By Bernard Gbayee Goah
President, Operation We Care for Liberia
Operation We Care for Liberia calls on the Obama administration to discuss the state of human rights in Liberia with the Liberian government, and in particular, to urge the Liberian government to establish a superior court capable of investigating crimes against humanity in that country.
The Liberian government must create an Independent board of inquiry to probe into the killings of innocent Liberians on the eve of Liberia’s elections day.
We have heard that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has named fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, to lead a new peace and reconciliation initiative to include the investigation of what took place on the eve of Liberia’s elections day. While we believe madam Gbowee may have contributed to women’s rights advocacy in Liberia, her recent involvement with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf creates conflict of interest. Madam Leymah Gbowee publically supported Sirleaf during the campaign period, and voted for Sirleaf when her fellow Liberians including innocent women and men were either wounded or killed by state police loyal to Sirleaf on the eve of Liberia’s elections day.
We see the appointment of a fellow supporter to head such a critical case as nepotism at its highest level. We believe that Madam Leymah Gbowee is loyal to madam Sirleaf; therefore she would heavily economize the truth of the matter surrounding the incident that took place on Monday thus denying the victims justice. Appointing madam Gbowee to spearhead such investigation is a complete injustice to the victims. Presidents Obama should take this opportunity to discuss with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf the crucial role the Liberian administration can and must play in ensuring justice, accountability, and respect for the human rights of all Liberians.
The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) created in May 2005 under President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was mandated to promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation by investigation more than 20 years of civil conflict in the country and to report a gross human violation that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and 14 October 2003. The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was released July 1, 2009. In the final report, issued June 2009, the TRC included Sirleaf in a list of 49 names of people that should be “specifically barred from holding public offices; elected or appointed for a period of thirty (30) years” for “being associated with former warring factions. On 28 August Liberia’s parliament consisting mostly of members of former warring factions announced it must consult its constituents for about a year before deciding whether or not to implement the Commission’s recommendations.
In January 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the TRC’s recommendation was a constitutional violation of the listed individuals’ right to procedural due process, and that it would be unconstitutional for the government to implement the proposed bans.
Even though her testimony at Liberia’s Truth Commission hearing proved otherwise, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has claimed consistently during these elections period that she had no role in the war that maimed and killed innocent people and destroyed the country’s entire infrastructure. She must be presented an opportunity to exonerate herself in a credible Liberian war crime court. If Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is responsible, as the evidence indicates, regardless whether such crimes were committed in Liberia or elsewhere pre or post 2003, it would be a travesty of justice to have indicted former president Charles Taylor and removed him from office; but yet allow Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to remain head of state even though she also financially supported as well as ordered a rebel group (NPFL) to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is a wise saying: “The dangerous part of a snake is not its tail but its head”. And there can be on other snake head in the Liberian 20 years carnage then Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
While plans to implement the TRC final report remain in limbo, the country has experienced and continues to experience ongoing violence and internecine conflict, striking deficiencies in judiciary, police, and corrections operations, vigilante justice, and high incidence of rape of young men, women, and girls. We agree that madam Sirleaf has the right to procedural due process. However, we are only too aware that the right to procedural due process cannot happen in Liberia if a credible court system does not exist. Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising judiciary system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of human rights violations. We call on the Obama administration to buttress our call for Justice in Liberia. We call for the establishment of a credible justice system designed to address these problems and help reduce the incidence of human rights abuses. We believe that a peaceful West Africa demands total peace in Liberia. Any conflict in Liberia at this time would greatly destabilize the entire region. As such, We call on the Obama administration and the Liberian government to make the establishment of a superior court (Liberian war crimes court) capable of investigating crimes against humanity a top priority so that peace and justice may be restore in that region. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in West Africa especially so Liberia will not produce the intended results.