Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government must take no credit for good human rights record in Liberia.

Bernard Gbayee Goah
                                              By Bernard Gbayee Goah

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf continues to brag about the “improved” human rights record in Liberia under her administration. She recently boasted of her hard work in observing and improving human rights at the United Nations General Assembly. I would argue that human rights in Liberia are not improved and are in fact not where they should be after 5 years under her administration. There continues to be human rights abuses both in an effort to wrongfully protect offenders and wrongfully accuse the innocent.

Embarrassingly, the statement of President Johnson-Sirleaf is erroneous. Since the 2003 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the 1989 civil war in Liberia, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNIMIL) and UN International Police (UNPOL) have shared the responsibility of maintaining security within Liberia with the Liberian National Police and the Armed Forces. According to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor’s 2009 country report on human rights practices in Liberia (published March 11, 2010), there were many instances in which government security forces acted in a manner that infringed upon the rights of civilians. UNIMIL and UNPOL had no prior knowledge of these actions nor were they involved in carrying out these action.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor also mentioned mob violence and land disputes which resulted in deaths and ritualistic killings. Some of the killings were allegedly carried out by top government officials. They also report police abuse, harassment, and intimidation of detainees and citizens.

President Johnson-Sirleaf claims that Liberia’s human rights record is up to international standards. Yet the justice system, in its current state would prove otherwise. Prison conditions remain harsh and arbitrary arrests and detention are cloaked in darkness occurring in the late hours when few can witness the offenses against their neighbors. Once those who are arrested are behind prison doors, due process is often withheld as are their basic human rights. Instead of going to trial in a timely manner, justice is delayed. Instead of being tried with constitutional protection there are reports of trial by ordeal, leaving no legal recourse for the allegedly accused.

Many times people are arrested on unfounded charges or for crimes against the state. When in fact these people have done nothing wrong but to speak out against the current administration, which in turn takes personal offense and acts in retaliation. This is exactly what happened when Charles Julu was arrested in 2008 for crimes he allegedly committed but without due process and put into prison for months without being formerly charged. At last when pressure groups in the United States and elsewhere demanded a free and fair trial, Julu was declared not guilty by a Liberian court. Charles Julu died months later from alleged treatments he received while in prison. Up to now neither the government nor the United Nations has questioned the mysterious death of Charles Julu.

President Johnson-Sirleaf claims that Liberia’s human rights record is up to international standards. Yet the police, those hired to uphold the law and protect civilians, wreak havoc and instill fear. Police continually abuse, harass, and intimidate civilians, in an effort to extort money and for personal means. Journalists, human rights advocates, as well as other pressure group such as the Widows of Ex-AFL soldiers continue to be harassed, and threatened on a daily basis by police.

One wonders what criterion the Liberian government is using to substantiate its claims of an improved human rights record. The perceived improvement the outside world sees in Liberia is merely a mirage. My guess is the claims made by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are easily accepted, and of course she knows this, because when people think of Liberia they remember the war and assume that there could only be improvement. Whereas it is true that people are not dying by the gun but instead rotting to death in prison on unfounded charges. Women and children are no longer raped by soldiers and rebels, but instead by neighbors. Banks and stores are no longer looted by rebels, but instead government officials. Just as during the war, those committing crimes walk free. What must be highlighted are the experiences of Liberians today, not the memory of what happened during war. If that were the case, the claim of an improved human rights record would not be accepted, but instead questioned.

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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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