Those skeletal remains deserve justice

The United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL on Friday, 17 February handed over to the Government of Liberia partial skeletal remains of 27 individuals believed to be victims of possible extrajudicial killings by armed groups during the country’s civil crisis in or prior to 2003.

According to UNMIL, the remains were recovered from seven locations in Liberia during a joint investigation “Operation South” conducted by the United Nations Police (UNPOL) and the Liberia National Police (LNP). The investigation reportedly opened in January 2004 following the discovery of remains in Maryland and River Gee Counties, respectively in southeast Liberia.

“Operation South” was reportedly conducted pursuant to recommendation in a report by the United Nations Secretary-General (S/2003/875) that UNMIL and Liberian authorities collaborate to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law and other serious crimes. The exercise gathered information and evidence, including declarations from witnesses, and found that the remains may be related to possible extrajudicial killings carried out by various Liberian armed groups in or before 2003. 

We understand the remains were interred over the weekend in a designated, marked grave at the Disco Hill Cemetery in Margibi County, pending further investigation.

We hope this would not be the end of the matter, because thorough probe should be conducted by the state to establish exactly when those killings were committed, and by whom or which armed group or groups during the civil war.

The skeletons of those victims and no doubt their relatives, who are yet to be identified, would be delighted if perpetrators or their assassins were booked and brought to justice.

The 27 victims could be just a tip of the iceberg regarding the depth of extrajudicial killings that were executed across Liberia during the civil way, including the infamous massacres in 2003 on the Meher Bridge along the Grand Cape Mount highway in western Liberia and the Todee Massacre in the 1990s in an area that was heavily contested by Charles Taylor’s NPFL and troops of the disbanded Armed Forces of Liberia.

Summary of final report released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia indicted nearly all of the armed groups that participated in the country’s civil crisis, including the disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Liberian Peace Council (LPC), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), United Liberation Movement (ULIMO), Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), United Liberation Movement-K (ULIMO K), Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), and United Liberation Movement-J (ULIMO J), among others.

The Commission established, among other things that: “All factions engaged in armed conflict, violated, degraded, abused and denigrated, committed sexual and gender based violence against women including rape, sexual slavery, forced marriages, and other dehumanizing forms of violations”; and stressed that a form of both individual and community reparation is desirable to promote justice and genuine reconciliation.

It is from this background that we strongly think and recommend here a need for penalties against perpetrators and some level of reparations should be paid to victims’ families or communities and regions to minimize the depth of hurts and forgiveness in our society.

The unscrupulous deals of Liberian politicians

A damning report by the international environmental watchdog, Global Witness on Liberia’s forest sector has indicted powerful politicians here for evading taxes, lying, cheating, plundering and profiting from the country’s forest.

The report reveals that Liberian politicians, who own logging companies in the country, hide their identities and profit from contracts that cover huge swathes of forest. It urges Liberians to hold politicians and loggers, who are exploiting the country’s forest accountable for their action.
GW details how logging companies that failed to pay taxes currently owe an immense US$25 million to the cash-strapped Liberian government, stressing that if said amount were paid, it would amount to nearly five percent of the country’s entire budget.

Although the report mentions no names, but the disclosure is actually disgusting and disappointing especially, for people who want to occupy national leadership. How could politicians ever provide better leadership when their hands are covered in unscrupulous businesses that rub the country of legitimate taxes and deny citizens social benefits for resources extracted from their communities?

They drain the country’s wealth, milk themselves and their immediate and extended families at the detriment of the greater society, but get on the airwaves of radio and television stations, promising to deliver heaven on earth and lift the same people they rob out of poverty. Sheer rhetoric!
Now that elections are coming, politicians are again lining up with flowery promises, banging on the doors of electorates to vote them to power. But these are the same people they refuse to pay even after working for them. They are now clamoring to preside over a country whose resources they continue to plunder thru unscrupulous contracts, hiding their real identities to evade taxes.

It is about time that Liberians shine their eyes and perhaps develop a third eye to begin to thoroughly scrutinize politicians who want to become president or representatives by checking their track-records to know their past deals.
Some are seeking re-election in constituencies where they haven’t sowed a grain for the past nearly six years, while new aspirants think leadership is about selves rather than the interest of the people.

For instance, the report further reveals that during the civil war here, which ended in 2003, logging companies propped up the regime of ex-president Charles Taylor, including trafficking arms on behalf of Mr. Taylor. It is no secret that some of those officials from the Taylor era operated private logging companies here. Today, they occupy the first branch of the Liberian government as lawmakers, after they used money gotten thru dubious businesses to bribe the people to elect them so that they can have the opportunity to conceal their real identity.

We like to caution all Liberians especially, potential voters currently participating in the ongoing voter registration exercise across the country that they would have themselves to blame in the next six years if they traded their votes to politicians for peanuts, because the entire country would continue to wallop in stinking poverty and the citizens remain dirt poor by their action or inaction at the polls on October 10th.


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