The Search for Truth and Justice Must Not Undermine Liberia’s Fragile Peace

first_imgBy Caroline Bowah BrownI remain an advocate for justice and truly want accountability for the heinous crimes committed in Liberia. Yes, I do but I am also of the opinion that doing so must be thought through carefully. The search for truth and justice must be carried out without jeopardizing the fragile peace we enjoy in this moment. It must be done while ensuring our safety.The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia was established to promote national peace, unity, security and reconciliation and hold perpetrators accountable for the atrocities committed.  About eleven years ago, the Commission completed its work and handed over its report to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for implementation. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made no overtures towards implementing the recommendations of the TRC. The UN and other international organizations took no action against Madam Sirleaf for her failure to do so. In fact, she was awarded several accolades from the same international community; one of them being the Nobel Peace award and later the Mo Ibrahim Award after she stepped down from political office.  What double standards. The international community was extremely tolerant towards her government and no pressure was mounted on her to implement the recommendations of the TRC. As part of its support to the peace process, the UNMIL was under obligation to ensure the Liberian Government implement the recommendations of the TRC report. According to the 1st United Nations Security Council 1509 (2003) that established the mission, it was mandated to “support all parties to cease all human rights violations and atrocities against the Liberian population, and stresses the need to bring to justice those responsible.” After 15 years, the UNMIL closed down its Liberian operation without achieving one of its key mandates, which was to support the Government to bring to justice those responsible for committing atrocities in Liberia.  Shortly after the election of the new Government of President Weah, there have been increasing calls for judicial accountability for war crimes from various sources including social media and other spaces.  Similarly, on July 5, 2018, Human Rights Watch put out a statement supported by Seventy six Liberian, African, and international non-governmental organizations demanding the Liberian government “undertake fair and credible prosecutions of international crimes committed during its two civil wars”.  The statement was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.   On September 8, 2018, the US Congress introduced a resolution for the full implementation of the TRC recommendations. Interestingly this is the first concrete action taken by the US government since the completion of the TRC’s work. No such action was ever taken during the tenure of Madam Sirleaf’s government.  This makes one wonder why after more than eleven years they choose this moment to begin to pursue the implementation of the TRC recommendations. What does the US Congress aim to achieve, what is the real motive for this action? In the first place the new government is still in its infancy and only now starting to organize itself and implement the mandate given to it by the Liberian people.  For me, it is too early and not timely for the US Congress to burden the Liberian government with such demands. We vividly remember how the US Embassy shut its gates and watched from the Atlantic shore while millions of Liberians were being killed, raped, tortured etc. If Liberia is forced to implement these recommendations, is the international community and the US in particular, ready to create the conditions to guarantee our safety and stability?  What commitments are they making if Liberia once again finds herself in a state of instability while implementing the TRC recommendations? Bearing in mind that some of the alleged perpetrators hold a great deal of power and have amassed personal wealth, it is important to consider how this power and influence might be used to resist the TRC implementation. The risk of such a process destabilizing the country is high and this is the reason why such a process should have been conducted while the UNMIL force was still stationed in Liberia. The UNMIL mission could have supported the judicial accountability process before their mission ended.   In closing, it is important for the Government of Liberia to be very clear about how the leadership wants to proceed with the non-judicial and judicial process for transitional justice in Liberia. They must be in the driver’s seat and show the Liberian people that they mean to act on this in a measured and responsible way. Many are hurt, many need reparations and many need to be reconciled.  As I write this I am reflecting on a day in 2003 when we had nowhere to run and I had to carry my one year old baby and choose which of our few belongings to carry. Today he is 16 years old and will soon be completing high school. I imagine a bright future for him. This future can only be guaranteed by a peaceful country.  This is the aspiration of many Liberians. We do need closure to this chapter. Of course we need justice but it must NOT be detrimental to the fragile peace. We look forward to the Government position on this and it must not be driven by an international agenda. Never again!The Author:Ms. Caroline Bowah Brown is an Economist, Gender Specialist and a leader in civil society movement in Liberia and currently serves as the Country Director for medica Liberia, and a lecturer at the Department of the Economics, University of Liberia.  In 2008, Ms. Brown was appointed by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to serve as member of the Veterans Bureau. Most of her work is in the areas of gender, peacebuilding, security sector reform and transitional justice. She has a Masters Degree in Economic Policy Management from Makerere University in Uganda. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

MMA-ADA remains silent on reallocation of lands – cattle farmers

first_imgWeeks after cattle farmers from Region Five (Mahica-Berbice) raised concerns over the issuing of new leases by the Mahaica-Mahaicony Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) to lands which they utilised, there has been no response from the organisation.A part of the land that was taken away from cattle farmersThe concerned farmers told Guyana Times that they are still awaiting a response to know whether consideration is being given for them to access the land.Speaking with this publication, Krishna Sookdeo stated, “We hear nothing so far. After the injunction, the people didn’t get to go back into the land but there is no case up to now. They didn’t say if they will give us our land or a part of it. Right now, we are worried that they could take it away tomorrow and nothing we can do”.The MMA-ADA had evicted several cattle owners from lands. The area, located at Blairmont, covers 1360 acres and had been used by farmers to rear hundreds of cattle.However, the farmers received a notice from the agency earlier this year, indicating that they have to vacate the lands since new leases were issued to other persons, some of whom are not even cattle farmers. Without the lands, their daily operations will be severely challenged.Sookdeo had initially told this publication they would constantly apply for leases to be granted. However, during the next engagement, the Authority would advise them to reapply since those documents could not be found. Receipts seen by Guyana Times demonstrate that payments were made by all of the farmers for lease applications, some dating back years ago.Another farmer, Pooran Balmukund, had also explained that a permit to conduct cattle grazing was also issued with the notice but upon visiting the agency, they were told the document was irrelevant. As such, it was mandatory for them to vacate.“MMA just serve us a notice to remove from the land. They also give us a paper with permission to graze cattle. When we went at MMA, the paper had no value. They told us this don’t have no value anymore,” the man stated.Many of them cried that their only means of earning a livelihood is at stake. Over the years, the farmers have developed the lands, establishing pastures and constructing fences around the property. It was explained that they have no vacant property to relocate the animals and if new persons are given access to the lands, the structures will be demolished.On Sunday, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament, Harry Gill in a letter to the editor said that in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), lands that were used by cattle farmers of the Shieldstown Cattle Rearer’s Co-op Society in an area known as Rampoor for over 20 years, were taken away by the MMA-ADA and were allegedly given to a close associate of the Government. He also called for a full-fledged investigation into the matter.last_img read more