- His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia and Visitor to the University of Liberia,
- Professor Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, President of the University Of Liberia,
- Officials of Government Present,
- Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
- Distinguished Members of the Faculty and staff,
- Members of the Graduating classes,
- Distinguished Guests,
- Members of the Fourth Estate,
- Ladies and Gentlemen:
Please allow me to thank the President of the University of Liberia, Professor Dr. Julius S. Nelson, and the entire Administration, Faculty and Staff of the University of Liberia for selecting me as the Guest Speaker at the 103rd Commencement Convocation of the Combined Amos C. Sawyer College of Social Sciences and Humanities, William V. S. Tubman College of Education, and the David A. Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational Colleges. I am indeed grateful and humble.
Performing a sacred task of this kind is seldom, and when selected amongst thousands other qualified persons to mount the stage, one has so many ideas and usually, none seems adequate for the occasion, especially when you have the freedom to select a topic of your choice. However, after a deep reflection on the occasion and the overall goal and objective for this gathering, a reasoned filtering of the thoughts sets the basis for settling down on a topic.
I myself was a student at the University of Liberia during one of the most challenging periods of our nation’s history, especially for women. When rape and other abuses were rampant; I faced bigger risks at that time.
But yet still, I valued education, which was instilled in me by my parents, and I knew that the country’s situation would not continue forever.
Like many women pioneers before me, Sara Simpson George and Maude A Morris, who advocated for women’s Suffrage, Ellen Mills-Scarborough among the first female lawmakers and president of the Liberian Federation of Women Organizations, Emma Shannon Walser—first female Judge, Elizabeth K. Collins first female senator of Bong County, Angie Brooks Randolph- the only African female President of the United Nations General Assembly, and our very own Mary Antoinette Brown – Sherman, the first female president of the University of Liberia. I persisted and was determined to pursue my goal.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; I have reflected deeply on the reason why we are here. It is not merely to witness and celebrate the academic achievements of the students graduating from various programs today.
We must sustain the peace and accelerate the growth of our Country in all areas. Consequently, I plead with you to allow me, as a Career and Professional Law Enforcement Officer for over thirty (30) years, and a Peace Advocate, to speak to you on the topic:
“Peace and Security, an Indispensable Element for the Growth and Development of Liberia.”
There are various definitions and understandings of the words Peace, Security, Growth and Development.
It depends on the context. However, they all, have positive meanings.
For our purpose and as a lead to my address, I have selected certain definitions and translated them for each of these terms, as follows:
PEACE: The word “Peace” means “freedom without disturbance.” It is a state or period in which there is no war, or the end of War. My translation of this definition is, there is “Peace when a person looks at him or herself in the mirror every day, and truthfully does not feel guilty or ashamed about anything.”
SECURITY: The word “Security” means the state of being free from dangers or threats. It is a state of being secure.
GROWTH– This is a term of measurement to determine physical changes, usually with the view that there is an increase from what the measurement had been previously. My translation is “gaining a greater and broader appreciation of the meaning of life.”
DEVELOPMENT– Like the word growth, development sends a positive signal of progress. I understand development therefore to be the process that creates growth, progress, positive change, or the addition to physical, economic, environmental, social, and other components of life. I see it in particular as “the process of coming into existence or creating something new or more advanced.”
Our Country Liberia has experienced fourteen (14) years of civil war; it suffered a complete breakdown of the rule of law. Women and children became the most vulnerable people, mainly due to all sorts of orders and instructions security forces received from warlords or individuals they were loyal to.
There is no doubt, that during this period, armed men and security forces lost their essence. And mob violence became the order and Justice of the day.
Needless to remind us, the criminal Justice System was suspended as citizens, residents including other nationals within our borders fled from law enforcement personnel whose duty to protect them.
Of course, it was difficult to trust the system, as even our own men in arms were not different from child soldiers and various militia forces that violated the rights of individuals with impunity.
It is a fact that every Liberian was one way of the other affected by the conflict regardless of social status, age, religion, sex or tribe. It is however the sad reality that women and children bore the worse brunt of the bloodshed and killing.
Our civil war was inflamed and sustained by abuse of power, religious intolerance, tribal conflicts, corruption, hatred, transferred aggressions and other ills. Well, thanks be to God that today however, we not only speaking of peace but, are enjoying peace and we are very cognizant of the need to maintain the peace we have fought for so hard.
I shall stress that the peace we are enjoying and cherishing today was made possible through several meetings and other positive initiatives, mostly at the leadership of the women of Liberia, and your humble savant as was the case of 2003.
Thanks to the Liberia Women Mass Action for Peace.
We, the women of Liberia, are still in the promotion of Peace through several initiatives to prevent the re-occurrence of violence and to sustain the peace.
Let me emphasize that there is no way we can speak of peace without highlighting the significant role that the very marginalized and vulnerable groups I mentioned played. The women of our Country deserve greater recognition because of their roles in bringing peace to Liberia.
In fact, what is even more outstanding, is that since the end of the civil crisis in 2003, the women of Liberia have played an immense role in helping to maintain Liberia’s fragile peace through peace building initiatives, dialogues, peace conferences, and policy engagements, amongst others.
This means self- determination and the right to be involved in decision-making that affects you. It means further that one must be capable to participate in the decision-making process.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, unfortunately, in Liberia today, the number of women in decision-making positions remains relatively low as compared to their male counterparts, despite roughly comparable voting participation with men.
I wonder what the problem is. Why has it not been solved? When, will it be solved? For me NOW IS THE TIME. NOT LATER.
WE MUST BUILD THE PEACE. Let it be known, that peace building is the foundation for creating a sustainable human society and equitable development, particularly in countries like Liberia, emerging from conflicts.
Therefore, our national peace, security, growth and development MUST be firmly anchored on the tenets of peace building; and that is, respect for the rule of law regardless of one’s status, loyalty, or belief, and equality in treatment without reference to a person’s gender.
My advocacy on this subject therefore is, “As a significant demographic group in any society, women in decision making and community development must be encouraged and supported for lasting peace and stability.”
Since the signing of the Accra Peace Accord in 2003 in Accra, Ghana, Liberia has, and is still enjoying peace and stability for over twenty (20) years.
But whenever we refer to peace in Liberia, we emphasize that our peace is fragile. The question is when will we refer to our peace as a lasting peace? We all know the meaning of fragile. Indeed, this is a serious concern for us as Liberians. Good news has come for Liberia. I have a suggestion: “Treat Women in Liberia more respectably; fairly; and responsibly.”
Let me therefore, commend the University of Liberia Leadership, Professor Dr, Nelson and Staff for their stewardship under difficult and challenging circumstances, but yet have produced quality leaders that will play a key role in ensuring peace and security in our country. Hence, there is a need for creating a safe environment for sustainable growth and development in Liberia.
Please join me in giving the University Authorities and the graduates a resounding applause as a show of our appreciation and respect.
To the Graduates: You must be prepared to face the challenges ahead of you. Some of you are already employed, either in the Public Sector, or private Enterprises, or self-employed. However, a majority of you are certainly going out to seek employment. Be patient, be respectful, and be determined. Be good stewards of the degree you will receive today. Be ambassadors of the University of Liberia. Be protectors and jealously guide the standards and ethics of your profession.
Remember, whatever the case may be, you will need a safe environment in order to benefit from your education. For example, it is because you have peace and stability now, this why you have the opportunity to attend college and obtain a degree.
Thanks to the Government and people of Liberia, our partners, for all the efforts invested in maintaining peace and stability in Liberia and even in our sub-region.
NOW, LET US LOOK AT SOME CRTICAL AREAS THAT NEED REFLECTION AND OUR ATTENTION, IF WE MUST ENJOY SUSTAINABLE PEACE AND SECURITY IN LIBERIA.
- Teamwork and collaboration is paramount in Law Enforcement. Let me hasten to remind all of us of the three (3) C’s in Law Enforcement. Those C’s are to guide us if we must succeed in maintaining peace and security. The three (3) C’s in Law Enforcement are:
- COLLABORATION And
With the three (3) C’s, we will make a big difference in providing effective peace and security. In the absence of theses 3 C’s, our peace and security will continue to be fragile as security entities will be working independent of each other.
- Training and Logistical support for Security entities is Key in this matter. There is no way we can have genuine peace and security in Liberia if we don’t consider the re-training of security officers and provide them with specialized skills and relevant logistics to enable them respond in a responsible and effective way to the security needs of the State.
- The Rule of Law must be applied to all equally, irrespective of one’s status in society.
- Depoliticizing the security sector. This is very critical to our peace and security. The security sector must be de-politicized in order to gain the confidence of the citizenry.
- Security personnel need to stay out of politics in order to deliver professional and effective protection.
- The Judicial system must be properly supported in order to dispense justice in a speedy and timely manner.
- Equal distribution of the natural resources of the country must be prioritized.
- The fight against corruption and impunity must be genuine with strong commitment from every Liberian.
- Rape, Domestic Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse are on the increase, there is still Sex for Grades in some learning institutions, and this must stop.
- Peace and Reconciliation should be a must. It is imperative that we encourage Peace, Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity between and amongst citizens and residents in Liberia at every Level.
We must be able to create opportunity for dialogue between and amongst people and institutions to promote peace and security in communities, towns, cities and other sectors of the country.
- Free and Fair democratic elections must be encouraged at all levels both for Presidential and Legislative elections as it is the test of our democracy after enjoying twenty (20) years of peace.
At this stage, our involvement must be very positive. No matter what your situation it is, let’s learn to put Liberia first.
With determination and Love for the Country, we will be able to stand the test of time. In life, nothing comes easy. Let’s stop shifting blames and do what we can do for our country.
To the Graduates, let me encourage you to be prepared because when you start to do the right things in the best interest of the country, some people will call you all sorts of names. But, work with courage and determination because the road to success is hard, but success is sweet.
From my experience in Liberia, I have been able to identify two categories of Liberians.
- Positive Thinking Liberians and
- Negative Thinking Liberians
The Positive Thinking Liberians are those Liberians that pray for Liberia, think positively about Liberia and portray a good image of the country.
While the Negative Thinking Liberians do the opposite. They always think negatively about Liberia, give misleading information about their country, preach hate messages and sent the wrong signal about Liberia. This is a major challenge for our growth as a country.
This is a clear examples of our own NGO, People Uniting for Peace in Liberia (PUFPIL) whose motto states “Peace is not the silence of guns” because in times of peace, (the negative thinking Liberians) are promoting war, hatred and destruction which has a serious negative impact on the growth and development of Liberia.
When we keep doing these negative things, no one will take us serious. I want to therefore use this opportunity to urge all Liberians to see reason to protect our beloved country for its growth and development.
There is no way that we can maintain the peace throughout Liberia, if we fail to follow the rule of Law.
Right now, some individual’s rights are still being violated. Rape, Domestic Violence and Sexual Exploitations and Abuse are on the increase and there are still instances of Sex for Grades, mis-trust, Power Greed, Disrespect, etc.
Liberia is at the Cross Road with the preparation for elections come October 10, 2023. I want to use this medium to call upon every Liberian to know that we all have to be law abiding and do all we can to maintain the Peace, Stability and Development.
How can we live in peace when some people strongly believe that they are more Liberians than others? This is a major challenge.
Most people are angry over nothing. We need to manage ourselves in order to exhibit peaceful co-existence and do away with collective guilt or guilt by association.
As Good citizens, there is a serious need for us to adopt a spirit of Forgiveness and thank God for where we are as a nation today. There is too much guilt by association. So how can our society move forward?
Let’s break the chain of hatred and embrace PEACE AND UNITY FOR GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT of our beloved country.
- From Grand Cape Mount, to Gbapolu and Bomi, let’s embrace peace.
- From Nimba, to Lofa and Bong, let’s embrace peace.
- From Sinoe to Grand Gedeh and Rivercess, let’s embrace peace.
- From Maryland to Grand Kru and River Gee, let’s. Embrace peace.
- From Montserrado to Margibi and Grand Bassa, let’s embrace peace.
To the graduating Classes, Majority of you are hoping for opportunities that will enable you to contribute to your country in a positive way.
It is important to remember that your University Education would not have been possible in the absence of Peace.
I am therefore, confident that you have realized the importance of Peace which is the primary source to sustainable growth and Development in Liberia.
Hence, it is imperative that we all actively participate in positive undertakings that will define and promote our hard earned peace.
As you graduate today, you are going to be actors of tomorrow, it’s now your solemn responsibility to make sure that you will not do anything to disturb or destroy the peace or will you allow anybody to use you to do so.
Do not take Peace for Granted. Make it your responsibility to ensure that peace and stability are sustained in Liberia, if we must regain our dignity amongst nations within he sub-region and globally.
Here are some Tips for progress and the promotion for peace and security in Liberia:
There is no way we can maintain peace and security if security personnel lacks the requisite training and the relevant Logistics.
Let’s look at the some key security agencies mandates:
- The Liberia National Police (LNP): Its mandate is to protect lives and properties.
Democratic Policing is being practiced by the Liberia National Police which has to do with Proactive Policing and it is the most effective way of protecting lives and properties to enhance security.
- The Liberia Immigration Service:
The Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) mandate is to safeguard the country’s borders and regulates the functions of the Aliens and Nationality Laws of Liberia.
It may interest you to know that Liberia has one hundred and forty seven (47) entry points. And only 47 are official. Hence, this should claim our utmost attention. There are border communities and towns that are connecting us with other countries such as Cote d’viove, Serra Lone and Guinea.
- The Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency:
The mandate of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency is to ensure that illicit drugs do not enter our country. Today this is a major and root cause of most crimes committed in our various communities.
- The Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation:
The Bureau of Correction and Rehabilitations’ mandate is to ensure that those who are sent to correction Centers and Prisons are rehabilitated from bad to good.
The reason for flagging the mandates of these institutions is to give you all a clear picture of how they are important to our peace and security.
In Liberia, we do not respect our security personnel. But when we travel, we give our utmost respect to the least security officer that we come across.
Gone are those days where the public saw the security sector as a place for wayward people and for people that are less educated.
Today the security sector can boost of qualified and professional men and women that are capable and are serving with international best standards. Let’s respect our security because they are our own.
Our safety and protection lies in the hands of these honorable men and women who have dedicated their lives to our safety and protection. They sacrifice odd nights and leave their families vulnerable and they are yet to be appreciated.
The following challenges have been identified as some pitfalls to the peace and security of Liberia:
- The issue of Drugs
- Rape, Gender- Based Violence, Sexual exploitation and Abuse while Perpetrators go with impunity.
- Human Trafficking
- Disadvantage Youths
Some are using the opportunity to inflate the prices thus making the cost of living very high and unbearable.
- Political threats. Some Politicians going against each other like enemies with different kinds of hate messages.
- Abuse of power. Some People behave like they are more Liberians than others, so they continue to violate the rights of others without remorse.
- Ethnicity and Tribal affiliation: Some think if we do not belong to the same tribe, we will not benefit from any support from you or your relatives.
- Religious intolerance: Or, if I am not of the same religion like you, I am disrespected or insulted and overlooked.
- The so-called Class system: Congo vs. Native syndrome, this must be discouraged.
- Transferred aggression: If I am not happy with you, I put my frustration on you and blame you for anything. This is so wrong.
- Guilt by association. Because I am associating with some individuals that you have problem with, so you take me as your enemy or marginalize me.
- Lack of adequate logistical supply for security institutions. The security sector seriously needs Logistical support to combat crimes effectively.
- Lack of improved incentives for security personnel.
I therefore, recommend the followings:
That we all must join hands with the Government of Liberia to fright Drugs Abuse and Drugs Trafficking in the country by taking strong community initiatives.
- That drug Traffickers alone should be arrested and prosecuted rather than arresting the users who are just mere victims.
- That there must be Respect for the democratic process of Liberia.
- That there should always be a peaceful mediation for conflict resolution at every level.
- That there must be political will for adherence to the rule of law.
- That the Government collaborates with the community watch forums of for the reduction of crimes in the country.
- That a reconciliation conference or Forum be held for the three (3) branches of Government before the 2023 Elections.
- That the security sector be de-politicized.
- That the women of Liberia regardless of their status be encouraged to play significant leadership roles in every sector of the country.
- That the budgetary support to the security sector be increase and the necessary logistics be provided.
To conclude, peace and security must be considered as key to the growth and development of every nation and Liberia is no exception.
If Liberia must change the narrative from fragile peace to everlasting peace, we must first reconcile our differences as Liberians and forgive each other and take complete ownership in shifting situations that remain a challenge to the peace and security in Liberia.
Therefore, be nice to the people you meet on your way up. Because those are the same people you will meet on your way down.
Finally, let us embrace peace, promote peace and support the Government of Liberia in sustaining the peace.
Once again congratulations, and I wish you all the best.
I THANK YOU.