Sunday, October 31, 2010

‘Dubious Value’ in Some Recommendations at TRC Symposium in America

POLITICAL FOOTBALL: It is fair to say, however, that most of the speakers were critical of the current government’s foot dragging on the TRC recommendations. Unfortunately some of the Liberian speakers (not the commissioners mentioned above) stated that the U.S. State Dept. should pull its support for next year’s election and instead work to install an ‘interim’ government and/or a national commission to de-legitimate the current government. Personally I find these recommendations to be of dubious value. The history of interim governments in Liberia is a sad one and there is no guarantee that the TRC recommendations would fare any better under an interim government than they are faring under the current situation. Nor would the citizens of Liberia.



Michael Keating is a Lecturer at the New School University and Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston.


- Michael Keating, Contributing Writer,

Source: FrontPage Africa

POLITICAL FOOTBALL: It is fair to say, however, that most of the speakers were critical of the current government’s foot dragging on the TRC recommendations. Unfortunately some of the Liberian speakers (not the commissioners mentioned above) stated that the U.S. State Dept. should pull its support for next year’s election and instead work to install an ‘interim’ government and/or a national commission to de-legitimate the current government. Personally I find these recommendations to be of dubious value. The history of interim governments in Liberia is a sad one and there is no guarantee that the TRC recommendations would fare any better under an interim government than they are faring under the current situation. Nor would the citizens of Liberia.

Michael Keating is a Lecturer at the New School University and Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Cambridge, MA -

Last Friday at the New School University in New York City, a group of TRC Commissioners as well as several Liberian civic leaders from Liberia, the U.S. and Europe met with a group of international experts to discuss the future prospects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions report and recommendations. Headed by TRC Commissioner Jerome Verdier, along with Commissioners Massa Washington and John Stewart, the Liberian contingent was passionate in asking the international community and civil society in Liberia to push for the implementation of the TRC recommendations up to and including the implementation of war-crimes tribunals.

On the American side were experts like Dr. David Backer of the US Institute of Peace, Dr. Louis Bickford of the New School, Jeannie Annan of the IRC and Tania Bernath, a former analyst from Amnesty International. Each of these experts has worked extensively in Liberia and were invited to share their research and to engage in productive dialog about options for the future of the process.

The sole purpose of the conference was to examine what the current status of the TRC report was, what was holding up the implementation of recommendations and what lessons can be learned from the Liberian process? Unfortunately, some cynical individuals tried to cast aspersions on this valuable conversation by claiming that the conference had been hijacked by opponents of the current government.

That is absurd because the government of Liberia was invited (although they did not choose to attend) with plenty of advanced notice and each of the panels were originally staffed with a range of voices. The upshot of the rumors was that several panelists cancelled at the last minute thus diminishing the range of opinions that would have made the Liberian contribution more balanced.

It is fair to say, however, that most of the speakers were critical of the current government’s foot dragging on the TRC recommendations. Unfortunately some of the Liberian speakers (not the commissioners mentioned above) stated that the U.S. State Dept. should pull its support for next year’s election and instead work to install an ‘interim’ government and/or a national commission to de-legitimate the current government.

Personally I find these recommendations to be of dubious value. The history of interim governments in Liberia is a sad one and there is no guarantee that the TRC recommendations would fare any better under an interim government than they are faring under the current situation. Nor would the citizens of Liberia.

Political football no doubt

Both Dr. Jack Saul of Columbia University and myself, the co-coordinators of this conference (along with the Africa Refuge Center of Staten Island who paid for some of the speakers’ travel expenses) , wanted to keep politics out of this discussion. That was an impossible task.

There is no doubt that the TRC Report will become a political football in the upcoming elections. That is too bad because it will dishonor the victims of the conflict and everyone who contributed their heart-and-soul to the process.

It seems to me -- and this is strictly a personal opinion-- that the government should enter into a serious engagement with the TRC recommendations and convene a panel of experts who can help sequence when and how the recommendations should be implemented. To do otherwise would be a serious dereliction of responsibility unless the government can demonstrate convincingly why the recommendations shouldn’t be implemented. Simply ignoring the TRC or minimal compliance are not going to silence the critics.

As Dr. Backer pointed out, there is no need to do everything at once. It took Chile and Spain many years to actively pursue prosecutions for war criminals. Perhaps Liberia needs more work to be done on its judicial system before contemplating similar prosecutions. Perhaps they need to outsource the more blatant cases to the International Criminal Court.

Still an interesting question

In the end, the question that was left hanging at the end of the conference was whether there can be reconciliation -- in Liberia or anywhere -- without justice? This is a question that should be asked at a neutral forum in Monrovia with representatives of the victims given full voice to express their opinion.

It is not clear whether an overwhelming number of Liberians are in favor of seeing some of their current leaders dragged into a court-room and charged with crimes against humanity. It is clear, however, that people will have a difficult time closing the book on the past without some kind of redress and reform of the overall human rights framework.

Nevertheless, it is still an interesting question to ask whether a country can really move forward when impunity seems to be the order of the day? Liberia, unfortunately, seems to be finding this out.

Michael Keating is a Lecturer at the New School University and Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston.









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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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