-Will Liberia Follow Sierra Leone’s Example?
The truth concerning the delayed prosecution of warlords in Liberia for war crimes and crimes against humanity that many people either overlook or ignorant of, is that the situations that led to Sierra Leone applying to the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan for the setting up a War Crimes Court Freetown is different from what has unfolded in Liberia.In Liberia, the need for the establishment of a war crimes court emanates from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report dating back to 2009 during the first term mandate of Ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Accusing fingers have been pointed at Madam Sirleaf herself concerning her implication in the war through financial donations and remarks made over BBC Radio.
It is viewed in many quarters that despite Madam Sirleaf’s alleged involvement, it would have been difficult for her government to request the United nations Secretary General to implement the report of the TRC, which her government established probably for fears that she herself may be named in the hearings. And therefore luck was on the side of the eight warlords and heads of warring factions named in the TRC Report during the 12 years of Unity Party rule.
When Ambassador George Manneh Weah of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party won Liberia’s hotly contested Presidential elections last year 2017, there were mixed reactions over whether the prosecution of Liberia’s ex-warlords, as ex-President Sirleaf a possible obstacle was now out of the way.
But on the other hand there were those who doubted whether President Weah’s CDC administration will have the political will to ensure the full implementation of the TRC Report especially the aspect of the prosecution of the warlords including Senator Prince Y. Johnson the leader of the now disbanded Independent National Patriotic front of Liberia (INPFL) in view of his Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MRD) role as a key ally in the CDC party for gaining electoral votes in Nimba County in the presidential run-off elections.
According to reports, President George Weah has reiterated his government’s commitment to advancing the reconciliation and healing process rather than engage in the setting up of a war crimes tribunal, a remark that has caused a deterioration of relations with Liberians hoping to see a replay of the Sierra Leone type UN backed war crimes tribunal to prosecute war crimes.
It can be recalled that Madam Amina Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary General who visited here recently urged Liberia to implement fully the TRC Report, noting that lasting peace can only be achieved if we ensure true and full reconciliation and if the legislature pass key bills that support local inclusion and reconciliation.
Sierra Leone’s prosecution of her war criminals however followed a different trend, as the decision was advanced by the Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s Government, a government that was deposed by rebels of Foday Sankoh who were aligned to the NPFL of Liberia’s ex-President Charles Taylor. The Kabbah regime was thus forced into exile in Guinea until later restore following a Nigerian led ECOMOG military intervention at the cost of many lives, which brought a deep-seated grudge against the rebels.
Several attempts towards lasting peace and reconciliation in Sierra Leone failed until the intervention of the Lome Peace Accord, and one of the key provisions of that accord was the trial of warlords and those who bear the greatest responsibility for the warn in Sierra Leone including the leader of the NPFL Charles Taylor of Liberia.
Several officers of the Sierra Leone Army including the Chief of Staff and deputy were rounded up and charged with treason for joining the rebellion and for overthrowing the government, tried by a tribunal set up by the Nigerian intervention force and executed. Moreover top officers of the Foday Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel movement including Sankoh’s successor were also arrested and handed over to the UN backed war crimes court, while an arrest warrant was issued for Charles Taylor.
This is why the events that provoked the setting up of a UN backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone is quite different from the one unfolding in Liberia. (By: John L. Momoh).