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Give us this day our Peace of Mind

I really dread the smell and taste of war. Believe it or not, I still have night mares of the horrors from the 14 year bloodletting that attended our beloved country. I was there and saw it all. Being behind rebel lines every now and then and having lived in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana as a refugee put me at the vantage point to see and feel the war and its players unlike many others.  I saw, heard and felt it all from all angles. All of the pains, agonies, losses, and scars from such barbaric war can be summed up in the Liberian parlance “war nah good.”

Liberians want no more war and the reaction to anything warlike explains it all. Any hint of a war or any action with the potential of taking us back to those ugly days is widely dreaded and detested. And for all the right reasons, any semblance of action or attitude that will give such hint is repudiated in all corners. As a consequence, anyone finger-pointed as doing things that will spiral the country back into violence is for many of us war weary Liberians, seen as worse than Satan, the devil. Liberians are tire of war; we want no more war is the resounding message.

It must be noted that Liberians have never wanted war in the first place. As far as my knowledge can serve me, no one went craving for wars or begging flesh eating rebels to invade the country from the north. Although some lousy politicians used warfare as threats, fantasy or a fear mongering tool, no one voted or gathered signatures to go to war. But when war was forced on the country many joined in because of various reasons. Those who planned, financed and started the war knew very well how to set the stage so that all of us could become willing or forced recruits. And when everything got messed up, every participant had very good reasons for their involvement and in most instances, the atrocities. So no, Liberians never wanted war either from the National or Independent Patriotic Fronts. No, Liberians never wanted war from any Liberator, Peace Council or Defense Force. So the message of Liberians not wanting anymore war is not well guided or thought out. War and other forms of violence often come not because we approve or sanction, ask. Those who enter villages with AK-47 rifles and begin shooting the inhabitants at point blank ranges do not do so because the villagers want war.

The question has never been whether or not Liberians want war. We’ve never wanted war and we will never as a group or through our elected officials agree to fight and massacre ourselves to extinction. We just need to identify the causes of war and pay keen attention to its precursors. If we can put a finger on why we had fought for fourteen long years, we will then be able to determine whether or not we are at that point again. If there is a recurrence of those things that precipitated or set the stage for the war that destroyed half a million of our own and left our country struggling to catch up with others one hundred years ahead, then we may be able to take all necessary steps to safeguard the peace and avoid another round of the mayhem. If the actions or inactions of our leaders were responsible for the war, we must have the guts to tell our government the truth even if we will die, lose a limb or close the door through which our daily bread comes. If the war was a direct result of opposition figures and others wanting to “eat too,” let us begin to repudiate those actions when we see them. If the war was caused by, as the Liberian scholar Nathaniel Gbessagee argued, “extensive inequalities,” then we need to make serious effort in closing the gap between the haves and have-nots, the rulers and the ruled. Moreover, if it as Mr. Gbessagee quoted another writer (Mr. Walter Kansteiner) that the root causes for Liberia’s problems are "greed and lack of good governance," then we need to think of ways in addressing those ills. Those are the bold steps that are indispensible in avoiding a recurrence of our bloody past and not shifting blame and fear mongering.

Simply condemning and disdaining protests, mass rallies, strike actions, which are key ingredients in the exercise of individual rights and civil liberties for fear that the peace we got is fragile and can be broken by acts of democracy is a fabrication if not complete none sense. If the basic canons of democracy become the culprits for warfare, then I don’t know what else can be done to sustain the peace, rescue our resources from the jaws of thieves and grow our economy. To undermine those basic tenets of democracy or use disparaging comments to describe those who demonstrate their constitutional rights only to give autocratic and incompetent rulers the trump card to do whatever they want, puts us on the pathway to chaos and self-destruction. Not that we want war but leaving the abuse of power and misrule unchecked because “our peace is fragile” will drive us into the direction of war, mayhem and decadence. I wonder what other tools will be left to combat tyranny and bigotry if for instance dead and wounded protestors are blamed for violence by acting within the confines of democracy. Of course there are recipes for war, but demonstrating against "election irregularities" or boycotting a government scheme is not one.

The recent violent crackdown on a political rally of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) by the Liberia national police leaving at least three persons dead and many wounded is a case in point. To the surprise of many of us, the political party was blamed in many quarters for the death and destruction because “protest actions have the propensity to revert the country into another round of violence,” although there is nothing illegal about doing so.

If mass protests and other forms of exercising one’s constitutional and God given rights continue to become culprits for the potential recurrence of war, then perhaps the war planners and executioners have got their aims accomplished. That might have been the whole point for their catastrophic scheme –make the people suffer excruciating agony for long years so that they can come out forever softened to be fashioned and molded to the liken of the warlord or so scared to disagree with or riot against any future abuse. Any stubborn head amongst the already softened will then be singled out as wanting to take the country back into those harsh days and that person will immediately recoil into submission.

It has therefore become clear to me that now that Liberians have suffered for so long, no one wants to go back to war. So regardless of what our leaders may do or say, we are now accustomed to bow in obedience or risk being labeled as wanting to stir up trouble or take the country back to war. Consequently, we have to adjust to post war demands and change our outlook and political to-dos so as to demonstrate our unwillingness to go to war again. Whether it makes sense or not, we have to put on that image of “sustaining the gains” or try our hardest not to mess with the fragile peace.

Alas, we have lowered our expectations and adjusted our goals, desires and priorities. After the intense pressure and untold inhumanity from the war makers and company many of whom have ended with state power, we have become a people subdued into obedience and satisfied with the bare minimum. We can now take what we did not like or wanted the least under the banner - at least this or at least that. At least, we have peace. At least we have no guns shooting. At least, we can walk the streets at night. At least we can travel to other counties without rebel check points. At least we are taking pay. At least, we can buy rice if we have the money. At least night clubs are open all through the nights. AT LEAST; and there where we are now.

No wonder, we no longer set those goals to be self-actualized and make lofty plans; at least we have peace. It is not unbecoming that we have abandoned the ideas of demanding so much from our elected officials; at least no political prisoners are in jail. As electorates, we no longer put a high prize on our votes; at least the president or a presidential candidate has come to our town. “This is the first president or high profile politician to visit our town” has become so catchy reason to jump on board. We no longer demand high academic standards from our teachers; at least he or she is not asking for bribes. We no longer crave street lights, paved highways, flush toilets, high speed internet and those things that will make us like other twenty first century nations; at least this or that was not like this some ten years ago. We no longer pressure our government to compete with other progressive nations; at least this is ok; we’re just coming from war. We have stopped asking for more transparency and accountability in government; at least we couldn’t do so-so and so under Doe or Taylor. And the list goes on. Their plan to get us being okay with crumbs after our nightmare has worked like charm. And so we have become obedient even unto our own peril. Our government or leaders can do nothing or worse and still win hearts or be re-elected. At least we have peace.

We all want a peace of mind even if we don’t get a piece of bread. But our desire for peace or our fear for the country spiraling back into war should not be used as the basis for ruthless behavior, abuses, bad governance, thievery and incompetence.

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