Open Letter To Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis
By Rev. Jonathan Emmanuel Zehpkehge Bowier
September 11, 2002
September 7, 2002
Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis
Liberian National Conference on Peace & Reconciliation
Unity Conference Center
Dear Archbishop Francis,
Please accept my thanks and appreciation for the historic obligation you and your associates have assumed in leading our PEOPLE toward the "palava hut" of peace and reconciliation in Liberia.
Haven't had first hand experience with your collective efforts through the Inter-Faith Mediation Committee (IFMC) in Freetown, Sierra Leone (June 1990), I am confident of your commitment to the peace process in Liberia.
I recall progress made at that mediation meeting, when through the efforts of the IMFC, both parties (the Government of Liberia & the National Patriotic Front of Liberia) verbally agreed to a cease-fire. A committee of two (Samuel Dokie of the NPFL, and myself, representing the GOL) was appointed by our respective sides to draft the cease-fire agreement, which was to be signed after lunch on June 15, 1990.
Existing the conference room at the USIS in Freetown, we (both delegations) were greeted by Charles Gurney, then a Political Officer attached to a prominent fixture at West Mamba Point. He asked the Spokesperson of the NPFL about what transpired during our negotiation. Thomas Woewiyu told him, "we agreed to cease-fire, to allow the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups to go in and help our people." Gurney's
response, in the presence of Jenkins Scott, Tombekai Jangaba, J. Teah Tarpeh,
Bai Gbala, Samuel Dokie, Prince Barclay and I was, "What are you doing Tom? You have the military advantage; you do not have sign any cease-fire with these people."
That assurance of "military advantage" expressed by the echo of a powerful, invisible hand, derailed the peace process. Dokie and I proceeded to draft the cease-fire agreement. Before we could agree on the title of the document, Dokie was called by his delegation for consultation. He did not return. After lunch, Woewiyu withdrew the NPFL's previous agreement to a cease-fire. A Liberian solution to a Liberian problem was rebuffed, leaving us to engage in a prolonged orgy of mutual antagonism and self-destruction.
Today, ECOMOG is credited for the degree of tranquility that prevails in Liberia. They now say, "Thank God for ECOMOG," but who can forget the Inter-Faith Mediation Committee? It was that Committee's working papers that formed the basis of ECOWAS's program for peace in Liberia. When the instruments of state power and authority collapsed, when hospitals became theaters of fierce warfare, both the UN and the OAU turned away, leaving us to a fate of death, doom and destruction. It was our religious leaders (Christians & Moslems) who came together, and, like Joshua, commanded the "sun and the moon to stand still," while desperate efforts were made to bring the warring parties---GOL and NPFL under one roof to "reason together."
Our religious leaders did their best. We agreed to reconcile in Freetown, but, the enticing assurance of "military advantage" at that time, blinded us to the realities of civil war, which now haunts us all. This "military advantage" is the doctrine upon which many others took up arms, even to this day.
"In the fullness of time," I am pleased to note that the foundation of the Inter-Faith Mediation Committee still stands; and that the current Conference rests on that foundation. "Rejected stones" are still becoming "corner stones."
I am reluctant to engage in any debate relative to whether it is "Jacob" or "Esau”
who called for reconciliation. I am simply pleased to note that "in the fullness of time," they are moving toward the "palava hut" near the ford of the river "Jabbock."
As our people express themselves at the Conference, all sides must note well: Only
a repentant, broken "Jacob," and a forgiving, reconciling "Esau" are capable, and qualified to truly embrace each other; placing behind them ALL animosities, anger and vengeance.
I have been deeply considering the invitation extended me by the organizers of the Conference. After almost 12 years of silence on issues relating to Liberia, I wonder how relevant my contribution would be at this time?
However, in the spirit of a contemporary African -American Gospel song, "I got to clean up what I messed up....” Accordingly, I accept the invitation to "come and reason together." "In the fullness of time," I shall make my personal intervention at the National Conference on Peace and Reconciliation.
On November 20, 1990, the Pan African News Agency (PANA) interviewed me in Dakar, Senegal. The record will show that I appealed to the then warring parties to "lay down" their arms and "seek a peaceful resolution to (Liberia's) patricidal conflict." I said, "Liberians are fed up with war..." I called on all of us to "put aside personal ambitions, reason together, forgive, and reconcile," in the best interest of our country, and future generations.
"No side can ever win this war," I told PANA in November 1990. "Liberia is the victim,
and the people are the losers...we are all losers. The earlier we stop, the better for us all," I emphasized.
As we all now know, much blood has covered our land since then. The question is, what are we fighting for? More than two decades of unrest, violence, and fierce antagonism had devalued Liberia's diplomatic, moral and political currency within the community of nations.
We need to face ourselves, think critically, and soberly. Can any side really win?
Liberia is the mother of twins who are warriors. If one kills the other, can the mother ever celebrate victory? What are we fighting for?
I have always said what I have the conviction to say; and today, with every emphasis at my command, I dare to declare, as I did in 1990, that no side will ever win through the barrel of the gun. Our people have suffered too much. Enough is enough!!
If we continue to kill each other, one wave of violence will be succeeded by another, more violent than the previous one; until, at long last, we totally destroy ourselves, and "strangers inherit the land."
I hope that the celebrated Liberian comedian, Peter Ballah, is still alive. He needs to still remind us: "OUR PEOPLE, ONE PEOPLE!!!"
My regards to ALL participants at the National Conference on Peace and Reconciliation. If there is anything I could say to them now, it would be the through the voice of Nehemiah, who spoke to us at the Peace Talks in Freetown, when the Rev. Cannon Burgess Carr read:
"See the distress that we are in,how Jerusalem lie in waste, and its gates are burned with fire: Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach."(Nehemiah 2:17)
Archbishop Francis, it is my conviction, that when our tempest of wrath is past, Liberia will rise again---stronger, and more united, a "Home of glorious liberty, by God's command."
Until then, I shall keep reciting Psalm 121, chosen as Liberia's Centennial Psalm,
and played to the tune of a British composer on July 26, 1947, when the Centennial Pavilion was dedicated; and Liberians praised GOD for 100 year of existence as a sovereign, free, and independent state.
"In The Fullness of Time,"
Rev. Jonathan Emmanuel Zehpkehge Bowier