Catholic Bishop Wants Nat’ Day of Peace, Reconciliation, Memorialization

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Cape Palmas in Southeastern Liberia has urged the national government to set aside a National Day Of Peace, Reconciliation, and Memorialization to be observed by Liberians both at home and abroad, after the country’s brutal 14 years of civil war which many lost their lives.

The Most Rev. Andrew Jagaye Karnely said as a testament to the priceless gift of peace, he recommends a National Day of Peace, Reconciliation, and Memorialization to be observed in Liberia every year, perhaps on August 18, 2023.

“This will be a time for collective and individual celebration of peace, and fostering of forgiveness and reconciliation. It will be a time of reflection and prayers. As a day of memorialization, it is to remember and honor in tangible ways the sacred memory of all who suffered and died as victims of the war and those who lost their lives in the pursuit of peace; a day to honor the work and commitment of those who served humanitarian causes; a day to shine light on the work and courage of the advocates of justice, peace, and reconciliation; a day to seek healing and closure and a day to resolutely say never again to war.”

Bishop Karnely noted that a dawn of peace finally descended in this valley of death and misery with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Liberia and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia and the Political Parties on 18th August 2003 in Accra, Ghana

Bishop Karnley narrated in a piece titled, Peace In the Valley: A Reflection On Two Decades of Peace in Liberia, that after many failed peace agreements, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement finally ended fourteen years of war.

A lot of negotiation and mediation work, and even pressure, on the part of local and international actors and stakeholders went into ensuring the warring factions signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“Among a number of provisions, the Accra Peace Agreement (as the CPA is also called) brought about the establishment of a multinational interposition force under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which subsequently transitioned to an international stabilization force under the United Nations; and the formation of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) with a two-year mandate,” Bishop Karnley explained.

He said the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration of combatants; and the holding of Presidential and Legislative Elections before the end of 2005 were also some of the key provisions of the CPA.

One of the largest United Nations missions in the world, with military and civilian components, operated in Liberia from 2003 to 2018. It was called the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

“They are like demons still rearing their ugly heads with vengeance. Political expediency and the fear of rocking the boat have superseded the imperative of attending to the root causes of Liberia’s short and long term conflicts. The peace and stability of the country cannot rest on a solid foundation when the root causes of her conflicts are glossed over,” the Catholic Bishop said.

Most Rev. Andrew Karnley called on the International Community and the Liberian Government to address the root causes of conflict in Liberia. “The peace and stability of the country cannot rest on a solid foundation when the root causes of her conflicts are glossed over,” he added.

Bishop Karnley added, “I agreed that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement singe in Accra, Ghana silenced the guns of war for two decades now. But the root causes of the Rice Riots of 14th April 1979, the violent military overthrow of the government of President William R. Tolbert on 12th April 1980, and the civil war that started on 24th December 1989 have not been addressed.”

Liberia has certainly made the transition in two decades from being a failed state caused by years of armed conflict to being a country on the trajectory of democracy, good governance, and development. Liberia’s transition to democracy is evidenced by the holding of Presidential and Legislative Elections in 2005, 2011, 2017, and hopefully in 2023. The peaceful transfer of power in 2018 from the governing Unity Party of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change government of Mr. George Manneh Weah was a remarkable achievement in democracy. Also, the successful holding of mid-term and by-elections in two decades is a testament to Liberia’s growth in democracy.

The administration of President Ellen Johnson (2006 to 2017) received a lot of international goodwill and support that put Liberia on the path of democracy, good governance, and development, but not without challenges and setbacks such as the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease. Liberia gradually began emerging from the ashes of war with the right mechanisms for democracy, institutions for good governance, and policies for development being put into place.

Though President Sirleaf declared corruption “public enemy number one” in her Inaugural Address of 2006, she later came to termed it “a cancer” eating the nation in admission of how endemic it is and the challenges she faced in fighting it.

The inauguration of Mr. George Manneh Weah as President of Liberia in January 2018 marked the ascendency to state power of a new generation of leaders. Despite some achievements to the credit of his administration, there are serious concerns regarding governance, corruption, deaths of auditors, deplorable conditions on some major roads in the country, and the investment climate in Liberia to attract serious investors. The administration of President Weah has also had its own share of challenges and setbacks such as the outbreak of the Corona Virus Pandemic and the global impact of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The Catholic Bishop said the lack of accountability for corruption and stealing in both the public and private sectors, and the flagrant abuse of human rights in the past and present undermine the peace and stability of Liberia. Those found culpable of theft and abuse must learn the hard lesson that nobody gets away with crime. Thus the culture of impunity needs to be challenged and broken.

Peace is threatened with poverty becoming entrenched in rural and urban communities due to the lack of sustainable development. Pope Paul VI rightly said in his encyclical poplororum Progression development is a new name for peace.” Sustainable development will always be an illusion in Liberia as long as a large portion of the national budget is spent on paying salaries for government officials and civil servants and for goods and services without a commensurate amount or even more being allocated to the ministries and agencies of government for development purposes.

The emerging land issues in communities in post-war Liberia have the propensity to create conflict if they are not handled properly and decisively resolved.

The lack of opportunities for the growing youth population of Liberia and the devastating effects on them by their exposure to and use of illicit drugs continue to endanger peace. Lest we forget the past, the youths were the ones conscripted into the warring factions by the warlords and their agents during the fourteen years of civil war. They were robbed of their innocence and humanity by being drugged and programed to do things that are reprehensible and even diabolical. The well-publicized incident during the presidency of Mr. Charles Taylor of the youth in Gbarnga who shot and instantly killed his own mother when he took offence at her advising him to put down his gun and return to school is a classic example of a youth being drugged and programed to do the unthinkable. This youth, who was in one of the security units of the government of Mr. Taylor, was transferred from Gbarnga to Zwedru and never brought to justice.

Bishop Karnely is also urging the Liberian government and the international community to go beyond just celebrating two decades of peace in Liberia and do a review of the implementation of the provisions of the CPA as there are genuine concerns, for example, about the Truth and Reconciliation process and the implementation of its recommendations; and the proper rehabilitation and reintegration of combatants after they were demobilized and disarmed.

According to the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Cape Palmas, the words of Pope Pius XII that “nothing is lost by peace; everything may be lost by war” are so true. Liberia lost everything during fourteen years of war; but peace has brought her so many possibilities. It is therefore a collective and individual imperative to do all it takes to keep the peace, by doing and having discourses about those things that promote peace and avoiding the ones that undermine it.

“Let us pray and work for Liberia to always remain a peaceful and prosperous valley through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace,” Bishop Karnely concluded.



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