‘Dubious Value’ in Some Recommendations at TRC Symposium in America


POLITICAL FOOTBALL: It is fair to say, however, that most of the speakers were critical of the current government’s foot dragging on the TRC recommendations. Unfortunately some of the Liberian speakers (not the commissioners mentioned above) stated that the U.S. State Dept. should pull its support for next year’s election and instead work to install an ‘interim’ government and/or a national commission to de-legitimate the current government. Personally I find these recommendations to be of dubious value. The history of interim governments in Liberia is a sad one and there is no guarantee that the TRC recommendations would fare any better under an interim government than they are faring under the current situation. Nor would the citizens of Liberia.



Michael Keating is a Lecturer at the New School University and Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

– Michael Keating, Contributing Writer,


Source: FrontPage Africa

POLITICAL FOOTBALL: It is fair to say, however, that most of the speakers were critical of the current government’s foot dragging on the TRC recommendations. Unfortunately some of the Liberian speakers (not the commissioners mentioned above) stated that the U.S. State Dept. should pull its support for next year’s election and instead work to install an ‘interim’ government and/or a national commission to de-legitimate the current government. Personally I find these recommendations to be of dubious value. The history of interim governments in Liberia is a sad one and there is no guarantee that the TRC recommendations would fare any better under an interim government than they are faring under the current situation. Nor would the citizens of Liberia.

Michael Keating is a Lecturer at the New School University and Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Cambridge, MA –

Last Friday at the New School University in New York City, a group of TRC Commissioners as well as several Liberian civic leaders from Liberia, the U.S. and Europe met with a group of international experts to discuss the future prospects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions report and recommendations. Headed by TRC Commissioner Jerome Verdier, along with Commissioners Massa Washington and John Stewart, the Liberian contingent was passionate in asking the international community and civil society in Liberia to push for the implementation of the TRC recommendations up to and including the implementation of war-crimes tribunals.

On the American side were experts like Dr. David Backer of the US Institute of Peace, Dr. Louis Bickford of the New School, Jeannie Annan of the IRC and Tania Bernath, a former analyst from Amnesty International. Each of these experts has worked extensively in Liberia and were invited to share their research and to engage in productive dialog about options for the future of the process.

The sole purpose of the conference was to examine what the current status of the TRC report was, what was holding up the implementation of recommendations and what lessons can be learned from the Liberian process? Unfortunately, some cynical individuals tried to cast aspersions on this valuable conversation by claiming that the conference had been hijacked by opponents of the current government.

That is absurd because the government of Liberia was invited (although they did not choose to attend) with plenty of advanced notice and each of the panels were originally staffed with a range of voices. The upshot of the rumors was that several panelists cancelled at the last minute thus diminishing the range of opinions that would have made the Liberian contribution more balanced.

It is fair to say, however, that most of the speakers were critical of the current government’s foot dragging on the TRC recommendations. Unfortunately some of the Liberian speakers (not the commissioners mentioned above) stated that the U.S. State Dept. should pull its support for next year’s election and instead work to install an ‘interim’ government and/or a national commission to de-legitimate the current government.

Personally I find these recommendations to be of dubious value. The history of interim governments in Liberia is a sad one and there is no guarantee that the TRC recommendations would fare any better under an interim government than they are faring under the current situation. Nor would the citizens of Liberia.

Political football no doubt

Both Dr. Jack Saul of Columbia University and myself, the co-coordinators of this conference (along with the Africa Refuge Center of Staten Island who paid for some of the speakers’ travel expenses) , wanted to keep politics out of this discussion. That was an impossible task.

There is no doubt that the TRC Report will become a political football in the upcoming elections. That is too bad because it will dishonor the victims of the conflict and everyone who contributed their heart-and-soul to the process.

It seems to me — and this is strictly a personal opinion– that the government should enter into a serious engagement with the TRC recommendations and convene a panel of experts who can help sequence when and how the recommendations should be implemented. To do otherwise would be a serious dereliction of responsibility unless the government can demonstrate convincingly why the recommendations shouldn’t be implemented. Simply ignoring the TRC or minimal compliance are not going to silence the critics.

As Dr. Backer pointed out, there is no need to do everything at once. It took Chile and Spain many years to actively pursue prosecutions for war criminals. Perhaps Liberia needs more work to be done on its judicial system before contemplating similar prosecutions. Perhaps they need to outsource the more blatant cases to the International Criminal Court.

Still an interesting question

In the end, the question that was left hanging at the end of the conference was whether there can be reconciliation — in Liberia or anywhere — without justice? This is a question that should be asked at a neutral forum in Monrovia with representatives of the victims given full voice to express their opinion.

It is not clear whether an overwhelming number of Liberians are in favor of seeing some of their current leaders dragged into a court-room and charged with crimes against humanity. It is clear, however, that people will have a difficult time closing the book on the past without some kind of redress and reform of the overall human rights framework.

Nevertheless, it is still an interesting question to ask whether a country can really move forward when impunity seems to be the order of the day? Liberia, unfortunately, seems to be finding this out.

Michael Keating is a Lecturer at the New School University and Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

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