“TRC Went to Court, Left Court for Palaver Hut”

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Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

— Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Claims

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has trashed reasons for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia, suggesting that the matter had already been decided at the level of the Supreme Court which reduced the matter to that of a Palaver Hut engagement.

In a television interview with Al Jazeera journalist, Mehdi Razzan Hassan, Madam Sirleaf said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s findings and recommendations were taken to court, tested, and later given the green light to be reduced to palaver hut discussion items.

“The TRC has gone to the court, it has left the court and has transformed into a palaver hut,” she said.

According to her, now is not time for reawakening old wounds but dialogue in order to strengthen the country’s peace and rebuild its broken structures and systems.

“The process of contrition and forgiveness and all of that has started so I don’t care about what you say,” she sharply replied to Mehdi Razzan Hassan, a British political journalist and author.

Before she assumed the Presidency in 2006, the TRC had already been formed in 2005 with Commissioners appointed by Transitional Chairman Gyude Bryant following extensive consultations and a vigorous vetting process by local and international actors.

Thus, it was on May 12, 2005 when the Liberian Transitional Legislative Assembly enacted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act establishing the Commission and detailing its mandate.

The TRC was established to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation,” and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

Addressing herself to the TRC recommendation banning her and others from holding any public office in the country for a period of thirty years, she told the journalist that he was not informed of the country’s post war history and so he should forget about discussing it.

“Maybe you are not updated about what is happening in that country. Maybe you forget that after that came out, I won two elections. That went to court my dear. It’s like you don’t have enough information for the things you are saying. It is really unfortunate. This matter went to the court. I did not put it there,” Madam Sirleaf explained.

Sirleaf said this is no time to revisit the ugly past, which has brought the country and its people to the terrible stage it has gotten to. However despite her failure to address accountability concerns during her tenure and her current stance opposing the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia, public outcry has continued to mount with victims demanding justice and an end to impunity.

According to US State Department and other local and international human rights organizations, access to justice remains a key weakness in the country’s justice system which is stymied by corruption. This situation has led to a general loss of public confidence in the country’s judicial system, according to various human rights reports.

Moreover, the lack of accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuse has led to a growing wave of calls for accountability which, in the view of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is necessary to sustain peace and foster reconciliation, one that is based on justice.

It can be recalled that the Human Rights Committee, in its concluding observations in 2018 on the initial report of Liberia, noted with regrets the very few steps taken to implement the bulk of the TRC recommendations, including the fact that alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes mentioned in the TRC report have not been made to account.

Recently, Yacoub El Hillo, Resident Coordinator and Country Director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and Uchenna Emelonye, Country Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, observed that Liberia’s hard-earned peace can only be sustained if victims are given justice by having people who committed human rights abuses made to account for their deeds.

Unlike President Sirleaf who maintains that the quest for accountability would reopen old wounds, “The UN strongly believes that addressing the question of accountability is essential to achieving long lasting peace and fostering reconciliation, and it was once said that accounting for past actions is an important element of healing and reconciliation.”

Those were the words of UN Resident Coordinator Yacoub El Hillo when he addressed a meeting of lawyers recently. He further stressed that: “Accountability was among the first steps towards transforming relationship at different levels,” assuring that “the UN is committed to helping the government and people of Liberia in their quest for lasting stability, peace and reconciliation.”

El Hillo added that all Liberians have the right and opportunity to discuss and agree on whatever restorative mechanisms they choose to adopt to bring closure to this important question, noting, “The mechanism needs not come from outside, and may not be set up outside, but can come from right here.”

The UN resident coordinator is supported in this view by the Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Uchenna Emelonye.

According to Emelonye, Liberia can achieve true national healing, enduring reconciliation and sustainable peace if the government and partners including civil society organizations ensure that perpetrators be held to account.

“The position of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is that all actors, led by the government, must ensure accountability for past crimes,” he stressed.

Referencing the TRC final recommendations, Emelonye said it is important to note that the Accountability framework for Liberia has been fashioned by the report of the TRC of 2009. It was on this basis, according to him, that the Human Rights Committee, in its concluding observations in 2018 on the initial report of Liberia, expressed regrets for the very few steps taken to implement the TRC recommendations, including the fact that alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes mentioned in the TRC report have not been brought to justice.

More to this, lawyers at a retreat hosted by the Liberia National Bar Association recently, debated issues surrounding the implementation of the TRC final recommendations. Eighty-two (82) lawyers out of ninety-four (94) lawyers voted in favor of full implementation of the TRC recommendations.

In its report, the TRC identified 98 perpetrators it referred to as “Most notorious perpetrators,” eight (8) heads of warring factions, twenty-one (21) persons for economic crimes and nineteen (19) corporations, institutions and state actors.

The 98 perpetrators and eight heads of warring factions were recommended for investigation and prosecution along with the 21 persons and 19 corporations. Another 52 people were recommended for public sanction and barred from holding public office, and 54 other individuals and entities were recommended for further investigation.

Meanwhile, public demands for the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia have intensified amid heightened security concerns in the wake of threats to violence against organizers of the planned June 7 protest.

Such concerns appear to be undergirded by fears of a resurgence of armed violence implicit in public pronouncements by ex-generals of defunct warring factions, in last April, threatening to arrest a member of the Legislature.

Meanwhile a leading legal practitioner in Monrovia, (name withheld) has slammed suggestions by President Sirleaf that the TRC matter went to Court where it was decided to revert to the Palaver Hut. According to the lawyer, the former President should be aware that the commission of egregious human rights crimes cannot be a matter of “forgive and forget” and cannot either be reduced to crimes of a lesser category.

According to the lawyer, former President Sirleaf’s reluctance and failure to address is evidenced by statements by ex-rebel generals that she “took care” of them meaning, she provided for their welfare and shielded them and that is why, according to him, the ex-rebel generals had what he called the temerity to publicly issue threats against Representative Yekeh Kolubah.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a just a mess. She is the reason Liberia finds itself in what it is today. She brought war upon her own people. She designed, organized, financed, and executed her plan to bring war in the country just to propel herself to power because of greed. She and her sons(Robert and Charles Sirleaf) stole millions of money as well as our mineral resources(gold, diamond etc.) during her administration. She also sponsored Charles Taylor, as her war general to remove Samuel Doe, the then Constitutional Head of State. In her insatiable greed for money and power, 250,000 of our people died and several million were forced into compulsory exile. Is this wicked old lady saying that after this human rights abuse, the main perpetrators should go Scot free by using the “palaver Hut” method? The “palaver hut” is not the place to settle Human Rights Abuses when 250, 000 of our people were innocently killed. This is not a Liberian matter. This matter concerns the whole civilize society, the whole civilize world, including the Ecowas, the United States, Germany, Great Britain, France, The African Union, the United Nations. This is not a matter of the “palaver Hut’ as this stupid old lady would want us believe. This is a matter involving the international community. Only the Courts are clothed with the authority to adjudicate matters involving Human Rights Abuse. As a known perpetrator of Human Rights Abuse, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has relegated herself to nothing more but nonsensical talks that have no relevance to World history where human rights abuse have always been taken to Court rather than a Palaver Hut. She knows nothing about the African Tradition regarding “Palaver Hut’ matters. The “Palaver Hut” is where Africans adjudicate “Woman and Man palaver” “Debt Palaver” and other simple palavers but not Palaver involving the death of over 250,000 of our people. She must be crazy indeed to make such crass suggestions. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf must be brought to justice to account for the atrocities she brought to bear on the Liberian people.

  2. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s interview with Al Jazeera journalist, M. R. Hassan didn’t go too well. Johnson-Sirleaf seemed to be unprepared. She gave answers that made her to look childish. “It’s a blatant lie….. L i e”. Her act of spelling the word “lie” whe she wasn’t asked, sounded like a 3rd grade student who’s taking a spelling quiz.

    On the issue of nepotism, Johnson-Sirleaf once again embarrassed herself. Although it was known that she offered lucrative jobs to members of her family, she tried to obfuscate that aspect of reality by pretending to say it wasn’t a big deal. Nepotism is wrong. Johnson-Sirleaf knows it.

    As matters relate to a son of hers who was accused of wrongdoing and jailed, Johnson-Sirleaf dithered, and offered a non-sensical exculpatory evidence in order to have him exonerated. Sadly, that didn’t go too well either.
    Wrong is wrong! All of us would like to defend our children when disaster strikes. But it makes no sense to be blunt and defensive when the truth is being sought.

    Throughout the Al Jazeera interview, Johnson-Sirleaf gawked at Hassan the interviewer, and behaved in ways that made a listener to believe she wasn’t interested in doing such a stupid interview.

    Based on the fact that Johnson-Sirleaf left too many questions unanswered during the Al Jazeera interview, it might be a good idea for the War Crimes investigation to reboot. Maybe Johnson-Sirleaf knows something about the Liberian uncivil war that we don’t know. Just maybe.

  3. But if the Supreme Court has ruled that this war crimes issue should be taken care of at the palava hut, the people should only encourage others to go to the palava hut, and let people hear their ear about war crimes court, ear crimes court.

  4. Kanadajaba, what ever your name is, I think you should also be investigated for war crimes. Because you sound like one of them. The war criminals. This thing is too big to be swiped under the carpet. As disappointed as I have been in EJS, this time she nailed her own self to corruption at the Al Jazeera interview. OH My God, this woman is a shame to the female world.
    Not a sermon, just a thought.

  5. The 64, 000 question is, why did EJS and some VIP foreign residents of Mamba Point skipp town pending the June 7 “peaceful and orderly protests” to “last several days” until “grievances are addressed”?

    Reportedly, when the U.S foreign policy establishment wanted to get rid of President Tolbert for not following Tubman’s kowtowing to Washington diktat, they used Liberians as surrogates for regime change on the slogan of rising rice price which continues rising thirty years later. And, coincidentally, last year when President Weah and other African leaders were congregating at Beijing, President Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton was enunciating a policy pivot that will force African leaders to choose between America and China.

    As a grandfather with grandchildren in grade and graduate schools in Liberia, I want to know whether the US is using June 7 as a vehicle for regime change like it reportedly employed April 14 for eventually getting rid of President Tolbert? I ask because of the following:

    a), Collaborative Opposition Political Parties outsourced implementation of their threat to ensure “massive civic action across Liberia” to former rebels; b), 2 demands of arresting and jailing Finance Minister Tweah and CVL Governor Patray rose to 70 miscellaneous demands; c), COP says protests to “last several days”; d), grievances addressed; e), COP defied concerns of International Community which some see as indicative of support from US embassy.

    With fear gripping Monrovia and elites including former President Sirleaf skipping town, our Ambassador in Washington DC should be asking questions at the US State Department. The vast majority Country-Congo poor shouldn’t die like animals again simply for the satisfaction of a rotten rich power like the US. My mother died in one of their power games, so I won’t hush up when a grandkid could be killed.

  6. Zoedjallah,
    I left Liberia before Doe came to power. That means that I wasn’t there when the bloody uncivil war was fought. The war certainly took a toll. Guess what? My oldest sister died during those pitiful years of our country in the Bong Mines area. She was uneducated, and not involved in any struggle. Thousands of innocent people died.

    When I made the point about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, I hope I was not jarring loud enough to turn you off. Even though it’s been over 20 years ago, I think some lessons ought to be learned from the horrendous experience our people unfortunately encountered. To me, it’s not a Palava Hut issue.

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not truthfully respond during the Al Jazeera interview. In my view, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf must be asked more questions. Even if those questions are not related to the uncivil war. For instance, Johnson-Sirleaf served for a 12-year term. During those years or maybe a good portion of those yesrs, the Presidential residence (the Executive Mansion) was untouched. No renovation was done on that building, but it is always protected by armed guards. It doesn’t make sense for the president’s office to have been relocated in the Foreign Ministry. Come on. On a temporary basis due to an emergency, it’s okay.

    Let’s be realistic. Some of the problems that Weah encounters today stem from Johnson-Sirleaf. Liberia is a democratic nation. There are choices. If some people are uninterested in hearing about War Crimes, it’s okay. But, there are some Liberians who want to know what actually happened, who the hardcore perpetrators were and what can done to discourage internal conflicts in the future.

  7. General question……….

    1. What sense does it make for a so-called “peaceful protest” to go on for a few days?

    2. How can any meaningful dialogue be held when the protesters are on the march?

    3. Is this a demand for the government of Weah to turn over power to the Vice President?

    4. Is this a new form of democracy?

    5. So what happens during the march when Weah refuses to meet the demands of the protesters?

    6. How does a protest fix the nation’s economy?

  8. Gentlemen, right now, the former President’s opinions on a war crime court won’t help.

    The urgency comes down to this: If individuals have agency and can alter the course of events, why are over four millions Liberians allowing Henry Costa, few journalists and a handful of politicos, allegedly, under the influence of local Machiavellians and guidance of foreign covert aggression agents holding the nation hostage?

    For Pete’s sake, this government has been in office for less than 18 months and inherited a stinking economy; have we thought of puppeteers pulling the strings and that this probable embrace of chaos won’t happen anywhere else in the sub-Region. During the Transatlantic Slave Trade, some chained slaves jumped into the sea; why then suffer paralysis to the extent of Costa appearing on UL Campus to canvas students for his protest?

    The Department of Justice in the US has reportedly compiled espionage charges for Wikileaks Publisher Julian Assange that could send him to 170 years in jail, never mind freedom of expression. Yet allegedly in Liberia, foreign embassies funneled money to media outlets and talkshow hosts just for relentless rabble-rousing. We are just full of for-nothing big mouth and stupid like backside, it would seem.

  9. Slyvester Moses,
    Are you serious? Do you really believe the people at the US State Department have nothing to do with their precious time but to plot a regime change in an insignificant shithole country like Liberia? How does it help the US Foreign policy if someone like Weah who does not know his left from right were removed from office?

  10. Sincerely speaking, at the beginning of Mr. or Dr. Chambas’ proposal, I was very much in a soft tune of not wanting a war crime court in this native land of mine and us all, but because of the ‘rude and disrespectful behavior of both the ‘self-called’ ex-generals and the arrogant sayings of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, I have totally changed a part of my opinions. Hence, I wish to join those who have suggested the WCC
    in Liberia. I must propose that, anyone to be found guilty, should not only have jail sentence, but pay back every cent stolen from the Liberia and its people. Know ye that, “only fools do not change for the best when they have to”! //Gonyanue Belal/28052019 – Paris, FRANCE

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