Ecclesiastes chapter 3 of the Holy Bible discusses the relevance of time and seasons in nature and in every human endeavor. It states: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”: In other words, there is a time to destroy and a time to build; a time to plant, and a time to pluck out that which was planted; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time for sorrow, and a time for joy; a time to cry, and a time to laugh; a time to wound, and a time to heal.
Following a 14-year long internecine war, the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established and charged with a huge task which was to trace the root causes of the anarchy. The object was to critically examine our conscience as a nation so that we might heal. But the TRC has had an awfully tough time handling the task as it has been difficult and at times frustrating to have masterminds and perpetrators of the war tell the Liberian people in good faith their actual roles in the senseless war. Amidst high expectations that these warlords would stand and show remorse, we have seen gross rationalization of the wanton killings and destruction of properties. None of these warmongers has been honest and courageous to accept responsibility.
Yet, we have seen the TRC take statements from the victims. Was this the right thing to do? Maybe, and maybe not, but it would have sounded a serious note to the nation had the Liberian President faced the TRC to kick-start the process. The warlords would have probably taken the process more seriously. In spite of calls for President Sirleaf to take the stand, she evaded the TRC. She has essentially paid lip service to the much-cherished healing process. She has not given the healing of the nation’s wounds a serious consideration. That is why the likes of Mr. Prince Johnson and other principal war lords remain arrogantly remorseless. Throughout its term, the TRC received no signs of the willingness of any warlord accepting responsibility for deeds leading to the massacre of hundreds of thousands innocent lives.
It is indeed shameful that this nation would come to a very important cross road and fail to cross over. Why travel so many years to reach a destination and stop short at a crossroad with no new beginning? To turn back on so many years of travel is a defeat only if crossing over is a victory. But to be indecisive at the junction and refuse to cross over is absurd, if not insane.
No one is above the law of the republic – not even the president or the war lords. Invariably, it will be unfair to render injustice to any Liberian, be it war lords or sponsors. Yet, there are people who say that the perpetrators of the Liberian civil war don’t deserve justice, but when we pledge allegiance to the republic we say: “Liberty and justice for all”. In spite of their horrible crimes, the war lords deserve justice and fairness. There should be no room for vengeance and vindictiveness. Romans Chapter 12:17 -19 teach: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY, said the Lord”. In our quest for justice, fairness should not be a mere symbol but rather the substance of justice. Yes, fairness is the driving force for making the right decision without fear.
Today, as the spotlight shines on the Liberian TRC, many Liberians are pondering its decisions. What is even mind-boggling is that the TRC has not produced a unanimous decision with two commissioners refusing to sign its final report. A divided TRC leaves a room for questions. But some people might say that the signatures of a majority of commissioners are good enough to render a verdict. While a majority rule applies in this case, it must be frankly stated that the Liberian people have not taken the task of the TRC seriously enough. Judging from the state of the Liberian nation, it is fair to say that the order of the day is business as usual: rampant corruption, nepotism stark injustices and elitism.
No wonder why the nation continues to languish in a mess. Indeed, nothing is taken seriously in Liberia. There has always been a “don’t care” attitude in the affairs of the Liberian state. The Liberian nation has never ever been a nation of laws. Only outlaws have always been in control of the scheme of things ever since the inception of the nation. These outlaws have always thriven on injustices. Is the TRC trying to change the status quo? This is the question for Cllr. Verdier and his colleagues. But one interesting thing is that Liberians do not play fair with one another. The president, herself a mastermind of the war, has tried to undermine the TRC. No wonder why the other war lords did not see the need to cooperate with the commission and some Liberians are shocked over its recommendations.
One instance of the president’s duplicity was the revelation of Sundaygar Dear Boys' involvement in the war. Liberians were astonished when they learned of the singer’s war crimes. They saw how President Sirleaf publicly stood behind him. With the support of the Chief Executive, Sundaygar deliberately delayed his appearance before the TRC. He even lied to the commission. There are numerous frustrating stories in the electronic media attesting to the President attempts to undermine the TRC. However, at this juncture, let it be known that the Liberian people have suffered for a long time; and with that in mind can not afford not to cross over. To even spend too much time thinking about crossing is foolish and wasteful. Let no one hijack this nation again. There’s a time for everything under the heavens; and it’s time to cross, to move on, to heal the wounds, to build that which was destroyed, to move away from our wicked ways and seek righteous living.
Romans Ch. 12:2 says, “But be he transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God”. It’s time to change the mind-set of the Liberian Nation; from living with complicity in abject poverty, to rising up vibrantly and taking charge of our true destiny; from being disrespectful to one another, to revamping our self esteem and practicing the one and only law that is the core of all laws; the core of all religions; the core that harmonizes nature, “to treat others as we would have them to treat us”. Let us not forget who we are, but acknowledge our true purpose under the heavens; and taking self inventory and analysis daily of ourselves.
Let us constantly get unequivocally involved in good deeds for God, for country, for others, and then ourselves, making it our daily duties. The three promises of the scout oath ring true for our situation, “Duty to God; Duty to my country; Duty to others, and myself". Let this be the hallmark of our service instead of me, myself and I. And maybe with that in mind, we will be able to heal ourselves from the dreadful social and economic disease that is extremely contagious, and yet common place throughout the republic, CORRUPTION.
Mr. Samuel Koffi Woods (former Labor Minister and now the Minister of Public Works) once said in Nimba County that, “Only in Liberia, that UNDERABLE becomes HONORABLE”. But what Mr. Woods forgot to say is, “In Liberia, HONORABLES enjoy becoming UNDERABLES with impunity. How many times and how many years will the Liberian Government Officials continue to squander state funds with impunity, but yet incarcerate petty criminals? One individual gets incarcerated for the murder of one life while others who executed and masterminded massacres are rewarded with honorable positions in government, and then the twisted minded clergies recommend that the people forgive and forget.
Growing up in my country which has been consumed by twisted minded people have not been easy, from the clergies to lawyers, to some every day people who believe in simple wickedness. The list is long! No one seems to practice what they preach. Another lawyer insinuated that no one should blame anybody for the atrocities, because during the war there were no active civil authorities and jungle justice was the order. I guess what he’s saying here is that it’s ok for anyone to burn down a town and murder its people as long as the authorities are not active. What a contradiction and a travesty of justice! Maybe the lawyer is right by Liberia Legal Standards which implicitly state Liberian people have no rights to take anyone to court for the murder of 500,000 innocent, defenseless people. Maybe he could be right if he was to state that in Africa, Liberian lives don’t worth a cent compare to the lives of the people of Sierra Leone which are more precious than those of Liberians. It is therefore legal for some Sierra Leoneans and former Liberian rebel president to be brought to justice for the massacres of the people of Sierra Leone.
I don’t blame Varney Sherman; I don’t blame him at all. No wonder why Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia have desecrated the St. John River and continues to pollute the environment, because they have a pig-headed legal mind like Cllr. Varney Sherman who thinks it’s ok to commit a crime as long as no one sees you. If someone went to Mr. Sherman's' house, stole everything, and murdered everyone including his children, might he say that because no police zones/authorities were established in the area that justice should not be served? Wait a second! Would Varney Sherman look on were Firestone to go to Cape Mount and desecrate our beautiful Lake Peso?
This goes to show you the bunch of unscrupulous minds that are on the rampage in and outside Liberia talking trash to the Liberian people who are only searching for healing. You have Charles Taylor who is currently on trial for the alleged atrocities in Sierra Leone, but he chooses to twist his mouth to Liberia with hopes of inflicting more pain on victims of his carnage. This is a time to ask yourself, where are patriotic Liberians? Where are Liberians with genuine love for their country? Where are the aborigines who love their country? Where are they who still have respect for ancestral laws and the laws of the land? Some unscrupulous people claiming to be Liberians have shown serious disrespect for ancestral laws. How can you be a true Liberian and agree for others to destroy and desecrate the tombs of ancestral kings in the name of diamonds and plantations?
Look Liberians, we all have ambitions but we don't go around murdering, plundering and desecrating our country in pursuits of power. Yet we do not pretend to be better than others who do the opposite. But we have some people among us who think before they act while others act before they think. Some people are eager to speak while others listen and think before they speak.
I am willing to forgive any one who committed crimes during the war provided they all leave the Liberian people political life alone. Any desire on their part to hang onto politics in Liberia will be considered adding insults to injury. Don’t dream about honorable positions when you participated in the massacres. And for those who think that they are innocent of any wrong doing, let’s consider you are, and allow the so-called legal system to work. This is what people do in civilized societies!
It is very interesting to note that the Liberian Catholic Church has changed the tone of justice. Years ago the church managed a radio station called ELCM, and this station had a promotional advertisement/promo that ran: “When justice falls, ELCM upholds equity”. I remember, during the civil war, the Archbishop of the Monrovia Archdiocese who was also the head of the Catholic Church of Liberia, His Grace Michael Francis requested the permission of the Holy Sea to have Weade Kobbah Wreh ex-communicated from the church, because of her involvement in the civil conflict and her connection to Warlord George Boley. The Holy Sea approved the request, and Mrs. Wreh was expelled/ex-communicated. But today the Bishops and especially Rev. Andrew Karley, are saying, the Liberian people should not only forgive, but forget.
The catholic church teaches the act of contrition to all its' members: "I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned through my own faults; in my thoughts and in my words; in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do. And I ask the blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God".
This is a prayer to acknowledge your sins; to show remorse to the Almighty God and to your brothers and sisters who you have faults with, and ask for forgiveness. Forgive? Yes, only when those who have committed the faults truly seek and plead for mercy. When you seek forgiveness truly, your brothers and sisters who you had faults with will be willing to forgive you, but not on your terms. Forget? It’s impossible to remotely consider forgetting the carnage. Why? Take a look at the world and ask yourself, why can’t the Jewish people, Charles Taylor newly adopted religious group, forget the Holocaust? Because the bad things that people do are never merely forgotten, laws are put in place to guide against the reoccurrence of the crimes in the future. Some Liberians are only looking at these measures of the war crimes court as a means of deterrence so as not to be repeated in the future, NOT A REVENGE. So deterrence is needed to safe guard future posterity and to show that people were not rewarded for the Liberian Conflict which resembles a Holocaust. I want to believe that some people didn't care about what happened and others did; but sometimes things get out of control, and when that happens, somebody has to take responsibility, especially when everyone knows who committed the atrocities.
If the republic is to be stable and prosper, there has to be a legal system that is capable of rendering justice to all. Weade Kobbah was ex-communicated from the catholic church in Liberia, Charles Taylor arrested, Charles Bryant (former interim head of state) once arrested on corruption charges, Hans Williams arrested on charges of murder, 13 Liberians publicly executed by a firing squad on charges of rampant corruption, and others sit and rot in the Liberian prison and legal systems while many others who committed worst atrocities or similar to those of Charles Taylor hang on to honorable jobs in the Liberian Government.
God is not partial, and so we should not expect blessing to be upon us for rendering injustices to many others with minor offenses, while granting immunities to those who committed serious or worst crimes. Wait a minute! Why don’t we get the criminals out of Monrovia Central Prison, forgive them, and then give them honorable positions in government, because they committed lesser offenses when you compare them with the criminals in government who committed massacres?
Laws are meant to keep things in a balance; for people to live together in peace and harmony. So, for those who think that the only way to have peace in Liberia is to leave the warlords alone, think again, because there can be no peace no where until there is justice. In the absence of equal rights and justice, corruption breeds, nepotism takes over and brings in tribalism, and then finally turns a vibrant nation into a failed state. Most Liberians are concerned about the repeat of the civil conflicts in the future which has created this failed state; and unless some form of spiritual cleansing, or healing is done through a court system, they strongly believe history will be repeated.
This is not vengeance, though it might sound a little like it. But this legal cleansing is mainly to close the dark chapter that continues to haunt the Liberian people, producing partialities to the zenith. And that is why Liberians need to come together and see the need to establish a credible legal system, a system that will be transparent and has the ability to dispense justice for once in this glorious land of freedom; a land where freedom only exists in words and not deeds; a place where up to the minute still has a huge problem with credibility and corruption. In order for us to rise to political and economic prosperity, we must first move in the direction of social recovery, which is the rule of law, that is, “equal rights and justice for all”.
In our homes, we set up rules or guidelines for our children to follow so as to maintain some order. The same is applied to every organization to keep things in an orderly fashion. It will be unfair to say to the victims of the Liberian civil conflict, "forget the former warlords or there will be no peace". If the Liberian people decide to carry out jungle justice against the warlords right now that will also be a violation of the rule of law. As the saying goes, “justice delayed is justice denied”, so this nation must find a common ground to heal, through dialogue and court proceedings. Nothing should ever make the people in this failed state to feel unsaved again. And at this time, let every Liberian speak out and be heard on this sensitive healing issue. The world is watching and will soon understand that Liberian lives are just as important as anyone around the world, or just as important as the lives of the people of Sierra Leone.
Justice is the way to lasting peace but must be transparent, credible, and available to all. Remember, its liberty and justice for all, not for some. Therefore, our quest for peace in Liberia will continue to be illusive until we recognize that the only solution to sustainable peace is the dispensation of equal social rights and justice.