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Ensure Peace, Not Conflict

by News Manager

On Monday, 4th, March, 2024, members of the House of Representatives of the 55th National Legislature began inking a Resolution aimed at the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

The passage of the Resolution of the Court and its subsequent submission to the Senate, the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature, for concurrence occurred after the United States Government, through its Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Beth Van Schaach, as Head of a high-level delegation from the American Global Criminal Justice Sector visited Liberia and held talks with some key Liberian officials.

Ambassador Schaach, during her discussions with the senior Liberian officials, expressed the United States (US) Government’s full support for Liberia in the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court.

The top American Diplomat further highlighted the significance of justice and accountability as it relates to the massive ways of human rights abuses, war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian laws that characterized the decade-long Liberia armed conflict which began in December 1989 and ended in August 2003.

During the bloody and back-to-back civil war, an estimated 250,000 persons, predominately women, children and the elderly were killed, more than a million others internally and externally displaced, while the Nation’s economy which was abysmally destroyed by various former armed warring factions and non-state actors during the conflict is yet to recover to its pre-war state.

However, Liberians have enjoyed peace, serenity and stability 20 years on after the end of the brutal civil war which, in yesteryears, effectively reduced the country to not only a Pariah State among the Comity of Nations and a “problem-child” in the West African sub-region.

We, at The INDEPENTDENT Newspaper are also very much concerned about the latest reactions of some former leaders of the erstwhile armed warring factions in the country’s civil war to efforts by the current Government of Liberia, (GOL), under the Presidency of Joseph Nyuma Boakai, towards the setting up of the much-heralded War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

For instance, Nimba County’s powerful and influential Senator, and former warlord, Prince Yormie Johnson, alias “PYJ,” recently alleged via a local radio station, in Monrovia that President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and the Unity Party (UP) led government are targeting him and the people of Nimba County for agreeing to set up the war crimes court for Liberia.

Voicing out what appears to be his annoyance over the Court’s establishment, Senator Johnson, who is also former leader of the erstwhile armed rebel group, Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), then, a breakaway faction of Charles Taylor’s now dissolved National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), argued that all ex-warlords who took part in the bloody civil war in Liberia were Granted Amnesty at a peace conference held in Accra, Ghana, and attended by former leaders of erstwhile armed warring factions, representatives of political parties and civil society as well as other stakeholders.

Senator Johnson stressed that the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) granted immunity for all former warlords from prosecution for war crimes, although there is no documentary evidence to prove in the CPA granting such for those warlords who breached international humanitarian laws.

Senator Johnson added “I want to tell all Liberians – they should pray for our continued peace, which we have enjoyed for 20 plus years due to the amnesty law that was passed and printed into handbill. The Accra Peace Accord was guaranteed by this amnesty law.”

Asked during the radio talk show as to whether he (Senator Johnson) was afraid about the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, he responded: “It doesn’t scare me; It worries me because it may disrupt our peace. And if there is a reason for disruption, it will be difficult to end.

The Nimba County Senator also revealed that though his name is always mentioned whenever the topic of the War Crimes Court for Liberia is being discussed, there are other ex-fighters who are having meetings to reject such calls.

“Although people mention me every time, there are other generals, other majors, and other officers who protected and worked alongside their ex-commanders. They are holding consultative meetings now as I speak with you,” the former Warlord asserted.

Another ex-leader of a disbanded ex-warring faction, Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), Thomas Yaya Nimely, now Senator of Grand Gedeh County, told a recent news conference in Monrovia that the Liberian Government, headed by President Boakai, must do away with establishing any War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia. He justified that MODEL’s participation in the Liberian civil war was triggered by the desire to defend the people of Grand Gedeh County who were being targeted in the war for elimination by Charles Taylor’s disbanded NPFL.

Senator Nimely stressed, among other things, that all programs on President Boakai’s agenda will be completely undermined if the Boakai led government goes ahead in establishing the War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

Moreover, there are points of serious concern to us, at The INDEPENDENT Newspaper, as it relates to previous pieces of advice made to former President George Manneh Weah, by the erstwhile 54th National Legislature regarding Liberia’s efforts toward the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court.

We recall that on September 19, 2019, former President Weah communicated to the National Legislature, seeking the advice of the Honorable Body on how to advance with the implementation of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), including the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.

In the 54th Legislature’s advice to former President Weah as contained in a twenty-two-page report, the Senate, inter alia, indicated the following:

“That the call for the establishment of an extraordinary criminal tribunal for war and economic crimes committed during the period of the Liberian civil conflict must be examined within the context of the implication of our constitution, laws and processes to determine their compatibility and feasibility of establishing such a tribunal;

“That Constitutional and other legal prohibitions may not easily permit the establishment of said criminal tribunal for war crimes on Liberian soil, most especially that Liberia acceded to the Rome Statute after the end of its (Liberia’s) civil war;

“That domestic economic crimes committed during the period of the civil crisis can only be adjudged and litigated in domestic criminal courts under Liberia’s domestic jurisprudence, and cannot be a subject of an international criminal tribunal.

“This is besides the fact that statute of limitations have since tolled, in according with the laws of Liberia;

“That in line with one of the recommendations of the TRC, the President of Liberia should offer an apology on behalf of the State to the many victims and the people of Liberia in general for its role in the conflict and for the injuries and losses sustained by individuals and communities;

The then 54th National Legislature recommended that “also as recommended by the TRC, the government should without further delay setup a Reparation Trust for victims and communities worst affected by the conflict, to benefit through direct financial assistance or through development programs and projects; and

“That National Palava Hut Program and other programs be implemented for national healing, peace building and reconciliation aimed towards restorative justice” as diametrically opposed to retributive justice.

Why these concerns are vital to the security of Liberia, lots of warlords and warring faction commanders need to answer to some of blatantly human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian laws by even carrying huge massacres outside of frontlines. There are over 70 massacres recorded by the international community that would require serious answers by those allegedly linked.

This is why, we, at THE INDEPENDENT, are pealing with the Government of Liberia and its global partners for people to account of their respective actions of the past. We are still experiencing threat and violence in and around the country for some disagreements; recent Kinjor violence incidents, Kokoyah gold mines protest violence, Yekepa violence against Mittal Steel among others.

We say, without JUSTICE, there will be no serious investment here, and poverty will continue killing our compatriots. We think in such violence society, where former warlords are still holding unto political power, only they and their Asians partners will get more richer, why the citizens live in adject poverty unabated.

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