The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), an outcome of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), released its final report in June 2009 with a host of key recommendations. They included the recommendation for the conduct of a National “Palava Hut” Program (NPHP), a conflict resolution mechanism common to rural Liberian communities with cultural and traditional orientation. The NPHP seeks community-based truth telling, atonement and reconciliation by providing a platform and space for both victims and perpetrators to meet and tell their experiences, resolve their war-induced differences and foster peaceful coexistence.

The TRC at the same time recommended the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) to “spearhead” the implementation of the National Palava Hut Program.



As a national response to the challenge of building post-conflict peace and reconciliation in a holistic approach, a national reconciliation framework called the Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation was developed.  Aligned with the Agenda for Transformation and other frameworks of national recovery, the Roadmap has incorporated the National Palava Hut Program as a thematic area assigned to the INCHR.

To jump start this national initiative, on October 19, 2013, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf officially launched the Palava Hut in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County. Alassane Ouattara, the Ivorian President also graced the occasion. The official launch of the National Palava Hut Program marked a critical transition in the pursuit of a people-driven and peopled-owned national reconciliation and peacebuilding process, as envisaged by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and captured in the Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation. It also revived and restored lost t of public confidence of the commitment of the government to kick-start the practical journey of post-conflict national healing, reconciliation and unity.  This intervention also obligated the Liberian State to the peacebuilding process. Similarly, the launch reinforced the momentum of the responsibility and resolve of the INCHR to implement the Program, and presented windows for technical and financial supports to the INCHR and essentially to the actual rollout of the Program.

In her launching statement President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf noted “Let me say that this intervention, the Palava Hut, is hereby officially launched, to build upon those efforts, those programs that are already underway towards the implementation of this important recommendation.”  She emphasized that the launching of the program was an essential perspective of the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and is meant to enhance durable peace, healing and unity. The President hoped that the Palava hut Program will help sustain and build on the 10 years of peace and harmony that the country has experienced since 2003 and contribute to the consolidation of democracy. President Sirleaf also challenged members of the INCHR, chiefs, elders, traditional leaders, the Liberia Council of Churches, the Muslim Council, political parties and civil society to fully participate in and support the Palava Hut Program in order to ensure the delivery of lasting peace and harmony. She further cautioned Liberians to join the processes of peace and democracy at the regional, continental and global levels for the security and happiness of humanity.

The Ivorian President, Alassane Ouattara,   said the Ivorian government was elated about the launch of the Palava Hut Program, describing it as pivotal to the reinforcement of peace and reconciliation. “Our two countries went through terrible times, ten years back for you, very recently for us, and we are very impressed by your commitment to strengthen the process that has been made under your leadership,” he said to his Liberian counterpart. President Ouattara made a cash contribution of US$10,000.00 toward the Palava Hut Program.

 The Acting Chairman of the INCHR, Mr. A. Boakai Dukuly, elaborated the overview of the Palava Hut Program, including key activities to follow the launch. He named these activities as follows:

  1. The Conduct of a 3-Day Technical Forum
  2. Comprehensive Ethnographic Study of Liberia’s Palava Hut SystemStage
  3. Development of the Palava Hut Methodology and Operational Guidelines
  4. Creating Nationwide Awareness on the Process, Safety and Benefits of the Palava Hut System
  5. Conduct of the Palava Hut Talks

During the talks, the INCHR will work and collaborate with chiefs, traditional leaders, commissioners, superintendents, religious leaders, women groups, relevant state institutions, civil society organizations, peace committees, the UN family, donors, and the private sector.

The event was attended by government officials from Ivory Coast and Liberia, the American and Ivorian diplomats, Commissioners of the INHCR, chief and elders, religious leaders, representatives from civil society organizations including women and youth groups, representatives of INHCR Palava Hut Committees in Grand Gedeh, Nimba, River Gee and Maryland counties, and cultural groups. 

II.  Three-Day National Palava Hut Technical Forum

The INCHR hosted a National Palava Hut Technical Forum at the Monrovia City Hall on November 13-15, 2013. The Forum was intended to inform the INCHR in the determination of appropriate mechanisms and strategies for the successful implementation of the National Palava Hut Program. The Forum generated expert knowledge from scholars, traditional chiefs and other stakeholders on the traditional Palava hut systems practiced by the four language groups of Liberia, namely Kwa, Mel, Mande and Settler. Over 60 participants attended the event. The opening program was graced by government officials, including Vice President Honorable Joseph N. Boakai, Justice Minister Christina Tah and Internal Affairs Minister Morris M. Dukuly. The head of UNMIL HRPS, Marcel Akpovo, who deputized for the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, UNDP Country Director Kamal Kamalludeen and an EU representative also attended the Forum. The Vice President said the Palava Hut is an age-old place to settle disputes. He pointed out that understanding commonalities and differences amongst the Kwa, Mel, Mande and other groups will help guide the successful implementation of the palava hut program.  

III.   Institutional Capacity Assessment

As part of collaboration with the INCHR aimed at strengthening the commission’s capacity to fulfill its statutory mandate, the UNDP hired Ara V. Chea and Dr. Nana Busia, international and local consultants respectively, to conduct an institutional capacity assessment from February to April 2015. The assessment was commissioned by the UNDP predicated on the general demand by national and international stakeholders to ensure that the Commission play a more exertive strategic role engendering a human rights culture in the country. The comprehensive assessment focused on the following critical issues:

  • Carry out capacity needs assessment of the organizational structure;
  • design a capacity building program and propose timelines; and
  • propose where the identified needs can be sourced.  

The consultants reviewed the status of all the earlier assessments; carried out desk top research; administered questionnaires to staff to get the requisite information on skill gaps and needed training; embarked upon field visits; reviewed the appropriate and relevant laws, policies, documents and reports; and held consultations with identifiable stakeholders, including selected government institutions, Civil Society Organizations and local and international organizations. Conclusion of the assessment pointed out that “the Commission has not within the five years that it came into existence performed most of its functions that it is mandated to execute. Those it has performed too, has skill gaps that needs to be improved.”  This underperformance was attributed by the report to the following:

  • Lack of institutional framework, in terms of rules, processes, procedures, systems, and requisite personnel to the technical functions of the Commission,
  • Some capacity challenges and skill gaps amongst the Commissioners to enable them perform their technical human rights functions and the overall management of a national human rights institution, and
  • Serious resource constraints have contributed to the inability of the Commission to deliver on its mandate

 Key deliverables of the assessment were: development of final assessment report, job descriptions, edited organogram, personnel handbook and administrative procedures. These documents were subsequently validated by staff of the INCHR and stakeholders, pending endorsement by the board of commissioners.

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