Fear has gripped the city of Monrovia since the pronouncement by ex-Generals of defunct warring factions at an organized press conference warning that should Montserrado District #10 Representative, Yekeh Kolubah, fail to turn himself in to those Generals within 72 hours to account for statements allegedly made against President Weah, they will have him apprehended by any means, implying the use of force.
The Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia (SEWACCOL) has since become seized of the matter and has reacted accordingly. In a statement issued following the press conference held by the ex-rebel Generals, SEWACCOL said “The loud silence of the Weah-led Government to what appears to be the remobilization of a militia command represents a callous endorsement of the alternative use of militia force against critical voices, and a threat to Liberia’s fragile peace.”
SEWACCOL further declared that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations of 2009 submitted names of warlords and perpetrators who committed horrible crimes during the country’s 14-year civil war, and three of the ex-Generals issuing orders and threats against Yekeh Kolubah and talk show host Henry Costa are named in that report.
The war crimes court campaigners in the statement recalled that: “In 2017, President George Weah campaigned on the platform of change and promised to reconcile the country from its egregious war time experiences, but his immediate non-condemnation of such a blatant act on the part of the ex-warlords, suggests a political alignment, or a nod of approval that encourages the warlords to feel empowered and legitimatized,” adding, “Such silence breeds fear of Liberia’s dark past, and questions Mr. Weah’s commitment to unifying Liberians, strengthening the peace, and moving the country forward.”
The campaigners also recalled that the reemergence of ex-Generals of the Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) contravenes the rationale of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) in 2004 and 2005, which dissolved all warring factions.
The group added that “The ultimatum by ex-militia Generals to Representative Yekeh Kolubah to have him summoned to their command suggests lack of respect for the rule of law of law and steady decline of Liberia’s nascent democracy to militia rule.”
According to them, the unity of purpose demonstrated by these ex-Generals suggests the existence of a parallel but shadow military command and control structure alongside the newly built Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and signs suggest that the CDC led Government appears inclined more likely than not to use this force to sanitize the political environment by clamping down on opposition and other critical voices all to ensure a CDC monopoly on power.
It can be recalled that on April 16, 2018 some ex-Generals of the defunct NPFL, LURD, MODEL and others loyal to the government of convicted and jailed former President Charles Taylor held a press conference, giving an ultimatum to Representative Kolubah to turn himself to their office or face an arrest.
They also issued a stern warning to Henry Costa and other Liberians planning a peaceful protest scheduled for June 7 this year to be careful and abandon the planned protest or face the consequences of whatever that may occur.
One of them, ex-General Ofori Diah, said, “President Sirleaf used to give us presents for seasons, and President Weah doing it for us should not be something that Yekeh Kolubah will go against to demean our character.”
Since the ultimatum was announced by the ex-Generals, Rep. Yekeh Kolubah’s residence in the Old Road Community in Monrovia has been occupied by hundreds of supporters who are also warning that any attempt on the part of ex-Generals to arrest him would be resisted.
Prior to the ex-Generals taking the airwaves for the first time since the end of the war, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, according to media reports, had held a meeting with former Generals of defunct warring factions under the guise that they were forming a non-governmental humanitarian organization.
In a live broadcast, Nathaniel McGill is heard saying, “If Yekeh Kolubah feels that my meeting with ex-General is wrong, then, he himself should not be in the Legislature because he is also a rebel. I am the head of this country, and I can meet with anybody and I don’t regret”. Since the pronouncement went viral, the Government is yet to come out with a statement distancing itself. This has given rise to fears that government is using the ex-Generals to scare and intimidate protesters and opposition figures.
And according to observers, this can explain why the streets of Monrovia are virtually empty, almost completely deserted after dark in a city that has been without electricity for years and which has become prone to rising crime and insecurity.
This story was done in collaboration with the New Narratives as part of its West Africa Justice Reporting Project.