(MONROVIA, LIBERIA) – A Swedish Government supported pilot research for social inclusion of motor cyclists in Liberia is being described as yelling results.
According to Dr. Jaremey McMullin, Senior Lecturer and Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews, the project is fruitful, considering the improvement in the sector and among riders in Liberia.
Dr. McMullin is in the country for a follow-up of the three – to four-year research project, which is being implemented by Platform for Dialogue and Peace (P4DP), a Liberian Peace building and Research NGO.
The research project is aimed at making commercial bike riders’ contribution toward peace building in Liberia to be recognized, mitigating social discrimination against bike riders, and pilot testing cyclists’ own ideas about social inclusion and livelihood improvement. This last aspect of the project was funded by Folke Bernadotte Academy, Sweden’s government agency for peace, security and development.
P4DP is the local partner to St. Andrews University and has implemented several projects, including ‘Monitoring from War to Peace; Social Reintegration of Liberia’s Conflict-Affected Youth through Nationwide Counter-Stigma Efforts’; as well as a project funded by the Scottish Funding Council about youth in MRU border communities that seeks to understand the main challenges and vulnerabilities facing young people in cross-border communities in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
Meanwhile, Dr. McMullin, the Principal Investigator (PI) of the current social inclusion research was speaking a Sustainable Development Monitor Media Network, and said “the project is aimed at making bike riders’ commercial services to communities, to not be seen just as another contribution but also as a crucial part of the country’s peace building process”.
He said “the social inclusion of riders in society means the larger society being appreciative in recognizing the bike riders’ contribution through their self-employed activities, which has not been fully recognized by the majority of Liberians”.
Dr. McMullin lauded the participating commercial motorcyclists for the work they do. He referenced a comment that one Peace Island motorcyclist made at the event, saying that motor bikes are a “peace building moving object”, and Dr. McMullin said the comment illustrated the many ways that cyclists see themselves as “instruments of peace” and overall, a net “contribution to Liberians”.
The Peace Island and Jallah Town follow-up exercise which took place on October, 16,2021, was focused on the motorcyclists’ contribution to peace building, and the economy after the war.
The events were a chance for the bike riders to view Dr. McMullin’s documentary films about them, including Best Man Corner, which he produced from interviews completed in 2018 with the bike riders from Jallah Town. The other 30-minute film was shown on Peace Island to an assembled group of cyclists and the police.
It helped to jump start a conversation to create better relations between cyclists, police, and the community. And, it focuses not just on the bad side of cycling but on the good things that Liberians have to say about cyclists’ contributions to the country.
The exercise also provided the opportunity for beneficiaries to narrate their own stories from their past to their new pathway of transition as they acquire new skill that makes bike riding a gainful income.
“Motor bike riding is peacemaking in Liberia, now we are operating in peace, unlike when the environment was highly hustled against us but still, we need to be taught frequently on the traffic rules”, said the Chairman of ‘Best Man Corner Riders’, Trokon J. Gray.
Also speaking to Sd-Monitor Media Network, Moses Fahnbulleh, one of the ‘Best Man Corner’ parking riders who was also featured in the film, said “I’m impressed that I featured in this film, it makes me proud of myself to know that I’m providing a valuable service including peacemaking with our people, and this ought to remind us of our responsibility in creating wealth for ourselves contributing to sustaining peace in Liberia”.
Another ‘Best Man Corner Riders’, Melvin Tarpeh said “I’m concerned about the unchanging behavior of friends’ riders. All of us cyclists could enjoy the peace, if we were trueful to ourselves and allow to be impacted by proper education; because at time our behaviors go against the rules of law and exhibits disrespect for passengers, while other riders embarrass us from enjoying the peace”.
A rider at the Peace Island station, Thomas Tumu said he does not support the ban of motor cycles on the traffic because of traffic violation among them, as bike riding is all he depends on to survive, send his children to school and care for his entire family. While most of them believed their services were contributing to peace, economic growth and reconciliation after the war.
A Liberia National Police Chief Inspector assigned at Peace Island Police Depot, Augustus Saah, said cyclists throughout Liberia have gone through a lot of awareness and trainings in the past on traffic rules but due the attractiveness of the sector, more new riders who are not trained are on the rise.
Chief Inspector Saah observed that “there are some good riders among the commercial bike riders but the bad ones are the problems who abuse traffic rules daily; because of this, the police must come in to in force the law”.
He praised the riders somehow, saying “but they are improving gradually, that is reducing occurrence accidents”. Chief Inspector Saah also cautioned the riders that the law banning motorbike riding on the Tubman Boulevard, is still in force and called for more of such training because he said bike riders are important to the society and we need them.