Nebo Owing to the atrocities committed during the fourteen years civil war coupled with those bearing greatest responsibilities being rewarded lucrative positions in government, many Liberians at home and the diaspora because of angered of what they see as the culture of impunity are demanding for war crime court as it was in neighboring Sierra Leone.
On one occasion, when the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan came to Liberia, few Liberians paraded the streets with symbolic caskets and placards calling for war crime court. Since then, the call still continues.
In solidarity with those calling for war crime court as essentially part of the TRC report, the reasons thereof are legitimate on grounds of the argument that reconciliation cannot rob justice as happened in South Africa.
In the case of post conflict reconstruction, it can be argued that war crime court is significant but may not impact challenges that pose serious threats to the fragile peace and stability.
Yes the tribunal can deter, end impunity but cannot tackle vulnerabilities and trigger factors that caused same atrocities. War crime court will not prosecute suspected persons for embezzlement of state resources, bad governance, corruption, youth unemployment, poverty, political marginalization etc. that caused the war. Instead, it will prosecute suspects for the bad conduct (atrocities) carried on during the war. In other words, the law of armed conflict never forbids war.
Instead, it holds belligerents accountable for the conduct of war. Let’s briefly look at the impact of the Sierra Leone Special Court on the post conflict challenges. Granted, the level of atrocities committed in Sierra Leone warranted the tribunal.
Despite the special court from voluntary contributions from countries with vested interests spent over $25 million between 2006-2007 to prosecute those that bore the greatest responsibilities, it can be argued that the tribunal did not tackle the root causes and triggers of the civil war that still remain as post conflict challenges that threaten the peace and stability. As a matter of fact, the root causes of the conflict are the priorities of post conflict reconstruction even though dealing with the effects is important.
Take for instance; youth population, aged 15-35, comprises one third of the population of Sierra Leone and youth unemployment was a major root cause of the outbreak of civil conflict in Sierra Leone; corruption in managing its natural resources and fiscal policy.
Problems of poor infrastructure and widespread rural and urban impoverishment still persist in spite of remarkable strides and reforms. According to research,approximately 70% of youth are underemployed or unemployed and an estimated 800,000 youth today are actively searching for employment despite UNDP-managed US$ 2.1 million Youth Employment and Empowerment Programme funded through the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund and the Governments of Ireland and Norway thattransformed the lives of 10,299 young people overall.
Furthermore, illiteracy remains a persistent challenge and youth that lack that skills and education find it extremely difficult to compete for the limited jobs available. While life expectancy has increased from 39 years in 2000 to 48 years in 2012, around 60% of the population lives below the national poverty line.
These challenges are the Sierra Leone post conflict priorities that could have arguably been impacted by over $25 million spent on the tribunal. Of course, given the gravity of the atrocities, in no way those that bore the greatest responsibilities could have enjoyed the culture of impunity. However, some of the root causes of the civil war still remain.
In the case of Liberia as a post conflict society, our priorities for reconstruction must be focused on the root causes of the fourteen years conflict that resulted into atrocities (effects) that should attract the attention of the international community for endorsing war crime court.
It is no doubt that Liberia and Sierra Leone shared similar causes of their civil wars and as such faced similar post conflict challenges. For instance, research revealed that as of 2013, youth unemployment in Liberia is 4.50%. Unemployment Rate in Liberia is calculated as the number of unemployed individuals divided by the number of individuals in the labour force.
Youth Unemployment is defined as unemployment in the age bracket 15 to 25. One may eloquently argue that the increase in the wave of violence by the youth in Liberia is attributed to their unemployment. Corruption that retard development, breeds poverty and weaken our justice system etc. that we cried every day cannot be aloof from the causes of the war.
These are pressing challenges that our push for war crime will not tackle. While it is true that war crime court is important for prosecuting those you think bear the greatest responsibilities for atrocities committed against the people of Liberia, in no way it will address the causes of our conflict and the effects characterized by the trends of violence crime by the youth that every Liberian see a threat to our fragile peace and security, clean the mess that engulfed our educational system, stem the tides of corruption, considerably reduce poverty and illiteracy rates, strengthen our justice system, build a culture of disaster resilience, etc.
In other words, those pushing for war crime court which is highly admirable should also ask themselves to what extent the endorsement of the tribunal will impact human and economic developmentthey often considered as rhetoric by the government despite some level of progress? Better still, put it this way. Will the war crime court tackle the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change assertion that“a surging youth population” combined with unemployment, urbanisation and other factors can lead to violence or a relapse into conflict”?
The push for a war crime court is important but not as timely as our post conflict challenges that threaten the decade of peace celebrated in 2014. In other words, how it is possible to have a war crime court in the midst of unresolved causes of the war? Let’s for now table the push and use the same energy and influence to exert continuous pressure on our government to tackle the post conflict challenges related to causes of the civil war. Finally, war crime court is not among the top causes of Liberia civil war.
Arguably, it is an effect of the war that must not go unpunished but not for now on grounds that it cannot guarantee the pathway to stability. When our pathway to stability is guarantee, the push will attract resounding applaud.
About the Author Mr. Ambrues M. Nebo holds MSc in the top 5 % of the graduating Class in Peace and Conflict studies with specialty in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies form University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Post Graduate Certificate with distinction in Public Administration from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration Ghana, BA Hon (Magna Cum Laude) in Sociology from African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College in Liberia and various International Certificates in Security and peacekeeping operations from the Kofi Anna International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana.
Besides this article, he has authored a dozen of articles dealing with contemporary issues in Africa and Liberia in which some of his articles (Stop Pointing Fingers at the West for Political Problems in Africa, Is Prolonged Regime, a Recipe for Potential Problems in Africa?
and Instead of the International Criminal Court, blame our Leaders, The Dark side of Majority Rule In Africa, The Culture of Silence; an unguaranteed grip for prolonged regime in Africa ) can be accessed online at google search and also www.academia.edu.org By Ambrues M.