Liberia is gradually slipping into the past while the United Nations and the country’s foreign partners are paying little attention or giving a blind eye to the current plight of the Liberian masses. Yet amidst rampant corruption and recurrent social injustices, President Ellen Sirleaf’s influential foreign friends are down playing the recommendations of the TRC. How I wish Liberians realized that not all foreigners posturing as friends of their nation are true friends. For no one seeing trouble knocking on the door of a real friend will speak in favor of trouble while pretending to be doing the right thing.
Indeed, doing the right thing yields common good, and it is high time Liberians did the right thing. But the elitist government of Ellen Sirleaf with a badge of kleptomania has chosen to repeat the wrongs of the past. It has chosen to ignore the Liberian people’s cries for justice while surrendering major decisions of the nation to foreigners. Without compunction, Sirleaf wants to shove under the carpet of peace the heinous crimes committed during the past conflict. With utter disregard for the will of the Liberian people, she is rallying the support of foreigners while maneuvering to bribe greedy legislators to squash the TRC recommendations. How long can we Liberians look on while the likes of Ellen Sirleaf in collusion with foreigners disrespect us? Why aren’t we firm enough in our pursuits of justice?
At the Supreme Court of the Republic stands a statue of a blindfolded woman holding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other. Clearly visible at the top of the building are the phrase, “The Temple of Justice” and the incisive sentence, “Let justice be done to all men”. Take note, the sentence does not read “some men” but rather “all men”. The image of the blindfolded woman symbolically, powerfully underscores the definition of justice as meaning indiscriminate fairness. Yes, justice irrespective of social or ethnic background! And rendering impartial fairness is doing what is right. There should be no second guessing when it comes to applying the formula of justice. There should be no drawbacks in pursuits of justice.
Liberia is a republic, and by definition, a republic is a country for the people, and by the people. In other words, power is vested in the people rather than should be vested in the people. What this means is that the leader is not above the people or the laws of the nation, but rather he or she is a representative who is answerable to the masses. And just as the Chief Executive is answerable to the people so are officials of the other branches of government. Therefore, it is important for Sirleaf to deal fairly and squarely with the request of the TRC which is the real voice of the voiceless. There should be no lip service.
The TRC’s recommendations have a positive tone for justice for all even though the amnesty clause seems to be a sort of flaw in it. That is why the utterances of Prince Johnson should not be taken lightly. A couple of years ago, Mr. Johnson loudly and clearly said Dr Amos Sawyer, Archbishop Michael Francis, and a western government told him to kill President Samuel K. Doe.
Was the warlord telling the truth? Would Mr. Johnson call names in court, thereby throwing light on the collusion and complicity of a handful of notable Liberians and foreigners in the destruction of Liberia? No wonder, why the venerated Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and others who know what is right to heal a troubled nation choose to chart the wrong course for our war-torn country by condemning the voices of the Liberian people in support of their friend Ellen Sirleaf. Why will Ellen Johnson called on her foreign friends and not ask them to plead with the Liberian people but instead reel insults to the healing process?
Seeking the support of foreigners rather than the will of the Liberian people is a dangerous recipe. And that has unfortunately been the trademark of Ellen Sirleaf. She believes it was foreigners that masterminded her election to the presidency and therefore it is foreigners who must protect and speak on her behalf. Well, the Liberian people say Sirleaf and fellow perpetrators of the Liberian civil war must be held accountable, and that is the right thing to do. Her powerful foreign friends including Archbishop Tutu must come to grips with that.
The thirty years ban from political activities that has been recommended by the TRC against Madam Sirleaf and other perpetrators of the war is a child’s play in light of the enormous loss of lives and property caused by the 14-year conflict. That it will be honorable on her part as head of our troubled nation if she takes the TRC recommendations seriously. That will be another way of showing remorse for her mistakes instead of playing puppet of foreigners. This is an opportunity to leave a legacy, like her sister has said. How about doing that?
During a due process of law, a person who receives a fine, is given certain time frame to resolves the matter by paying the fine. If he or she fails, the fine increases with interests. Therefore, the time to act on the TRC recommendations is now, and not later. Let us respect the wishes of the Liberian people and not pay demonstrators to protest the voice of the voiceless, because that kind of propaganda only shows the real heart and soul of a dictator, who desperately wants to cling onto power at whatever cost – essentially another explosive recipe for chaos.
Liberia can not claim to be a republic while its leader behaves like a monarch. Whatever flaws are inherent in the amnesty granted by the TRC should be left for the courts to decide. The legislative branch can make a note of that, but this matter must be resolved in the court of law. If clemency or amnesty is to be given to anyone in regards to the heinous crimes committed during the war, let it be done under the umbrella of a credible court system. In our towns and villages, if one breaks the law, he or she is reported to the town chief who in turn calls a meeting at the palaver hut. At that meeting, the laws of the town are applied, and if there is a need for clemency or amnesty, it is thoroughly determined at the meeting of wise elders under the palaver hut. This has been our culture and our customs in resolving legal matters, be them criminal or civil.
I hereby call on the lawmakers of Liberia to consider and implement the TRC recommendations in the interest of justice, reconciliation and peace. The culture of impunity in Liberia has always been at the tragic expense of the Liberian masses. And this kind of miscarriage of justice is a major underlying factor of our contemporary social and political conflicts. Let the Liberian government put the stability of the nation before self interest or ambitions at this crucial time so that we might correct the shameful past and chart a new stable and peaceful future; so that we might leave a legacy of hope, rather than violence and anarchy, for our children and grandchildren.
There must be no hesitation or manipulation of justice at this crucial point in time. The
healing of this nation is not a game; it’s not about winners or losers; it’s not about
looking out for personal interest. It is rather about ironing out the wrinkles in this broken nation of ours and giving it a face – a smiling, peaceful face to be proud of. Peace and stability are what we need to maintain but not at the expense of social justice. And only Liberians can make this happen if we focus on the maxim: “Let justice be done to all men”.
D Garkpe Gedepoh is the Publisher/CEO of African Panorama