The recent call by Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia as contained in the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, although belated, is nonetheless welcomed.
There are suggestions from some quarters that Mayor Koijee’s statement was induced by expressed concerns by US Ambassador McCarthy about runaway corruption and a growing culture of impunity as well as the apparent lack of official resolve to implement the TRC recommendations.
The TRC was established through an Act of Legislature in 2004 and began active work in 2006, charged with a mandate to examine the root causes of conflict in Liberia, produce a historical narrative of the root causes of the Liberian conflict, and make recommendations for Institutional Reform, Accountability and Reparations.
The TRC recommended, amongst a host of recommendations, the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia to try those responsible for the commission of atrocities and economic crimes. The TRC also identified a number of institutions, economic institutions and foreign governments that aided and abetted the commission of war and economic crimes in Liberia.
It was generally hoped by most Liberians that the TRC recommendations, especially those concerning Criminal Accountability, would have been implemented as a way of breaking the culture of impunity. Although both President Sirleaf and her successor George Weah had committed to the implementation of the TRC recommendations, they reneged and, up to present, not a single individual has faced prosecution — neither for the commission of war crimes nor that of economic crimes.
It was also hoped that the United States of America would have lent full support to the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. Most Liberians felt that way convinced in the belief that the abduction and murder of 6 Americans, five of them Catholic nuns, would not have gone with impunity.
Unfortunately the killers of those Americans as well as those who sponsored them have so far gone with impunity. Most Liberians spoken to have expressed the opinion that if the Americans really wanted justice for the murdered Americans they would have supported the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
While it is true that a handful of perpetrators have been deported from the US to Liberia, they have not been deported to facilitate criminal prosecution for war and economic crimes. Some of those deportees even occupy high offices in government while others are members of the Legislature. All this is possible because of the culture of impunity which eventually leads to disrespect for the rule of law and hastens a general and total breakdown of law and order.
Such is the situation that obtains today. Official mismanagement and outright theft of public resources have become more of the rule than exception. Officials of this government, many of whom just a few years ago were virtually penniless, are today filthy rich and they do not fail to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth in the faces of the people.
In view of expressed concerns by the US Ambassador and other US officials about corruption and what they see a growing culture of impunity which inevitably leads to a breakdown of law and order, the Daily Observer appeals to the Government of the United States of America to help Liberians overcome the menace of corruption and impunity by doing all it can to assist in the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
The establishment of such a court with the full assistance of the US government will help reassure Liberians that the US is an ally on which it can count and depend. In 1990, according to many Liberians the US betrayed its traditional ally when it dispatched a flotilla of ships, troops and planes to Liberia to evacuate their nationals, after which they idled offshore and watched the nation burn.
As Charles Taylor would recall later, just a single US helicopter gunship hovering in the skies above Monrovia with loudspeakers ordering the leaderships of the ragtag rebel armies besieging Monrovia to halt their action, was all it would have required to stop them in their tracks. But sadly it never happened.
The Daily Observer shares the opinion of most Liberians that the US can do much more to help Liberia succeed in combating the scourge of corruption and impunity. Current outlook of the 2023 elections appear bleak with rising public suspicion.
Former NEC Commissioners, James Fromayan and Jonathan Weedor highlighted these concerns in a press conference held recently. They noted with concern what they see as the impartial conduct of the NEC, especially its head, Madame Davidetta Browne Lansanah, specifically in the cases of Brownie Samukai and the current dispute in the CPP.
Other expressed concerns were the proposed Biometric vs Optical Mark voter registration system, the cleanup of the Voters Registry, the establishment of an ad hoc panel of jurists to adjudicate election disputes and thereby relieve the NEC of its current role as Judge and Jury, which has proved to be very controversial and conflict inducing.
In view of these concerns, the Daily Observer calls on President Weah to do all he can to ensure the creation of a level playing field for elections. Those elections and the results will significantly determine whether the country will once again slide into violence or whether the nation will be firmly placed on the path to sustainable democracy.
Finally we call on President Weah to officially request the assistance of the International Community including the United States of America to assist in the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia, and to ensure the creation of enabling conditions for the conduct of free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2023.
We believe that the United States can do much by lending its weight and support to the attainment of these national imperatives.