1999: Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, Liberia
Strengthening Liberian Civil Society and Respect for Human Rights as a Basis for Sustainable Peace.
Founder of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL), Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1999. In the aftermath of Liberia's civil war, Archbishop Francis advocates for the international community's involvement in sustaining peace, reconstructing the nation, and developing a democratic political infrastructure. He stresses that the respect for the full spectrum of human rights is the foundation for sustained peace.
To ensure the protection of Liberians' human rights, RFK Center works with Archbishop Francis and his organizations, JPC and Radio Veritas, to involve the Liberian citizens in their country's peace process and reconstruction and encouraging a sustainable peace through the strengthening of civil society. RFK Center continues to provide capacity-building training for Radio Veritas; supply web-broadcasting tools for Radio Veritas; and using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about human rights violators for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia.
Archbishop Francis was afflicted by a stroke in early 2004 and his condition continues to slowly improve. The loss of such an important voice in Liberia invigorated the Catholic Church to keep his mission going. In February 2005, Monsignor Andrew Karnley was appointed the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Monrovia and is carrying on the social change goals identified by Archbishop Francis.