Monrovia – The former Special Representative of ECOWAS President, to Liberia and HD Facilitator to Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde O. Ajisomo, has expressed as a pressing need for actors in the country to address the issue of war crimes and other human rights violations.
Making special statement on occasion marking the 7th anniversary of the commemoration of the ECOWAS Human Rights Day in Monrovia, Ambassador Ajisomo noted that it is essential as most patriotic Liberians and good friends of Liberia have said that these vices be actively addressed through national consensus.
He maintained that it is a crucial step that the journey towards accountability and forgiveness is the issuing of public apologies.
This, he believed, can only be meaningfully and patriotically done by the highest levels of Government, both past and current.
“It goes without saying that social cohesion and reconciliation cannot be attained without an official acknowledgement and recognition of the victimhood of all those that were affected by the conflict in our continent’s oldest republic,” he asserted.
“As we are all aware, when chaos and mayhem ensued during those horrific years, the state was not able to protect its citizens from brutal human violations, and Women in particular were affected in the gravest ways during the crisis. Indeed, the final report of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in no uncertain terms states that Women were singled out for abuse simply on account of their gender”.
He reference another similar account, stating that H.E. Antonio Gutterres, Secretary General of the UN acknowledged in 2016 that “80 % of women and girls experienced conflict-related sexual violence during the fourteen years of brutal war in Liberia”.
Said the state, according to Amb.Ajisomo has the moral obligation to issue once and for all, public apologies for its inability to protect its citizens and to acknowledge their victimhood.
He reminded citizens that, 2023 will mark exactly two decades since the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, the 176th independence anniversary of Liberia, as well as the 75th anniversary of the commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, therefore, it was time to revive and advance the process of reconciliation in Liberia.
He accentuated, that women have historically been marginalized and disadvantaged globally, especially in the subregion, particularly in Liberia.
Amb. Ajisomo said: “According to a recent Afro Barometer survey, which shows that on average, West Africa has in total 16 percent women representation both in the lower and upper houses, rendering our region, the lowest in entire Africa.”
Therefore, the Former Special Representative of EVOWAS President to Liberia let out, that there is low representation of women in politics and national decision-making processes in Liberia, with the upper house recording a 6.7 point drop, since President’s Sirleaf Administration, and bringing women’s representation to just 3.3 percent or two female senators, with the election of Madam Botoe Kanneh of Gbarpolu County.
Additionally, he said a lot of work remains to be done to ensure balance and equity in the representation of men and women in governance, politics, and business, applauding the EJS Presidential Centre and other stakeholders that have been advocating for women’s rights including raising awareness about the benefits that female public leadership brings to societies and economies as well as working to level the playing field for women seeking the highest leadership positions.
He said it is significant to highlight that Liberia has a rich and enviable history of women’s activism and leadership.
Ajisomo further described Liberia’s history as replete with women of substance who gave their all to ensure that the country enjoys prominence, peace, and stability today.
“In both past and recent history, the sacrifices made by such women as Madam Angie Brooks, the first female African President of the UN General Assembly, Madam Dorothy Musuleng Cooper, first female Foreign Minister of the Republic of Liberia, Madam Emma Shannon-Wasler, first female Judge, Madam Izetta Roberts Cooper, first female Librarian, Madam Ruth Sando Perry, former Chair of the Council of State during Liberia’s civil crisis, Madam Mary Brownell, Chief Suah Coco, Madam Theresa-Leigh Sherman, Justice Glady’s Johnson, Madama Clavendar Bright Parker, first female Pharmacist and others too numerous to mention, including the brave mothers, grandmothers, and sisters that stepped forward to form the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Movement that helped bring an end to the conflict and pave the way for a more peaceful and prosperous future,” he averred.
“We owe it to those women, who pushed for peace relentlessly, to do everything we can to build social cohesion and reconciliation in Liberia.”
Therefore, he acknowledges that, as look towards the future and continue to work towards sustainable peace, reconciliation, and democracy, it is equally vital that the legacies of war and human rights violations are addressed in the 2023 memorial year.
By doing so, Ajisomo emphasized the need to also redouble efforts to continue to promote and protect the rights of women in all aspects of life.
The ECOWAS Human Rights Day was observed, in honor of former President EJS, which the medium Ajisomo also use to encourage all political parties and stakeholders that are involved in elections matters to adopt the principle of “ Leaving no one behind”.
He explained that leaving no one behind requires, investing in capacity-building programs, voter education, and documentation systems to ensure that women are equipped with the necessary skills during campaigns, while in office, and after their political tenure expires among others.
“The principle also demands that we cultivate the ground for the inclusion and support of young women in politics, and to garner the support of young men who are gender enlightened at various levels of participation.
On this ECOWAS Human Rights Day, let us commit to working together to create a brighter, more equitable, and more peaceful future for all ECOWAS Citizens, particularly for the Liberian women who have played such a vital role in this nation’s history.”
The ECOWAS Human Rights Day is observed on 16th January of every year, following its adoption by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government at its 50th Ordinary Summit held on December 17th, 2016 in Abuja, Nigeria.