Women of Mano River Union: A discourse on the role of Civil Society in the Sustainability of Peace in the Mano River Region.

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Ottoh, F. O
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Civil society is an important institution in the post-conflict peace-building and in the sustainability of peace. The paper examines discourses on civil society generally and the role played by Mano River Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET) and Women in Peace Network (WIPET) in the peace process in Liberia and Sierra Leone. These two civil society groups played significant role in bringing about peace through a non-violent approach based on the inherited wisdom of women. This wisdom was demonstrated 'by forcing the three leaders of the Mano River Union -Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, Lanasa Conte of Guinea, and Charles Taylor of Liberia to the negotiating table. The fact that countries emerging from war may likely experience another round of war when those issues that caused it are not addressed justifies the continual relevance of civil society like MARWOPET and WIPET in the political stability of the region. The paper therefore hypothesizes that absolute peace cannot be guaranteed in a fragile political environment. Besides, there is the anticipation of a possible breakdown of law and order arising from post-conflict peace-building process such as conducting of democratic elections. It is axiomatic that elections in most African countries are usually marred by manipulations which Liberia and Sierra Leone may not be exception. This is because these countries are just emerging from war with weak institutions that may not contain the problem associated with political contestation. It is against this background that it becomes necessary for the Mano River women to remain a veritable agent of change, tool for political mobilization and engendering of peace. The basic challenge of women is how to ensure that ex-combatants and internally displaced persons are fully reintegrated into the society. It is therefore imperative and expedient for the Mano River women groups to collaborate with other civil society groups to ensure that peace is sustained in Liberia and Sierra Leone through reintegration of ex-combatants to avoid a situation of this group of people being used as thugs in the post conflict democratic elections. The paper concludes that there is need for the recognition of the paradigm shift from state-centred to society-centred approach for the sustainability of peace as demonstrated by women civil society groups in the Mano River region.
Civil society , Political stability , Democratic elections , Political challenges , Political mobilization , Mano River Union , Mano River Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET) , Women in Peace Network (WIPET)
Ottoh, F. O. (2012) Women of Mano River Union: A discourse on the role of Civil Society in the Sustainability of Peace in the Mano River Region. Paper presented at the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI), University of South Africa (UNISA), Vista Building 263 Skinner Street, Pretoria, South Africa.