President Weah’s pronouncements upon his return to Liberia following his address to the United Nations General Assembly has made world news headlines — apparently all for the wrong reasons — because he flip-flopped on his decision to support the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
Prior to leaving for the US to attend the UN General Assembly, President Weah had referred the matter to the Legislature and went a step further by informing the UN body of his intention to seek support for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. The heart-warming message he conveyed to world body has now, all of a sudden been flushed down the drain and it appears that President Weah has closed the door to accountability for past gross human rights violations.
President Weah was quoted on the BBC questioning why now is his government being pressurized to implement TRC recommendations calling for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia when for twelve (12) years the exigency of establishing such a court was virtually ignored by President Sirleaf. In his view, pursuit of national development objectives are of greater priority than the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
What President Weah appears to have forgotten is that for three years he served in the Government of President Sirleaf as a Senator and lawmaker. In his position as Senator he had the responsibility to ensure that President Sirleaf, as lawfully required by the TRC Act, submitted regular quarterly reports on progress made in the implementation of the TRC recommendations. There is no evidence on the record to show that President Weah, then Senator Weah, demanded such compliance reports from President Sirleaf in keeping with his duty and responsibility.
Thus, President Weah’s statement can be considered self-incriminating, even if he is unaware of the implications. Be that as it may, this newspaper is reassured by the action by Legislators, particularly members of the House of Representatives who have secured a majority vote awaiting concurrence by the Senate. Should the concurrence be obtained, President Weah will have no alternative but to approve the bill and if sends it back to the Legislature, it could still vote on the issue and have it passed into law.
However, the Daily Observer is constrained to warn President Weah of the dangers attendant to ignoring world opinion and the calls of his people for accountability. As the Council of Traditional Chiefs emphasized, their unequivocal support for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia was largely informed by the growing levels of impunity in Liberia especially the runaway levels of corruption currently being experienced under the leadership of President Weah.
It must not be forgotten that while the guns have been silenced, pathways to conflict still remain open as long-standing grievances lingering from the 14-year civil war have not been addressed. These have been exacerbated by huge unmet expectations of economic progress which have remained illusive in the face of massive public sector corruption compounded by a deteriorating economy and excruciating economic hardships induced by fiscal indiscipline and extravagant spending on misplaced priorities.
Thus, President Weah is taking a huge gamble and already since his pronouncement, there are emergent signs and suggestions from diplomatic circles that President Weah runs the risk of receiving little or no support for his economic development priorities which he claims place well above considerations for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. He needs to reflect on former Presidents Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe and consider what intransigence and impermeability to world opinion cost them.
When the crunch did finally come, they found themselves bearing their burdens alone.
As leader of this post-conflict nation, President Weah should be mindful of the obligations imposed on him as President and he cannot afford to be remiss. He must do all he can to shed the image of a fun-loving and pleasure-seeking leader far removed from the realities of the very harsh conditions of existence which confront his people.
As this newspaper has time and again pointed out, President Weah needs to do some soul searching and part company with the coterie of advisors around him who, from the get-go have been ill advising him. Just what knowledge, experience and good they have brought to bear on his government remain at best questionable. Under their watch and advice, the economy has taken a nose-dive with corruption at runaway levels amid increased and looming signs of social unrest induced by severe economic hardships.
Truth be told, the Daily Observer is deeply disappointed over President Weah’s volte-face on the issue of accountability for past gross human rights violations however, it is not discouraged as it remains convinced that it is on the right side of history and that one day in the not too distant future President Weah will come to the realization that others have used his hand to pull their roasted palm nuts from the fire. But by then it may just be far too late.
BEWARE, MR. PRESIDENT!