-As IHRI extends reparations message to Grand Bassa
By Joaquin M. Sendolo
Mabu Flomo, 65, is one person living with the pains of war in Compound #3 Grand Bassa County. At age 39 in 1993, while the first phase of the Liberian civil war was raging, she encountered her misfortune with rebels loyal to the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), who first took her food and ate all of it. Afterward, the next request was to give all the money she had, but responded that “I don’t have money; all I have was the food you people ate.”
Mabu, a light-skinned and medium size woman with well shaped hips, could not be spared for not having money to give the rebels. “After saying I not get (I don’t have) money, I heard a heavy sound in my ears and I fell off to the ground. I was not to myself until the next morning, and all the other people left me there and scattered. When I woke up the next morning without the strength to walk, I saw the big sore on my leg with blood running out, and I came to know that I was not dressed the way I was when they met me. The 20 men that were there used me and up to today my stomach is so, so sore,” she said in a quivering voice.
She had been shot, gang raped and left unconscious.
Since she sustained the injury, her leg is yet to move. She drags it to walk slowly, and someone has to help her walk up an incline, including stairs. “Since then my leg can’t move and the sore was always on me. As for the sore, I had a dream not too long ago and someone told me to use my spit (saliva) on it, and it is how I was always doing it until it died (cured).
Mabu’s husband is blind and unable to work to feed the home. “My blind husband cannot do anything. I drag my leg to go to people’s houses to wash their clothes to get food. I am suffering; let the government help me, let people with good heart come and help us,” she pleaded in tears.
Mabu Flomo is among thousands of war victims with different experiences and ordeals whose problems are yet to be addressed as prescribed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.
In the recommendations, people who encountered conditions such as hers should have free health facilities to be treated, but since the recommendations came out in 2009, not much has been done to address the issue of reparations and justice.
In fact, not many victims and Liberians in general know much about the recommendations of the TRC, and it is against this backdrop that the Independent Human Rights Investigators (IHRI) is taking the message to them.
In Buchanan, Grand Bassa County where the second assembly of war victims took place on September 19, 2020, Adama Dempster, head of IHRI and Secretary of the Civil Society and Human Rights Advocacy Platform, told the victims who were for the first time hearing about reparations that the TRC recommendations prescribe for victims of sexual abuse to have free medical facilities to be treated, schools built for children affected by the war to attend freely, and institutional facilities and homes destroyed during the war be rebuilt.
Apart from reparations, Mr. Dempster said the TRC recommended the setting up of an extraordinary court or tribunal to try people who committed grave human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, but the government has failed to heed to this recommendation even as the United Nations and the African Union are persistently calling for the implementation of the recommendations.
“Gun not firing does not mean Liberia’s problem is solved,” Dempster said. “What caused the war should be addressed, or else the same war will come. People were killed for corruption in 1980 on the poles, but has the corruption finished?”
This question sparked reactions in the hall with victims expressing grief randomly, “They raped us freely in this country, killed our families and relatives, and burned our homes.”
A female participant blurted out: “But the same thing they fought and killed other people and raped us for, they are doing it at the highest level today, and when we protest, our own police we buy uniforms for will be sent to beat and wound us.”
Dempster added: “True, the police have more strength for protesters than going after criminals. When it is about criminals, they claim to lack fuel, vehicle, and weapons.”
The TRC hearing in 2008 with the publication of the recommendations in 2009 has set the basis for many Liberians to believe that everything is over. But Momodu Metzger, a member of the IHRI team, says the hearing was just a minimal portion of the process. According to him, truth and reconciliation takes the perpetrator and the victim to assemble in the presence of elders and other opinion leaders to express his or her contrition over the act done and vowing not to do it again, and the victim forgiving the person and coming together again in friendship.
Metzger said this is not the case with Liberia; rather, some appeared before the TRC and justified their actions without remorse. He added that the Independent National Human Rights Commission has been attempting to conduct palava hut hearings. He, however, differed that bringing victims and perpetrators together should be done by an assembly of elders and opinion leaders; not solely the INHRC as the case is now.