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.