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Liberia's slow path to peace

Julius Kanubah in Monrovia / im
June 21, 2013

It’s been ten years since the end of the civil war in Liberia. The country is still fragile, struggling with economic difficulties. Now a reconciliation plan has been launched, fronted by soccer star George Weah.

Former Liberian soccer star George Weah has been tasked to spearhead reconciliation efforts
Image: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

 Liberia suffered a brutal civil war but has been relatively peaceful for nearly ten years now since the end of military hostilities in 2003.

However, the West African nation remains polarized, struggling to achieve reconciliation, sustain peace and improve the economic condition of its citizens.

A new process intended to ensure genuine peace and reconciliation was kick-started on Thursday 20 June 2013, in the capital Monrovia, dubbed the Liberia Peace Initiatives.

This national roadmap for reconciliation in Liberia was drawn up by the government and will be supervised by Liberia's Peace Ambassador and former World Best Footballer, now politician, George Weah.

Ordinary Liberians expect Weah to go beyond the usual reconciliation rhetoric and turn words into action in order for the country to achieve the sustainable peace and development that have eluded it for years.

George Weah: A symbol of peace and reconciliation?

In a bid to accelerate the reconciliation process, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf apointed  George Weah who is a member of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change party.

At the formal launching ceremony, Mr Weah said the process of reconciling Liberians involves every citizen. “Peace cannot be achieved alone and I cannot do it alone," he said.

The former Liberian player George Weah in action in Marseille, southern France. Photo:dpa/Claude
George Weah a soccer legend hopes to use football as a reconciliation tool in LiberiaImage: AP

“To achieve peace in Liberia, we Liberians must promote it and if Liberians must have peace, it needs Liberians' full cooperation. My part as a Liberian is to promote peace through football”.

 Weah is undoubtedly  the most popular Liberian not only in his home country but also in the world, having spent 14 years of his professional career playing for clubs in France, Italy and England and winning trophies in all three countries.

His best year was 1995 when he was named FIFA World Footballer of the Year, European Footballer of the Year and African Footballer of the Year.

Tough road to recovery

The transition from war to peace in Liberia has been difficult and challenging, given the devastating consequences of the war which left some 250,000 people dead, displaced hundreds of thousands and destroyed the country's infrastructure.

Liberia's Information Minister, Lewis Browne, called on Liberians to put the past behind them and unite. "It is time to see that our differences do not really make us different – they make us Liberians. It is time to let go of the pain, the hatred and the anger, to genuinely heal ourselves and to mend the wounds of our nation," Brown said at the launch ceremony.

Newly installed traffic lights in Liberia's capital Monrovia Photo: Julius Kanubah/DW
Liberia's infrastructure is picking up ten years after the warImage: DW/J. Kanubah

Accepting the past has been a challenge for many Liberians, as the scars of the civil war remain visible. There's a widespread feeling that there's still a long way to go for true reconciliation to be achieved.

Monrovia resident Mary Nyuma told DW she believes that some Liberians are not ready to tell the truth about their role during the civil war.

"We Liberians are not serious about peace. Many of us don't want peace. Because you have to say everything and mean what you are saying. And then ask for forgiveness if you know you are in the wrong and let bygones be bygones," Nyuma said.

"But there are others that have done wrong walking around as if  they are angels. And they will say they haven't done anything and they don't owe Liberians an apology. Those are the people that are not ready for peace," she added.

This view is shared by many Liberians and it has to be said that there are few hopes that the new initiative headed by Peace Ambassador George Weah will have any lasting impact.

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