Contrary to recommendations by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that warlords should face prosecution for committing heinous atrocities against defenseless civilians, including rape and massacre, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Monday, 19 August honored ex-rebel leaders and civil society activists to mark 10 years of peace. The public recognition also ignores call here by the TRC Final Report for reparations to be paid to victims of the 14 years of conflict.
The victims of war appear to have been totally forgotten in the government’s so-called reconciliation agenda, and business as usual is being given priority by our political leaders, which is no doubt, seriously undermining the fragile peace we commemorate. Politics ignores justice for the mere fact that the two are mutually exclusive; usually, the former prioritizes selfish interest under the guise of promoting the greater good, while the latter places both sides or ought to place both sides of a coin on the scale to determine the heavier weight.
Hence, when the President of our nation attends such solemn occasion, marking 10 years of relative peace and publicly certificate ex-rebel generals and former warring faction leaders without any reference whatsoever, to the babies, women and elderly persons, who are direct victims of their mayhem, it demonstrates the highest level of insensitivity, to say the least.
As we honor the likes of Thomas Yaya Nimely, Alhaji G.V. Kromah, Sekou Damante Conneh, including former Taylor officials, among others for burning down villages and towns, plundering the country’s wealth and indiscriminately raining mortars on defenseless civilians, who sought refuge in the diplomatic community of Mamba Point, particularly in front of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, their souls bleed. They too deserve our recognition because they paid the ultimate prize for the peace we celebrate today. Ignoring them and honoring former warlords does not speak well as a government.
Let it be recalled that while warring faction leaders and other stakeholders were in Ghana negotiating for government positions in the name of bringing peace, our mothers, teenage brothers and sisters, as well as grandparents were dying from bullets and hunger in displaced camps. By the time the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Accra, Ghana, about eight percent of the country’s more than 3m population had died; while several hundred thousand had fled to other countries to seek refuge; and about 40 percent of the population internally displaced.
Such statistics tell why we should reflect deeply on the victims of the war as we celebrate the peace rather than only hailing warlords, who have shown no remorse for the atrocities committed in the country. We therefore call on Madam President to consider in entirety the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which we believe is crucial to sustaining the peace we celebrate.