Local Peace Committee Retreat, Liberia, April 2018

Strengthening ties among local peacebuilders for greater impact

Purdue Peace Project Director Stacey L. Connaughton and Associate Director of Research and Operations Jasmine R. Linabary recently returned from a trip to Liberia, during which PPP hosted a retreat for its local peace committees in Liberia.

Twenty-six local peacebuilders stood in a room in Monrovia, Liberia, in April connected by thread they wrapped around their wrists and held tightly. This thread would come to symbolize their interconnectedness and responsibility as peacebuilders working together within and across four counties in Liberia to prevent political violence.

These peacebuilders were members of the Pen-Pen Peace Networks (PPPN) from Bong, Margibi, Montserrado and Nimba counties, local peace committees supported by the Purdue Peace Project (PPP). All four groups had organized campaigns to prevent violence leading up to and during the 2017 elections in Liberia. In April, the PPP brought them all together for the first time for a two-day retreat. The retreat, similar to one held for local peace committees in Ghana in October 2017, provided an opportunity for these peacebuilders to share their experiences, engage in mentoring, and network.

Liberia Retreat Group Photo April 2018The thread activity, used as an ice-breaker at the start of the retreat for participants to introduce themselves, became a key touch point as participants reflected on their experiences and the relationships they formed through the retreat. Participants indicated they developed new and strengthened friendships with fellow peacebuilders. Within the week following the retreat, many had been in contact with those they met and felt confident that they had people they could call upon when needed.

The impact of these strengthened ties among peacebuilders has immediately felt when following the retreat a pen-pen rider was shot by a police officer in Monrovia. A member of the Nimba PPPN who became aware of the incident contacted the Montserrado PPPN, which then mobilized to prevent any escalation of the incident. Community members in the days following the incident attributed the lack of violence to the PPPN’s efforts since 2013 to reduce violence and improve the relationships between pen-pen riders, the police, and the community. In the past, such an occurrence would have been followed by riots.

These relationships also have the potential for future impact, as participants have indicated a desire to take collective action across their counties around issues that they believe have the potential to cause violence. Specifically, they have already begun making plans to mobilize in response to the increasing use of drugs among Liberian youth, an issue they see as being a key contributor to violence in the country moving forward.

Additionally, many participants discussed a renewed commitment to working together within their own counties. As one participant stated, “As an individual from here back home, I am going to do everything possible to be strong in holding that thread on my side so the thread will not drop from my end.”

Learn more about the Purdue Peace Project’s work in Liberia and its impacts by visiting: https://cla.purdue.edu/ppp/projects/liberia.html.

-Author Jasmine R. Linabary is the associate director of research and operations for the PPP.

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