"While Evil-minded Liberian men have chosen violence, Liberian women have remained consistent, Persistent and Courageous in their efforts in searching for peace in Liberia"

A presentation by Tiawan S. Gongloe who recently served as as a panelist at the launching of a book on Liberian women

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 12, 2004

Madam Theresa Leigh- Sherman and other Representatives of Liberian women organizations, Madam Binta Diop and Representatives of International women organizations, Representatives of UNICEF and other International Organizations, ladies and gentlemen

Before, proceeding any further may I ask you to observe one moment of silence to the memory of Madam Nowai Flomo and thousands of innocent Liberian women , who as a result of the senseless war brought upon the Liberian people by a power hungry few men, were brutally murdered and secretly buried. Thank you.

I have come here today to do one thing. And that is to pay tribute to the women of Liberia for the tremendous efforts they have made over the last fourteen years for the survival of Liberia as a nation and for the end of conflict in Liberia and the West African Sub-region. While a small group of evil-minded Liberian men have chosen violence as the means to attain and maintain state power, Liberian women have remained consistent, persistent and courageous in their efforts in searching for peace in Liberia. Even though, Liberian women and their children have been subjected to unimaginable forms of human rights abuses, they have shown compassion, great strength and remained focused in doing everything possible to bring peace to Liberia and rescue it from further shame and embarrassment. Liberian women have demonstrated true sense of love of country. At least they have shown that there is still some humanity in Liberia. It is they, Liberian women and not Liberian men, who are the genuine source of hope for the building of a just , humane and prosperous Liberia.

My tribute to the Liberian women is based on the records they have made over the years in bringing peace and sanity to Liberia. Let me give you just a gist of what they have done. In 1994, following the Cotonou Peace Accord, when it became clear that ULIMO and NPFL wanted a seating of the Liberia National Transitional Government (LNTG) without disarmament, in violation of the provision of the Accord calling for the seating of the LNTG concomitant with the disarmament process, the Liberian women peacefully demonstrated against the seating of the transitional government. The international community ignored the women’s protest and seated the transitional government. The result was that without being disarmed the warring factions brought war in the streets of Monrovia on April 6, 1996, which led to more deaths of women and children. When all the male transitional leaders had failed to bring some semblance of peace to Liberia, it took a Liberian woman, Ruth Sando Perry with the collective backing of most Liberian women to restore a modicum of peace in Liberia. Here again the international community did not listen to the Liberian women when they insisted on total disarmament before the holding of elections. The consequence of the failure of the international community and the warring factions to listen to sound advice of the Liberian women is what the world is dealing with today in Liberia. The desire for a quick -fix solution and writing of success stories left no room for the wise council of the Liberian women.

Under the administration of Madam Perry, something of historic importance also happened. The Liberian women led by the Association of Liberian Female Lawyers (AFELL) succeeded in getting the Transitional legislative Assembly to pass an Act creating the first juvenile court in the history of Liberia. The statute on juvenile justice was passed in 1972, but all governments before Madam Perry had done nothing about establishing a court as required by that Act. Additional efforts on the part of the women to cause the legislature to pass a law creating a common standard of determining the rights of women married under customary law and statutory law have, thus far been frustrated by the male dominated Liberian Legislature.

In 2000, Liberian women along with their colleagues from Guinea and Sierra Leone established the Mano River Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET). This organization made relentless effort to make the three leaders of the Mano River Union to meet. At the time President Tejan Kabah of Sierra Leone and President Lansana Conte of Guinea were accusing President Charles Taylor of Liberia for the hostilities in their countries and President Taylor was accusing President Conte for supporting the Liberian United For Reconciliation and Democracy rebel (LURD) rebel group, then fighting with forces of Taylor’s government. President Taylor expelled the ambassadors of Guinea and Sierra Leone and President Conte vowed never to meet with President Taylor.Under this situation, look at what MARWOPNET did. First, it persuaded President Taylor to allow the Ambassadors of Sierra Leone and Guinea to return to Liberia. Second MARWOPNET convinced President Conte to meet with Taylor. Listen to what Conte had to tell the women in their meeting with him, “Many people have tried to convince me to meet with President Taylor…Your commitment and your appeal has convinced me”. This statement is reported in the February 2003 edition of the Africa Recovery magazine. In March, 2002, Presidents Conte, Kaba and Taylor met in Rabat, Morocco.

At the height of the recent upsurge in fighting in Liberia in 2002 and 2003, Liberia women under the banners of the Liberian Women Initiative and Women in Peace building in Liberia organized many peaceful demonstrations calling on the factions to end the conflict and appealing to the international community to intervene. During the peace talks in Accra and Akomsombo, Ghana, Liberian women did not only become a formidable pressure group for peace, but together, they also served as a major source of meaningful peace proposals, thereby helping to move the peace process forward. Today, Liberian women are at the forefront of bringing relief to suffering women and children at displaced and refugee camps and collectively, they serve as a pressure group in the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. What I have said about the Liberian women is just a tip of the iceberg of what Liberian women have done and continue to do to save Liberia.

Given the role the Liberian women have played over the years, I can only say big thank you to the Liberian women. But as I express gratitude to them, I urge them to continue as the road to peace is still muddy. I recommend that Liberian women embark upon the following initiatives:

1. Become a pressure group for comprehensive disarmament and demobilization of all combatants on the Liberian conflict.

2. Insist on the integration of justice as an important element for lasting peace in Liberia. This is particularly important at the time that accounts of various massacres are now being revealed and women and children are still being abused by armed thugs in the rural areas.

3. Work towards the holding of a national conference before the next national elections for Liberians to build consensus on the future of Liberia.

4. Ensure that census is held before the next national elections.
Keep up the good fight and as our old people say “Tanky plenty foh heping wea contili.”

Thank you.