Bayo A. Garward
Member of the Montserrado Pen-Pen Peace Network
Bayo Garward is a motorcycle union leader and one of the first members of the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN) in Montserrado County, Liberia. Over the last five years, Bayo has inspired motorcyclists and other Liberians in his community to live more peaceful lives through his work with the PPPN.
Bayo recalls joining the PPPN in 2013 during a time when, as a motorcyclist leader, he was seeing a lot of violence especially between motorcyclists (also called pen-pen riders) and police. The Purdue Peace Project convened an actor meeting of different stakeholders out of which emerged the first PPPN group formed in Montserrado County, consisting of members from the motorcycle unions, police, market, and community. Bayo and his fellow group members began spreading messages of peace throughout the county and he says confidently today that people are now peaceful.
Their first efforts targeted improving relationships between pen-pen riders, the police and the community, but following the Ebola crisis, they switched gears an embarked on an Ebola prevention campaign in 2014. More recently, the PPPN worked to prevent violence during the 2017 elections. Bayo provides an example of the difference the PPPN has made by noting how violent motorcyclists used to be, frequently destroying cars and police stations. But thanks to the involvement of the PPPN, in a recent incident when a police officer shot and killed a motorcyclist, the motorcyclists were peaceful even though citizens expected violence from them.
As a member of the PPPN, Bayo has been involved in coordinating a number of peacebuilding activities such as town hall meetings, sports tournaments, games, and what he calls “sensitizing citizens on how to be peaceful.” This experience for him has been a great one because he said he gets to work with people to make them brave and peaceful. This has also been an enriching personal journey for him as he says he is becoming more peaceful himself and is being recognized as someone in the community who brings people together to talk about peace. But what he is most proud of is the work he has done to inspire others.
The most significant change Bayo has seen as a result of his peacebuilding activities is in his own community. He says that before the PPPN, when something happened in the community people would take violent and illegal action. But now since he’s been working with them for the last several years, if something happens people are engaging in community policing and handling situations more effectively.
Being a peacebuilder means a lot to Bayo because it makes him proud that he can go out and talk to others to bring them together. He says that since he has had success in his community he believes he can go further and speak to others about peace in other areas, both on behalf of the PPPN and even on his own. In Bayo’s words, peace means “happiness in life, togetherness, and friendship. When you all are together and work together as one, peace can exist.”
Bayo plans to continue sensitizing people about peace and he has made a firm commitment.
“We are here for peace and will continue to bring peace to the community and work for peace so that people can know the Purdue Peace Project’s efforts are not in vain,” he said.
He says he will keep standing strong in support of the project and for the sake of peace.