President George Manneh Weah addressing the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York Wednesday, 25 September questioned the U.N. why the clamor for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia has become so loud under his reign, nearly a decade after it was first called for during which no such pressure was brought to bear on the government that grew out of the Accra Peace Accord.The 74th General Assembly is being convened on the theme, “Galvanizing Multilateral Efforts for Poverty Eradication, Quality Education, Climate Action and Inclusion.”
The comment of President Weah, who recently wrote the Legislature, seeking its advice on the Court, clearly indicates his seeming lack of interest for such institution that seeks to end impunity in Liberia. Rather, he says he prefers dialogue as a conflict-resolution mechanism over prosecution.“Mr. President, we are at a loss to understand why the clamor for the establishment of the Court is now being made, almost a full decade after it was first called for, and during which time no such pressure was brought to bear on the government that grew out of the Accra Peace Accord”, asks the World body in his address
However, President Weah describes his government as a listening administration, which has been paying keen attention to the voices of Liberians, saying, “What I have discerned from their cries is that it is important to bring closure to the wounds from the 14 years of Liberia’s brutal civil war, and that we need to agree on a mechanism that would guarantee the sustenance of peace, stability, justice, and reconciliation, as well as enhance our prospects for economic recovery.” He hopes that at the end of current consultative process, a National Consensus will evolve that will determine the pathway to addressing the issue, while asking the U.N. for its unflinching support.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has set 3 October for the government to report on implementation of recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and human rights. Among others, the TRC recommends establishment of a war crimes tribunal to prosecute those who bear greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
At the same time, President Weah complains of the emergence of a creeping threat to Liberia’s democratic space, peace and stability, detailing, “Some individuals, within and out of our country, particularly those who have lost democratically-held elections, have resorted to incitement, threats of violence, misuse of social media, and hate speech, with the aim and objective of achieving power through undemocratic means.”
He says for democracy to thrive in Liberia, all Liberians, including both the ruling parties and the opposition parties, must respect the rule of law, and abide by the procedures and regulations prescribed therein.The administration has witnessed a spate of protests with the latest coming from health workers across the country over salary delay and poor working condition. On June 7, an advocacy group, Council of Patriots or COP, staged a peaceful assembly before the three branches of government on Capitol Hill, calling for reforms. The group says it is organizing another protest, this time around, to ask President to step down.
The President rather paradoxically describes the political environment under his administration as vibrant, with political actors and parties freely exercising their franchise and participating in various elections. He boasts of having no political prisoners and de-criminalizing existing laws that had hindered or threatened press freedom in the country.
“Several protests have taken place from time to time, all of which have ended peacefully, and have been welcomed by my Government, as a positive manifestation of our democratic maturity”, he adds and notes, “This is the democracy for which our country has yearned; this is the freedom for which our people have struggled and suffered; and this is the emancipation for which many of our citizens have paid the ultimate price.” Story by Jonathan Browne