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Liberia: Ex-Nat’l disarmament commission’s boss calls for peace and unity

Photo: L/R:  Robin Martinson, Jamie Verbrugge, Dr. Jarbo, Denise Wollengburng in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota during the height of the NCDDR process in Liberia

NEW YORK —The former executive director of the United Nations-back Liberia’s National Commission for Disarmament and Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR), Dr.  Moses C.T. Jarbo, Sr. calls on all Liberians to prioritize peace and national unity.

Dr. Jarbo said it is important that the country’s political leaders, especially the presidential candidates and leaders of political units, tribal leaders and those in the civil society exercise restraint and allow the political process and national unity to proceed hand and hand.

Dr. Jarbo said peace, unity and national security are paramount than anyone Liberian individual’s political ambition.

He is, therefore, calling on all political leaders to ensure that their followers exercise their civic and constitutional rights and democratic freedoms within the context of the law, tolerance, and civility.

Dr.  Jarbo, a trained administrator, social worker, and psychologist, said Liberia needs to move faster in accelerating the consolidation and in building upon the gains of the peace and national unity that everyone has enjoyed so far.

He said the international community is watching carefully.  He said political leaders who may forget that and allow unruly supporters to engage in unwholesome acts could find themselves in serious trouble with the international community, especially at the level of international justice.

He said the post-election crisis has many consequences but also can be a good reason for international indictments like what occurred in Kenya several years ago when two key leaders of the two leading political parties in that country’s 2007-08 presidential election were subject to the International Criminal Court.

Current Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and his current vice president William Ruto, at the time acting from two rival political parties, were indicted regarding a post-election ethnic violence in 2007-08, in which 1,200 people died.

The former NCDDR boss praised the leaders of all political parties for exercising restraint thus far.   He said he is happy that Liberians are resulting to dealing with disagreements within the rule of law.

Adding, “One of the good things that have come out of Liberian socio-political condition since 2003 is the relative independence of the country’s judicial system and the level of civic engagement expressed by all Liberians,” he said.

The former NCDDR’s boss said it is important that political leaders in the country put the interest of Liberia first in all they do.

He said while the recently held presidential election was not perfect, Liberians have proven to the world that their democratic process cannot be hijacked by any one individual, no matter how powerful or influential they are.

He urged the leading contenders in the recent presidential contest to dialogue and network so that Liberians can determine the way forward and continue with their lives.  Adding, “political uncertainty harm business and economic progress.  Therefore, we must not allow politics and greed of a few individuals to take the country down.”

He praised the presidential candidates for prioritizing peace in all they do.

The ex-NCDDR’s boss said he and other elderly statesmen and women will begin a process of engaging key religious leaders in the country so that they can all play a role in working with the various political leaders in the interest of peace, unity and national security.

He warned individuals who are trying to use the Liberian people for political gains to desist because there could be unintended grave consequences.

“The international configuration has changed.  The days that anyone, a so-called self-described political leader, tribal head or a rebel ‘general’ could cause havoc at will and walk away free are over,” he said.

He said one of the serious problems in Liberia is that there are always some so-called political figures and intellectuals who sit in the background and direct agitation, and at the end of the day they call themselves members of the civil society and peacemakers when in fact they are the real troublemakers in the country.

Dr. Jarbo who disarmed more than 250,000 ex-combatants and about four warring factions in Liberia from 2003-2005 to restore peace, unity and national security, leading to the conduct of the 2005’s presidential election won by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said, even though the Unity Party-led administration has not been perfect, it should be given some credit for the decade of peace that all Liberians have enjoyed.

Those gains must not be allowed to be wasted.” He said.

Dr. Jarbo said he regrets the fact that the Liberian government under President Sirleaf did not follow through on the final stages of the plan designed for the NCDDR which calls for integrated reintegration.  Those stages, conceived and drafted by Jones Nhinson Williams, included skills building, vocational training and informal economic empowerment of ex-combatants with the view of making them self-employed and engaging in agricultural food production activities, small-scale manufacturing, and innovation.

He urged the Liberian government and the international community to assist in setting up a special national taskforce to address the issue of vocational rehabilitation, workforce development and small business establishment for unemployed Liberians, including victims of the Liberian conflict.

He said Liberians should consider child soldiers as victims used by political actors who sought power and wealth.

In closing, he urged Liberians, saying, “We must learn to respect our leaders even though we may strongly disagree with them. Reflecting on what Jesus said, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

The veteran Liberian administrator, psychologist and social worker said the attitude of believing that one class of people own Liberia is a myth that all Liberians must continue to resist through their votes.

An experienced conflict resolution specialist, Dr. Jarbo participated in negotiating the comprehensive peace agreement signed in Accra, Ghana by warring factions to end the 14-year Liberian conflict in 2003.  He was then appointed, by consensus, to facilitate the disarming of over 200,000 ex-combatants and disbanding of the factions, leading to the first post-war democratic elections in 2005.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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