YES Conducts Young Leaders Peace Summit in Lofa County


Lofa County – The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), an accredited non-for-profit, passionate and voluntary grassroots youth-led development organization has conducted its inaugural Young Leaders Peace Summit.   The two-day Summit was held under the theme: “Peace Matters to All”, and took place at the American Corner Zorzor situated on the campus of the Zorzor Rural Teacher Training Institute (ZRTTI) from 20th to 21st of September 2018.

The initiative stems from Youth Exploring Solutions participation in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funded 2018 Solutions Summit administered by IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board) and the Embassy of Sweden funded Liberian National Youth Peacebuilding Conference led by Accountability Lab – Liberia.

This inaugural Young Leaders Peace Summit brought together 150 diverse young leaders whose work focus on fields of peacebuilding, violence prevention, and social cohesion.  Young peace leaders had the opportunity to share, learn, and connect with other experts and practitioners drawn from Liberia and Guinea.

Additionally, the summit was geared towards providing capacity building for youth leaders across Zorzor District in conflict management and peacebuilding relating to trust building and communication, team building and leadership, social cohesion and peacebuilding, social awareness and social identity, rule of law and responsibilities, conflict resolution and management, active nonviolence action, and vision for Liberia and Guinea to foster sustainable peace.

Delivering the keynote address, Commissioner Adolphus Wade of the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) urged the participants to exercise religious tolerance, mutual respect and respect the rights and dignity of every human being.  He admonished the participants to live in harmony and adhere to the rule of law and respect for constituted authority.

Commissioner Wade outlined the scope of duties for the INHRC.  He further encouraged the young participants to become peace ambassadors and help spread the message of peace to every household, quarter, town, clan, district, and county as well as across the border of neighboring countries.

The INHRC Commissioner underscored the need for young people to utilize social media platform wisely in promoting sustainable peace, lasting social cohesion, and preventing violence.  He pointed out that young leaders and every segment of the population must focus on community-led and cross-border peacebuilding initiatives so as to foster peaceful coexistence.

“Everyone has a responsibility to build and maintain peace for the benefit of all.  In spite of the prevailing circumstances, we should muster the courage to keep the peace and never revert to our bitter and barbaric past. We ought to respect the rule of law, constituted authority as well as make it our binding duties to engage, educate and empower people of all gender and ages to nurture peace as a way of life”, Commissioner Wade noted.

Zorzor District Commissioner, Joseph Bedell, spoke on the topic: “Gender Based Violence and Conflict Resolution”.  He called on men and boys to end gender-based violence and other forms of abuses against women and girls.

The honorable commissioner recounted the pivotal roles women and girls continue to play in fostering peace, bolstering reconciliation and strengthening justice.  According to him, women and girls are sharing, loving and caring which enable them to immensely contribute to peacebuilding work at all levels of the society.

Commissioner Bedell proffered that misconception of cultural, traditional and religious barriers too often affect women and girls from achieving their full potential and measure of happiness.  He encouraged everyone to respect the rights of women and girls.

Besides, Gender Advocate, Bernice Taylor, who presented on the topic: “Gender Based Violence Prevention and Inclusivity”, stressed the need for men and boys to avoid violence against women and girls.  She revealed that every so often women and girls suffer from the physical and psychological effects of gender-based violence.

Madam Taylor avowed that peace begins in the home before it reaches the community.  She declared that once each home is peaceful then the community will be definitely peaceful including the country as a whole.

“We have come a long way in transitioning our country from a state of fragility to a more consolidated nation based on the rule of law and respect for human dignity.  Therefore, we cannot continue to treat women and girls as properties and not as partners in progress for the forward match of our country.   No more should women and girls be denied to fundamental rights to education, decent life, and their ability to make an informed decision over their bodies”, the gender advocate accentuated.

On the other hand, Commandant Sekou Conde, Koyamah District Commissioner of the Republic of Guinea reaffirmed the Guinean support to promoting peaceful neighborliness among citizens of both countries, which he emphasized is paramount to the survivability of Liberia and Guinea.

Speaking on the topic: “The Guinean Experience in Grassroots Peacebuilding Initiative”, Commissioner Conde disclosed that cross-border peace will booster the free movement of people, foster free trade, better the living standards, and bolster cross-border security.

Galakpai Gulay, a proxy of the City Mayor of Sassankoni District in the Republic of Guinea, delivered his presentation on the topic: “Grassroots Cross Border Peacebuilding Approaches”.  He indicated that the Office of the City Mayor of Sassankoni District is working alongside the Association of Guinean for Integrated Development and the United Youth for Transformation based in Lofa County to strengthen grassroots cross-border peacebuilding.

Gulay further expressed committed on the part of the Office of the City Mayor of Sassankoni District to continue building peace, promoting social cohesion and strengthen voluntary grassroots peacebuilding.

Presenting on the topic: “Community-led Peacebuilding Strategy”, Brezhnev D. Paasawe, Program Manager of the Catholic Relief Services highlighted the basic strategies for ensuring community-led peacebuilding approaches.   He challenged young people to establish peace clubs at schools, establish community conflict resolution team, and formulate sports for peace initiatives as a conduit to safeguarding peace.

Inspector George David, District Police Commander of Zorzor District, explained the role of the police in crime prevention and conflict mitigation.  Speaking on the topic: “Crime Prevention and Case Management”, Inspector David cautioned the participants to avoid mob justice and respect the rule of law.  He warned young people to employ their energy, enthusiasm, and innovation to building peace and developing their communities and not to allow themselves to be used by others to commit violence and crime.

Also speaking, His Honor Magistrate Abraham Kante, Acting Stipendiary Magistrate of Zorzor District enlightened and broadened the minds of the participants to understand the Liberian criminal justice system and the rule of law.  Magistrate Kante advised citizens of Zorzor District not to take the law into their own hands but utilize the criminal justice system and other alternative dispute mechanisms.

Moreover, Deputy Minister for Youth Development at the Ministry of Youth and Sports who spoke on the topic: “Best Practices for Youth Organizers in Peacebuilding and Communication”, indicated that young people must take the lead in ensuring peace is a reality.  He divulged that young people should always respect others and be an example.

For his part, Dr. Gerald Meyerman, Chief of Party of USAID funded Liberia Professional Development and Anti-Corruption Program in Liberia (LPAC), alerted the participants to seek redress through the justice system instead of resolving to mob violence.

The Chief of Party of LPAC narrated his life story of growing up experiencing poverty, human suffering and doing odd jobs just to survival.  He counseled the participants not to use poverty as an excuse to engage in violence and corruption.  He urged Liberians to remain steadfast and work toward making the country better, stronger and more prosperous than what it is now.

All of the speakers including partners and participants concluded their presentation with words of appreciation and encouragement to Youth Exploring Solutions and its partners for organizing such a unique program.  Meanwhile, they have asked that Youth Exploring Solutions extends its Young Leaders Peace Summit to other parts of the country so as to unshackle the minds of young people and other segments of the population about peacebuilding, violence prevention and conflict resolution.