Reconciliation is a paramount and germane tool for development. When people are reconciled, change comes in. Not just any change, but unanimous change. This is, especially, true for a country once ripped apart by years of chaos. We are told of untold facts that thousands were victims of despotic executions and unwanted dehumanization; 250,000 people are estimated to have died and many properties destroyed. Liberia’s fourteen (14) years mayhem birthed some of the most heinous offenses man has perpetrated against man. There were even those who thought Liberia would go to the dusk and never rise of the pool of destruction. Soon, their thought-process became a delusion as Liberia, kowtowed to the diktats of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed on August 18, 2003, in Accra, Ghana. The famous slogan, “We want peace, no more war”, then became a solemn oath and sacred phrase.
War-torn Liberia returned to the days of peaceful coexistence. Then came the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a recipe for justice and reconciliation. Created by an Act of the Legislature on May 12, 2005, this commission was mandated to give a detailed, unbiased and vivid account of the goings-on during the civil war. It filed a final report on July 1, 2009, summed into nearly 400 pages. The TRC made several recommendations amongst which was the banning of warlords and individuals who sponsored or affiliated with any of the warring cliques from participation in political processes for some time, possibly, lifetime. Sadly, these recommendations were quickly thrown into the museum of historical fantasy, as there are still people, banned, in public offices, both elected and appointed. (Well, this piece’s resolve is not to speak to this particular subject). The TRC also had an obligation to unite a fractured, divided nation atmospherized with the aroma of Native-Congau segregation, marred by rampant corruption at the disadvantage of the poor and huddled masses, and many other factors. This is what we ought to and must speak about – Reconciliation!
Liberia’s riposte to a “somehow” era of peace would soon mark the beginning of bitterness. It must not be lost on us therefore that the factors which instigated the civil war are as glittering as gold today. In fact, they are in gigantic proportions. When one tunes to the radio or reads the newspapers, one only hears and sees messages of hate; politicians and supporters scolding each other, watering down each other. This is the Liberia, which now exists. Loyalty to state has been thrown into the wilderness. Political godfatherism has taken roots, roots so grounded that we no longer prioritize our country but rather glued devotion to individuals (politicians) thus exhibiting hatred amongst ourselves, even when the words and actions of some are in the best interest of our motherland. We must always remember that while each of us may strive to pursue our individual goals and beliefs, but we must never forget that we will either rise together from the depths of desolation to the heights of success or fall together as one nation and as one people.
I am not unaware that we are in a political season, and everyone will choose their path. But as we campaign in our slums and ghettos, towns and villages, stores and shops, the message must be clear – “let’s reconcile and then progress”. Stop preaching the politics of hate: Liberia needs reconciliation. Genuine development is only assured when people come together in unison and with unanimity. When people come together, they get out of their problems together. Each of us has a duty to rail against the preachers of hate and messengers of conflict. We must do so by maintaining peace and teaching reconciliation.
We Must Forgive and Never Forget
Wartime scars are ones that live on forever. They are not just parts of our memories but they inwardly ache us to the core. Some of us even develop mental defects while others thread with grief and a few breed animosity.
Liberia’s horrible past can be neither disremembered nor scrubbed from the memory of history; thousands were killed, women and girls were raped, and children were made soldiers. The events of 1989 – 2003 demonstrate “man’s inhumanity to man”.
In October this year, Liberia will be a battleground between the forces of good and forces of evil; those who believe in going forward and those who believe in going backward. Liberia’s nursing democracy will be trialed, again. There will be campaigns, fueled by barrage of words. Certainly, that is the constant rule of politics. It must also be reminisced, political campaigns are used as means of unifying people, and this is what we must to do in Liberia.
Many, particularly affiliates of the Liberian civil war, are being derided for their roles in the Liberian civil war. Some are holding public offices while others are celebrated messiahs in their ethnic groups. These individuals still have the naked courage to live in our society and make vaunted boasts about their involvement in the crisis, claiming it was justified. When justice is handicapped, this is what one should expect.
Since recommendations from the TRC report were never carried out, it becomes expedient at this moment to pardon war culprits. We cannot continue to live in a society where the same warlords are decorated and sanctified saints by few in some quarters while many people grieve inside. Growth and development will never be realized in such a situation. Therefore, it is time we forgive the warlords and associates. But as we forgive, we must never forget. History has revealed to us over time that those who forgive and forget are most likely to repeat the same mistakes.
To forgive is sometimes a tough task, but it takes the strong to do it. Mohandas K. Gandhi “Mahatma” once said, “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. The weak can never forgive”. I know Liberians are strong. We can forgive each other! The Rwandans’ experience is one we must learn from. After the Rwandan genocide, they realized that it is true that human can visit pain upon another human, but it is equally true that human is capable of bringing back great joy. The Rwandans forgave each other but they have never forgotten. The build their genocide museum so they can be reminded of their awful 100 days. Let us emulate the Rwandans.
We can do it, and we must do it! “In union strong, success is sure. We cannot fail! I do not think we will fail!”
By Abraham M. Keita
April 24, 2017