ULAA's Report On Abuja Peace and Reconciliation Conference
March 29, 2002
On Thursday morning, March 14, 2002, Women of the Mano River Union, presidential aspirants, members of political parties, civil organizations, and opinion leaders met under the chairmanship of Mrs. Ruth Sando Perry to reach a consensus on issues that we felt were paramount discussion items for the conference. As chairperson of the ULAA delegation, I felt it worthwhile to participate in this meeting, which was a continuation of discussions held the previous night, Wednesday, March 13, 2002.
Persons present introduced themselves, and as others joined the meeting, they introduced themselves. Mrs. Mary Brownell informed those present that she and others were appointed members of the Planning Committee of the July Reconciliation Conference in Monrovia. She further stated that the July Reconciliation Conference anticipates hosting close to 7000 ethnic leaders from the villages and towns. That information created some excitement which led to the emphatic decision that the Abuja conference would in no way, shape or form plan or participate in a July, 2002 Ethnic Reconciliation meeting in Monrovia. It was the feeling of those present that the Abuja conference was to focus on issues of dire importance to the welfare of Liberians in and out of Liberia.
That being the case, a series of discussions ensued. The individuals/groups represented brain-stormed to arrive at a consensus about the necessary and important issues that need to be addressed by President Charles Taylor’s government before true reconciliation can take place.
After hours of spirited discussions which went into the wee hours of the morning of March 15, 2002, it was finally agreed that the following issues needed to be addressed before a reconciliation meeting can take place:
SECURITY - for all Liberians in and out of Liberia
· Establishment of ceasefire between the government and LURD
· The deployment of an International Security Stabilization Force (ISSF) to take charge and monitor the national security apparatus
· The disarming, disbanding, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of all rival armed groups
· The creation by the United Nations and our regional and sub-regional organizations, of mechanisms to address acts of impunity
ELECTIONS - should be held as scheduled
· Elections commission to be reconstituted in such a manner as to make it balanced, fair, and impartial.
· Commission should consist of seven members, three members to be appointed by the President and four by the registered political parties.
· Commission mandated to conduct voter registration, including how to deal with displaced People, voter education, demarcation of electoral constituencies, balloting and counting procedures, procedures for announcing elections results, the role of international observers and monitors, and rules for access to the media.
RECONCILIATION - creating a climate which provides for full accountability of what has gone wrong in the Liberian society, with the government demonstrating its readiness to put a halt to acts of impunity by punishing wrongdoing/wrongdoers.
The statement regretted the absence of President Taylor and representatives of LURD and appealed to ECOWAS’ authority, particularly Presidents Obasanjo and Wade, to kindly reconvene another meeting in the foreseeable future, and to prevail upon President Taylor and the LURD leadership to be in attendance, using this statement as the basis for such a meeting.
The group further agreed, after the agenda for the Abuja conference was scrutinized that contrary to the agenda, the meeting would not be used to plan for President Taylor’s Ethnic Reconciliation meeting in Monrovia in July 2002.
That should President Taylor not attend the Abuja conference, the agreed upon issues would be presented to the government’s delegation to be conveyed to President Taylor. No discussion/dialogue would be held with the government’s delegation, as it would yield no results, since President Taylor would indeed make the ultimate decision as to the implementation of actions associated with the issues presented.
Dr. Harry Moniba was selected to present on behalf of the group.
Opening ceremonies began about 10:00a.m. on March 15, 2002 at the Nigerian Ministry of Integration’s Headquarters. There were close to 150 people present including journalists. The President of ECOWAS, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal was represented by Ambassador Abdel kader Pierre Fall. Executive Secretary Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas and Deputy Executive Secretary, General Diarra represented ECOWAS. The Nigerian government was represented by Dr. Bimbola Oguneka, Minister of Integration and others, and later joined by his Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria.
Dr. Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS presented his statement. Members of political parties, civil society and opinion leaders (the group) were up next. When it came time for the group’s statement to be presented, Mrs. Ruth Perry had to make remarks instead, as Dr. Harry Moniba fainted (we were later told that his blood pressure dropped) and was taken to the hospital. Mr. Fall read a statement from Dr. Wade. President Obasanjo then brought greetings and emphasized the reason for the conference. He left soon thereafter and the opening ceremonies were concluded.
A plenary session was to commence; however, the group requested a private meeting with the ECOWAS and Nigerian Government representatives. In the private meeting, the ECOWAS and Nigerian Government representatives were apprised of the group’s statement and the group’s desire not to meet/dialogue with the government delegation. Various persons supporting the group’s position gave reasons.
After listening to the group’s position, the Minister of Integration appealed for cooperation. He impressed upon those present, the need for meeting with our brothers and sisters on the Liberian delegation. Also, the need to encourage and show respect to our host, President Obasanjo. Prior to the Minister of Integration and ECOWAS representatives excusing themselves to attend another meeting, it was agreed that the conference would reconvene at 3:00p.m. in the afternoon. The group continued discussions after the ECOWAS and Nigerian government representatives left.
The conference reconvened at 6:00p.m. The Liberian Government through its head of delegation, Dr. Roland Massaquoi, Minister of Agriculture, presented its statement on the purpose of the meeting and read a letter for President Charles Taylor. The group through its spokesperson, Counselor Marcus Jones presented its statement (see attached). No dialogue took place. Nigerian Government and ECOWAS officials present accepted the documents. The Minister of Integration offered to copy all documents presented, for circulation and review. The meeting was adjourned to reconvene on Saturday, March 16, 2002 at 9:30a.m. for closing ceremonies.
The closing ceremonies commenced with statements from several individuals, including me. I spoke on behalf of ULAA affirming that we, in the Americas, wanted nothing more than peace and security in Liberia. I also stated that we, ULAA, concur with the statement presented by the group, which conformed with ULAA’s position. I appealed to the Liberian government to do all it could within its power to create the necessary climate for us to return home and make our contribution to the country we love. I then presented ULAA’s position statement to the ECOWAS Executive Secretary. Several others spoke. ECOWAS then presented their written communiqué. Because the communiqué did not represent the spirit of the deliberations, it had to be rewritten and represented. The meeting adjourned around 3:00p.m.
1. Having participated in the long hours of discussions with various political parties members, civil society and opinion leaders present, I observed with keen interest the desire by those present to hammer out a solution to the plight that we find ourselves in. Political leaders readily agreed to the problems facing our people and nation, and were quick in offering solutions. Those solutions, which seemed far right, were discussed and common ground reached.
2. The desire for conciliation, teamwork and collective effort was unanimous.
· The conciliatory spirit demonstrated by political leaders, civil society and opinion leaders in Abuja in coming up with a single document to represent our collective voice in my opinion, indicates that it is time for ULAA to create a forum/environment where political leaders can meet with the Liberian people in these United States with a view to allowing our people to make informed decision about who they would want to represent them.
· That ULAA serves as the conduit to encourage consolidation of efforts by candidates in order to put forward a strong unified team to win our country back in the 2003 elections.
Ruth Yvonne E. Weh Nelson
Head of Delegation, ULAA
Member, ULAA Delegation
Leslie Norman Cole
Member, ULAA Delegation
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