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Nobel Laureate Gbowee Laments Liberia’s Political Disputes

  • James Butty

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee poses in New York October 7, 2011.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee poses in New York October 7, 2011.

Liberian Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee has warned that recent developments are undermining Liberia’s young democracy.

Her warning comes amid a dispute between Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpaan and members of the House of Representatives.

The lawmakers reportedly requested funding for certain development projects, but Kpaan refused to fund the projects saying some of them were full of "ghost names."

A secret recording purported to be the voice of Representative Edward Forh was heard to be soliciting portions of the development funds.

The lawmakers charged Kpaan with contempt and sentenced her to 72 hours in jail. A group of women, led by the acting Monrovia Mayor Mary Broh, went to the city’s central prison to stop Kpaan’s imprisonment.

Gbowee said such developments drain the citizens’ positive energies.

“I was speaking with a group of people and I said, currently, the mood of the city, Monrovia, is like when you live in a house and both parents decide they are going to divorce, and the children just tend to be wondering what their fate will be. There are too many national issues that need to be addressed and some of these things are really not necessary; the distraction is not necessary for our very young democracy,” she said.

Local radio stations last month aired a secret recording which Kpaan said was the voice of a member of the Montserrado County Legislative Caucus soliciting portions of the county development funds.

Earlier, Kpaan had reportedly threatened to publish a recording in which she said Representative Forh asked her to steal part of the funds intended for development.
Gbowee called for Forh’s immediate suspension from all legislative-related matters pending an investigation.

"For a man who is referred to as Honorable, who took an oath to defend the constitution and to implement the laws of the land, it’s that a full-scale investigation is done. And, while that investigation is ongoing, it’s important that he is suspended as a kind of deterrence to any individual, whether in the House of Representatives or the House of Senate, who may decide that tomorrow I want to try [a] similar thing," Gbowee said.

A group of women, led by the acting Monrovia Mayor Mary Broh, went to the parliament building to protest Kpaan’s treatment were assaulted by an angry mob.

Gbowee denounced what she called the “physical attacks” on famed Liberian singer Miatta Fahnbulleh and Broh. But, she said the women should have shown respect for the rule of law.

"We need to come to a place where our advocacy does not overstep the boundaries of the law. If someone has been cited or sentenced to prison by some mandate, whether legal or illegal in your opinion, let the due process of law take its course and, at the end of the day, you can go and do peaceful protest. But, I think the manner in which the women went to the prison to take Superintendent Kpaan from the grip of the sheriff was wrong," Gbowee said.

She also said women, as custodians of society, cannot be acting like gangsters.

Gbowee, who was appointed by fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to head the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, resigned that post last year, accusing the president of failing to promote the spirit of reconciliation.

She said the only regret she has is that Liberians are still grappling with the way forward for reconciliation.

"Reconciliation for any nation does not depend on any one person, and it’s not an event, it is a process. Stepping away from that formal role does not in any way stop us or hinder us as Liberians from taking a way forward. So, my regret is that we are still are trying to find our way to reconciliation. Do I have regret for stepping out of my formal role? Absolutely not," Gbowee said.

Reports from Monrovia Sunday said Broh has tendered her resignation to Sirleaf.

Local reports said members of the national legislature had given the president an ultimatum to rid her government of both Broh and Kpaan.

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