Friday, November 5, 2010

We cannot allow the death penalty to be used to silence the past

Bernard Gbayee Goah
Written By Bernard Gbayee Goah

One of the worst evils emerging in present day Liberia is armed robbery. The inability of government to create innovate durable solutions to minimize armed robbery in Liberia is threatening the very existence of a peaceful Liberian society. Armed robbery is spreading through Liberia like an unstoppable dry season bush fire. At first, armed attacks usually occurred at night, but today it is common for anyone to experience an attack in broad day light, sometimes right before the very presence of the police and the UN peacekeepers. As a result, Liberians save the little money they have, not to purchase food or pay their children’s school fees, but to purchase steel locks and iron doors to protect their home. Instead of experiencing freedom, citizens are imprisoning themselves within their homes in an effort to protect themselves and their families. Personal testimonies, radio, and newspaper headlines attest to the numerous incidents’ of armed robbery all over Liberia. Insecurity is being felt throughout the entire country. The presence of the UN peacekeepers has yielded very little results in creating safety. Just imagine that banks, with all the security at their deposal, are no longer safe from armed attacks in Liberia. Incidents of banks being robbed with arms has become to surface in the country, deterring many prospective business investors from Liberia.

As peaceful citizens continue to press on for national healing and development, the effects of armed robbery in Liberia has begun to quench citizen’s enthusiasm around the rebuilding process. Do we have to wait for armed robbers to attack the Executive Mansion of Liberia before the government develops a sound, thoughtful, and durable solution to combat armed robbery in Liberia?

Liberians must force the hand of the government and insist on action. Action for most Liberians is not the death penalty, a weak and inhuman way to “deal” with trouble makers. Instead Liberians want the government to look at itself, and its role in why there are so many citizens turning to armed robbery.

One area that must be addressed is the lack of support for and integration of former child soldiers. Thousands of combatants under age 18 - some as young as six were illegally recruited by Charles Taylor’s NPFL and other warring factions in Liberia over the years.

During the war in Liberia, child soldiers were often forced to take dangerous drugs and commit serious crimes alongside adult soldiers. Warlords and their financial supporters believed that juveniles committing war crimes would not be prosecuted so there was a very great chance that warlords delegated more atrocities to be committed by child soldiers. Many former Liberian child soldiers are now adults with little or no former educational background. These former soldiers know their former commanders, those who financed the purchasing of the weapons used during the war, those who met them in closed door meetings to encourage them contra positively to kill and destroy.

These former soldiers are also aware that those who made them to do what they did are in top positions today in government but have no plans set in place to create educational and employment opportunities for them since the war is now over.

Let me put it this way: If you were a former combatant of the NPFL rebel faction of Charles Taylor, and if you were fully aware that the present president of Liberia funded and supported the war against the Liberian people, or if you were a former combatant of LURD and MODEL rebel factions, and if you were aware that top people in the present Liberian government who gave you the arms to kill and destroy are enjoying abundant wealth and riding in big cars in the streets of Monrovia while you have become mere street beggars, what would you do?

You have realized that everything they promised is untrue. You have realized that they are no different from those that came before them. You have realized that they are just old wines in new bottles. You have realized that they don’t want to sincerely share their role in the war and you know that they even visited the war front while you were fighting for their cause.

You put your life on the line for them but you have realized that they just think you are an idiot. You are old enough now, but you have no trade. You are now rejected within the civilian society because of what you did while you were a child during the war.

You are exposed and have become community rejects. No one knows your name anymore. All you now know is how to use the AK 47 and the 40 Mac Mac (M203). You now have a wife and children you must support.

You have realized that if you do not do something to support your children to obtain good education, your children could be used by the children of those that used you while you were just a child, and the future of your children would become bleak as yours. But mostly you have come to know that there are no jobs anywhere in the country for the “type” of person you are.

You are not permitted to be enrolled in both the military and the paramilitary sector of Liberia. You are called rebel forever. Sometimes you want to see the president you used to see at the war front while you were fighting but can no longer see the president because you are now considered a dangerous person.

You sit and watch your children cry because they are hungry but you are unable to provide food for them. Although you know that those who gave you the arms and drugs should also be called rebels, they are now called government officials.

You and your children continue to go hungry 24/7 while the President whom you have known from start continues to travel all over the world for reasons you cannot understand.

You see men like Prince Johnson riding around the streets of Monrovia. He is not called a rebel but rather a representative of a county. And you know what he has done and what he has instructed you to do while you were fighting for him as a child soldier. And you wonder why no one is saying anything. Your only option might be to create awareness for the government to do something. Suppose at first you robbed and used force to get things from people, but you have heard that government will now execute any armed robber who is caught. Will you choose to spare the lives of your victims, or would you rather destroy the evidence?

If the Liberian government must take into consideration tangible, durable, but above all convincing solutions that would minimize crime rate in the country, using reasonable judgment is imperative.

Reasonable judgment would be implementing the TRC’s final recommendations as a deterrent factor for the minimization of crimes in the country.

The second deterrent factor is creating a sustainable social and economic reintegration of ex-combatants into a peaceful society along with comprehensive development projects that are not temporary in order to continuously facilitate the transition from war to peace.

The third deterrent factor in the minimization of crime rate is without any doubt the creation of a war crime court in Liberia to bring to justice those responsible for the death of over 300,000 people.

Lastly, The Liberian government must focus on creating an economy that can support its citizens. For the role of government is to improve the lives of its people otherwise, there would be no need for a government. Improving the lives of people means justice and fairness, accountability, transparency, truth telling, and  creating jobs opportunities. Without this, people, regardless of their past will look for other ways to support themselves.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

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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