Friday, July 30, 2010

Mission Complete? TRC’s Verdier: “Ignore Recommendations & Perish”

07/30/2010 - Nat Bayjay
Source: FrontPage Africa

UNCEREMONIAL CLIMAX: While some of them, such as the South African TRC, have yielded positive results, the impacts of others were never felt with a fear that Liberia might be heading in similar directions. In the case of Liberia’s, the jury is still out over whether the Truth Commission’s work has been clouded in controversy or the victim of a post-war government unwilling or perhaps still struggling to accept the findings of a body of work detailing the horrors of a brutal civil war.

Monrovia -
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with the responsibility of promoting national peace, security, unity and reconciliation" by investigating more than 20 years of civil conflict in Liberia and to report on gross human rights violations that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and 14 October 2003 closed shop Thursday, officially climaxing a body of work still swirling in a state of uncertainty.

Although a vetting committee is currently interviewing members for the Independent Human Rights Commission, tasked with the the responsibility under the TRC Mandate, Article X, to ensure the full implementation of the commendations contain in the TRC’s final report, the commission’s work has been eclipsed in controversy since it recommended a ban from political activities of at least fifty former and current Liberian government officials, including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Alarming declaration: ‘Do so at your own peril’

OBLIGATION TO LIBERIA

“This obligation to report to the Liberian people quarterly on the implementation of all recommendations of the TRC is imperative and vital to our continued drive for lasting peace and reconciliation. We urge her not to renege, but be strong in faith and do what is right so that this glorious land of liberty will continue to exist under God’s command”.

Jerome Verdier, Chairman, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, RL

On Thursday, Jerome Verdier, Chair of the under-fire commission held a news conference without any of his fellow Commissioners in sight, in an office that was once busy and active but now stands dejected, the Chairman of Liberia’s erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) did not only formally declare an end to the Commission’s work, but was cautious with this warning to Liberians: “Therefore, if we ignore the TRC Recommendations, we do so at our own peril”.

After a year and one month of the TRC’s submission of its Report to the National Legislature in accordance with the Act that created it, Verdier, whose chairmanship was characterized by both internal wrangling and accusations of being biased, told a delayed news conference in the capital Thursday that it is important for Liberia to take the TRC’s Findings and Recommendations as the way forward to seeing the country’s return to stability.

Verdier added: “For generations to come, we will be haunted by the ghosts of the past.”

The TRC was chosen over a war crime tribunal as the means of dealing with the country’s ugly and unforgettable 14 years of civil war following its end seven years ago; but the Commission’s more than four years of operations which were twice extended by the National Legislature, faced serious challenges including allegations of impartiality, non-payment of staffs and worst of all, dissenting opinions on the submitted Final Report from two of its commissioners.

A brainchild of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in 2003, the Commission was tasked to ensure the promotion of national peace, security, unity and reconciliation as its objectives and purpose by

means of investigating gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law as well as abuses that occurred. These included the Commission’s investigation of massacres, sexual

violations, murders, extra-judicial killings and economic crimes, such as the exploitation of natural or public resources to perpetuate armed conflicts, all which happened during the period January 1979 to

October 14, 2003.

Coordinating Committee Takes Over

While the TRC is officially closed, the Chairman of the erstwhile Commission disclosed the constitution of what he termed as the ‘TRC Coordinating Committee’ being established with two main objectives:

ensuring that Government pays the Commission’s outstanding liabilities and providing supervision leading to the establishing of the archive center.

Responding to whether the constitution of such an interim committee is not outside of the Act, Verdier replied: “Are you implying that all we have worked for such as the documentations of the entire process

should be left here to rot or eaten up by rats? Are you also suggesting that all those who entrusted us with their money should not be repaid?”

However, Section 47 of the Act states: “The archives of the TRC shall remain in the public domain except those records or documents classified by the TRC as “confidential” which shall remain classified for 20 years following the retirement of the TRC. This restriction extends to commissioners, staff and persons privy to such confidential and closed information by virtue of employment, assignment or their involvement with the TRC or otherwise”.

The composition of the ‘Coordinating Committee’ obviously consists of no ‘Anti-Verdier’ Commissioners in a committee that sees his close former workmates of Massa Washington, John Stewart, and Reverend

Gerald Coleman as Commissioners, leaving no room for his once-opposing former workmates in the persons of Councilor Pearl Brown-Bull and Sheikh Kafumba Konneh. Both former commissioners dissented on the Final Report.

Again chaired by Verdier, Nathaniel Kwabo, Elwood Netty, Felix Yallah, Millicent Garli and Thomas Demamu make up the rest of the ‘Coordinating Committee’ as Executive Secretary, Finance Coordinator, Finance Officer, Coordinator and Administrative Assistant respectively.

President Lagging Behind In Reporting

Section 48 of Article Ten of the Act that created the TRC mandates the Head of State to report to the National Legislature within three months of receipt of the report of the TRC, and on a quarterly basis

thereafter, as to the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations which has not been done satisfactorily from a TRC point of view.

A disappointed Verdier spoke frustratingly about the failure of meeting the statutory mandate of reporting to the National Legislature by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, herself an indictee of the Report which is recommending her for a three-decade ban from public life along with others.

“To date, Her Excellency, the President, is lagging behind in her statutory commitment to report quarterly on the implementation of the TRC Recommendations” Verider lamented, adding, “and not a voice including that of the National Legislature has been heard.”

Verdier bemoans what he termed as the entire country’s mute posture on the President’s non-performance on a “major duty should have happened more than a month ago”.

Though she did make her first quarterly report four months ago, Verdier criticized the manner in which Sirleaf did so, adding: “While not much was recognized in the President’s first quarterly ‘report’ in March 2010, it was noteworthy for recognizing the good work of the Commission on the future of Liberia”.

He continued: “This obligation to report to the Liberian people quarterly on the implementation of all recommendations of the TRC is imperative and vital to our continued drive for lasting peace and

reconciliation. We urge her not to renege, but be strong in faith and do what is right so that this glorious land of liberty will continue to exist under God’s command”.

Section 48 further states that the National Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause in the case of non-compliance. It states: “All recommendations shall be implemented. Where the implementation of any recommendation has not been complied with, the Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause for such noncompliance”.

‘Current Payment Laudable’

He disclosed during Thursday’s news conference that the Government has commenced the payment of the TRC’s liabilities, a situation which sparked rounds of public debate last week ,including that of the

National Legislature on the government’s refusal to pay the Commission whose official work ended over a year ago.

“The Government has commenced the payment of all TRC liabilities, for which we are exceedingly grateful as this is a major significant step towards full closure of this herculean enterprise”, he revealed.

The Liberian TRC joins over 30 other truth commissions established in 28 different countries of the world since the mid-1970s with eight African countries other than Liberia establishing truth commissions.

South Africa has had three truth commissions, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 1995. Other African countries which have established such commissions are: Uganda (1974), Chad (1991), Nigeria (1999), Ghana (2002), Sierra Leone (2002), Democratic Republic of Congo (2003), and Morocco (2004) with negotiations are ongoing to establish one in Burundi.

While some of them, such as the South African TRC, have yielded positive results, the impacts of others were never felt with a fear that Liberia might be heading in similar directions. In the case of Liberia’s, the jury is still out over whether the Truth Commission’s work has been clouded in controversy or the victim of a post-war government unwilling or perhaps still struggling to accept the findings of a body of work detailing the horrors of a brutal civil war.

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Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah



Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah

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