|TRC Chairman James Verdier’s|
|President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf|
|Mr. Charles Taylor|
Former TRC Chairman James Verdier’s critique of the Sirleaf administration’s “lukewarm” or “impartial” reaction to violence in Libya has generated what appears to be an endless verbal feud between the two. The battle line, perhaps drawn since Verdier headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has emerged clearly between him and the Sirleaf administration or the ruling party. Both camps have been trading harsh words and there is no sign that the exchanges would end anytime soon. Though the latest version of scathing attack has come from the former TRC boss, Analyst leafs through the background and soaring intensity of bitter exchanges in which all two are culprits.
It appears truce is not in sight between former TRC Chairman James Verdier on the one hand and President Sirleaf, her Unity Party and administration on the other relative to a verbal fracas ignited by the former’s assertions liking the Liberian President and embattled Libyan leader Qaddafi over the latter’s failure to condemn reported atrocities taking place in Libya.
Igniting the “War”Verdier, a human rights activist in Liberia and former Chair of the TRC which investigated and reported on atrocities committed during Liberia’s 16 years of conflict, joined other activists in condemning what he called the barbaric the brutal killings of protesters in Libya by the Libyan regime of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Drawing parallel between the Libyan and Liberian war situations, Verdier noted: “The massacre in Libya reminded the nation and people of Liberia of similar barbaric killings in Liberia financed and resourced by Libya through its military and financial support for the NPFL of President Charles Taylor,” before linking President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, saying she is a key ally of Col. Qaddafi, with whom she has consulted and visited throughout her six-year tenure as President of Liberia--something which he said holds a “unique opportunity to distance Liberia from the brutality of the Libyan Government by making a public and categorical condemnation of the disproportionate and irrational force used in the wanton and brutal killings of the Libyan people.”
According to the former TRC chairman, a condemnation of sort by President Sirleaf could demonstrate the spirit of true democracy, human rights and African solidarity, especially when done at the expense of personal interest but in the interest of humanity worldwide.
“While it is true that power mongers will always support each other, when the interest and long term future of the people conflict with the political agenda of their power driven-leaders,” Verdier picked bone with President Sirleaf, “such leaders must go! Such is in the case of Libya and our President must recognize this and stand on the side of human rights and democracy and condemn the killings instead of being worried about securing business deals with the pariah of 41 years.”
As Chairman of the TRC, Verdier included President Sirleaf amongst names of war crimes perpetrator and recommended her, along with others, for 30-year ban from politics; something the President and her supporters, including the Supreme Court term as unconstitution.
Speaking further on the Libyan situation and the link Sirleaf had in it, Verdier said in 21st-century democracies and in Liberia, there was no place for the leadership or people and leaders who wage war on their own people and stain their hands with the blood of their innocence either to obtain power or preserve it.
“The President of Liberia has a duty, not only to condemn the killings and advise her key ally that these killings may have been acceptable in the 90s by proxy but they are no longer tolerated in the 21st-century but, to also declare that Liberia will not be a safe haven, refuge or place of asylum for high grade human rights violators like Col. Qaddafi who stain their hands with the blood of innocent citizens just as it was done in Liberia over the past two decades.”
Verdeir further noted that Liberians should be aware that a new Liberia is and cannot be a haven or leadership platform for war mongers and high grade human rights violators who subordinate the rights and life of the people to their personal ambitions for power.”
He said Liberians “not to vote for anyone or people who brought war, supported war, financed war and resourced war in Liberia and thereby stained their hands with the innocent blood of thousands of children, women, youth, elderly and men who continue to linger in mass graves and shallow resting without memory or redress. If we do otherwise, we will do so to our own peril and continue to endure and therefore prolong the misery of our transition from war to peace.”
Pro-Sirleaf Groups ReactAmongst groups that got on Verdier’s back over his statements made against the President was the ruling Unity Party, which said: “For Cllr. Jerome Verdier to today accuse Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of being an ally of President Kaddafi in the latter's alleged economic exploitation of the Libyan people or of atrocities committed against the Libyan people over the 42 years of the reign of President Kaddafi or during the course of the ongoing saga that the Libyan people are suffering under is not only disingenuous, but evidence of plain malice.”
The Party further charged in a lengthy press statement: “For Cllr. Verdier to suggest that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf would support or wish for the Libyan people what she fought against in her own country for more than 30 years is ludicrous, just laughable.”
Defending the reputation of its standard bearer, the Unity Party noted President Sirleaf during her activist days, spoke out strongly against the system when she could; and in the various capacities that she held in that government, she was always quick to take action and set in motion processes that enhanced transparency, equity, fairness and inclusion.
“For those Liberians who should know but prefer to ignore the facts, it should be recalled that as much as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf quietly advocated and worked for a changed Liberia during the 1970s, because of her inherent objection to violence and her adherence to the rule of law, she refused to be a part of the Military Government which overthrew the Tolbert Regime in April 1980,” the ruling party asserted.
Going a bit gutter, the Party said: “Cllr. Verdier was catapulted to prominence when he was named the Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); his pretensions as a human rights activist made it possible for him to get that post; but it is well-known now that his failure as a trial lawyer led him to take on human rights activism. For reasons still unfathomable, but often assumed to be motivated by political surrogacy and the unbridled ambition to gain and maintain prominence in Liberia at the expense of well-established Liberians, such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who have distinguished themselves in both the public and private sectors of Liberia, Cllr. Verdier has embarked on a crusade to malign, impugn, castigate and disrespect President Sirleaf. The TRC Chairmanship gave him the platform to do harm to an honorable person; but his over-zealousness caused his outright failure.”
The party said not only did the TRC, under the chairmanship of Cllr. Verdier, fail miserably and waste resources of both the Liberian people and the international community, the TRC made recommendations plainly inconsistent with Liberia's Constitution and laws. One of these recommendations is to bar President Sirleaf from holding public office for 30 years; it is a recommendation that every first year student of criminal law or constitutional law knows has no basis and efficacy. This recommendation has no factual basis; it has no legal fulcrum.
Back With More Strong WordsAs if he did not exhaust himself in his first verbal showdown against Sirleaf and the ruling Party, Verdier emerged on the newsstand again yesterday taking cue from the Unity Party-led government’s latest public statements over the Libyan conflict.
Welcoming the statement of the Government of Liberia to condemn the ongoing onslaught in the North African Republic of Libya and commending President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for mustering the courage to do so, Verdier blasted those he referred to as “blistering opposition from spineless praise singers and sycophants who have neither the wits to adequately articulate the good policies, programs and development initiatives of government nor the wisdom to render positive advice to the President but whose only interest is to protect their opportunistic standings in the corridors of power to benefit from the holdings of Libya in Liberia.”
Verdier said by joining the chorus of condemnation, the Government of Liberia sets herself apart from the brutality and excesses of the Libyan regime, but said the GOL position could have gone much further than it did and with less ambiguity in posture on the issues of the right to life and the wanton actions of the Libyan Government that demonstrated a callous disregard for the sanctity of life.
The statement issued yesterday noted that the political culture of Liberia is historically and currently blighted by patronage, greed, selfishness, wickedness and human or blood sacrifice in high places, corruption and impunity in such a fashion that speaking truth to power is characteristically viewed as a threat to power.
“This backward mentality has led to the backward state of affairs in Liberia, breeding cowardice and arrogant abuse and gross misuse of state power without accountability,” he said, adding, “in the midst of mounting development and progressive challenges, the most fundamental issues underpinning development, peace and re conciliation in Liberia are the twin evils of corruption(accountability) and impunity(justice) or the lack of accountability and justice in Liberia and the TRC was an honest effort by well meaning Liberians and the International Community to redress these evils of the land.
Verdier intimated that contrary to the assertions of many, the political sanctions recommendations of the TRC for 30 year ban politicians including president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was motivated by the mandate of the TRC to “address issues of impunity” consistent with the functions and powers of the TRC to “ensuring accountability, political or otherwise, for any such violations.”
According to him the prospects for justice in Libya looms in the horizon, it is his prayer that the pendulum of justice will tilt towards Liberia so that the wheels of justice eventually catch up with perpetrators of hideous crimes in Liberia.
He said Liberians should be bold and fearless in speaking truth to power irrespective of their standing, interest, partnership, connections or is relationship to that be.
Verdier said that many of our compatriots seek political office and power not for the good of society but for protection to cover up their crimes, perpetuate rampart corruption and protect their ill-gotten wealth at the expense and to the detriment of the people of Liberia cannot be gainsaid.
He encouraged Liberians to be bold and fearless in standing up against the ills of society and speak truth to power for, as he noted, the Holy Bible in Proverbs 10:10 guarantees that “people who wink at wrong cause trouble; but a bold reproof promotes peace.” Let us, he said, work for peace in Liberia by making sure that we never vote to office people who are corrupt, violators of human rights, aided and abetted or supported war in Liberia, thereby staining their hands with the innocent blood of many Liberians who are still crying for a fitting grave, eternal rest and justice.