UN, Carter Center, Swedish Embassy, Others Embrace Unification Day Celebration

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Monrovia – The Better Future Foundation (BFF), recently organized a program marking the celebration of Liberia’s 55th National Unification Day, with several opinion leaders from both the public and private sectors as well as Representatives of the United Nations, Carter Center and other members of the diplomatic community accredited near Monrovia highlighting the need for Liberians to work together for sustainable peace and unity, and foster democracy in the country.

Held on the Capitol Hill main campus of the University of Liberia (UL) in Monrovia, the celebration which had as its Theme: “National Unification Day: Education- First Step Out of Poverty; Path to Self-esteem & Self-reliance,wasin collaboration with the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation of the University of Liberia, Youth Beyond Barriers (YBB) and a conglomeration of high school and university students.

Delivering his keynote address at the occasion, the Country Representative of Carter Center Liberia, James Dorbor Jallah, who is also former Executive Director of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC), stressed the importance of the National Unification Policy initiated by Liberia’s former President, Dr. William V. S. Tubman (late), which brought together indigenous and Americo-Liberians in the governance and development of the country.

Mr. Jallah recalled that the Unification Policy sought to remove barriers to peace and unity and for Liberians to rise above acts with potential to undermine national unity and progress.

He called on Liberians at all strata of the nation to embrace peace and refrain from acts which are inimical to strengthening and consolidating the country’s peace and development as well as its democracy.

At the same time, Mr. Jallah underscored the need for the Administration of President George Manneh Weah to see itself in the light of the National Unification Policy of President Tubman by encouraging all Liberians to form an integral part of the national decision-making process and to ensure the firm protection of the rights of all Liberians as guaranteed by the Liberian constitution and other statutory provisions.

Commenting on the planned June 7 protest in the country, Mr. Jallah pointed out that both the Government of Liberia and organizers of said protest have the responsibility to ensure the peace and tranquility in the country.

He underscored the need for the Liberian government to accord the necessary protection to the June 7 protestors as their right to do so is guaranteed by the Liberian constitution.

The Carter Center Country Director, at the same time, emphasized that organizers of the June 7 protest equally have the responsibility to ensure that the protest does not obstruct the basic rights of other citizens, including the right to free movement, as also guaranteed by the Liberian constitution.

He said President Weah remains the leader of all Liberians in spite of their regional, ethnic, religious, socio-economic and political differences among others, and as such, the Liberian leader should ensure the full protection and happiness of all.

In his Goodwill Message delivered at the occasion, Dr. Uchenna Emelonye, Country Representative, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Liberia, lauded BFF and its partners for the Unification Day celebration. 

He said the UN Human Rights Office, since its establishment in Liberia in 1993 has been working with the Government and the Civil Society on human rights issues as it is done in other countries worldwide. 

The UN Country Representative also appreciated the government and people of Liberia in the promotion of national unification, peace and development and stressed the need to guarantee the rights of all.

Dr. Emelonye who expressed delight with respect to the Theme of the Unification Day Program-“National Unification Day: Education- First Step Out of Poverty; Path to Self-esteem & Self-reliance” called on Liberians, especially young people to strive for quality education which he said is a right and not a privilege. He was proxy by Human Rights Officer Sonny Onyegbula.

The right to education, he said, is enshrined in Article 86 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions including UN Convention on Social and Human Rights; Convention on Economic, Social and Political Rights and Convention on Social and Cultural Rights among others.

Speaking at the occasion, Ms. Elizabeth Harleman, Charge d’ affairs and Head of Development Cooperation of the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia said she was happy to form part of the National Unification Day celebration in Liberia organized by the Better Future Foundation (BFF) and other collaborating partners. 

Ms. Harleman pointed out that the occasion was also in recognition of the progress made over the years in Liberia in the promotion of democracy and development.

She stressed the need for Liberians, especially the youth of the country to access education which is “A first step out of poverty” and the development of self-esteem and self-reliance.

 The Head of Development Cooperation of the Swedish Embassy further asserted that educational empowerment will enable young people in Liberia who are the future leaders of the country to effectively address future societal challenges.

While expressing the need for Liberians to work together for the peace and development of the country, the Swedish Diplomat emphasized that every child in Liberia deserves education which is a basic right that should, at all times, be recognized and upheld.

She indicated that the participation of all is critical in the peace-building and development process of the country and in the promotion of democracy.

Making remarks at the program, Lofa County Senator, George T. Tengbeh, Chairman of Senate’s Standing Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment applauded the Better Future Foundation (BFF) for the National Unification Program.

Senator Tengbeh reiterated that the Unification Policy initiated by Liberia’s former President, Dr. William V. S. Tubman (late) was intended to unite Liberians aimed at enhancing national unity, peace and progress.

He stressed the importance of the unification policy in the sustenance of peace in the country.

The Lofa County Senator further told the gathering that the Liberian nation is at a crucial state, as such, the need for national healing, reconciliation and unification cannot be overemphasized.

While calling on his fellow citizens to unite and work together for development and progress, Senator Tengbeh prayed for God’s divine intervention in consolidating Liberia’s hard-won peace and democracy for the benefit of all.

He also highlighted the need for Liberians to subscribe to regular dialogue in finding amicable solutions to national problems and eschew acts of violence and lawlessness at all times.

“Let us sit and talk as Liberians. We must make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the nation’s peace for the benefit of our children,” Tengbeh stressed.

The Lofa County Senator said Liberians should not allow the peace of the country, including the operation of schools and other businesses to be disrupted. According to him, such disruption would severely impact the country. 

Making apparent reference to the Liberian nation which had graduated from decades of bloody and destructive civil war, Senator Tengbeh declared: “If you fall for a second time, it will be difficult to get up.”

He said the International Community is watching Liberians for the protection of peace and democracy in the country. 

For his part, the Minister of Youth and Sports, D. Zeogar Wilson, praised BFF for the unification day celebration.

Minister Wilson called on Liberians to come together and work for the betterment of the country as envisioned in the national unification policy introduced by President William V. S. Tubman during his administration in 1964.

He expressed the determination and commitment of the Liberian government, headed by President George Manneh Weah, in building the capacities of Liberian youth in the area of technical and vocational education across the country.

Minister Wilson said such educational empowerment of the nation’s youth would enable them access employment and other income generating opportunities and to contribute meaningfully to national development efforts.

“Education”, he emphasized, “will also enable young people to develop self-esteem and to be self-reliance in the improvement of their individual livelihood.”

He maintains that such education is an integral part of the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Peace and Prosperity.

He stressed the importance for Liberians to respect each other and to foster national healing and reconciliation because, “In union strong, success is sure.”

This year National Unification Day celebration commenced with a daylong Peace and Unification Dialogue with several distinguished personalities from the public and private sectors including Sis. Mary Laurene Browne, OSF President, Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia; Lofa County Senator George T. Tengbeh, Bishop John Kunkun, President of Liberia Fellowship of Full Gospel Ministries and Ms. Amelia Flumo, Graduate (Masters) of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana, serving as panelists.

In their respective presentations, the panelists highlighted the relevance of the national unification and integration policy formulated and launched by William V. Tubman who served as the 18th President of the Republic of Liberia. The underscored the need for Liberians to uphold such policy in the governance of the country and the advancement of peace and development.

One of the panelists, a renowned educator, Sis Mary Laurene Browne, particularly stressed the urgency for Liberians to reach a national consensus on what they want for their country; and the kind of education they need to actualize said vision and goal for the betterment and prosperity of the nation.

In conclusion, the panelists concurred that more investment in education be made by the central government with support of other stakeholders to enable Liberians make prudent and informed decisions on the development of the country.

The celebration was also characterized by other activities including prayer for National Healing, Reconciliation, Unity and Peaceful Coexistence spearheaded by Mr. Felesu F. Swaray, Administrative Assistant of the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation of the University of Liberia and Rev. Morris Yeedoun, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Harvest International Liberia, representing the Islamic and Christian Communities respectively.

A Special Documentary Video: A retrospection of the history and significance of National Unification Day, aimed at cultivating a culture of peace, respect for rule of law, and for fundamental human rights amongst Liberian youth and students to serve as catalysts for development and unification was shown at the indoor program held in the auditorium of the Capitol Hill campus of the University of Liberia in Monrovia.

According to BFF Founder and President, Augustine Arkoi, these events were also part of BFF’s ongoing Liberia Democracy Sustainability Platform (DSP) initiative, which primarily seeks to inspire national consensus-building to accelerate an improved human security relations, human rights and respect for the rule of law, infrastructural development for sustainable peace and democratic governance in Liberia and the sub-region.

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