The Need to Maintain the Peace We Have
Written by By Paul Yeenie Harry
Although a great deal of our kinsmen is going through a difficult economic war, Liberians are enjoying peace. The situation is different from what it was between 1990 and 2003. There are more Liberians returning home than fleeing the country.
There are more foreign investments now than happened between 1990 and 2003, and there are more prospects that more investments will be made than there were between 1990 and 2003. Parents and children are more relaxed now than they were during the same period. Civil servants are making more money now than they made during the same period. Things are moving quite smoothly than it happened the time mentioned.
The reason? Many people who understand the effects of war on economic progress and development have indicated that the peace we enjoy – call it relative or fragile peace – is immensely responsible. In short, many positive things are happening because we have peace.
This reality presupposes that we do everything necessary to maintain the peace we have. As it has been pinpointed many times, the war has taken us back many years. To maintain the progress made thus far, and to have the possibility of making additional progress, Liberians must harness the efforts and will power not to allow themselves to slip into another abysmal situation resembling the Liberia-is-burning era. Neither our political differences, nor our regional differences, nor our ethnic differences nor our personal differences should cause us to revisit the period spinning around 1990 and 2003. Let us unanimously shout: “Gone are those days.”
We say this because constant reports of rebels being trained in northern Liberia, as well as reports of cross-border violence, are worrisome. Policy-makers must formulate and implement the right policies that will circumvent the country from reverting to the unbearable past. Too many sacrifices have been made for the peace we now enjoy. We must not allow this to slip from our hands. Many things are at stake.
We have commended the Liberian people on numerous occasions for shunning violence and war during the 2011 elections, a period during which tensions were high and many believed that things would turn violent and Liberia would retrograde to the years of war. The stakes were high. Trepidation descended on many of our brothers and sisters, fearing that violence would once again engulf our beloved country.
Realistically, reflecting on whence we had come, and considering rumors and threats of another war or a violent outbreak, there were good reasons to be concerned – and even be worried, too.
But then, to the surprise of some, but to the delight of many, the elections went on peacefully. We must keep that momentum and mindset that enabled us to go through a peaceful electoral process. We have begun the post-election era. It is prudent that we all play our role and play it meaningfully and selflessly for the sake of our beloved country.
We must want peace. We should want peace. To a greater extent, breaking or binding this country depends on us the Liberian people. And we should not fail ourselves and our children. We must maintain the peace we have.
We are aware that during the tense election season, local organizations warned politicians and their supporters against engaging in violence. Individuals called radio programs to plead with politicians and partisans of the various political parties. Liberians marched in the streets, denouncing violence and imploring their countrymen to eschew violence. We should not feel that because the elections are over, nothing can happen and will happen. The same efforts must be exerted to maintain peace in post-election Liberia. The burden rests with us.
It is also true that many international organizations added their voice to the caution. Foreign governments or their representatives in the country cautioned all not to engage in pre- and post-election violence. African Union (AU) representatives warned all stakeholders. ECOWAS’ representatives warned against elections violence. In fact, they threatened that agitators or instigators of violence, not the foot soldiers that the masterminds use, would face international justice for their role. While we recognize the role played by these mechanisms, the violence would have still been unavoidable if the Liberian people had chosen violence over peace. That’s why it is safe to say that real peace rests with us the Liberian people. Let’s maintain the peace we have.
During the elections, the Sirleaf-led government made arrangement with West African leaders, including President Jonathan Goodluck of Nigeria, for riot police to help deal with any pre- and post-election violence. The Liberian National Police mobilized its men and women for any eventuality. UNMIL patrolled with some of its heavy weapons in major parts of Monrovia and its environs to indicate that it was in control and would forcefully deal with anyone wanting to destroy the peace fought for and enjoyed thus far. All this helped, but it is us the people of Liberia that must eventually make and maintain peace.
During the elections, the religious community added their voice to the non-violence campaign, with ministers and prayer groups, including women groups, praying day and night for God to have mercy and give Liberians peace. Our brothers and sisters deserve commendation for their steadfastness in the prayerful effort to save Liberia from another bloodletting. We now have peace, but it is our responsibility as a people to maintain the peace we have. We must not allow it to slip between our fingers.
During the elections, some thought about buying plane tickets and traveling out of the country because they feared violence would break out during the elections, whether before, during or after. This has not happened. We have peace, but we must do everything to maintain this peace.
During the elections, others contemplated buying rice and other food stuff and stockpiling them in their houses, fearing that hell would break loose and baboon would divide kola nuts. That didn’t happen. We have peace, but we must maintain that peace.
During the lections, many educators and school operators closed the doors of their schools and told their students to return about one week after the elections, with some cautioning their students to be very careful during and after the elections. Nothing disturbing occurred. Liberians have not permitted that to happen. Isn’t it our duty to maintain the peace we have?
Instead of us running here and there, leaving our loved ones behind, as we try to take cover, we Liberians are relaxed, for we are convinced that the horrible years of war is something of the past, which we are not willing and ready to return to. If this is the understanding, shouldn’t we maintain the peace we have?
We also thank our political leaders for exercising maturity, patriotism, nationalism and selflessness in the process. They have realized, we think, that their words and deeds can plunge the nation into hellhole. That they have refrained from violence-oriented speeches is worth commendation. But we must not be unmindful of the fact that it is our responsibility to maintain the peace we have.
In conclusion, to prove to ourselves, our children, our neighbors and the world that we are a peace-loving people, that we have decided never again to return to the years of war, that we are tired of being displaced or of being refugees, we must maintain the peace we have. It is an imperative, and that imperative is incumbent upon us the Liberian people.
Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.