Distressed war victims in Bong County have expressed disappointment in the government for its failure to take necessary actions towards addressing justice and reparation for them that is embeded within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (TRC).
Though there has been pressure from human rights campaigners and rights advocates for justice, it seems like the government is not attentive to their plights to take tangible steps towards addressing the issues of justice and reparations for war victims. Since the Liberian civil war ended 17 years ago, the need for justice has not been of greater concern than now.
Expressing their concern in a depressed and frustrated mood in Gbarnga, Bong County last weekend, the war victims said those who committed atrocities against them are those in state power enjoying the country’s wealth while they are left to in abject poverty.
TRC was created to investigate gross human rights violations including abductions, killing, and torture that were perpetrated during the civil war.
The down-play of justice after the civil crisis has led war victims with different terrible experiences to continue to live with the psycho-social trauma in the absence of reparations recommended in the TRC Report. The report was agreed upon by warlords, sponsors of war and civil society and women groups in Ghana, where the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed in 2003.
In the TRC recommendations, all war victims should have free health facilities to be treated, free education, financial assitence, community development and infrastructures, and program of compulsory free primary and secondary education for at least 30 years, but since the recommendations came out in 2009, not much has been done to address the issue of reparations and justice.
The TRC recommended a reparation program of approximately US$500 million to be implemented within a 30 year period through the Trust Fund for all victims.
Section 17.1 of the recommendations states: “TRC recommends reparation in the form of psychological, physical therapeutic, counselling, medical, mental health and other health related servives for all physically challenged individuals who were incapacitated as a consequence of the civil war to rehabilitate them in returning to normal living utilizing the full potentials of other human resources”
These victims are living with the terrible experience they saw during the war; some of whom lived in the same locality were the incident occurred because they do not have the means to relocate.
Victims and rights defenders have aired their views expressing how the Liberian Government after war has prioritized perpetrators under different programs giving them the opportunities for financial empowerment while affected victims are left to suffer.
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) with funding from the Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund (TJLF) is taking the message to them to document their stories.
Under the project titled ‘Promoting Justice, Accountability and Reparation for War Victims in Liberia’ the TJLF will record and document to tell the untold stories of the brutal civil war.
Joseph P. Flomo of Garmu District #4, Bong county, said “When the issue of the TRC reports came about, I was so happy because they told us that people who committed crimes during the war will face justice, but since then we are yet to see them prosecuted.”
Joseph, narrating his ordeal during the war, said that in 1994 while in school, rebels entered their campus and took them to the frontline and while trying to escape, he got shot in his left hand. He said because there is no means for him to go to the hospital for advanced operation, so there was no option but to cut off his hand. “Charles Taylor was not the only one who killed that he will be in jailed. Why can’t others face justice the same way?”
Simeon Mulbah of Kpolopalah District #2, Bong County, said justice should be served for all those innocent lives that were taken away.
Rev. John Kennedy of Kpolokpalah also said since the massacre in that town, nobody has ever come to provide assitence to them. “ Our town was burn down and our people were killed, and up to now we have not gotten justice,” he lamented.
According to him, since his experience he has not been able to recover from what he saw. “My brothers were killed in my presence. I saw rebels chopping humans with cutlasses and axes.”
Adama Demster, head of IHRI, said “We have come today to encourage you so that we can all work together to air your voices and put the government’s feet to the fire so all war victims can get their benefits.”
He said as human rights defender, it is displeasing to still see the government failing to fully implement all of the provisions within the report. “The TRC documented practical things that happened during the war and since then nothing has happened to address crimes that were committed. It’s so much heartbreaking and as a human rights advocate we will not rest.”
Mr. Dempster urged the victims to work along with them in telling their stories so that they can be able to get justice and reparation. “Once the TRC report has not been addressed, we will continue to work and empower you”.
Admonishing them, he said “Don’t ever get tired and allow your story to end with you. We want you people to join us so that we can speak on your behalf”.
Additionally, he said: “We have already started a process called ‘Bong County War Victims because up till now nothing has happened for you and it’s a shameful thing for us and on the part of government for its failure to help war victims. When you have knowledge on the TRC report, you will be able to vote wisely”.