Liberia: President Weah Should Apologize for the Civil War

President George Weah 



As the Head of State of the Republic of Liberia, George Manneh Weah must take the initiative to apologize to the people of Liberia for the civil war. 

Let us explain. 

Did George Manneh Weah play any direct or indirect part in the civil war? No, at least none that can be found on any notable record. The Truth and Reconciliation Report does not mention any participation in atrocities by Weah. 

Yet, we cannot help but remember that tomorrow, July 29, marks the 33rd anniversary of the infamous Lutheran Church Massacre in Monrovia. That gruesome event took place at the hands of forces loyal to the Government of Liberia — what we know as the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) — in uniform. Some survivors even claim that the head of state at the time, Samuel Kenyon Doe, was present during the massacre. 

33 years on, no president or official of the Government of Liberia has ever issued a formal apology for the slaughter of innocent civilians by their own government. This is not just about the Lutheran Church massacre victims, this is about all Liberians. All Liberians suffered some form of loss during the civil war — whether lives, limbs or loved ones. 

But the sights and sounds of notable war-time actors walking about with impunity, while their victims continue to suffer the trauma as a result of atrocities meted out against them during the war is nothing less than excruciating. We now have ex-warlords as some of the most vocal politicians in our Legislature, beating their chests, claiming that they cannot be prosecuted for war crimes. And some even wield major influence over national decisions!

As the current custodian of our nation, Mr. President, you have the moral obligation to lead the charge in confronting Liberia’s painful past and acknowledge the pain and suffering endured by countless Liberians. A few days ago, you stood at the altar at Philadelphia Church and urged the nation to pray for peace. A golden opportunity for peace is here now. 

There can be no better time than now — all politics aside. Let this not be a political gimmick.  

Bear in mind that August 18, 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which established terms among warring factions to end hostilities of the Liberian civil war and to move the country from a transitional to a normalized political process. With the help of the West African community, the United Nations and other international partners, Liberia staggered to her feet to begin a two-year journey to the October 2005 elections. 

It did not seem possible at first but, by the grace of God, here we are today! However, this does not mean we can continue on this journey to peace when impunity continues to be the order of the day in Liberia. The scars from the bloodshed and mayhem are now etched deep into the souls of all Liberians. Yet, the atmosphere of impunity and remorselessness continues to pry open those wounds that are trying to heal with time. 

Mr. President, Liberians did not ask to be thrust into the center of political turmoil and senseless violence. Or for their children to be forcibly recruited as child soldiers, families to be displaced, and communities to be destroyed.   

But the government of Liberia selfishly did not think in such regards and wanted to show political strength instead of attempting to settle decades of deep-seated grievances. 

And yet, what has the government of Liberia — in its glorified continuity — done concerning its contributions to the Civil War? Nothing but continued silence, which is perhaps more egregious than the violent acts themselves. 

Does the Government of Liberia believe an apology is pointless, that it won’t change anything?

The Liberian government was complicit in unspeakable human rights abuses including extrajudicial executions, rape, and torture.  This systematic violation of human rights cannot be forgotten or swept under the rug, Mr. President.  

After all, isn't it the responsibility of a government to ensure the well-being and safety of its citizens?  But during that blood-soaked chapter of the country's history, the Liberian government failed to do just that and, in some cases, vanished into thin air when rebel forces advanced, leaving millions vulnerable and bearing the brunt of the chaos. 

And if you think that because you had no personal role in the atrocities prevents you from taking the lead in the process of national reconciliation and healing, this would be the biggest mistake of your destiny. 

Starting July 29 (the anniversary of the Lutheran Church Massacre) to August 18 (the anniversary of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement), there are a total of 21 days. Twenty-one days of Reconciliation!

Make the first move, Mr. President! Let the people hear you say the words, “On behalf of the Government of Liberia, I am sorry...” It might not immediately erase the horrors of the past, but it is an important step toward acknowledging the immense suffering caused by the conflict and the government’s role in it. 

Perhaps, after you have made this important move, those who felt too proud to apologize for their crimes against humanity would follow suit. Before you know it, we could see the ripple effects of reconciliation across the length and breadth of Liberia. 

Mr. President, a nation that refuses to acknowledge its mistakes is doomed to repeat them. The escalating rate of drug addiction among our nation’s youth is a prime example.  It is time to break the cycle and forge a brighter future for Liberia, one built on compassion, justice, and accountability.

For the sake of all those who perished needlessly, please apologize.