In a short while from now, President George Weah will be traveling to New York, USA, to attend the United Nations General Assembly. He is also expected to address the Assembly in his debut appearance before that world body. As is expected, President Weah will be making a pitch for international support to Liberia’s development agenda. He is also expected to hold high level discussions with various world leaders on current and unfolding developments, political and economic, in Liberia.
In doing so he will also be expected to speak to growing concerns about impunity in Liberia and the urgent need to address issues surrounding the implementation of recommendations of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report submitted to the Legislature and Government of Liberia in 2009. The TRC Report contains a wide range of recommendations key amongst which are recommendations for criminal accountability and lustration as well as for memorialization and reparations for victims of the conflict.
According to reports, there is growing support internationally and locally for criminal accountability for perpetrators of gross Human Rights abuse during the period of conflict in Liberia. But prior to his departure for the UN General Assembly, President Weah has already dropped hints that his government is indisposed to the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia to prosecute perhaps those bearing the greatest responsibility for the commission of such crimes.
President Weah has placed himself on record expressing his opposition to the establishment of such a Court on grounds that Liberians are too interconnected and the country stands to run the risk of renewed conflict if the court is established. His Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor is also on record, having declared that Liberia has more pressing development needs which outpace concerns for the establishment of a War Crimes Court.
Some supporters of the President have even argued that because President Sirleaf failed to take such a step in over a decade at the helm of power, there is no reason why President Weah should now pick up the tab. That former President Sirleaf failed to pursue accountability for past human rights abuses is an established fact. That she also played a founding and key role in the formation of the NPFL and contributed handsomely to its war efforts is also a fact, although she has since claimed that her support was intended for humanitarian use and purposes.
Her non pursuit of accountability for perpetrators of War and Economic crimes and the reluctance of the international community to pressurize her into doing so may have probably been influenced by the fact that the country, Liberia, was still then in the throes of a prolonged bitter, bloody and senseless conflict. Restoring peace, law and order and economic viability was then seen as the priority. For a country having sunk in the morass of debilitating debt, crippled by broken infrastructure, weak rule of law and ingrained corruption, President Sirleaf’s displayed preoccupation with the restoration of economic viability caught the attention of the international community.
With the backing of a 15,000 well armed Peacekeeping Force, she conveniently shelved the TRC Report and received no lashes for such. Mrs. Sirleaf has, however, left the stage and it is now President Weah’s challenge to answer the call for accountability. Unlike President Sirleaf who by and large virtually ignored the TRC Report without consequence, President Weah has no such luxury of options and neither does he and his government enjoy the favorable disposition of the kind President Sirleaf coddled from the international community despite the runaway corruption that characterized her reign and her non pursuit of accountability for past human rights abuse.
President Weah’s pronouncements, as well as those of top officials of his government denigrating calls for accountability at a time when there are increasing calls, both locally and internationally, for criminal accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuse is a non-starter for any world leader making a debut appearance before the world body.
This newspaper, the Daily Observer, drawing from a wellspring of past experience, stands convinced that President Weah would prove his detractors right should he follow the chameleonic posturing of Speaker Bhofal Chambers, a once fierce proponent of criminal accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuse, who has now made a complete 360 degree turn with his call for reconciliation without Justice.
President Weah should perhaps be informed that the currently hostile disposition and posture of his government to concerns for accountability will only serve to undermine his ability to command; from the international community, the kind of support his government needs in order to succeed. He may not be aware and probably has not been told of the implications of not meeting certain human rights benchmarks which includes accountability for past abuses.
It is the firm opinion of this newspaper that those who argue and who insist that reconciliation without justice is the way to go have provided no assurances and guarantees of non-repetition of the kinds of human rights abuse witnessed in this country by individuals, many of who are now parading the corridors of power and lording over their victims. This nation will not bow to the threats of individuals especially those in high places who are threatening a return to war and mayhem simply because victims of their atrocities are demanding justice.
It is now high time that the hushed voices of those innocent souls whose lives were cruelly taken away by callous and murderous individuals, be heard loudly enough to resonate throughout the length and breadth of this nation. This newspaper recalls that President George Weah had previously served as Peace Ambassador in charge of national reconciliation but his failure to accomplish anything significant was widely attributed by his supporters, to the lack of adequate support from former President Sirleaf.
President Weah had even publicly made a case for criminal accountability. Now, having ascended to the Presidency he maintains that Liberians are too closely interconnected and touching one will touch all. But the Daily Observer is constrained to ask whether such considerations did make any difference at all as Liberians from walks of life were tortured, forcibly displaced, starved, and shot and killed at the slightest pretext by blood thirsty individuals.
If our so-called inter-connectedness which should have spared so many the executioner’s bullet made little or no difference then, why should accountability for their actions now trigger a return to violence and conflict? We, Liberians shall not be intimidated by threats of violence by vile men and women.
Our faith in the great God of Justice remains unshakeable, remaining ever mindful of the words of the Prophet in Deuteronomy 16:20:
“Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.