Liberia’s history of recent is largely replete with economic and human rights related crimes. Two debacles, if not checked and corrected, will continue to undermine and erode economic and political advancement of our country. Without efforts by the International Community and Liberians themselves, at home and abroad, to consolidate concrete actions in dealing with these menaces, the revival and restoration of our Country and its weak institutions, will be visited with failure and faltering.
Liberia is sojaundiced and held hostage by forces with heavy burden of war and economic crimes, gallivanting around the political and business platforms where they insidiously rise to power and fame by manipulating our every weak and greedy voter. These warlords and economic plunderers are no longer satisfied with legislative seats; rather, some are now yearning for the common presidency. On the other hand, who can blame them when some of the current leaders wear the golden crown of human blood and ghosts of our civil war?
In a country where war lords and perpetrators of economic crimes are rewarded by system of undermined sovereignty and national integrity, we have fallen prey to the venomous and verminous acts of these plunderers who are busy exsanguinatingus to our very death.
Will we keep rewarding acts of malfeasance?
The trend of globalization in international politics andfightagainst crimes ischanging. First, we ourselves must begin to initiate a prompt stance and seek remedy in collaboration with international partners and institutions. Rewarding these inane vampires (to use Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s words) sends a signal that we are complacent with the state of our minds and national situation. Meaning, “What is wrong with us, is us”. Only by concrete civil and/or legal action, to punish crimes that threaten our very survival that will set the basis for our Country’s affability for international actors to help our situation.
We, intellectuals, technicians, politicians, activists, religious leaders, traditional leaders, etc need now than ever before to demonstrate a cocksure nature and approach tofightingthe ills of war and economic crimes in our national existence. Our real problem is we easily coax each other toward wrong tendencies in our personal interests than harmonizing our differences and resolve towards solving national problems. Liberia’s convalescence, following years of war andgreeted with almost 12 years of economic degradationand erosion, (a period in which we have also witnessed the metamorphosis of crooks, killers and plunderers into Kings, Queens and tycoons) can be midwives into a better society if we ignite justice against crimes that are hunting down our overall progress.
In this business, the powerful crooks and killers will threaten a total State’s collapse and retrogression to war. This is a vain threat intended to delay people’s might and action. Surely public revenge through justice of the law is more urgent than ever before. Sierra Leone, our closest neighbor is a perfect example where people’s power has outweighed the glory of killers and plunder of war.
The global community and their institutions have always offered a hand of partnership, especially if their own interest is involved. For instance, western superposition over the African and sub regional influence saw Nigeria hand over Charles Taylor (former Liberian President). The sub regional political dynamism that has brought strong willed leaders like Nigeria’s Mohammed Buhari, amongst others needs to super pose its own machinery to punish perpetrators of war and economic crimes within the sub region, if West Africa must build on the pillars of an integration of people in a stable environment. We have seen over times that corruption and undemocratic tendencies- bad governance or for Liberia’s situation, worse governance, which undercut the attainment of human security and survival, have all served as recipes for instability in West Africa. We follow the history of a region of coups that later were elevated to brutal civil wars spreading from Liberia like tornado.
Recently, revolutionary forces in Burkina Faso did not only deny long serving Blaise Campaore extension of term of office, but also ejected him off the presidency. This indeed was a bloodless exercise growing out of the people’s power. Eventually, their action has paved the way to hold Campaore accountable for crimes he committed during the untimely murder of Captain Thomas Sankara and others and the deployment of several Burkinabe (who may not be accounted for) in Liberia for warfare assignment during the brutal Liberian civil war. The scourge engineered by Blaise Campaore via Cote D’Voire, we are quite aware, spread to Sierra Leone, and later to Guinea.
Blaise Campaore will/should not go down alone. His Liberian partners that aided him in the Thomas Sankara episode should be called to book. Their political status in Liberia must not deter the sub Region. The Liberian Legislature or Executive mansion therefore provides easy delivery to justice as the Charles Taylor’s case has proven. Abuja, West Africa’s most powerful capitalmust not, in these circumstances provide safe haven for war lords. Already, with credible news filtering around about a list of suspects in the possession of disciplinarian Buhari, one can be certain, that in partnership with other members of the international community, the old man Baba Buhari will help clean some of the mess around here.
Similarly, western partners in whose countries suspected Liberian thieves have deposited huge savings and investmentsare under obligation to demonstrate goodwill. As in the FIFA case, they need to go beyond freezing accounts, to actual arrest and prosecution. America and Europe cannot afford to grant these suspected criminals sanctuary.
The recent harsh interaction/exchanges between the U.S. government (through its Ambassador in Liberia) and the Liberian President over a U.S. human rights report is a welcoming adventure. The U.S. Embassy stood its grounds on the report and daringly challenged the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s government to disprove any aspects of the report. Since then, there has been guilty silence. Silence of course means “consent”. But the U.S needs to go further than just cataloging human rights violations. It needs now, with the stability we have growing out of their support, focus on the setting up of war and economic crimes court to arrest and bring to trial those war and economic vampires. Washington, under the leadership of President Barack Obama needs to exert strong will and leadership here. He needs to follow the good example of former president George Bush who would not take “no for an answer”.
The Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration has to be called to account for the millions it presiding over. Fortunately, at the end of the civil war, ECOWAS commissioned an audit. Based on the audit report, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government prosecuted former Chairman Gyude Bryant and others for economic crimes. This was/is a classic example and demonstration of holding individuals (who hold the public trust) accountable. Her government and others before her must be held accountable.
While this is unfolding, we must note President Sirleaf never attempted to raise the issue of war crimes against anyone. (My subsequent issue will delve into the why).
Where are the Progressives?
Over the years, failed attempt to reach the presidency and other key related positions have baptized many Progressives into the symbiosis problem of self survival, and the see the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration as the last stage of destiny. These group of people who, in the seventies and eighties propelled the society into action on key national issues, are dormant silent like the environment of a mid night grave yard in rural community. “Here too, people are fighting for belly full”, someone lamented to me. “In Ellen’s case, she is a master player”, one political observer told me. “She has them to herself and makes good job offers and controls their thinking and lips.
One has to think now about resting with his/her fat salary and benefits, of course prestige too, then to open your mouth and you are axed out. With age weighting them (Progressives) down, where else can they comfortably survive? It is not in their younger ages when they could run to Europe or America and cut eight hours to earn living, I dare them now.
The Progressives sit silently around issues like “Level the mansion, we will rebuild it”, “I contributed USD$10,000 for children welfare”. The corruption deeply rooted and now vampire, but in this game, who will cast the first stone?
The 2017 presidential elections and it results could spark renew tension amongst war lords and very powerful tycoons. The rivalry between and amongst war lords, tycoons and stand by forces, if not checked by the international community who have dumped in their millions and the sub region that has borne the burden of human and material loss, Liberia will fail. Abuja has much to do with this, because if trouble breaks out, she bears the huge costs of it.
The reasons I stress the urgent involvement of the international community or the sub region, Liberians and their institutions are weak, porous and vulnerable. Liberia’s former minister of Justice Cllr. Christina Tah, in her letter of resignation declared “President Johnson-Sirleaf herself is the chief under miner of the rule of law”. Notmuch is desirable in our judicial system. Shielding corrupt officials and gross human rights violators has been at the core of the present government gimmick. It fears if it “pulls rope, rope will haul/pull bush”.
Today, for example major perpetrators of human rights are comfortably seated in strategic places in Government. In the legislature are seated indictees of GAC audit reports for allegedly plundering thousands and millions of State funds. They are comfortable as long as they dance to the rhythm of the power that be. Can’t we see danger ahead?? I surely do see! Open your eyes!!
Sam K. Zinnah
Former Chief of Staff and Policy advisor
Office of former Gbarpolu County Senior Senator
J.S.B. Theodore Momo, Jr.