Ethnography Forum Kicks Off In Bomi

Sep 17, 2015

Women Representatives in group discussions during the ethnography forum held in Bomi County

The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is conducting series of regional ethnography discussions in parts of the Country.

The fora are part of the two-hundred and seven (207) recommendations from the former Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which called for the holding of National Palaver Hut discussions in Liberia to help heal the wounds following the end of the 14 year devastating crisis.

On 18 August 2003, the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, bringing an end to Liberia’s 14 year long civil conflict. The Agreement among other things, called for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The Commission was established in 2006 and operated for 3 years.  After three years of public inquiry into the root causes of the civil war (with statements from victims, witnesses and alleged perpetrators), the TRC released its final report to the President and the National Legislature in June 2009. The recommendations of the report were wide ranging; amongst them, lustration, prosecution, reparations and National Palava Hut as a traditional mechanism to facilitate truth telling, atonement and psychosocial recovery.

The INCHR was then established to help lead the implementation of portions of the TRC Recommendations, one of which is the holding of a national palaver hut conference where Liberians can openly and freely express their grievances for redress or common ground.  

The on-going County discussions form part of preparations for the successful holding of the palava hut conference. Each forum brings together key personalities from various sectors of the country, including, women, elders, civil society and youth groups to brainstorm on how to proceed in preparing for the palava hut event.

At the opening of the forum held in In Tubmanburg Bomi County, the Chair of the National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) Justice Gladys Johnson said it was important for Liberians to hold dear the TRC recommendations and try to implement most of the good ones for the country.

“We have destroyed our Country and even ourselves; we have good and bad people that survived the war. There were people who killed and tortured others for no reason at all; they took other people’s properties by force but they are still part of us. People have excuses for what they did and if they are remorseful and apologetic and the things they did were not grievous; then we should forgive them” former Associate Justice Johnson said.

She said “Truth Telling” is a major component of the palava hut discussions.

UNDP Assistant Country Director and Team Leader for Governance Pillar, Nessie Golakai-Gould pleaded with Liberians to participate and be part of the ethnography study.  “This is a start of a process that will hopefully enable Liberians to heal the wounds by using traditional approach and mechanisms that are part of people’s culture and traditions” she said.

Madam Gould said it was critically important to work with local leaders to discuss and agree on the proper approach to the restoration of lasting peace and reconciliation in Liberia.

Liberia’s Peace Ambassador, Dr. Richard Tolbert said he was prepared and willing to work with others in moving forward and for Liberia to make a difference. “God’s footsteps should remain our pathway to peace in Liberia” he added.

Earlier, the Superintendent of the County thanked partners for selecting Bomi to host the opening ceremony.  “Thanks for selecting Bomi County for the start of this ethnography forum. Western Liberia is a unique region; we are not in conflict with each other, though we have pressing issues of culture, land disputes, but we don’t fight…” Bomi County Superintendent Samuel Brown said at the start of the first two-day regional ethnography forum.

Superintendent Brown said in spite of the many differences amongst citizens of the county and the region, they always find ways to resolve and be at peace with each other, “even with those who victimize them. We take the traditional approach to keep Western Liberia at peace” he stated.

Wilfred Gray Johnson heads the UNDP Peace Building Office (PBO) at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He said after years of war and devastation on the country and its people, Liberians remain resilient to move ahead.

“One key TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) recommendation is the holding of national palaver hut forum to listen to grievances that will align for atonement, psychosocial support and recovery where victims and perpetrators can meet and iron out their differences and restore hope and justice to the people” Mr. Johnson said.

He termed the palaver hut as an opportunity for restorative form of justice for both perpetrators and victims of the civil war.

“Justice does not necessarily mean punishment but restorative justice combined with mercy for victims as well as reparation is important” the PBO boss said.

The ethnography forum, according to Johnson, “will seek to study people’s culture, ways of life; how they think and feel, the norms, as well as processes used over the years to achieve peace and blending mediation with arbitration.”

The remaining regional ethnography fora are expected to separately be held in Montserrado, Grand Gedeh and Bong Counties. The fora are intended to bring together people with common culture, traditional values, as well as resolution mechanisms and methods used to prevent and resolve conflict.

Contact

For more information contact;

Willie Davies-Program Analyst Governance Pillar;e-mail (willie.davies@undp.org) Tel; +231/770003792/886 525 764

Augusta Pshorr –Communications Analyst E-mail: augusta.pshorr@undp.org Tel: +231-770-003-819/886-521-425

Sam Zota –National UNV Communications Associate Email: zotasam@gmail.com Tel: +231-886-474-563/770175162

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