Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Govt Ready for TRC Report


According to protocol, the TRC is to submit its Final Consolidated Reports released last November to the National Legislature, for only God knows what, and simultaneously submit it to the President for implementation by the Independent National Human Rights Commission of Liberia (INHRC).

The protocol allows no comparing notes. Ironically, the President is supposed to make "periodic report" to the Legislature, a co-receiver. The confusion over handling priority and responsibility, and perhaps plus public debate about the legitimacy of the TRC itself, caused the Sirleaf Administration sometime last year to adopt a review of the report. Now the review is completed. The Analyst, reports.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is due, this week, to submit her first report to the National Legislature regarding the implementation of the Final Consolidated Report of the TRC.

Presidential Press Secretary Cyril W. Badio told a regular press briefing Monday that the President's reports contained the findings of civil society groups she constituted to review the TRC report.

Under the TRC protocol of implementation, the President is only supposed to report on what the INHRC has accomplished under a three-month period of activities. The protocol gives no room for any such thing as implementation review report.

Many say this restriction, more than anything else, raises questions about the President's pending report and sends skeptics braving for the déjá vu.

But a president's report to parliament based on the review of civil society groups about a controversial report that had been idle for nearly a year, analysts say, makes a good hearing for a society eager to put its past behind it.

Early uncertain

Mr. Badio did not name the civil society groups, nor did he say what the groups' specific mandates were or where it derived its authority – since the implementation protocol of the TRC provided for no such review groups.

But he recalled that the President set up the groups to review the report and suggest a way forward.

"The President is keen to ensure that a report to the National Legislature on the TRC report contains substantive issues for the lawmakers' consideration. Once the legislators receive the document, more details will be provided to the public," Mr. Badio at Monday's press briefing said.

Rising hope, controversies and denials, enduring questions

Until the press secretary's abrupt announcement Monday, pessimists had concluded that the TRC reports might never be implemented, given the barrages of ifs and ands and issues of legitimacy that greeted its first "unedited draft" in June 2009.

Observers however say the announcement has raised the hope of Liberians who believe that only punitive sanctions against those who deliberately exceeded the limits of war and committed crimes against humanity will heal the soul of Liberia.

The Transitional Administration of Charles Gyude Bryant set up the TRC in 2005 to find ways to bring the victims and perpetrators of Liberia's civil war together in a forum of purging confrontation to "tell the truth, seek forgiveness, and eventually reconcile".

But midway in its work, perhaps given the gruesomeness of the tales of death and mayhem it garnered from victims, the TRC decided that even though the "palava hut style" method of arbitration was helpful in certain circumstances, it was found wanting in most circumstances.

It was perhaps due to what the commission found that transformed its philosophy of reconciliation from the simple victim-driven resolution to retributive justice, clutching the fallacy that it is only punitive justice that begets peace.

Anxious to adopt what it saw as international disposition toward war crime and crime against humanity and to put Liberia on par, the commission failed to appreciate what possible enduring peace and reconciliation victim-dictated and driven peace resolutions would bring to the Liberian countryside outside the rigidity of international law.

"Liberia is a close-knit lineage society where vanity is frowned upon seriously and where the loss of social standing for infamy brings more gratification to society and victims than what any court system can bring. These warlords should have gone through the palava hut system and lose their social and political standings forever. The TRC should have known this," said one observer in a recent chat with this paper.

The controversy regarding whether it is traditional methods of justice or the legal system of justice that is suitable to Liberia's peace and reconciliation agenda following 14 years of mayhem, which produced no victor, remains on top of the question of what to do with the TRC report.

But it is not a new one. Back in 2003 and in the subsequent series of peace meetings across Ghana, Liberian peace stakeholders and their international mentors belabored the question and came away convinced that anything other than traditional justice would spark fresh hostilities in Liberia.

They opted for the TRC system, there and then resolving that Liberia would not subscribe to tribunal justice in addressing its peace and reconciliation questions.

The overwhelming view then was that since the war ended with the voluntary resolution of all Liberians to put hostilities behind them and handle their socio-economic and political questions through the ballot box and through the resolve never to learn war any more, no Liberian has the moral right to stand in judgment of the other.

"All have sinned and come short of the glory of the Lord", was the key convention biblical quote.

However, few still think that the then prevailing view for opting for a simple peace and reconciliation process remains relevant today and perhaps for a long time to come.

With the international community convinced that Liberia is still "fragile", besides being economically weak to support any drawn-out war crime trials of more than 500 suspected war crime perpetrators, some say the chances of implementing the TRC recommendations holistically remain slimmer.

This line of thought, though, triggers another question regarding what exactly the mainstay of President Sirleaf's report to the Legislature, this week, might be and whatever it is, how welcome it would be.

"Will it ask the Legislature to debate the implications of some of the controversial recommendations such as the 30-year political exclusion for individuals, including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, suspected of 'supporting the war effort'?" observers say is the key question.

The Executive and the Legislature may decide between them what portion of the report the former, through INHRC can implement, and which one it cannot.

However, one of two things must happen in order for this to happen, according to analysts. The Supreme Court may first have to nullify what many see as the TRC's imposition on the peace process as unconstitutional, as former COTOL presidential contender now UP chairman Cllr. Varney Sherman has been pushing for, or the Legislature may have to repeal part of the TRC mandate.

Even that, observers say, raises a question of credibility. Would pro punitive justice advocates accept a "watered down" TRC report? Though legal, would such move be politically expedient?

What about the TRC and its international backers, who, it seems, are already doubtful about the government's willingness to implement the recommendations as Chairman Verdier confirmed in recent remarks during the closure of the commission's headquarters in Sinkor.

But what if President Sirleaf told the Legislature in this week's report that Liberia cannot afford the legal aspect of the TRC recommendations and that therefore she wants a resolution authorizing the implementation of the other recommendations?

Some say such a request would be granted, given that key members of the Legislature, mainly the Senate, comprises individuals who directed the war and oversaw most of the atrocities.

These House members are a minority, but peer solidarity may be a factor, said one observer.

That is not the only anomaly in the TRC recommendations that may lend ground to lawmakers wanting to weigh in, in order to protect their political futures, on the side of those who want an unencumbered peace and reconciliation process void of drawn-out legal battles.

By itself also, the exclusion of politicians in and out of government from the political process for 30 years without due process in violation of the Constitution of Liberia creates conditions for solidarity within parliament – war crimes suspects forming cohorts with those who stand to be excluded, "illegally", from politics.

Article 20 says neither the government of Liberia nor any quasi judicial group must deprive any person of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege, or another rights except through due process of law, how ever overwhelming is the supposed evidence of guilt or how weighty is public opinion against the accused.

This raises a number of other enduring questions: Did the TRC conduct an investigation to convict those slated for political exclusion? Could it have conducted an investigation? Did it have the legal standing to do so? If did, why didn't it try the war crime suspects as well and hand down legal verdicts but rather recommended the setting up of a special court? Does the obvious double dealing say something about the nature of the TRC and how the move from a palava hut style of justice to heavily leaning on punitive justice create the problem of implementation? Can the TRC afford to use illegal means to obtain justice vis-à-vis the issue political exclusion?

Observers say these and other questions continue to confront the nation as the President sets to inform the people's representatives of what her administration and civil society groups have discovered about the TRC report.

How she says what she will say or will not say to the people's representatives – and not basically what she will say – analysts say will go a long way in setting the tune for the debate or implementation of the TRC report piecemeal or holistically.

Until then, they say, Liberians have only to continue twiddling their thumbs as they wait.

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Everyone is a genius

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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