Liberia: Cummings Defends TRC Indictees?
The political leader of the Alternative National Congress, Alexander B. Cummings, has defended his decision to name Dr. Togar Gayewea McIntosh and three other individuals accused of war and economic crimes to his campaign, saying he opposed the pronouncement of “guilt upon individuals only by association.”
“Where individuals are accused of the commission of a crime, they must come to face their accusers and where the evidence is presented to support guilt, each must answer fully and be justly punished before the altar of justice,” said Cummmings.
The Liberian politician noted that while his presidency would support the establishment of a “War and Economic Crimes Court,” he is fundamentally against excluding Liberians from the enjoyment of all of the rights and privileges of citizenship — signaling an opposition to some of the recommendations of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC).
“I faithfully promise to work with everyone, who, like me, desires to work for Real Change in our country. I continue to believe a united people can achieve even the most difficult things. And I am fundamentally opposed to excluding Liberians from the enjoyment of all of the rights and privileges of their citizenship, unless such Liberians are excluded by the law from doing so. This is why, as President, I will exclude no one, not even me, from answering to the law whenever required to do so.”
McIntosh, a seasoned political strategist who has been involved in Liberian and regional politics for decades, was one of several individuals the TRC recommended, in its report, to be barred from politics for 30 years.
The TRC’s decision was taken as a result of McIntosh’s alleged involvement in the country's 14-year years of bloody civil war. And in 2011, while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, he was filmed by Danish investigative journalist, Mads Brugger Courtzer, who allegedly bribed McIntosh with US$150,000 for a Liberian diplomatic passport to reside and work in the Central African Republic. The film is titled, “The Ambassador.”
Another TRC indictee, who Cummings named on his team is Daniel Chea, a former Senior Military Commander of the NPFL and Defense Minister of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is jailed in London for war crimes in Sierra Leone. Chea has been accused by the TRC for the massacre of 25 people in Nigabouzu, Lofa County in September 1999.
He was recommended to face an investigation for aiding and abetting war crimes with his alleged involvement with the security forces of the Oriental Timber Company (OTC).
His colleagues on Cummings’ initial Presidential campaign list, Lewis Brown, is accused of misuse of public property/funds when he served as Managing Director of the LPRC during the war years of Taylor’s Presidency. The TRC, which Brown appeared before, recommended further investigation.
Brown, who has circled the summit of public life, is joining the Cummings team as a seasoned technocrat and policy expert. He is a former National Security Advisor to Taylor and worked in the Unity Party administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Information Minister and then Liberia’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
Another TRC indictee on the Cummings team is Representative Yekeh Kolubah, Representative of Montserrado County District #10. Koubah is a former combatant and has said repeatedly that he wants to appear before a Liberian war crimes court.
He was once an officer in the Special Operation Division (SOD), an infamous section of the Liberia National Police (LNP) during former president Taylor’s government.
Dan Morias, another old time ally of ex-President Taylor, is also on the team. Morias served as Taylor’s Interior Minister and Superintendent of Maryland under President Sirleaf. Morias was mentioned in a TRC 2008 interview, where he was evidently accused of collaborating with General William Smith to massacre 369 persons of the Glaro region, in and around different places around River Gee in 2003.
The criticism against Cummings comes as he has over the years presented himself as a new breed of a Liberian politician who does not subscribe to the old way, but rather one of change. Because of this, he often emphasizes, “One cannot keep doing the same thing and expect new results.”
“However, where the evidence does not support the alleged commission of any crime, all such accused must be dutifully exonerated and have all rights and privileges fully restored, if any were previously enjoined,” Cummings said. “For me, as it must remain for our society, all accused persons must be presumed innocent until guilt is proved. Justice requires this, and further requires that democratic governments provide the affordable access for such speedy determination of guilt or innocence.”
However, he is not the first Liberian politician seeking to wor with TRC indictees. President George Weah currently has several in his government — ultimately tying his hands to implement the TRC report. Former Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is also eyeing the Presidency also endorsed the support of TRC indictees like Benoni Urey towards his Presidential bid.
Meanwhile, Cummings, who is the Stand Bearer of the Oppositional Collaborating Political Parties, has pledged his commitment of ending impunity, saying, “if we do not seek justice for all, we risk ourselves and our children to continue to head in the wrong direction which ultimately will lead to the eventual breakdown of our society and collapse of our nation.”
He added that change is hard but real Change is even harder; and that a wrong does not become right because “we continue to repeat it.”
“Difficult as it may be for all of us, if we do not commit to doing the right things the right way. In the end, laws are not just good because we write them. Laws are good because we enforce them equally on all of us.”