Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
Conflict, according to the Webster dictionary, is a clash or disagreement—often violent—between two opposing groups or individuals. In many diamond mining communities, people engage in acts that have the propensity to spark up violence, like using harmful drugs, stealing (especially diamonds), and encroaching on other people’s mining claims. Weasua, a historic diamond mining community in Liberia inhabited by over 4,000 people, is no exception.
Sometimes this violence leads to serious injuries and death; it disrupts the peace between two or more friends/parties. There are also conflicts involving families (husband and wife, children and parents, two women against each other fighting over ownership of one man). All these and many others are occurring in Weasua mostly because the people that live there are people who come from different societies with different attitudes.
The women in Weasua under the sponsorship of the United Nations Peace Building Fund are working on mitigating conflicts and building peace in order to prevent lots of these issues. Whenever there is confusion between two or more persons, the women come in between to ensure the issue is resolved and peace is restored. They are also in the business of dialoging with people who are selling harmful substances like marijuana and other high class drugs. They talk to the dealers about the side effects of harmful drugs. The intake of these substances is a factor that contributes to lots of conflict situations; it results into mental illness. When the act of drugging is widely practiced in a community, many underage children’s minds are manipulated. They get involved as the result of peer pressure and it causes serious damage to their health and their futures. The women are standing up against this very strongly in order to prevent the worst from happening.
Factors that motivate the women action
In the Liberian society, women are the custodians of the home; they look after the children and ensure their safety and development. They carry a deeper affection in their hearts for their children and would suffer greater emotional pain if anything wrong were to happen to the children. Even if a husband got injured as a result of his involvement in violent actions, the wife would be left alone to provide for the family. In most cases, women always are the victims; therefore, they think prevention is better than cure. So they are pushed to work towards the creation of a peaceful and safe environment for all.
The impact of their peace initiative on the community
Since the establishment of the group there have been many successful interventions; every member of the community has recognized the existence of this peace group and is working in cooperation with them. They have mitigated several conflicts between husbands and wives, parents and children; they have also engaged the people who are selling harmful drugs and have reached an agreement with them to stop selling these substances in the town. Though the issue of drug control is the responsibility of the government through its Drugs Enforcement Agency, the women have also taken on this initiative because the agency’s operations have not extended to their community. So they are taking actions to prevent their children’s involvement and to keep the community safe.
Procedure of their activities
Every member of the peace group is trained on the procedure of how to intervene in conflicts and make peace; they are ambassadors of peace and know how to investigate cases. They have themselves divided into smaller groups; each group gets an assignment one after the other. They charge a group with the responsibility to go out, find and resolve conflicts. At the end of the assignment period, the group reports all its findings to the plenary session (in their general meeting). Most times they invite opposing parties to their regular general meeting and resolve the issues between them.
How does the community support the initiative?
The community is highly supportive of the peace initiative; the local town authorities have recognized and approved the group’s operations. They are happy about the group’s initiative as it is an effort that buttresses their job to keep the community safe and free from violence. The local authorities, when necessary, step in to ensure compliance by parties in a conflict to the peace building group’s decision.
Peace is the answer to many issues; it opens the door to development. A community engulfed by conflict cannot work together, and if they cannot work together, it is very rare for them to experience development. The action of the women in Weasua is highly commendable and it is an example worthy to be followed by other diamond mining communities.
Front Photo:Signboard of the women peace building initiative in Weasua