Alumnus named Liberia’s peace ambassador

The Rev. William Tolbert III ’77 has been named Peace Ambassador for Liberia and released a statement in late November calling for healing for the African nation.

The Rev. William Tolbert III
The Rev. William Tolbert III

Tolbert, who graduated from Cornell College in 1977 and then returned to his native Liberia, is the son of Liberia’s 20th president, William Tolbert Jr. His father was killed during a 1980 coup d’état, which was followed by decades of civil war and instability. In 2005, in elections widely considered to be the most free and fair in the country’s history, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected president. Sirleaf was re-elected in 2011, and she appointed Tolbert to the Peace Ambassador position earlier this year.

In a statement released Nov. 20, Tolbert wrote that peace and genuine reconciliation are necessary for the country to remain stable.

“We have demonstrated our resilience and optimism in spite of the seemingly insurmountable circumstances of the prolonged and devastating conflict, the Ebola virus and adverse economic conditions,” Tolbert wrote. “Persons here in Liberia, throughout the sub-region, and the Diaspora in other jurisdictions remain hurt by what occurred in our national history. Now it is time to heal the wounds caused by the conflicts, celebrate our heritage, oneness, uniqueness and diversity as Liberians.”

Tolbert’s message comes at a time of transition in Liberia. The United Nations Mission in Liberia, which began in 2003, is planning to transfer all security functions back to the government as of June 30, 2016, and the nation is still dealing with the aftermath of a long-lasting Ebola outbreak.

“We use this opportunity to appeal to hearts and collective consciousness of our Fathers, Mothers, Brothers and Sisters to consider Peace as our only viable option,” Tolbert wrote. “For too long we have focused on what divides us. Let us shift focus and underscore the unifying similarities.”

Tolbert said his message is being translated into the numerous local dialects used in Liberia, as well as in other languages so it can be disseminated across the region. The latter step is necessary, he said, because the years of crisis in Liberia affected much of western Africa, displacing nearly 1 million people and harming economies.

Tolbert was appointed Peace Ambassador in July. The position is responsible for developing an agenda to create a stable, lasting peace in the country, and works closely with the National Reconciliation Commission.