It is now almost ten (10) years since the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission submitted its report to the National Legislature. The report contained a host of recommendations for implementation by the Liberian government. The recommendations were intended to help consolidate the gains of the Peace process.
The report, as expected, however generated intense controversy as a number of highly ranked government officials were indicted in the report. Under the Act establishing the TRC, the President of the Republic of Liberia was required to submit quarterly reports to the National Legislature on progress made in the implementation of the TRC recommendations.
Evidently, not much was accomplished in this direction. And although very vigorous and strenuous attempts were made to denigrate the report and consign its fate to the doldrums, much like the Brownell Commission report which had attributed blame for the rice riots to the Government of Liberia.
In its August 7th 2018 editorial titled “It Is Time to End Impunity, Mr. President”, the Daily Observer, commenting on the significance of the 28th anniversary of the Lutheran Church massacre pointed out that although memories of that gruesome incident have since faded, the memorial however served to highlight the urgent need to address the issue of impunity in Liberia.
Reasons for this are because impunity promotes injustice and undermines social cohesion. Aside from the Lutheran Church massacre there were several other massacres committed around the country for which virtually no one has been held to account.
The TRC was able to collect over 20,000 statements from witness and victims summing up their experiences of the brutal civil war. Hopes were indeed high that Liberia and Africa’s first democratically elected female President would have not only endorsed the report but support the implementation of its recommendations.
Rather disappointingly, those hopes were dashed and the nation continued to totter beneath the yoke of impunity. While the guns had indeed fallen silent, the Liberian nation yet found itself battered by tsunami like waves of corruption and the dastardly effects of a fast declining economy.
The election of George Weah as President of Liberia raised new hopes and perhaps opened vistas of opportunity to address the issue of corruption, impunity and accountability for past abuses. In the eyes of many including foreign friends and sympathizers alike, George Weah held promises of being the truest accountability candidate.
This was primarily because Mr. Weah, unlike others, was largely and rightly so, perceived as one prominent Liberian who had stayed above the fray, honestly earned his keep plying his football trade and more because he had earlier been a vocal advocate for peace, justice and accountability and had even served as an ambassador for UNICEF.
However since he ascended to the highest office in the land, it appears his previously expressed commitment and support for accountability has now petered out, although his supporters insist his stance on accountability for past abuses remained unshakeable.
This newspaper holds the view that President Weah, as a widely acclaimed individual for his very high achievements in football cannot afford to tie himself to the sinking fortunes of individuals whose hands reek of the blood of innocent people wantonly killed by armed men.
As a former UNICEF ambassador President Weah carries the hopes of Liberian children on his shoulders, many of whose parents had their lives snuffed out in senseless fashion by the actions of avaricious warlords. This is a moral responsibility he bears and is one he gladly accepted to bear when he accepted to serve as an Ambassador for children.
And unlike many of those children whose hopes he carries on his shoulders, President George Weah was not born in war, knew no war. Although it may be argued that conditions of extreme poverty and its attendant challenges he had to face every step of the way of his life’s journey can virtually be likened to a war of survival, the fact remains that he did not grow in conditions akin to the “boom-boom, rat-tat-tat” life threatening conditions children, youths and adults faced during the civil war.
It is against this backdrop that the Daily Observer welcomes the presence in Monrovia of a convergence of human rights and war crimes advocates to discuss and strategize on ways to place the issue of accountability for past abuses on President Weah’s agenda.
We hasten to remind President Weah that international goodwill towards his government could be undermined by his refusal to act on the recommendations of the TRC. This newspaper, recalling history, can state without fear of contradiction that former President Charles Taylor faced similar challenges during his tenure. It is how he responded to challenges of respect for human rights and the rule of law that may have proved his undoing.
Prominent amongst those human rights actors attending the Monrovia conference is the former US Ambassdor to the UN for war crimes and former special prosecutor of the Sierra Leone Special Court, Stephen Rapp, former TRC Commissioner Massa Washington and Senior staff attorney for the California based Center of Justice and Accountability (CJA), Nushin Sarkarati.
Others include Senior staff attorney of the Minnesota based Advocates for Human Rights, Jennifer Predsthold, Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch, Director of the Global Justice Research Project, Hassan Bility and renowned Liberian Human rights lawyer and advocate Tiawan Gongloe, amongst others.
It is the considered opinion of this newspaper that a clear message is being sent to this government which suggests that there may very well be unforeseen implications for the success of the Weah led government, should it fail to act on the implementation of the TRC recommendations.
We must therefore remind President Weah that the world is watching and the world is waiting to see President Weah dance to the tune of his own drums of accountability he started playing when he chose to serve as UNICEF Ambassador. This newspaper stands convinced that President Weah is a man of peace who will do all within his power to ensure that his policy of reconciliation will be firmly under-girded by Justice and Accountability.
This newspaper therefore welcomes the presence of these distinguished personalities in Liberia at this time bearing a strong message of hope for accountability, and it wishes them successful deliberations.