Speaker Chambers’ U-Turn

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The tough talking Bhofal Chambers who, during his time in opposition, often repeated calls for the prosecution of corrupt officials naming then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf among them, is today taking steps pointing to an opposite direction. Chambers, now Speaker of the House of Representatives, was once a strong stalwart of the Unity Party and supporter of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but defected to the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) when he and the former President fell out over a situation that perhaps only the duo can best explain.

Since the collapse of this friendship during the first term of Madame Sirleaf, Representative Chambers before becoming Speaker of the House, turned out to be a fierce critic of the Sirleaf Administration and had repeatedly called for prosecution of all corrupt officials, warlords and war financiers in the country. His tough talking stance on critical issues conveyed an impression of a sincere politician and won him wide admiration from the public.

It can be recalled that when the CDC-led Government took over amidst a worsening financial situation, Chambers attributed it to the past administration, arguing that there was a need to bring corrupt officials, including President Sirleaf, to book for their actions against the interest of the country. Today, he has a different view about justice and the establishment of a War Crimes Court for prosecution of individuals who committed atrocities in the country and are still living the best of life, exploiting the economy.

As a representative of the people with a position that makes him the third in line of succession in the country, it is expected that the Speaker would do more listening than talking to be able to gauge and be in sync with popular feelings on controversial issues, particularly those concerns about accountability for past crimes. Disappointingly, instead, he has weighed in with a call for restorative justice, as opposed to accountability for war and economic criminals, arguing that such was/is the preferred option of the Liberian people.

But far from the truth, the Liberian people are instead confused about what yardstick the Speaker used to determine that Restorative Justice was the preferred option of Liberians. But if the Speaker is a Christian, he should make sense of the Scriptures which say that “Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house” (Proverbs 17:13). The resolve of Liberians to remain peaceful in order to maintain national stability does not mean they are not hurt or grieving from atrocities perpetrated against them by warlords and fighters in this country.

The fact that victims of the war are generally reticent does not mean that they are relieved of trauma and psychosocial distress especially in view of pronouncements by ex-warlords and war financiers who continue to threaten that if a War Crimes Court is established, they may return to the bush to resume another phase of war. These warlords and financiers have repeated all the ills which they had accused others of perpetrating that led to civil war. How can they expect the very war victims, over whom they continue to ride roughshod, be content to let go accountability for heinous crimes committed against them?

Speaker Chambers ‘sudden about-face on this all important issue tends to reinforce a generally held perception that Politics is a dirty game. Politics, according to the Cambridge Dictionary is the science of government. Politics, therefore, is not necessarily about deceit, inconsistency and dishonesty; however, leaders’ disregard for moral values and their adherence to corrupt practices have created the unfavorable impression of politics as a dirty game. Such is the kind of negative impression Speaker Chambers utterances appear to be reinforcing.

Liberians in increasing numbers are calling for a War Crimes Court to end impunity and set a precedent that will serve to provide guarantees for non-repetition and ultimately enhance social cohesion. The contrary view held by the Speaker and other warlords in the country speaks to what the public believes is their intent to recreate opportunities for the repeat of injustice, corruption and a devalued sense of morality in the society.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. My advice to those who advocating for war crimes court and other issues is instead of calling for this court, Liberians should take America to task. It was America that armed our people against president Doe because he Doe felt out with them. To remove Doe, America used our own people against the masses. America said lives and properties were going to be destroyed and that the American government was going to rebuild our country. Why can we take them to task instead wrangling among ourselves.

    • Yeah, it’s easy to blame the “white man” for our dumb mistakes. If someone told you to kill your parents for a promise of wealth, would you do it? Don’t Liberians have the ability to think for themselves? Or are you saying Liberians are so cognitively inferior, they would do anything against their own people. I lay the blame for our problems on us. The country is a cesspool of corruption, deceit, and underdevelopment. Young people are dying in Liberia from curable diseases while the elites travel abroad for healthcare. There is something seriously wrong.

  2. National security, which is in toto, the safety and happiness of the people, as mandated By the Liberian Constitution, takes precedence over all others!!! Only fools do not chage! Only fools are bondaged with what we scholars and practitioners of international relations conceptualize as “track thinking” or “tunnell vision!”

    But THE WISE moves, changes, and thinks, and acts, circumspectively! Speaker Chambers, A MAN OF THE PEOPLE, shall go down in history as one of the best of the Speakers of THE HOUSE OF RERESENTATIVES, and one of the greatest LEGISLATORS of all times with whom the nation has been blessed! For national security which is in toto, the safety and happiness of the people, as mandated By the Liberian Constitution, takes precedence over all others!!!

  3. Ben, your frustration is understandable. Take, for instance, the ease with which seventeen young non-commission officers overthrew President Tolbert; then, consider the juggernaut of Taylor’s ragtag rebels; plus the fact that few young ECOMOG peacekeepers returned home and quickly brought down their leaders, it would seem a humongous hidden hand was behind it all. For nothing could best explain how the governments of the Gambia, Sierra Leone and Guinea fell like dominos through first coup attempts by inexperienced soldiers who were stationed in a besieged Monrovia crawling with seasoned foreign spies of all stripes.

    Notwithstanding, Ben, you cannot blame “America” for our warped sense of idealism, which when faced with realism usually goes down the slippery slope of nihilism. (It reminds of a love triangle where one person kills the object of affection to deprive both). Indeed, the demand for any type of justice is never frivolous, but it must be tempered by pragmatism, as the Abraham Lincoln anecdote emphatically informs. In Liberia, pervasive poverty is an imminent threat, yet after new leadership inherits financial pains thereby needing help from ADB to shore-up budget shortfall, a dozen years dormant demand for war crime court snaked its way to the top of our national conversation on means of ensuring equality of opportunities through education, a guaranteed vehicle of social mobility. For, believe it or not, wiser heads have warned that the educational system we erect today will determine tomorrow’s economic progress hence political stability.

    Not surprisingly, we’re learning from comments in FPA that what’s ratcheting up rambunctiousness of the rhetoric has more to do with booting out alleged “war criminals” from government, and less about impunity. Well, my mother – a casualty – refused leaving because her father escaped with her from Sinoe County to Freetown during another conflict when she was a child. I’m a grandfather now, and we’re still strenuously seeking another one. Shakespeare chose all’s well that ends well as title of one of his plays; and, thankfully, legislators have intervened to take excess air from the ballooning bombast and bullheadedness.

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