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September 05, 2013

Liberian Opposition Leader Calls for Peaceful Co-existence

by James Butty

The man named by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf nearly a year ago to head Liberia’s national reconciliation process says it is important for all Liberians to embrace the idea of peaceful co-existence saying he cannot do it alone.  

The previous opposition presidential and vice presidential candidate, as well as football legend, George Oppong Weah was appointed last December to be Liberia’s new peace ambassador after Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee quit in October as head of the National Reconciliation Commission, criticizing Sirleaf for not doing enough to fight corruption.  

Weah kicked off his national reconciliation process in June with a football match in Monrovia.  

He said phase two will be launched in October or November with a listening tour around the country to hear Liberians’ views on national reconciliation.

“The first part was successful, we can say.  We organized a peace initiative to jumpstart the process.  The most important thing is that all Liberians play their part if they want to see it go forward.  So now, we’re looking at the second phase which is the listening tour, and we do hope that the sponsors and everybody that wants to see peace in the country come on board for us to do this.  I can’t do this alone,” he said.

Weah said the listening tour will likely commence somewhere between October and November this year.

He hoped the government could be supportive of the reconciliation process by providing the necessary funding.

Weah said, although 14 years of a civil war has left Liberians divided and polarized, he’s confident the country is ready for reconciliation.

“Our people are divided, but they need to understand that there’s a need for reconciliation, most especially those who took part in the civil war that brought this country to this division.  We had our time of bitterness, but we can’t continue to stay in the past.  We have to design a new strategy for our country to go, and the only way is the peaceful way, to reconcile and work together and make the country what we want it to be,” Weah said.

When she resigned last year as chair of the National Reconciliation Commission, Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee criticized Sirleaf for not doing enough to fight corruption.

Gbowee said she and the president had “differences in opinion on the pathway for national healing and reconciliation.”

Weah, who was the presidential candidate in 2005 and vice presidential candidate in 2011, had been criticized for accepting the peace ambassador position, thereby abandoning his commitment to the opposition Congress for Democratic Change.

But, Weah said he is only doing what he has always done, and that is to work for peace in Liberia.

“I’ve always been a peaceful person.  I advocated for this country to have peace.  I spent millions of dollars putting the national team together to restore peace, going to refugee camps to let our people know that there’s still hope.  Today, if I accept [the position] to be the peace ambassador, I don’t understand why anybody will go against that,” Weah said.

Weah responded rhetorically to some critics who have suggested that he was paid a huge sum of money by Sirleaf or promised political rewards for accepting to be a peace ambassador.

“A couple years back, during the civil war and before the war, when I stepped up for the Liberian Football Association to pay their debt for them not to be expelled, did anybody pay me?  When I paid millions to bring peace through sports to our country because there was war, did anybody pay me something?  Today, I am a political leader and I was asked to promote peace among our people.  Did Sirleaf have to give me a job or promote my political ambition?  No!  I didn’t do for anything,” Weah said.