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Igolima Amachree

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Mara Amachree

WIU Professor Advises Liberian Transitional Government

October 2, 2003

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University sociology professor Igolima Amachree (pronounced ego LEE mah • ah MAH kree) has a deep-seated professional and personal interest in the stabilization and leadership change in war-torn Liberia.

Amachree's personal investment in Liberia's peace process also involves family. His brother-in-law, Gyude Bryant, will lead the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL). Amachree and his wife Mara will attend the Oct. 14 inauguration in Monrovia. Gyude Bryant is Mara's youngest brother.

Amachree is part of the NTGL inner circle, which is working in conjunction with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to craft a comprehensive peace agreement between multiple political movements and parties, ending nearly 14 years of civil war and implementing programs for national rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the nation leading to democratic elections in 2005.

The peace agreement calls on the United Nations, in concert with ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union and other established organizations to assist with an international stabilization force in Liberia and to provide resources in rebuilding the nation's political, social, economic and security services. It includes articles addressing the cessation of hostilities; deploying an international stabilization force; restructuring the Liberian armed forces, national police and other security units; the release of prisoners and abductees; human rights and humanitarian issues; governance reform; and post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction. Amachree refers to it as a modified version of the East Timor protocol.

"This is a major challenge," Amachree said. "It's very exciting; but very sobering. It's exciting because it's re-ordering society. It's sobering to look at the devastation and see how human beings can be so cruel and brutal."

His strategic involvement, separate from his family relations, in the Liberian peace process is not surprising. In 1981 Amachree was deeply involved in drafting a constitution following a military takeover of Liberia. In 1985 he was again asked to draft a plan for the changing government that would allow for greater democratization of the nation.

As a sociologist, he has particular concern for Liberian children, who have been forced to fight; and women, who he says have suffered the most during the nearly 14 years of civil war.

"These child soldiers have known nothing but fighting; they have never been to school," Amachree said. "Reorientation, retraining and readjustment programs must be established; and it is important this be done outside of Liberia in donor countries in the European Union or United States. As we are finding in the case for (neighboring) Sierra Leone, doing this in the same socio-cultural context is not very effective.

"And women have borne the brunt of these wars as sex-slaves and rape victims, often contracting AIDS," Amachree added. "Medical and financial support, and especially counseling, should be given to these women."

Also an economist, Amachree has served many years as a consultant for the World Bank, a UN organization which offers technical and monetary assistance to developing nations.

Amachree earned his bachelor's degree (1960) in economics, history and politics at Durham University in England. His desire to "humanize" economics led him to the U.S. and Michigan State University where he earned a master's degree (1963) in sociology and anthropology and a doctorate (1967) in sociology, specializing in industrial sociology. It was also at Michigan State where Amachree meet, and married, Mara, a MSU graduate with a master's degree (1964) in anatomy and physiology.

"Mara has always been interested in helping others, even in her high school and college years," Amachree said. She currently works at Bethphage in Macomb, a social service for people with disabilities, and an affiliated ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Amachree departs for Liberia Oct. 8, where he will continue advising Bryant and the NTGL, and participate in a pre-inauguration meeting with world dignitaries including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annam and Ghana President and ECOWAS Chair John Kufuor. The special invitation to Amachree thanked him for his "contributions to the Liberian Peace Process." It concluded with, "Looking forward to seeing you in Monrovia at the Induction Program and to continue to dialogue with you on the issues of the nation."

"There will be no merriment for the inauguration - - no social balls or extravagant dinners - - because it is important to impress on people the sobering and devastating events of these 14 years and the seriousness of this transitional government," Amachree said.

Mara Amachree said Liberia's incoming leader, her brother Gyude, "has always been a leader, even as a child."

"He has always been a consensus-builder who works very well with other people and takes their views into account in building acceptable consensuses," she added. "We are all, and have always been, very proud of him the way he has, and continues to, live his life."

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