Why launch the Liberia Peacebuilder Initiative?
In December 1989, Liberia plunged into a brutal civil war, which resulted in the deaths of over 250,000 people. The war divided families, tribes, friends; devastated infrastructure; and threatened to destroy Liberian culture, traditions, beliefs and norms. Fortunately, a peace agreement was signed and elections were held, bringing Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the Presidency. Although much of the Liberian population accepts the need for and welcomes the prospect of reconciliation between the tribes and the divided people of Liberia, there is little actual understanding of the mechanisms and complexities of reconciliation and peace. Many Liberians speak of reconciliation in vague terms such as the need to love, respect and forgive each other, without being able to actualize these concepts in relation to members of other tribes or opposing groups.
Enhancing the capacity of local, grassroots leaders to promote dispute resolution and reconciliation is critical for the Liberian people in order to heal the past, facilitate forgiveness, and bring the diverse constituents together. Although valuable support from the global community has been extended, much greater effort is needed to consolidate the effort at the community and ethnic level, build a sustainable peace, and empower Liberians themselves to preserve this peace into the future. Strategies for reconciliation and the healing of relationships that are culturally appropriate to the Liberian context must be developed, taught and widely promoted throughout the rural counties. Developing the skills of local leaders will increase the likelihood that community conflicts will be resolved nonviolently in the future. It is important to work toward the cultivation of grassroots skills in conflict prevention, containment, and transformation. There are no greater threats to democracy than war and the tensions and conflicts that permeate a fragile post-conflict situation. The goal of this initiative is to promote the basic skills required for democracy – the ability to express and listen to different perspectives, the respect for cultural differences, and the willingness to work for the common good, and to work at the grassroots level in the communities – as well as the capacity for individual healing.
GCJ brings the expertise of US specialists together with the guidance of our local partners, as the experts on their own traditions and culture. This effort, we believe, will sow the seeds for a successful, long-term grassroots peace movement and the realization of a sustainable, uniquely Liberian democracy.