MONROVIA, Liberia – This Sunday, August, 18, marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords that ended Liberia’s 15 years of near-uninterrupted civil war.
It also marks my final day in this country, after exactly two weeks on the ground.
This week, across this West African nation, have been events marking the end of the fighting, which claimed more than 150,000 lives and forced more than 850,000 to flee.
Women in Peacebuilding Network, the women’s group that played a key role in drawing international attention to the violence in Liberia through its sit-ins, hunger strikes, and other non violent protests, has been holding 12-hour fasting and prayer vigils near Spriggs-Payne Airfield, in the city’s Sinkor neighborhood, since Monday.
On Sunday, they planned to host a march through parts of the city that saw some of the worst fighting.
On Friday, the United Nations, UNICEF and other organizations hosted a youth-focused event at Monrovia City Hall that was packed with musical, dance and theater performance.
Karin Landgren , head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, told the packed auditorium that “so much has gone right in this country” in the past decade. But she warned its youth, in particular, not to become complacent.
“It’s in your hands, now,” she said. “Peace begins at home, with your family, with your friends and in your community.”
Religious groups — from the Muslims that constitute about 20 percent of the nation, to the Christians that comprise about 80 percent – are holding memorial services through this weekend.
A major service was held Sunday morning at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia, a place with a tragic connection to Liberia’s civil wars.
A reported 600 men, women and children were massacred in 1990 by troops loyal to then-President Samuel K. Doe as his regime was facing serious attacks from rebel groups, including one led by New England-educated warlord Charles Taylor.
The Liberian government has also been hosting a series of panels reflecting on the country’s past decade.
Sunday, it’ll host a series of friendly kickball and soccer matches between members of the legislature and President’s cabinet.
And on Monday, the national government will host a peace parade from one of the city’s soccer stadiums, Antoinette Tubman, to the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, a place reserved for major government events such as the presidential inauguration.
I’ll have more to report on when I land back in Rhode Island on what I was up to during my last few days in the country, including day long trips into a Chinese-owned iron ore mine and the rural village where Charles Taylor was born.