Earth Treasure Vase: Global Healing Project
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October 2012 Liberia Peacebuilding Update

The Construction of Peace Hut #3, Bong County, Central Liberia
October 2012
By W. G. Jacobs, Project Coordinator

Members of Women in Peacebuilding Network at the dedication of the Ganta Peace Hut

The Liberia Peacebuilding Project is hoping to begin construction of its third peace hut in Bong County, central Liberia, in collaboration with the county branch of the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET). This initiative is to support Liberia`s post-war peace and reconciliation efforts. The WIPNET group continues to play a pivotal role in the process of palava hut peacebuilding in Liberia and have been doing so since the end of Liberia’s civil war in 2003. The Totota Chapter of WIPNET, headed by Madam Annie Nushen, is expected to implement the third peace hut project. Annie Nushen is one of the strong advocates for peace in the rural communities of Liberia, particularly Bong County, which was the base for the defunct rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, led by former warlord and now-incarcerated ex-president Charles Taylor.

Annie Nushen

Our third peace hut will go into this conflict-prone community. The community is ready to receive AE`s representatives once funding is in place for project implementation.

The recent political situation in Liberia and how it affects peacebuilding and peacebuilders

When President Ellen Johnson–Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee returned from Oslo with their Nobel Peace Prize last year, criticism filled the pages of the local newspapers, as well as the airwaves. The critics directed their opposition mainly at the President who they felt did not deserve the prestigious prize. Of course Miss Gbowee had her detractors. In African politics, this is normal.

Part of Madam Sirleaf’s problems has been her “failure” to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report. The TRC report indicts the President, recommending that she be banned from Liberian politics for 30 years. Though still under enormous criticism, the President has been making efforts to reconcile the country trying different means rather than what the TRC says. Consequently, fellow Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee was appointed to head a new Liberia Reconciliation Initiative (LRI) set up by the government to engage in reconciliatory dialogue throughout the country.

What is now disturbing to many working for peace in Liberia is the way Liberians themselves see peace. One would think that country should come first! On the contrary, politics, self-interest, and many other non-issues take precedent over fostering peace and stabilizing the nation. So when Leymah Gbowee announced that she was resigning after taking over the LRI in less than a year, some people were not all that shocked. Amongst reasons for her resignation, Miss Gbowee insinuates, “enough is not being done for national healing.” “I feel I have been a disappointment to myself and Liberia. Not speaking is as bad as being part of the system,” Leymah said at the launch of the French edition of her book, Mighty Be Our Powers, which took place in Paris, France. Many believe Leymah`s recent action further indicts the President, a woman she once supported strongly.

As everyone awaits the return of Miss Gbowee when she is expected to be talking more about reasons for her resignation, both local and international peacebuilders in Liberia are now wondering what will happen to the $5 million dollars budgeted by the government to do the work that Leymah has abandoned. Miss Gbowee did not mince words as she came down hard on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, citing how the President is engaged in “nepotism” by putting her four sons in high positions of trust. However, instead of talking about the effect the Nobel Laureate`s action may have on those peacebuilders in the field. Even though Miss Gbowee claims she would continue to engage in reconciliatory activities through her personal organization, Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, her action poses serious questions.

The government accepts Gbowee`s resignation but disagrees with her claims, stating it has made tremendous efforts in fostering reconciliation and genuine peace. The Ministry of Information in a recent press release pointed to the $5 million in the current fiscal budget for the purpose of reconciliation nationwide. It also pointed to the establishment of the Independent Human Rights Commission and the establishment of the Special Commission to navigate the reconciliation process. The government further revealed the launch of the Peace and Reconciliation Roadmap in November of this year.

Many independent, grassroots peacebuilders in the country believe that the stalemate between the government and Gbowee is yet more politics. Instead of being a point of discouragement, it has made their determination to support local communities to live in peace stronger as ordinary people are the ones who suffer most as a result of the actions of their political leaders. For now the best thing to do is to intensify our efforts at continuing to work and support powerful community mobilizers, advocates and grassroots peacebuilders like Annie Nushen if they are to succeed. AE-Liberia understands the need for reconciling ordinary Liberians at the community level, hence the need to continue with the proposed three-year plan to construct 15 palava huts in the 15 counties of Liberia.

Alliance for the Earth acknowledges and honors our dear friends Mary Amelia and Philip Howell whose vision and warm-heartedness make this invaluable peacebuilding possible.

The Howell Family, Liberia, 2012