The Liberian Peace Process: A Realistic Platform For Genuine Peace
By Amin Modad
I am a Liberian residing in the US due to the prevailing socio-political and economic state of affairs in Liberia. Liberia has been engulfed in a civil crisis that has not only destroyed every fabric of the society and the political system, but has also destroyed the Liberian people. Amongst the many questions being asked, the ultimate is 'Can the Liberian crisis be resolved?' Yes it can. However, it is contingent upon the level of participation from the international community especially the US Government and the commitment of Liberians ourselves. Contrary to the impetuous ambitions of 'some' of Liberia’s so called Presidential aspirants; the total resolve of the Liberian civil saga is not only subjected to the need for a ‘New President’. Total peace will have to encompass first a ceasefire enforced by an international peacekeeping force, the setting up a transitional /interim government (members of which will not participate in the general elections), the complete disarmament of all warring parties, and the reassessment of the credentials of Liberia’s Presidential aspirants.
I must stress that:
1. It is very important that those selected to participate in the interim government denounce any intention of running in the immediate presidential elections. This will not only support a fair transition process, it will also ensure the process. We have seen the signing of many accords and agreements and the inceptions of numerous interim governments that failed because of the biases and effects of subjective ruling. It is evident that when key figures in the political spectrum are allowed to participate in the interim government, the transitional process becomes polluted with personal agendas and interests. It is high time that Liberians and other sincere governments realized that every so-called peace initiative is doom to fail if peace is not cultivated through a horizontal approach.
2. The credentials of our presidential aspirants should be critically analyzed. A major impediment to peace is the mentality and intentions of Liberia’s so-called politicians. We find our political arena infected with individuals I term as 'Political Parasites'. The Liberian crisis goes beyond a mere change in leadership. It goes beyond removing President Taylor and the likes of Gen. Momo Gibbah, Chucky Taylor and other shady characters.
The question is after them, who is next? For the past thirteen years Liberia has degenerated into one of the worst places on earth. The annual household income of ninety percent of the people is less than $100.00. Over sixty percent of the children do not go to school because they have become the breadwinners for their families; and as a means for survival, girls as young as ten years of age are forced into prostitution. While other governments are fighting wars against child labor, AIDS, literacy and other social plagues the children of Liberia are forced into taking up arms. Social development and perseverance become irrelevant in Liberia because ‘survival’ has become elusive. If there is a periphery to the total annihilation of a people and society, Liberia has reached the threshold.
Liberians should view the Accra talks as a final beckon to peace, the renaissance of our political system and the ultimate platform for peace and the ideal democratic process. However, it is utterly sad that whenever there is a forum organized to discuss Liberia's future, nothing positive materializes because the representatives are dominated by the same old political nonconformists comprised mostly of former warring faction leaders and what I consider 'Old Time Politicians'.
We have seen that due to the participation of these individuals, several ingenious initiatives that could have providentially ended the civil war failed. The uncompromising ploys of most of these individuals in addition to their lust for power significantly prolonged the war and continue to prevent reformation and progress.
They blame the decadence on Charles Taylor alone. This mentality is not only presumptuous, destructive, and irresponsible of them, but also evident of their selfish motives. While it is true that the departure of Charles Taylor and his entourage is paramount to peace and stability, they fail to realize that the first step in creating the platform for positive political, social and economical changes is for each and every one of them to assume some responsibility for the war, destruction, carnage and on going crisis. The second imperative step is for them to relinquish their selfish need for victory. Their continuous vie for the presidency and support for warring factions imply that the plight and destiny of the Liberian people are not paramount on their agendas.
To be realistic, why in the world would any warlord (past and present) think he has a chance of becoming a President in Liberia? Have they forgotten the holocaust they and other warring faction leaders orchestrated? Have they
forgotten the amount of lives that have perished in their occupied territories? Can they justify why they introduced and led more warring factions when Liberia could not even accommodate the existing ones? Do they think the continuous use of arms can secure peace and foster a democratic system? In the past, we have compromised the truth and reality by satisfying the ambitions of anyone who comes up with a warring faction or people who ingratiate themselves as important 'obstacles to peace'.
For the sake of peace, we had elected Charles Taylor. Where did it lead us? WE CAN NO LONGER COMPROMISE OUR SURVIVAL ON THESE DUMB MERITS! NEITHER CAN WE BASE CHOICES ON FEAR!
3. It is important that the international community led by the US government not only intervenes militarily but also remain in Liberia to ensure the smooth transition from the interim government to a democratically elected one. All along in history, from the recognition of Liberia’s independence to the peace process, the US have played a behind the curtain role. Though we understand the complexities of politics vis-à-vis strategic interests and so forth, we admonish the US that it is high time that she directly intervenes both militarily and diplomatically in the peace process. It is high time that the US took the lead in saving a society and people that partially evolved out of the US. Britain did it for Sierra Leone and France for the Ivory Coast; we have expected no less from the US. The peace process in Liberia has reached the most delicate stage ever. While ECOWAS is trying to mediate a peace agreement between the Liberian Government, the political opposition and the other warring factions, and just when President Taylor was showing some sign of conceding to the international pressure, the UN backed Sierra Leone Crimes War Tribunal indicted him. It seems as if there is no united front or strategy in place to halt the hostilities in Liberia, broker a lasting peace agreement and cultivate the environment for free and fair democratic elections. The indictment, whether justified or not, was untimely.
Cognizant of the fact that President Taylor is only a part of the problem, it is necessary that the US mediate the entire process. The transition to peace is a long and difficult task especially when the entire political system has degenerated. As far as the Presidency is concerned, Liberia needs a contemporary leader who is well educated, moral and innocent of previous civil contrivance. We need a leader who will have the zeal and potential to lead Liberia in the variable new world. Liberia needs a new breed of leaders who will bring in new ideas, concepts and potency. All sectors of country need total renaissance.
My intention is not to condemn or bring into disrepute our existing politicians; my design is to revivify how we view our political system relative to our choices, the political agendas of our politicians, their competency and eligibility to lead us. The fact is that many of them are incapable of providing the leadership necessary to compensate the retrogression of the past twenty years, which many of them immensely contributed to.
Taking up arms and ensuring carnage does not imply competence. In short, they lack the dynamism of modern leadership. Most of the presidential aspirants are either former warlords and ‘old time politicians’ who are responsible for the war in Liberia. Liberia needs a total renaissance vis-à-vis our society, politics and mentality.
While it may be true that some of our politicians are competent in terms of sophistication, there is a difference between competence and eligibility. Also, due to the abominable profundity of the crisis, eligibility should not be limited exclusively on the constitution. From my point of view and those of many other Liberians, they are ineligible by deeds and participation. They made a lot of unforgivable errors and have shown inconsistencies in their ideas and agenda. It is evident that to most of them, the objective of winning the Presidency is more to satisfy their personal objectives than to fulfill the mandate of the opportunity. Just as much as they are vital to the peace process and development of Liberia, it is necessary that they redefine their roles.
The realization of a peaceful and democratically secured Liberia will require a great deal of effort, sacrifices, commitments and pressure from the international community. Many Liberians like myself, have hoped for a more direct US participation in preventing the crisis from ever reaching this stage. We need not remind Washington of Liberia’s history and her ties with the US. Though this may not be retrospective of the US policy towards Liberia within the last 14 years, it is an overwhelming conviction amongst the Liberian people. Even during the most hopeless periods in the civil war, most Liberians survived on the hope that the US will intervene to stop the carnage. We had sat and watched the US send troops to Somalia and Bosnia while similar genocide were orchestrated in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Considering the critical state of being, it is important that the US Government, and the International Community not only intervene military to put an immediate halt to the fighting and hostilities, it is also crucial that the entire transitional process is monitored so that ‘power’ is not placed in the wrong hands.