Since the civil war ended and Liberia transitioned into a rather fragile peace, it is people of other countries who have been championing justice for the impoverished and war affected people.
It is estimated that 250,000 innocent Liberians were killed with nearly the entire infrastructure and social fabric of the nation destroyed.
Besides the destruction caused by the war, Liberians appear to have turned on themselves as a result of prolonged exposure to violence and crime and engendered ethnic hatred.
For instance, bitterness from the war exists between Gio-Mano on the one hand and the Krahns on the other hand. Mandingos and the two major tribes of Nimba, the Gio and Mano, are yet to be fully reconciled because of bitterness from the war.
The same is with the Mandingos and the rest of the tribes of Lofa County.
Amidst this persistent bitterness and animosities rooted in the prolonged civil war, there is an urgent need to do away with bitterness and animosity, but this may prove unachievable until justice takes its course.
In order to help relieve Liberians of the burden of hurt and grief and to provide to a significant existence, guarantees of non-repetition, accountability for past abuses should be a must do as a way of undermining impunity and discouraging the settling of old scores which could lead the nation down the path to conflict once again.
In this regard, the arrest in France recently, of former battlefield commander of the defunct United Liberation Movement (ULIMO-K), Kunti K, is a welcome development.
In 2017, the Belgian Government arrested former National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Artillery Commander, Martina Johnson for her role in the Liberian war.
In Great Britain in 2017, Agnes Reeves Taylor was arrested by the British Government to answer to charges of human rights abuse committed during the civil war.
The United States Government had, by then, already convicted Mohammed Jabateh otherwise referred to as Jungle Jabbah, and NPFL former Defense Minister, Thomas Woewiyu who, just a few months ago, faced trial in the United States.
Dutch arms trafficker, Gus Kouwenhoven has also been slapped with a 19-year jail term having been adjudged guilty of selling arms to jailed former President, Charles Taylor during the war.
The fight for justice in Liberia still continues, however, this time around, with a kind of resurgence never seen since the TRC submitted its report in December 2009. Currently there is a growing wave of international support for accountability for past abuses.
Most notable is that received from US Congressman, Daniel Donovan, who has announced plans to introduce a bill seeking the establishment of a War Crimes Court and the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The quest is for Justice, both restorative and retributive as recommended by the TRC. So far, the call for justice has centered mainly on retributive justice, or the prosecution of war and economic criminals.
This newspaper, however, remains mindful of the compelling need to restore communities to a state of harmony and peaceful coexistence which were ruptured by the conflict, as well as to restore individuals who lost their humanity and committed atrocities during the prolonged civil war.
The term justice means rendering to everyone his due or right; just treatment, requital of desert; merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one’s conduct or motives (1913 Webster).
This newspaper observes that mounting efforts to ensure that victims of the civil conflict receive justice are being undermined by a few Liberians, mainly perpetrators, using scare tactics to silence calls for justice.
They argue that the establishment of a War Crimes Court here means the country will revert to war. As a result of such scare tactics by former warlords, many ordinary Liberians to harbor fears that the quest for justice would serve to undermine peace and foment anarchy.
Such negative perception only serves to entrench the culture of fear and impunity and rewards war criminals with lucrative positions in government. To the disappointment of a growing number of Liberians, the CDC-led Government that once advocated for the establishment of war crimes court to prosecute perpetrators now appears to be linking up with the very perpetrators to sweep justice under the carpet.
This paper, the Daily Observer, believes that in order for this country to achieve progress, its leadership must tackle corruption, address the culture of fear and impunity, promote unfettered access to cold, neutral and impartial justice to all its citizens without bias or discrimination and create opportunities for self-actualization for all and sundry.
We hope the campaign for justice in Liberia will succeed in establishing the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia as recommended by the TRC. This newspaper firmly believes that this is perhaps the best guarantee for non-repetition of the horrors visited upon the Liberian people by individuals who lost their humanity.
For to do otherwise will only serve to further undermine the rule of law and entrench a perception of ‘might makes right’, which will ultimately cause immeasurable harm to the nation and its peoples.
This newspaper strongly supports accountability and the rule of law. It shall not, never ever bend its knees in deference to those who seek to wave the ‘Sword of Damocles’ over this nation and frighten the people into subservience and fear.