…. As participants outline several challenges

Leila B. Gbati

The Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC) for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership, Development, International Peace and Security on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, hosted a one-day Conflict Mediation Dialogue with Commissioners, Mayors, Superintendents, and City Government under the flagship program “The Women’s Situation Room (WSR)” held at the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The one-day dialogue brought together participants from across the country to understand the role of the local government structure in Liberia, the role of commissioners, mayors, and governors within it, networking and relationships between the offices of the commissioners, mayors, and chiefs, including identifying barriers and challenges that prevent commissioners, mayors, and governors’ participation in the decision-making process at the local and national levels.

However, the one-day dialogue is part of the ABIC 5-day Women’s Mediation Dialogue with national stakeholders held under the theme “The Road to 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections: Ideas, Evidence, and Strategies to Rethink Response Frameworks for a Peaceful Outcome”.

The 5 day dialogue is under the project title: Sustainable and inclusive peace in Liberia through promoting women’s leadership and participation in civic and political life and their strengthened role in conflict resolution.

Giving an overview of the program, the WSR International Coordinator of ABIC, Madam Gifty Mensah, said that the issue of understanding local government is very critical.

Madam Mensah indicated that people are living in a time where they are practicing democracy, and a lot of the time, people say the government is for the people and by the people, which means that everybody gets to take part in the government system. That is where commissioners, mayors, superintendents, and city governors come into what they call local government.

According to her, the key role local government plays when it comes to electoral and governance systems is coordinating between the office of the superintendent and the chiefs, which is a traditional system under the local government system in Liberia, and that is why ABIC decided to host the one-day dialogue.

She stressed that ABIC has appreciated the level of support from participants, adding that about two weeks ago they went back to the communities and had discussions with community leaders and they saw similarities and differences in the issues that were expressed by communities. They decided that since they are working in 20 communities, they should bring all the commissioners and mayors on the same platform and see how they can protect the peace and interests of each community, especially since the country is in a crucial moment of preparing for the 2023 election.

Madam Mensah indicated that when they talk about leadership development, they deal with women, youth, and those that are in position and see how they can contribute to the growth and democracy of Liberia.

Understanding the local government structure of Liberia, Mr. George S. Mulbah told participants that ABIC has the responsibility to educate them in order for them to put into place a government framework that will be responsive to them at the local level.

Mr. Mulbah cautioned the participants that as the country moves towards 2023 elections, people who are contesting for positions will come to them and the first thing they should do is advocate for the local government to be empowered, including the benefits that will come to the district and what guarantee they can give them as commissioners and mayors of the district.

He stressed that the role of ABIC is to educate you on issues to be raised during the electoral process, emphasizing that politicians only come out during elections. As such, they should be ready to put the right structure into place for the betterment of their districts.

We agree that everyone is a member of a political party, but you must do the right thing because the citizens rely on you. After the government should have been seated, the commissioners are responsible for making sure that the district is clean and putting the necessary things in place, “he noted.

He further urged participants to put structures into place and be innovative, emphasizing that as a leader you cannot just sit and depend on something to come to you but must lobby for it.

He also admonished them to also ensure that there is a level playing field and they can do that by ensuring that public facilities

He noted that the commissioners and mayor should ensure a level playing field, and that by doing that is to make sure that public facilities are given to political parties, and by doing that, there will be no tension.

For their part, the participants appreciated ABIC for the level of education, stressing that they would do all in their power as commissioners and mayors of their districts.

The participants highlighted several challenges and barriers that hinder their operation in the district, such as political influence, lack of budgetary funding, and collaborations.

Also speaking, the Mayor of Palala City, Madam Yassah Harris, said that she is faced with many challenges which, according to her, when senators and representatives come into the district with development projects, they always leave them out and when they ask, nobody gives them the right information.

Mayor Harris added that “when you are not in the boat, the people around you will marginalize you. That is when you ask for support for your city, once you did not vote for that person, they will not give you attention.” This is what happened in my city and with the representative we have now. We did not vote for her, so for us to get funding is very difficult, and these are things that we faced”.

The event was graced by the former Mayor of Paynesville, Cyvette Gibson, and included the Superintendent of Gbarnga, Esther Walker, and Eminent Women of the WSR, amongst others.

Participants that attended the event came from Gbarnga, Zota District, Palala, Totota, Todee etc.

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