Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What I learned From the New York Symposium on the TRC: The Substance & the Politics (Guest Commentary)

By: Michael Keating
Michael Keating

I was quite surprised to wake up Monday morning and read on the pages of Front Page Africa, a publication run by my friend Rodney Sieh...

Source: The Liberian Journal

 I was quite surprised to wake up Monday morning and read on the pages of Front Page Africa, a publication run by my friend Rodney Sieh, that Jacob Massaquoi had called for the arrest of President Sirleaf as a terrorist. I have no doubt that Mr. Massaquou, head of the Africa Refuge Center of Staten Island, said those things but it should be pointed out that Mr. Massaquoi, although one of the supporters of the TRC conference through his organization, was not an official speaker at the conference nor an official panelist. Needless to say his views do not reflect those of the other conference organizers.

I was also quite surprised to hear that Mr. Massaquoi and several others had been to the U.S. State Department to call for the suspension of support for the 2011 elections and the installation of an interim government. Once again the organizers of the TRC conference were unaware of these political maneuverings and certainly do not endorse them. I personally think they are both ill-conceived and not at all in the true interests of the Liberian people.

The main purpose of the conference was to hear from the TRC Commissioners (Verdier, Washington, Stewart) and other interested Liberians and international supporters of Liberia, as to what should happen to the TRC recommendations.

All panelists were told to keep politics out of their presentations but few of the Liberians on the panel and many in the audience were unable to resist grinding their axe in such a public forum. Personally I had no problem with that, but because other panelists with more moderate views chose not to attend, the floor was left open to the critics of the current government. In any case, I think it was an eye-opener for the non-Liberians in the audience to hear Liberians criticizing President Sirleaf who generally gets only high praise in the American media.

The reason that moderate panelists dropped out -- some at the last minute -- was because they thought that only radicals would be in attendance despite seeing that there were several prominent international experts on Transitional Justice on the panels as well as the TRC commissioners. Not having the moderates in attendance, including some TRC related human rights organizations -- who seemed to me to pull out when they found out that Jerome Verdier would be the main speaker -- already made the conversation more one-sided. Nevertheless, the proceedings were lively and I believe largely on-target. It strains the imagination to understand how you could have a serious conversation on the TRC without the presence of the lead commissioner.

The bottom-line is that the TRC recommendations are sitting in space right now and need to be brought to earth. The government of Liberia should convene a panel of experts who will help sequence the recommendations and come up with a strategy for their implementation. The main thing to keep in mind is that it does not all have to be done at once and does not all have to be done right now. As long as people are alive they can be brought to trial. It took over a decade to prosecute General Pinochet of Chile. Time is on the side of the just.

Although certain individuals tried to hijack this conference for their own political interests (and some tried to avoid it for another type of political interest) it should not obscure the fact that the work of the TRC is not finished. In fact, it has barely begun. Although certain people and organizations showed some fear of engaging with people who might have disagreed with them, the time is ripe for bringing all participants in the TRC process together to try to iron out a strategy for moving forward.

Any attempts to criticize the conference because of the intemperate words of people who were not on the official agenda are ill-founded. The TRC conference at the New School was hopefully the beginning of a series of discussions on what should happen to the TRC, and how finally, the victims of the violence can finally get some redress, and most importantly, justice.

Editor’s Note: Michael Keating was one of the co-coordinators of the TRC conference that took place New York on Oct. 19-20. He is the Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He can be reached at michael.keating@umb.edu.

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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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