National Ethnic Reconciliation Conference, 2004

 

 

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 12, 2005

The steering committee commenced work immediately. The committee met with county and ethnic leaders and shared the vision - a national ethnic reconciliation conference - with them. These leaders were excited about the vision, grasped it, and agreed to participate in implementing the vision. In preparation for the conference, nine meetings were held with county and ethnic representatives. County and tribal leaders that participated in one or more of these meetings included

Mr.Walter B. Cole President, Maryland County Association of Pennsylvania
Mr. Peter C. Darbey Sr. Member, Maryland County Association of Pennsylvania
Mr. H. Vanjah Gaie President, Bomi County Association of Pennsylvania
Mr. Fred Gwyan President, Grand Gedeh Association
Ms. Hannah Jackson Member, Montserrado County Association
Mr. Mike Harris Member, Bomi County Association
Rev. John K. Jallah Member, Lofa County Association
Mr. Sekou B. Korleh President, Association of Liberian Youth of Pennsylvania
Mr. Mamadi Kromah President, Mandingo Association in the USA
Mr. Scott Mandeh President, Bassa Association of Pennsylvania
Mr. Abraham Massaley Member, Grand Cape Mount County Association
Mr. Joseph Morlu Member, Lofa County Association of Pennsylvania
Mr. Sam Togba Slewion President, Sinoe County Association of Pennsylvania
Rev. Augustine Sneh President, United Sarpo Association in the USA
Mr. Amos Suah Member, Sinoe County Association

In addition, the committee consulted with many opinion leaders of Liberian communities in the United States.

The Emergence of Facilitators

As a result of these meetings, facilitators were appointed from each tribe. These facilitators would (1) ensure that tribal discussions conformed to the methodology of the conference, (2) guide their tribesmen in the development of their stories, and (3) ensure that the interethnic discussions would be conducted peacefully.

The Training of Facilitators - Conference Resolution Workshops

Conference issues were potentially explosive. Thus, the steering committee designed and implemented workshops to train facilitators to address and handle these potentially explosive issues. Two such workshops were held: the first in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 9, 2004, and the second in Silver Spring, Maryland, on October 23, 2004. The workshop were conducted by the conference coordinator Rev. Robert Mawlue Karloh and Rev. Kpaku Sam N'dorleh. The Liberian Ministers Association of the Delaware Valley Inc. cohosted the first workshop. The following facilitators attended one or both of these workshops:

Name

Organization

Ethnicity

Rev. Emmanuel Bowier

ALiMUSA

Bassa

Pastor Ruth M. Deah

Mission Bethel

Gola

Mr. Robert D. Deemie

-

Gio

Rev. Dr. Napoleon L. Divine

Christ International Baptist Church

-

Mr. Daniel Doegan

Peace Talk

Bassa

Pastor Kau J. Dolopei

LMADV

Gio

Rt. Rev. H. Abraham Dorbor

LMADV

Grebo

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Fayiah

LMADV

Kissi

Rev. John C. Gblah

ALiMUSA

Sarpo

Mr. P. David Gborte

Grand Gedeh Association

Krahn

Ms. Hannah Jackson

Montserrado County Association

Americo-Liberian/Kru

Rev. John K. Jallah

FLAA

Lorma

Dr. Abraham James

Grand Cape Mount Association

Vai

Bishop Darlingston G. Johnson, D.Min.

ALiMUSA

Americo-Liberian/Grebo

Rev. Robert M. Karloh

ALiMUSA

Sarpo

Mr. L. Mohammed Keita

FLAA

Mandingo

Mr. Mamadi Keita

United Liberian Mandingo Association

Mandingo

Bishop Gabriel S. Lardner, Sr.

ALiMUSA and LMADV

Bassa

Mr. Abraham Massalley

Grand Cape Mount County Association

Vai

Ms. Munah Mayo

SCAA

-

Rev. Kparku Sam N'dorleh

LMADV

Gbandi

Elder Edith Ricks

LMADV

Americo-Liberian

Ms. Roseline Sarnoh

SCAA

Sarpo

Ms. Cleopatra Sawyerr

Liberian Women's Prayer Vigil

Americo-Liberian

Rev. Blamo Seekie

ALiMUSA

Kru/Grebo

Mr. Sam Togba Slewion

Liberian Association of Pennsylvania

Kru

Mr. George K. Suba

FLAA

Lorma

Rev. Adelaide A. Supuwood

ALiMUSA/LMADV

Americo-Liberian

Mr. David K. Wonzon

LMADV

Dan/Gio

Rev. Hananiah Zoe

-

Dan/Gio

Ms. Betty Zoe

-

Americo-Liberian/Kru

 

 

 

 

Intervention Methodology: The Vision Becomes a Reality!

The National Ethnic Reconciliation Conference on Liberia Phase I was held on November 57, 2004, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the Christ Assembly Lutheran Church. This historic conference assembled members of the 17 ethnic groups of Liberia to address the core causes of Liberian ethnic crisis and to lay the groundwork for resolving the crisis. The conference employed the Dialogical Development Model. Key elements of this model are calling forth the past, sharing stories (burden of history), listening compassionately, determining intersubjective truths, apologizing and asking for forgiveness, and entering into a covenant.

Representatives of the 17 Liberian ethnic groups congregated in different areas of the conference site for 2-hour discussions. Facilitators (Liberians trained to handle potentially explosive conference issues) oversaw those discussions. During this time, tribes reflected on the past and expressed their burden of history.

Thereafter, all conference participants reassembled. Each ethnic group selected someone from their number to tell their story. To an attentive audience, each tribal spokesman voiced the burden of history - their hurts and traumatic loss - of his/her tribe, how the war affected them, and how other tribes afflicted them during the war. Each tribe's account was subjective and unique and was presented from the standpoint of a victim. For example, when the Krahns told their story, they became the victims, and the Gios and Manos became the victimizers. When the Gios and Manos told their story, they became the victims, and the Krahns became the victimizers.

The audience listened compassionately. No debates occurred. No tribe argued against other tribes' subjective accounts of their experiences. They responded only to the intersubjective truths in these stories.

In many cases at the close of each tribal presentation,

The spokesperson apologized on behalf of the tribe for all the evils done by some of their tribesmen to other tribes. Our children did you evil; we do not sanction their actions. The Liberian proverb succinctly states the basis for these apologies: "You born the child; you did not born the child's heart."

Other tribes acknowledged atrocities committed by some of their tribesmen, took responsibility for those atrocities, and apologized for those atrocities. Apologies stemmed from shared truths. For example, a shared truth was that Gios killed Krahns, and Krahns killed Gios. Similarly, Mandingoes killed Lormas, and Lormas killed Mandingoes. Each tribe that was the victimizer said, We are sorry. Our children killed you, but we did not endorse it.

A spirit of brotherhood permeated the conference. The intertribal dialogue achieved two desirable outcomes:

The 17 ethnic groups reconciled. Damaged relationships among tribes were mended. The conference resolution committee knew that for this reconciliation to be lasting, it must affect Liberian governance, justice, and human rights and must involve the equal distribution of Liberia's resources among the 17 ethnic groups. Consequently, the committee formulated a formal resolution, which conference attendees approved and adopted at the close of the conference on November 7. This resolution will be given to the Liberian Government and is designed to influence decisions of the Liberian Government, decisions that will sustain the reconciliation achieved at the conference.

Every Liberian at the conference signed a binding covenant condemning violence. This covenant will be a testimony to this generation (and succeeding generations) of how Liberians peacefully resolved their ethnic conflicts.

 

 

C O V E N A N T

We, the people of the Republic of Liberia, residing in the United States of America and representing all the ethnic groups of our nation, assembled at the National Ethnic Reconciliation Conference on Liberia (NERCL) held on November 57, 2004, at Christ Assembly Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania do hereby, under the watchful of the Almighty God and before nations of the world, enter the following solemn covenant:

 We, the Liberian people representing all the ethnic/tribal groups of our nation do enter this covenant with every fiber of our beings in the present of nations of the world and under the watchful eye of the Almighty God, to be binding on four domains of our social lives: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, interethnic and one body polity with a common habitat, patrimony and destiny.

We, the Liberian people after being victimized under horrendous conditions characterized by extreme dehumanization and brutality, violent conflicts, cannibalism, vengeful killings; ethnic cleansing; total destruction of our social and physical infrastructures; poverty, massive unemployment, prostitution, the lack of basic necessities of life including water and electricity, and immeasurable human suffering during the 14- year old civil war, and after inheriting a legacy of institutionalized corruption, entrenched injustice, unequal distribution of the nation's wealth, abject poverty, very high degree of ignorance and illiteracy, prejudicial ethnocentrism, structural violence and a systematic marginalization and impoverishment of the indigenous population for 133 years prior to the civil war, do abhor and renounce the evil of the past with our full capacities and with a firm commitment to let go our atrocious past in order to build new and functional relationships.

 We, the Liberian people by the preponderance of strength of this covenant and with a desire to reverse the course of our nation's history and create a new nation in which every Liberian will be duly accessible to the opportunities the resources of our nation offers; in which every Liberian will be safe and secure to pursue life, liberty and happiness; and in which every Liberian can fulfill his developmental potentials, apologize for the harm inflicted against one another, injustices perpetrated upon each other, pains we have been to one another, and forgive one another not just as a sentimental expression of the word but for forgiveness to be lived out in our lives as the route to break the repetitive cycle of vengeance and violence for the replacement of our fractured relationship with a new and functional relationship.


We the Liberian people, from this day onward, foreswear violence, vengeance, lawlessness, war, systematic marginalization of or the furtherance of acts of discrimination against any person and group of people based on ethnicity or religion.

We resolve to use ethnicity as a uniting force and not a dividing force anymore by celebrating our diversities, fostering interethnic respect and communication, cultivating a sense of interethnic co-existence,


We, the Liberian people, believe that it is God who determines the times and places of people and it's God who determines our ethnicity; we are therefore in full awareness that what affects one ethnic group affects inevitably the rest of the ethnic groups. We believe that ethnicity is sacred and it is not the source of evil, the ultimate source of evil is the desperately wicked heart of man.


We, the Liberian people, from this day onward, agree to set forth a solid and irreversible groundwork for mutual acceptance and reconciliation, interethnic respect and security, cooperative interaction, institutionalization of a dynamic process of problem solving, the construction of civil relationships. We also agree to adopt a non-violent approach to conflict resolution realizing that conflict is inevitable in human relationships. We shall support and be a part of efforts to build indigenous capacities for problem solving and conflict resolutions in our families, communities, villages, towns, districts, counties, universities, schools, government and in all domains of our social lives as a people.


We, the Liberian people, hereby proclaim our readiness, willingness and preparedness, from this day onward, to initiate programs that will engender public awareness of the evil and injustices of the past to nourish a public agenda against their repetition. We vow to never again support the path of war. We disavow division and forswear hatred as no useful principle for life,


Indeed, We the Liberian people repent of our sins against one another and our Almighty God. May the Almighty God preserve us and this covenant and may the content of this covenant find concrete expression in our lives and our society as firm foundation upon which to build functional relationships, reconciled our differences and build a wholesome functioning society.


This Solemn Covenant entered into this 6th Day of November in the year 2004 in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, by representatives of Liberia's ethnic groups as follows: Americo-Liberians, Bassa, Belle, Gbandi, Gio, Gola, Grebo, Kissi, Kpelle, Krahn, Kru, Lorma, Mandingo, Mano, Mende, Sarpo, and Vai.

 The Resolution

Resolution of the National Ethnic Reconciliation Conference on Liberia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 7, 2004

We, the people of the Republic of Liberia, residing in the United States of America and representing all the ethnic groups of our nation, assembled at the National Ethnic Reconciliation Conference on Liberia (NERCL) held on November 57, 2004, at Christ Assembly Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

ACKNOWLEDGING God's continuing blessings upon our country;

REALIZING that the Liberian nation is the product of the collective effort of immigrant settlers and indigenous Africans;

ACKNOWLEDGING the urgent need for national healing, reconciliation, and the peaceful reunification of our people by establishing the basis for truth and forgiveness;

LAMENTING the longstanding cultural and social cleavages that erupted into a military intervention and devastating civil war - a war that caused massive destruction of life and property and the displacement of thousands of Liberians;

HAVING engaged one another in open, frank, and direct dialogue concerning all aspects of our coexistence as a people, for example, our grievances and the perceptions that have lingered over the years and have created division and animosity among us;

CONVINCED that the things that unite us are more than those that divide us;

We do hereby resolve to emphasize our common national identity - we are all Liberians - while we recognize our diversity (for example, ethnic diversity), and we recommend

That henceforth all disputes be resolved by peaceful means based on the rule of law and traditional guidelines.

That conflict resolution and problem-solving programs be introduced at all levels of the educational system.

That the repatriation of refugees and the settlement of internally displaced persons be undertaken expeditiously.

That the creation of political subdivisions be based on guidelines provided in the laws of our country.

That a vibrant, humanizing, and democratic governing structure - one that respects human dignity, embraces integrity and morality, and demonstrates the separation of powers as stated in the Liberian constitution - be implemented.

Respectfully submitted by the NERCL Resolution Committee:

Dr. Abraham James, Chairman; Rev. Emmanuel Bowier, Member; Rev. Augustine W. Sneh, Member; Anthony Kesselly, Member; and G. Yeayeai Nyenlekewoi, Member

Conference Observers

Conference observers included the following distinguished guests:

Bishop John Gimenez, Bishop of Rock Church International
Rev. Don Kytka, Regional Director of Youth with a Mission
Prof. Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University
Prof. Steve Lubkemann, Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University

A Resounding Success

The 2004 NERCL was a resounding success. We are convinced that God has begun a process that will reverberate throughout Liberia and bring social healing and restoration to our nation. Beside the evolvement of a resolution and a covenant, the conference placed an explicit demand upon the Association of Liberian Ministers in the United States of America (ALiMUSA) to institutionalize an ongoing peacebuilding process in Liberia. Consequently, the Association has formed the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation commission headed by Reverend Robert Mawlue Karloh to initiate, design and implement justice, conflict analysis and resolution, and peacebuilding programs at the national, community and interpersonal levels of the Liberian society.

PHASE II NERC SCHEDULED FOR 2005 IN LIBERIA

The second phase of the conference will be held in Monrovia this year (2005) at a date to be determined. At the moment, representatives of the Association are in Liberia to put in place the necessary groundwork for the holding of the conference. Series of meetings have been held in Monrovia to the effect. The resolution evolved from the Philadelphia conference has been submitted to the government of Liberia.

 

Robert Mawlue Karloh

Conference Coordinator, NERC

 


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