While describing their deaths as a great loss to the country, the President branded those who perpetrated the act against them as “cruel and indiscipline characters.”
The President spoke solemnly Wednesday, March 12, at several sites, including Carter Camp in Firestone, Margibi County; St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on 14th Street in Sinkor, Monrovia, where thousands of Liberians and other nationals were massacred.
President Sirleaf said the deceased would forever be remembered as the nation moves forward with peace, development, reconciliation and the rule of law.
“May their memories remain with us as we move our country forward,” President Sirleaf said in a very solemn tone. “Never again, should we as a people use this approach to solving our problems,” she added.
Speaking on Decoration Day, a national holiday, set aside by an Act of the Legislature to remember the dead, the Liberian leader described it as a sad day for the country and called on Liberians to reflect on the price paid by their fallen counterparts. Decoration Day, which is celebrated nationally on the second Wednesday of March every year, was passed into law on October 24, 1916.
Accompanied by some of her Cabinet Ministers at these massacre sites, President Sirleaf urged Liberians to say no to violence and indiscipline, acts which do the nation no good.
The President’s visit to those sites, where innocent women and children were murdered in cold blood, was organized by authorities of the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC).
The Commission is clothed with the mandate of implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Report. One of the focal points in the TRC’s recommendations is highlighting these massacres.
Also speaking was the head of the Commission, Justice Gladys Johnson, who said taking the Liberian leader around to the sites, was her Commission’s own way of remembering the murdered, innocent Liberians and other nationals, who were killed during the country’s crisis by various warring factions.
“Never again should we as a people resolve our differences in such a manner,” Justice Johnson said echoing the President. The former Supreme Court of Liberia Associate Justice added: “These Liberians buried here should not have been killed in this brutal manner. This was a violation of their constitutional right to live.”
According to the INHRC’s Chairperson, her Commission is saddened as they reflect on those killed and vowed to ensure justice and reconciliation for all victims through its work.
Commissioner Johnson then called on Liberians to embrace peace and always live up to things that are right. “Peace should prevail,” she told Liberians. “With this dark past, it is our hope that we can all live in accordance with the rule of law.”
Officials of the Commission were later joined by Vice President Joseph Boakai, when they visited the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Sinkor, Carter Camp in Firestone, and Duport Road in Monrovia. All of these places are areas that massacres took place. Another area the team visited was where five Catholic Church nuns were murdered.
The Liberian leaders also visited the graves of former Liberian Presidents Samuel K. Doe, William V. S. Tubman and William R. Tolbert among others.
Records show that over 600 Liberians (women and children) were murdered in cold blood by armed men at the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, while another 300 were killed in Carter Camp. However, accounting for the total number of innocents who died in these massacres in other parts of the country during the years of civil conflict might not be accurate, as some have calculated the total figure to be somewhere around 200,000 to 250,000.
INHRC vs TRC’S Recommendations Implementation
The Independent Human Rights Commission boss, Justice Gladys Johnson also stated that the Commission under her leadership was poised to work vigorously in ensuring all recommendations contained in the TRC report are implemented.
If her words are to be taken seriously, then she must be prepared to collide with some of her bosses, including those in the National Legislature and the Executive Branches of government.
Included in Cllr. Jerome Verdier’s TRC recommendations submitted to the Liberian Government, is the barring of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and others from all political offices for 30 years.
Some political and social analysts feel this might not hurt President Sirleaf as she is now over 75; by the time she leaves office in 2018, she would have reached the age of 79.
Speaking further, Commissioner Johnson assured Liberians they would feel the impact of the Commission under her leadership. “However, we must first put into place structures and raise the necessary funding required for us to achieve this task,” she added.
The former Supreme Court Associate Justice stated that in order for the Commission to run effectively, a total of US$5million was needed each year for its operations.
She disclosed that currently there were no functional departments at the Commission, even though the Act creating the Commission calls for those departments to be functional. She blamed this on low budgetary allotment from the Government of Liberia.
“The Act calls for five departments, but these departments are not really functioning the way they should. Some do not have staff, while others do not exist due to low funding.”