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Ex-TRC Commissioner Troubled: Over Dance With Ex-Warlords

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MONROVIA: Few days following assertions by incoming United States Ambassador to Liberia, Mark Toner, that he would work toward tackling cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV), forced child labor, human trafficking, and the legacy of war crimes in Liberia, a former Commissioner of Liberia’s erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Gerald Coleman, has frowned on officials of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the former governing Unity Party (UP), for “worshiping” alleged perpetrators of war crimes during the country’s back-to-back and decade-long civil war .

An estimated 250,000 persons, predominately women, children and the elderly were killed while more than a million others were internally and externally displaced, as the country’s economy which was badly destroyed in the war is yet to recover to its pre-war status.

The TRC, of which Coleman was a Commissioner investigated nationwide the causes, factors and antecedents, among others of the civil war, covering the period (1989 to 2003).

In the Final Report of the TRC, more than 100 persons were identified as those bearing the greatest responsibility for the civil war including leaders of former armed warring factions while commission recommended many others for war and economic crimes prosecution.

Speaking to Journalists in Monrovia, on Monday, October 23, 2023, said politicians who are dancing with former Warlords in the 2023 electoral periods are not prepared to fight acts of injustice when giving state power.

“History expected folks in the Unity Party to give proper significance to the work and resources that went into the TRU report and, more importantly, give merit, dignity, and relief to the souls of our beloved brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who were forced into the spiritual world or into difficult life circumstances because of our collective past inability to resolve social and economic injustice through the rule of law.
“Again, the UP government did absolutely nothing to act upon the report when the United Nations peacekeeping force was in the Country,” Coleman said in interview.
The former TRC Commissioner said he finds it unthinkable to see some members of the opposition community using warlords as key campaigners for the Presidency—the nation’s highest seat of honor.

“Let’s be analytical about the political trend in the country, especially in the opposition where advocacy for war and economic court has been on their lips. Will the TRC recommendations be implemented by VP Boakai when elected President of the Republic or it will be the same old thing during the regimes of Madam Sirleaf and incumbent President Weah?” the former TRC Chair wondered.
However, Coleman has also expressed his disappointment in the present government, headed by President George Manneh Weah, for continuously downplaying the TRC recommendations after high expectation from Liberians to see prosecution of war and economic crimes under his regime but failed.

According to him, the TRC was meant for a retributive justice against those liable for crimes committed during the Liberian Civil War, thereby restoring a true reconciliation among citizens.

However, Commissioner Cole indicated that since President Weah took office in January of 2018, he has failed to implement any of the multiple recommendations as contained in the reports, despite coming under heavy public criticisms and several by civil society and rights advocates at home and abroad.

Weah, 57-year-old came into power promising to create jobs, transform lives and set up the court. But after taking office in 2018, he argued that looking backwards at old crimes would not be the best way to achieve development.
Comparing both Unity Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change ahead of the runoff elections, Coleman said voting for presidential candidates should be based on party line instead of individuals.
According to Coleman, the two parties going into the runoff election have exercised some abilities of governance, with UP twelve years of state power and the CDC six years in power can be used as a yard stick for voters to make better decisions that would be in the interest of the state and people.
Coleman furthered that despite public outcry of the CDC government not doing well in governing the country, but it might serve as lesson for them as a party to do better if a second chance if given them by the voters.
He added that the President is an individual who may have the country at heart but he might be influenced by others around him.

The TRC was a Legislature-enacted institution created in May 2005 under the former Transitional Government.

The Commission worked throughout the first six-year term of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after she was elected President of Liberia in November 2005. The Liberian TRC came to a conclusion in 2010, filing a final report and recommending relevant actions by national authorities to ensure responsibility and reparations.

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