Inter-Religious Council Names Root Causes
The Daily Observer
January 19, 2011
By: Stephen Binda
IRCL is a member of Civic Society Organizations, working to harness peace and promote the tenets of good governance, peace and democracy.
Addressing a news conference yesterday in Monrovia, IRCL Secretary General, Mohammed Sherif Sr., said the group worked on a program entitled: “Liberia Peace-building and Democratization Program (LPBDP).”
He said lack of access to speedy justice; high unemployment rate; traditional and religious problems; marginalization; and land disputes were the root causes of the violence that broke out in the county in Feb, 2010, leading to the death of at least four persons.
He also named the unwillingness of people of the Mandingo ethnic group in the county to encourage inter-marriages as another root cause of the melee.
He said misinterpretation of issues arising from 1989-2003 armed conflict in the country and under-development of the county were also key factors that trigged the violence last February during which churches and mosques were set ablaze and public and private properties destroyed.
“In other words,” he said, “lack of accessible roads to connect towns and communities, coupled with low respect for the Liberian dollars for trade and commerce was also a major factor.
n Vahun, Lofa County, the Council said, owing to in-accessibility of roads, commercial activities are carried out in the Republic of Sierra Leone where the major mediums of exchange are Leones and USDs. Sierra Leone has borders with Liberia.
The Council added in its report that the popular dialect spoken in Vahun, Liberia, is Mende, a situation that makes it difficult to distinguish a Sierra Leonean from a Liberian in the area.
The Council further disclosed that all of the IRCL activities in Lofa from 2006 to 2010, could not involve the active participation of the people of Vahun district; on grounds that they could not be reached by road.
Vahun, according to the Council, did not also participate in the Lofa Religious and Traditional Leaders Conference organized by it owing to lack of road.
‘Vahun District participation in the Lofa Conference failed; we have been planning to reach-out to Vahun District so that we can host their aspect of the consultation and subsequently get their input into the conference code’ Mr. Sherrif noted yesterday.
During its investigation, the council said it observed exclusion, isolation, and frustration from Liberian citizens who strongly feel completely isolated from the rest of the country.
According to the Council, almost all of Liberian children in Vahun district attend schools in surrounding border towns within the Republic of Sierra Leone where they are exposed to Sierra Leonean academic, socio-economic and other orientations.
As a result of the situation, the council said, these students do not consider themselves as Liberian citizens.
The Inter-Religious Council said the purpose of their intervention was to map out major causes of the Liberian conflict as perceived by the participants and generate suggestions from the participants and other citizens of Lofa as to how to reconcile their differences.
The Council’s investigation which covered the crises in Konia and Voinjama in February 2010, said Religious and Traditional Leaders, at the end of the reach-out consultation resolved to commit themselves and support the enacted County Code of Conduct.
The document is aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence among Lofains. The citizens also affixed their signatures to a resolution to support the Voinjama Conference document.
The Council said they have submitted their report to the office of the Liberian leader, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for her perusal and possible implementation for peaceful co-existence among citizens.
As part of solution to the causes, the Council said the citizens resolved by consensus that the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia and central government foster the creation of district and County level structures to serve as mechanisms for diffusing intolerances and ethno-religiously intoned conflicts in the County.
These field structures, Mr. Sherrif noted, have been identified by traditional leaders. They suggested the need to create local IRCL structures to be facilitated through a grant from TrustAfrica/Humanity International Monrovia office.
The IRCL called on government to buckle up in putting into place measures to prevent tribal conflicts. It also recommended that government connect communities through accessible road network aimed at giving hope to its citizens in all districts that are under-served.
According to the Council, when this is done, it would strategically strike a balance and make a mark in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MFGs) and the Lift Liberia strategy by government.
The Council lauded all of their partners including all faith-based organizations in The Netherlands, TRUSTAFRICA & HUMANITY INTERNATIONAL, UNMIL, and United States Government for their support towards the research and findings.
At the same time, the IRCL said it has established that several villages and towns are far from ongoing voter’s registration centers for the 2011 general and presidential elections.
The council added that the situation has the propensity to discourage many citizens from registering for the 2011 General and presidential elections.
Read the original article on the Daily Observer’s website.