YES, Partners Nurture Peacebuilding among Liberian Youth

Former Minister Olubanke King-Akerele delivered the keynote address

Monrovia – The Youth Exploring Solution (YES) in collaboration with the Center for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding (CECPAP) and Accountability Lab conducted a one-day peacebuilding dialogue for 100 diverse young leaders in Montserrado County whose work focuses on fields of peacebuilding, violence prevention, and social cohesion.

Liberia’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs and a decorated United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Coordinator in Zambia, Olubanke King-Akerele delivered the keynote address.  Representatives from civil society organizations, the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law of the University of Liberia facilitated different sessions. 

Speaking on the theme “Sustaining Liberia’s Fragile Peace”, Former Minister King-Akerele narrated her 25 years’ experience with the United Nations System at very senior levels.  She particularly highlighted her involvement with Rwanda in the aftermath of the Genocide, as part of UNDP-Africa, headquarters, New York.

The keynote speaker provided insights into a Development Board Game, entitled Sustaining Liberia’s Peace and challenges then to that Angie Brooks Centre was involved in together with the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation at the University of Liberia in what is known as the Kofi Annan Living Memorial, an initiative, essentially “Taking” the Legacy of Kofi Annan into the future, through transferring his values and what he stood for into future generations.

On the current Crisis facing the nation, Madam Olubanke commented positively on the efforts—of the inter-religious council to intervene and complimented the meeting between Honorable Yekeh Kolubah and President George Weah—she urged more of such consultations and urged both sides to tone down the rhetoric.

At the same time, she had underscored a message to Government to stop referring to critics and past Government officials as “Enemies” of the State.  This is dangerous; she said and was reminiscent of the hate speeches that underpinned the Rwanda genocide.  This matter must be taken seriously and not lightly, she emphasized.

In closing, Honorable King-Akerele quoted from the message of the late Episcopal Bishop of the Anglican church of Liberia and province of West Africa, Bishop Edward Neufville, II., when he commented on the end of ECOMOG mission in his message on 13th January 1998 and put responsibility for peace in the hands of every Liberians.

Finally, she urged the Government to hear the cry of its people and listen.  She then ended by asking the audience to stand and sing Liberia’s foremost Patriotic song while holding up their two hands, showing that peace is in our hands, as per the Angie Brooks Mantra.

Presenting on the topic: “Social Cohesion and Peacebuilding”, Tiah F.M. Dagbe, II, a third-year student the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, called on Liberians to exhibit mutual respect for each other irrespective of religion confess, dialect spoken, country of origin or social status.  He indicated that peacebuilding, social cohesion, and violence prevention require the collective efforts of everyone to understand that wisdom is better than strength.

“Our country’s future will be better, brighter and stronger when we the people decide to live in peace and harmony drawing strength from our difference and ideas from our diversity”,  Dagbe stated.

Dagbe who is also an Associate Magistrate urged the participant to adhere to the rule of law and respect constituted authority noting that it is only through unity in diversity and adherence to fundamental human rights, Liberia will strive in prosperity and peace.

The country representative of Accountability Lab-Liberia, W. Lawerence Yealue, II., who spoke on  the topic: “Social Awareness and Identity”, admonished Liberians to right the wrong through their own imagination, creative, culture and national pride.

Yealue revealed that for far too long, Liberians have not been able to appreciate their country and culture, which according to him is a recipe for the destruction of public facilities and utilities, mob justice and violence, including distrust and misinformation.

“As a country, we just cannot continue to beg, sit, and wait; we must believe in ourselves and take our destiny into our hands, and put aside pretty jealousy, recrimination, tribalism, favoritism, and other divisive mentalities to carry forward the determination and dream of our founding fathers for a more peaceful, cohesive and prosperous society”, the Country Representative of Accountability Lab-Liberia added.

Yealue continues: “It is time to put our differences aside and find true meaning to embrace unity in diversity.  It is only through mutual respect in a diverse and multicultural society that we will succeed and rewrite our history”.

Executive Director Charles Crawford of the Center for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding underscored the need for Liberians to dialogue and learn to resolve conflict in a peaceful manner taking into consideration that violence never amicably solves a conflict.

Presenting on “Conflict Management”, Crawford stressed that young Liberian must seize the opportunity to maintain unending peace.  He encouraged the youthful participants not to wait for government and international partners in a building peaceful society and socially cohesive community, but to take the torch toward a more stable and consolidated peace.                                  

Crawford pointed out that Liberians must dust themselves off of petty politics and recrimination that have held Liberia backward for far too long and make peace a way of life in transitioning the country from state of fragility to stability.

The Youth Peacebuilding Dialogue is a flagship initiative of Youth Exploring Solutions geared towards providing capacity building for youth leaders across Liberia in conflict management and peacebuilding relating to self-awareness, trust building and communication, team building and leadership, social cohesion and peacebuilding, social awareness and social identity, rights and responsibilities, conflict resolution, conflict transformation, active nonviolence action, and vision for Liberia on sustainable peace. The young peace leaders have the opportunity to share, learn, and connect with other experts and practitioners during the training.