Liberia: Peace and Impunity Cannot Coexist

Civilians fleeing the fighting during the Liberian civil war. (Photo: CM)


.... Mr. President, we want to know, because if you stand at the pulpit and call for peace among fellow citizens and ask Liberians to pray for peace, you are the leader and the people will follow the example of leadership! 

The issue of accountability for atrocities during Liberia’s 14-year civil war and the decades prior remains one of the key national issues that none of our national leaders are willing to have a serious, action-oriented conversation about. 

The Legislature only brings it up when they want to score political points. The last time President Weah was asked whether he would support the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia, he verbally attacked the journalist who asked the question. 

As for the Judiciary, they claim to be able to do nothing about the matter unless a complaint by an aggrieved party is brought before them. Year-in and year-out, it is the same do-see-do. 

On July 23, Philadelphia Central Church (Cathedral) played host to President George Manneh Weah and the Government of Liberia for the intercessory service in celebration of the nation’s 176th Independence anniversary. 

When he took the lectern to give remarks, the President called for reconciliation and urged “all Liberians — despite diverse backgrounds embrace peace — promote peace  and believe that peace is possible.” 

The President’s plea for peace could have been one of his regular talking points at an event such as Sunday’s. 

However, he made a vocal note of the absence of leaders of key opposition parties from the service, suggesting that he got the impression that said absentees fell short of peaceful motives.  He then used their absence as an example to differentiate himself. 

“When I was in the opposition, I attended major national programs even when I was criticized by members of my party, but I did that for my people for peace and for the Love I have for this Country. But it is regrettable that others are not doing same,” Weah said.

Is President Weah himself absent to — or not knowledgeable about — the numerous acts of violence meted against opposition leaders by perpetrators claiming loyalty to his political party throughout his administration so far? 

Has the President or his administration ever reached out to the opposition leaders who were attacked to offer an apology and or even reprimand those from his party who committed those acts of violence? Why does the Liberia National Police remain mute when these violent acts against opposition leaders are perpetrated? 

The police has yet to arrest a single perpetrator of violence against opposition politicians Telia Urey and Cornelia Kruah Togba (2019), Botoe Kanneh (2020), Walter Sivili Sisulu (2022), as well as Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Cllr. Taiwan Gongloe (2023). Lest we forget Alexander Cummings was nearly attacked when he visited Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County; and numerous attacks have been meted against Representative Yekeh Kolubah, who has promised an equal and opposite reaction. 

Against the backdrop of such unprovoked physical attacks against opposition politicians — with no accountability and no recourse since, how genuine is the President’s call for peace? 

Mr. President, we want to know, because if you stand at the pulpit and call for peace among fellow citizens and ask Liberians to pray for peace, you are the leader and the people will follow the example of leadership! 

And since you went to church to pray for peace, here’s what the Holy Bible instructs us to do to attain peace. Psalm 122:6 says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem [insert Liberia]; ‘May they prosper who love you.’” Therefore, by praying for Liberia’s peace, with a heart of love, there is a promise of prosperity. 

Also, Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called the sons of God.” Here, there is a blessing that comes when people take action(s) to ‘make’ peace. 

We agree that praying for peace and making peace are everybody’s responsibility. But ‘making’ peace ain’t so easy. 

Mind you, August 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Accra Peace Accord, which brought an end to hostilities from Liberia’s 14-year civil conflict. 

Yet, with dozens of unexplained and unsolved murders, rampant corruption in government, low employment and an increasing population of our youth turning to drugs, it is fair to say we may be on our way to peace, but the attainment of it is still a far way off. 

Sometimes we ask: will we ever get there? 

Mr. President, how can there be peace in Liberia when there is no unity? How can there be unity without reconciliation? How can there be reconciliation without accountability? How can there be accountability without justice? 

According to Portuguese philosopher, Benedictus de Spinoza, “Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” 

Peace and impunity simply cannot coexist. 

When our people have a major problem in the land, we first resort to our elders for direction. Our elders, then, resort to traditional literature — history, folklore or parables — to analogize and reframe the problem, with the hope that someone in the land would catch inspiration and proffer a solution.  

Mr. President, if you truly want to see peace restored in Liberia, we have an idea that is good, possible and very timely to recalibrate our nation on her path to peace. We hope you’ll take heed. Watch this space tomorrow.