About a week ago on July 29, worshipers, friends and relatives gathered at the Lutheran Church in Sinkor in observance of the 28th anniversary of the Lutheran Church Massacre. Over 400 persons were killed in that tragic event 28 years ago. The massacre was condemned worldwide for its savagery and brutality.
The massacre was preceded by the June 4, 1990 armed attack against unarmed civilians who had gathered at the then UN Compound on Tubman Boulevard in search of safety, which proved elusive. Several individuals were killed in that incident. Fast forward to 2018, twenty-eight long years after the brutal massacre that claimed so many innocent lives.
Memories have since faded and an entirely new generation has grown up with little or no knowledge of the atrocities that occurred on that fateful night. More importantly, only one individual so far is being held to account for the July 29, 1990 gruesome atrocity carried out at the Lutheran Church. What the Memorial served to highlight, however, is the urgent need to address the issue of impunity in Liberia.
Why? Because impunity promotes injustice and undermines social cohesion. Further, in addition to the Lutheran Church Massacre, there were several other massacres committed around the country for which virtually no one has been held to account. This newspaper recalls for instance the Bloh Town Massacre in Rivercess County where, according to eyewitness accounts, over 400 men women and children were hacked and clubbed to death by fighters of the Liberian Peace Council.
There is also the case of the Sinje Massacre in Grand Cape Mount County, carried out by fighters of the United Liberation Movement (ULIMO) in which over 300 persons were killed. In Lofa the Barkedu Massacre, where over 200 persons were killed comes readily to mind. Similarly, too, is the Carter Camp Massacre near Harbel where over 400 persons were killed by fighters belonging to the Charles Taylor-led National Patriotic Front (NPFL).
In Bong County, the Phebe Hospital and the Kpolokpala Massacres carried out by the NPFL also come readily to mind. Not forgetting the River Gee County Glaro Massacre and countless other massacres carried out around the country by the various armed groups whose leaders have gone with impunity.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up, as part of the 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement to probe past abuses, completed its work and submitted its report in 2009. The report included a host of recommendations, amongst them the setting up of a National Palaver Commission and an Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia for accountability purposes.
Public expectations that the past government would have endorsed the report and implemented its recommendations fizzled out as it became more apparent by the day that the government did not have the gumption to implement the recommendations. The shelving of the TRC report and the non-implementation of its recommendations, in the view of this newspaper, has served to further entrench impunity.
Since the submission of the TRC Report in 2009, millions of dollars over the years have been virtually stolen from the nation’s coffers at no risk to the perpetrators. Corruption rather than being a thing of the past appears to be thriving even in this new government. State functionaries, in charge of conducting negotiations on behalf of the government, instead act in their own personal interests in total disregard of the law and are handsomely rewarded for doing so. This was vividly demonstrated in the case of the ExxonMobil oil Block 13 deal.
Moreover, what can explain, for example, the act by a Supreme Court Justice to order the suspension of the reading of a jury decision (verdict) from the lower Court, when the matter had not gone on appeal to the Supreme Court? And to what can one attribute such action if not to the culture of impunity which allows for such transgression of the law by big shots?
Also how else can one explain why the widow of the late Milad Hage is being shortchanged in such blindsided fashion by the Courts of the Republic which has failed to avail to her justice? And what can explain the fact that known perpetrators of gross human rights abuse are parading the corridors of power and lording over the very people whose rights they once abused?
In the view of this newspaper, it is impunity which is killing the soul of the nation and dragging it down into the abyss. The lessons of the brutal public executions of 1980 and the subsequent horrors of the 14- year civil conflict appear to have been lost on Liberians and there is no telling what the consequences of such amnesia could mean.
For us at the Daily Observer, we consider it a sacred duty to remind all Liberians of the inherent danger involved in tolerating impunity. In this regard, President Weah’s recent call for a review of all concession agreements signed by his predecessor is a step in the right direction. The setting up of the Special Presidential Committee to probe the Global Witness allegations of bribery of former officials was also a right step in the right direction.
Disappointingly, President Weah has yet to act on the Committee’s recommendations calling for restitution. It is he, of all persons who has the foremost responsibility to set positive standards and examples to which others may aspire. As President King reminds us, “the fish begins to rot at the head”.
Should President Weah fail, at his peril, to act to tackle impunity, it will certainly come back to haunt him. IT IS TIME TO END IMPUNITY MR. PRESIDENT!