Monrovia — Making his first public speaking appearance since taking his exit from the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government, former Public Works Minister Samuel Woods came out swinging Sunday on a number of issues dogging Liberia’s post-war progress and the current government.
Appearing alongside the Women for Peace Network(WIPNET), in lighting the flame for peace to coincide with the Decade for Peace commemoration, Woods declared that “a nation that fails to learn the lessons of the past is doomed.”
Woods stepped down from his post recently in the aftermath of the death of his mentor, Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis to refocus his attention to civil society and human rights issues.
The resignation came under a cloud of secrecy. It took President Sirleaf almost a month to acknowledge what several media institutions including FrontPageAfrica which first broke the story, had reported. The President, in a state Radio interview explained that Woods had informed her of his desire to revive the Justice and Peace Commission.
Said Sirleaf: We discussed it; he wants to be able to revive the Justice and Peace Commission which, as you know, he worked with Bishop Francis, and he wants to make his contribution to the development of the country. And so that’s positive, it’s alright.
The president dismissed suggestions that Woods stepped down because he was frustrated. “People can say whatever they want; I don’t care what you say. If he had not resigned, they would be on his case too… don’t do those roads good; what happened to all the money and all of that. People here talk plenty.
Minister Woods has served his country well; he and I have talked; he will continue to serve in whatever capacity he determines to make sure he remains a good citizen, making a contribution to the development of our country. Please accept it for what it is.
Dr. Antoinette Weeks, a Director of Exploration Activities at the National Oil Company of Liberia was recently named as Woods’ replacement.
On Sunday, Woods coming out party was reminiscent of his activism days as he hailed the Women for Peace Network gathering as the most significant initiative in the celebration of the decade of peace.
The former Minister of Public Works said that he and other Liberians are proud of the work of the women of Liberia and the success over the years in the attainment of peace in the country and have demonstrated the non-violent posture to ensure that peace is able to come to Liberia.
Woods indicated that people who raped women and created lot of mayhem during the civil unrest in the country continue to pose as torch bearers in the attainment of peace in the country as he went on to ask whether Liberians have learned the lesson of the past? “Women, I want to ask if we looked around this country today have we learned the lesson of the past, a nation that failed to learn the lesson of the past means that they are odd meaning that our present is jeopardized and our future is threatened.”
He said that as Liberians looked around today the guns are silent but the element of peace is still elusive.
Woods went on to say that though people have disarmed and angry armed men involved in the civil unrest in the country have been disarmed, they are still in psychological trauma and there is still much more needed to be done to secure the peace in Liberia.
Woods, a former activist stated that since the history of the country, those things that visited Liberians that shows it ugly faces, all of those vices whether it was integrity issue, nepotism, tribalism and patronage continue to show its ugly faces in the present and that a nation cannot continue on this path.”
Still Poor Despite Progress
The former minister averred that peace cannot be sustained by a benevolent leader rather it can be done by good citizens of the country.
Today, Woods added that the Unity Party-led government had made a number of progress with the emergence of a lot newspapers and radio stations, while at the same time people can now call for the resignation of the president without disappearing or being killed. However, Mr. Woods said “there is evidence that the people are still poor and living in poverty in the country and the people deserve more than they have today.”
Adding his voice to the debate surrounding the mass number of the country’s natural resources put on sale, Atty Woods indicated that if the executive can be accused of selling the country’s resources then the National Legislature has become the market place for the buyers because it is there the concession agreements are reviewed.
He told the gathering filled with women, that in the legislature, political parties as well as women are represented and that there is a constitutional means in which the people can remove their representatives who undemocratically govern them.
Level-Playing Field Bill Unfair
Woods continued that if the National Legislature can pass the Democracy Sustainability Bill to give political parties money and the Level Playing Field Bill to the neglect of the Decent Work Bill, then Liberian must asked the question and know that they have been misrepresented.
Woods took aim at the judicial branch which has been accused nationally and internationally of being highly corrupt. “Let the Judiciary ensure that laws are not for the rich against the poor and if judges cannot perform to that norm one can go through the non-violent posture to have that judge removed or impeached.
The former Public Works Minister reiterated that Liberians should know that they have the constitutional power to remove those who govern them undemocratically without waiting for election which can be done through a non-violent manner and that peace cannot be attained when the government remains indifference.
Again touching on the celebration of the decade of peace, the human rights activist said if Liberians have to celebrate peace, this should not in the form of pageantry and mere festivities as Liberians loved the cosmetics way to life, adding Liberians don’t love substantive thing
He said that since the Accra Peace Accord Liberians tend to build the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Independent Human Rights Commission and wondered what have happened to these institutions, as they become to remain weak and ineffective and that Liberians should leave individuals and build institutions.
The former student activist paid tribute to several outstanding Liberians including the late Catholic Bishop Michael Francis , Bishops Roland Diggs, Alfred Kulah, Mother Mary Brownell who he said worked over the years for the attainment of peace in the country.
Woods then lauded the women for role played in the attainment peace saying that it was the right path and cautioned Liberian not to dream of war that there will be no more war.
The scene of Woods’ reemergence, the vicinity of the James Payne Airfield was one of the venues that observed the 10 years celebration of peace when a group of women under the banner of Women in Peace Building Network (WIPNET).
The same venue was where women of Liberia including Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, sat under the rain and sun a decade ago to pray for peace after long years of civil unrest which suddenly came to an end in August 2003 when all warring parties to the conflict signed a peace deal in Accra.
Sunday’s ceremony which was held during a bright sunshine day was marked by religious songs and prayer aimed at revoking God’s blessing not to have the country return to its bitter past.