Sara Koenders



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Abstract or Description

In the following pages, you will find narrative stories about a Woman PeaceMaker, along with additional information to provide a deep understanding of a contemporary conflict and one person’s journey within it. These complementary components include a brief biography of the peacemaker, a historical summary of the conflict, a timeline integrating political developments in the country with personal history of the peacemaker, a question-and-answer transcript of select interviews, and a table of best practices in peacebuilding as demonstrated and reflected on by the peacemaker during her time at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.

Peace activist and social worker Vaiba Kebeh Flomo has worked since 1998 to heal both her nation and its women from the 14- year civil war between rebel groups and the Liberian army. As the women’s desk officer for the Lutheran Church in Liberia – Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Program (LCL-THRP), Flomo supervises psychosocial services to war-affected women and girls and empowers them to build peace and promote nonviolence in their communities.

By 2002 Flomo and a colleague from LCL-THRP were desperate to do more than respond to the war’s victims. Each day villages were being destroyed, children recruited by the rebels, women and girls raped. They knew the war must be stopped at its root. Together the two women formed the Christian Women Peace Initiative (CWPI), mobilizing women from all denominations in and around Monrovia to protest the war. CWPI inspired the creation of Muslim Women for Peace, and the two groups quickly merged to become Liberian Women Mass Action for Peace.

Flomo was instrumental in presenting a written statement from the women to the warring factions in Liberia, asking them to negotiate a cease-fire and attend peace talks in Accra, Ghana, in 2003. She joined the delegation of women who traveled to Accra to pressure rebel groups and President Charles Taylor to continue talking until a peace agreement emerged. She then helped mobilize women to register and vote in the 2005 elections that resulted in Africa’s first elected female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Flomo’s role in the Liberian women’s peace movement was documented in the 2008 film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”

Flomo’s peace work is not confined to Liberia’s borders. She traveled to Sierra Leone in 2007 as part of a “peace train” advocating for violence-free elections, and in 2009 she shared her peacebuilding experiences with the women of southern Sudan, emboldening them to create recommendations for their own political leaders on the inclusion of women in peace processes.

Adamant that the health of Liberian society depends on the participation of women and youth, Flomo continues to focus on healing and rehabilitating women and girls, mending broken relationships between survivors and offenders of the civil war, and increasing the number of women involved in post-war peacebuilding and reconstruction. When asked who it was that stirred her desire to work so tirelessly for peace and the children of war, she says, “my mother.”

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peacebuilding, Women PeaceMakers, Liberia


Peace and Conflict Studies

THE BULLET CANNOT PICK AND CHOOSE:  The Life and Peacebuilding Work of Vaiba Kebeh Flomo of Liberia