Vayanga A.M. Konneh
Member of the Margibi Pen-Pen Peace Network
Vayanga A.M. Konneh is the chief inspector in Liberia National Police (LNP) in Margibi County. He is also an original member and vice-chairperson of the locally led group, the Margibi Pen-Pen Peace Network (Margibi PPPN). This group, supported by the Purdue Peace Project (PPP), was formed in 2016 to work toward building peace and reducing the likelihood of violence leading up to and during the 2017 elections in Liberia.
Vayanga became involved with the Margibi PPPN after PPP brought together a group of community actors such as pen-pen motorcycle taxi drivers, market people, and police officers to collaborate and discuss ways to prevent electoral violence locally. To Vayanga, playing the role of a peacebuilder is tied to his duty towards the nation as a police officer. He says, “I see it part of my job to maintain peace and order in the country. Being with the PPPN, what they see as their motive, what they see are their objective, I knew I should be part of it.”
As a member of the Margibi PPPN, Vayanga has conducted and participated in almost all the group’s activities such as town hall meetings, election awareness programs, and confidence building weeks, which involved peace marches, soccer tournaments, and other games to bring people from all over the community together to interact with each other and share messages of peace. Vayanga also played soccer on behalf of the LNP team against the pen-pen riders.
Vayanga said the “cool coordination [the PPPN’s work] has brought in between the police and the motorcyclists in Margibi” is one of the best outcomes from being part of the Margibi PPPN. Like many other counties in Liberia, Margibi has experienced clashes between motorcyclists and police officers in the past. Relationships between the two groups improved after the Margibi PPPN’s activities in the communities helped foster interaction between them through soccer matches and confidence building weeks, among other activities.
To Vayanga being a peacebuilder “means a lot”. He added that after working so closely with the Margibi PPPN’s peaceful elections initiatives, he realized that “being part of a process, and [to come] out successfully and see the results, it means a lot.” He thinks it is important to involve local community members in the peacebuilding process, because the local people have to know that they have a role to play in promoting peace. He added that PPPN has emerged as a group to encourage the involvement of local people in their own communities by promoting awareness of the need to maintain the peace and order in the country.
Going forward, Vayanga wants to maintain his commitment to peacebuilding and the work of the PPPN. He asserted the need for continuous peacebuilding efforts in the community, especially after the elections. He noted, “[Peaceful] election is all about before, during and after, and this is not the only election that happened in Liberia. There will be more elections. So, continuation of this program in this direction will create some [proactiveness] in the coming elections.”