Georgio Boutini – #WhatsYourPeace?

September 21, 2015
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Keeping the peace with comedy in Liberia

It was a very hot afternoon in downtown Monrovia. A peace accord had just been signed in Accra, Ghana, clearing the way for UN peacekeepers to monitor the ceasefire and kick-start Liberia’s peace process.

Not far from the Executive Mansion, a crowd of gun-toting men and women had barricaded the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration office. Some were firing AK47s to the rhythmic sound of “boys, girls come to school.” The combatants claimed there had been a radio directive for them to relinquish their weapons in return for a large sum of US dollars.

They had been misinformed; there was no such order. Yet, the combatants were convinced—and uncontrollable. DDR officials struggled in vain to convey the truth. Tensions swelled . . . and then they called in Georgio Boutini.

Minutes later, a figure appeared, dressed in an over-sized neck-tie, a brightly-colored hat, and enormous cardboard glasses, immediately drawing the combatants’ attention. With a megaphone, he proclaimed himself a General and ordered all to obey his command. As he began performing a popular reggae song, the mood began to shift. In this new climate, Georgio was able to explain the entire DDR process to the combatants, in typical Liberian Pidgin English. Afterwards, they dispersed, quietly. And a crisis was averted.

The incident earned Georgio (his real name is George Tamba) a job with the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia. He may have looked like a one-man sideshow, but George’s comedy became his piece of peace. He has since become an integral part of the UN’s outreach, helping to communicate messages of peace and reconciliation, elections, and other social issues to communities throughout the region.

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