Religion & Society
- Published on Thursday, 31 January 2013 12:16
- Written by Joseph S. Kwiwalazu
The first recipe for sustaining peace in any post conflict country is based on the leadership and structures that have been put in place to deal with conflict related issues.
Those who are in leadership positions must demonstrate responsible peacebuilding posture and initiative that sets the platform for peace and genuine reconciliation.
Reconciliation is not an event. It is a process that requires maturity, commitment, openness and void of party or religious influences. Recently, the Speaker of the 53rd National Legislature, Alex Tyler and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf put aside their differences and decided to resolve commotion in the interest of peace and national reconciliation. The disagreement between the President and the Legislators was triggered by a comment she made in the United States last September.
In her statement, she blamed the National Legislature for not increasing the salaries of civil servants but that the lawmakers put their interest above the interests of civil servants during the passage of the 2012/2013 national budget. However the Legislative branch took exception to the President's statement and demanded audience with her. House Speaker Tyler and other members of the Legislature insisted that the president should apologize for saying that the lawmakers put their interest above the civil servants.
The disagreement created concern amongst members of the public and foreign residents. The atmosphere was tense between the two branches of government. It created concerns within diplomatic circles and other parts. However, following days of exchanges, the President and members of the Legislature met at the Capitol Building, the seat of the legislature, where they resolved their dispute amicably.
Madam Sirleaf took many by surprise when she demonstrated an unprecedented leadership style by going to the Capitol Building and engaging the lawmakers to resolve their differences. The action of the president authenticated that the action of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize committee was not a mistake. Not only that Madam Sirleaf brings to her credit such history, but it also teaches that good governance does not allow the same Government to be divided on trivial issue like the expression of opinions of national concern no matter where they are made.
The National Legislature acted responsibly on this issue, and the manner in which the leadership engaged the President suggested that both parties wanted to resolve their disagreement in the interest of the country. The action of Speaker Tyler is historic because it teaches us to avoid sentiments in handling issues of critical national concern.
The 1986 Constitution of Liberia gives a sitting President of Liberia overwhelming power that could possibly be abused. According to Article 50 of the Liberian Constitution, the Executive power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The President shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years, commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms. Similarly, the president, being cognizant of Article 15 (a) and (b) of the same constitution, chose to express herself in the United States in September 2012 in the manner she did.
Several decades after Liberia's oligarchy system of governance perished in a coup, a multiparty democracy is entrenched and vibrant. There's freedom of speech, freedom of the press and other basic fundamental human rights have been guaranteed under the Liberian constitution. However, individuals who violate the laws are made to face the consequences thereof.
During Liberia's single party rule, the True Whig Party (TWP) dominated politics for more than 100 years. During those years, ordinary Liberians had no saying in the decision making of the country. It was until the coup led by enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) that the one-party rule came to an end and multiparty democracy was instituted. The situation became worse under the reign of the military junta. However, the struggle for democracy wasn't an easy journey.
Student, Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation, University of Liberia