2003, many believe peace is still fragile and the celebration is for fun and merrymaking while the masses linger in poverty.
Human Rights Lawyer Cllr. T. Dempster Brown, Executive Director Center for the protection of human Rights, believes that the peace is all restricts and paper talk, because there is no peace in Liberia.
“When you talk peace, you should constitute the element of peace. Not because guns are silence in the Country, so it means there is peace, but violations of the rights of poor people is not peace.
The handful of people that are enjoying the resources of this country is about one percent, while the bulk suffers, so the celebration tomorrow is merrymaking and talking big talk, Says Cllr. Browne.
Sycophancy Around the presidency'
Cllr. Browne noted that the Peace and Reconciliation Committee headed by opposition figure George Opong Weah will not be a reality unless those things that brought about the war are stopped. One is the high unemployment rate, equal distribution of wealth is not met. For example, the salary of the recent public works minister is US$13,000. What sense does that make for a Minister from the US to make that kind of money, when teachers in the classrooms are making less than US $US100 – US$200. There is nobody from the US that is more qualified than people in Liberia.
The ills in society are many, sycophancy should be abolished. People go to the president and praise her when they know what is going on is wrong. Tell the president the truth, but people tell her she is doing well when nothing is well. The peace we are celebrating is fragile because people in town cannot afford food to eat, can such a man be satisfied when he and his children go to sleep hungry? The answer is no because that man will be disgruntled.
Cllr. Browne noted: “We are on a time bomb, because you would be surprise one day when the Liberian people get on the streets because they are fed up. How can one person make US$17,000, the director of the port?
Some of these people were working in supermarkets or the old folk’s home in the US or sweeping, but when they come to from the US, they feel they are better than us. I challenge any government official to rebut this statement, because we know the salaries of many of these ministers. Some of them are renting hotel room and sending our money to pay mortgages in the US but when this government should leave power, they will all run away and go. They can do their celebration but it means nothing to the poor man that I am representing.”
Addressing the controversial recording of Defense Minister Brownie Samukai by fugitive former Liberia Airport Authority boss Ellen Corkrum, Browne asserted: “I listen to the gossip between Samukai and Corkrum. Resign when you know the president is not doing the right thing, and don’t stay in the system and gossip, because as long as Samukai is still in the government, we hold him responsible.”
Contrary to what Cllr. Dumpster Browne said about Liberia’s peace being fragile, Aleem Siddique, of UNMIL Press and Public Affairs section believes that peace can never be dictated by outside forces, but has to come from within and it has to come from the Liberian people.
“UNMIL can help provide support and provide lights and water but in achieving peace, the first and primary responsibility lies with the Liberian people. Therefore it is very important that every Liberian citizen participate in the peace process. “keeping peace is not cheap and there is no short cut in peace keeping.”
UNMIL Not Abandoning Liberia
When UN started the Peace Keeping Mission in Liberia, it had around 15,000 troops but over the years the number has reduced to 5,000 military and 1,500 police, but the question asked by many is will UNMIL leave Liberia?
The UNMIL spokesperson Siddique disclosed that Liberia as a member State of the United Nations. “It is important to know that the UN will never leave Liberia and Liberia will never leave the UN.”
Continued Siddique: “Even if this Peacekeeping Mission does depart, UN agencies will remain and continue to work with the authority in building the strength and capacity of the government institutions. Therefore the peacekeeping mission is just one stage of Liberia’s development but the commitment between the United Nations and Liberia is strong.”
“The government of Liberia cannot keep peace by it self but need the collaboration of the people of Liberia, and the people of Liberia should recognize their own civic responsibilities. Address their concern through peaceful dialogue rather than fighting and dragging Liberia back to the old days of the past. Fighting leads nowhere, but talking leads everywhere.”
Divided Views on Peace
Benedict Williams of the Liberia National Student Union says, even though, Liberians lost family members during the war, and they no longer hear the sounds of gunfire, they should be happy. But there are issues like unemployment among young people is serious and equal access of equal justice the government needs to address.
The government should stop the issue of discrimination, because the vices of the 70’s and 80’s are still surfacing in our government. Other young people are disenfranchised while the masses are suffering,” Says Williams.
“The very Anti Corruption Commission that is supposed to be fight corruption is corrupt because Auditor General who was dismissed from GAC for conflict of interest was never prosecuted. It is not me saying it but the PPCC accused the LACC Frances Allison of being corrupt, but she still heads the commission. Is it because she is related to the President? Are we selective in the fight of corruption? I think the fight of corruption should be holistic and selective.”
Williams added: “People would say because we are not from the elite group so it we should not enjoy the just benefits of our country. We feel rejected and left out of the process, I think the resources of this country do not belong to one group of people who family members put into public office to enjoy, but it belongs to everybody.”
Williams recommended that the ECOWAS and ECOMOG be honored, especially, the Nigerian and Ghanaian Embassies for laying down their lives for Liberians during the war.
Mark W. Torh, a Liberian on Carey Street says ten years of the silence of guns in Liberia is a blessing that Liberians should be grateful to God.
‘We Recommend Prosecution’
“There are lots of social factors we need to put into place to consolidate the peace, like the issue of unemployment. I feel that based on our past experiences; I don’t think we can go back to where we came from. Although, I am not happy with the level of corruption going on but I feel government should prosecute these people, because under our law, people are innocent until proven guilty. So we recommend prosecution. The peace process in Liberia is fragile and unless those perpetrators in high places can take the lead and step aside for their crimes during the war, those who they hurt, can never be satisfied, because peace comes from within.”
Laye O.D. Kaba, Another Liberian said: “I see Liberia as a joyful day that that every Liberian should come out and celebrate and I see peace as the silence of the sound of guns because ten years ago, we were running up and down for our lives but thank God for UNMIL that we cannot hear the sound of guns anymore. The issue of unemployment is a gradual process. Let us be thankful to God that we can move around freely and not frighten from the sound of the gun. The peace I am talking about today is when we were rejoicing on Roberts International Airport on the arrival of UNMIL in 2003."
Archie Boikai, from Carey Street says: “The way I see peace is not the same way you see it because Liberia itself has peace, but the various homes don’t have peace, in that fathers cannot carry food home to their families, People are up and down because there are no jobs. But everywhere, people are crying about the economic hardship.
Victor T. Dumu, student of the Methodist University says Peace is not all about being free of Gun Fire but satisfying its citizens is important. “People are crying for jobs, while some are just dropping dead from frustration. If you don’t empower a person, do you think he would perform? Liberians are selfish to one another and in the absence of togetherness, there cannot be peace.”
Dumu says in a country where people cry and the government does not hear the cries of the people, the people would stand up for themselves and protest and you know protest is not a good sign in Liberian’s history. In fact, he says, protest is not good for any country. “As a matter of fact, it brings about war. So the government has to start putting things into place before UNMIL leaves, because if that does not happen and UNMIL leaves, we will all rock in the boat and sink.
‘Recipe for Disaster’
Dumu says peace cannot come when corruption is not only in high places but in the schools and churches. “For example, the J. J. Roberts scholarship that was intended for the children of Liberia, is only given to a Methodist child, and it is not suppose to so. The scholarship was not for the Methodists but the children of Liberia, no matter you are Catholic, Baptist or Episcopalian. A friend of mine who is a Methodist, applied for the scholarship, but a Rev. in the church told my friend he won’t get it because he does not go to church. Do you think it is fair when the scholarship was free for all?”
Anthony T. Nyorkor says while Liberians are enjoying the peace, people are still lingering in dire straits. “When you are not working to afford a dollar a day to feed on, it is not peace. With UNMIL, there will be Peace, but when UNMIL leaves, there will be trouble because you have many angry and unemployed people on the streets. Peace is not all about the absence of gun fire, but when we are starving, it is not peace. If certain group of people are enjoying and the masses are suffering, it is not considered peace. When there are no job opportunities, there is bound to be a recipe for disaster.”