BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa â€“ NAYMOTE Partners for Democratic Development, along with the Liberia Peace Building Office and the Center for Democratic Governance, has concluded a series of peace and reconciliation town hall meetings in Grand Bassa.
The meetings were held under a project funded by UNDP called Advancing Reconciliation through Legislative Reform and Civic Engagement.
According to Eddie Jarwolo, the executive director of the pro-democracy group NAYMOTE, the town hall meetings were intended to provide the platform for citizens to voice their concerns on peace and reconciliation.
The town hall meetings were held in Harlandsville Township and in Buchanan August 9-10, with residents of the five electoral districts in attendance.
Jarwolo said the project is being implemented across seven counties, including Montserrado, Bomi, Gbapolu, River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru, and Grand Bassa.
â€œWe are working with communities in the various counties to develop triggers that could lead to violence at the community level, then we take it to the district level to do the stakeholders analysis and then to the county level to make sure that we do the validation and then develop a five-year county reconciliation and peace building plan for each of the counties,â€ he said.
Jarwolo named some of the trigger issues recommended by the citizens as land crises, illicit drug use, rapes, ritualistic killings, domestic violence against women, and limited participation of women in decision making.
Jarwolo said the dialogues with citizens began during former President Ellen Johnson Sirleafâ€™s administration and is supported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The plan is expected to be presented to President George Weah in November this year to be used in developing a peace and reconciliation policy that could lead to the establishment of a peace and reconciliation commission.
Jarwolo said the United Nations Mission in Liberia had proposed these peace and reconciliation dialogues to ensure that the 15 counties could attempt to address triggers that could potentially bring back violence.
UNMIL and the government worked with civil society organizations to complete these dialogues in eight counties, Jarwolo said, and when President Weah took over, the eight counties presented their plans.
Based on their presentations, the president called for the completion of the rest of the counties.
â€œMost of the citizens support the establishment of war and economic crimes in Liberia because they believe it will reduce corruption, improve governance, sustain the peace, and hold troublemakers accountable for their actions that undermine peace and democracy in Liberia,â€ he added.
In Grand Bassa, citizens cited the poor healthcare and justice systems, illicit mining, mismanagement of county and social development funds, land crises, illicit drug use, and domestic violence against women as some of the trigger issues that need to be addressed in order to sustain peace.
Charles Autridge, a resident of Grand Bassaâ€™s first district, called on the government to swiftly intervene for peaceful co-existence and the sustainability of the fragile peace.
He said the education and health systems are poor and needed to be strengthened by the government. He called the lack of drugs and ambulances at health facilities a major concern and demand quick action.
Autridge also saw illicit mining as one of the burning issues in the county that need more attention.
â€œYou see people coming in the community without getting in contact with the community dwellers. Some will go and start their own thing. You see logging companies are not coming to the community and sharing with them their operations. Some will go and do illicit mining,â€ he said. â€œSo, from this dialogue we want government to hear us and act quickly.â€
For her part, Monkonjay Smith feared that the prevalence of narcotics abuse among the youth would damage their future and have a broader negative impact on society.
Smith thanked NAYMOTE, the government, and UNDP for providing the platform for citizens to express their views and concerns. She called on NAYMOTE to ensure that their views and concerns reach the president, and that action is taken.
Featured photo by Sampson David