"Oftentimes the word Peace is used interchangeably with the term Absence of War. But these are two distinct concepts which must not be confused. With the Nigerian Army decisive victory over the breakaway Biafran forces, peace was declared. But this did not happen in Korea. Therefore, sixty years later, the countries of North Korea and South Korea remain at war, though an all-out fight has yet to resume".
- HON. TQ HARRIS, JR.
|HON. TQ HARRIS, JR.|
THE LOYAL OPPOSITION STATEMENT IN RECOGNITION OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES IN LIBERIA
DELIVERED BY HON. TQ HARRIS, JR.
AUGUST 20, 2013
SETTING THE PEACE RECORD STRAIGHT
Oftentimes the word Peace is used interchangeably with the term Absence of War. But these are two distinct concepts which must not be confused. With the Nigerian Army decisive victory over the breakaway Biafran forces, peace was declared. But this did not happen in Korea. Therefore, sixty years later, the countries of North Korea and South Korea remain at war, though an all-out fight has yet to resume.
Despite the euphoria in some quarters, peace has yet to be achieved in Liberia. However, the ceasefire negotiated in 2003 by the international community has been maintained. But there has been no meaningful action on the part of Liberians themselves to prevent the resumption of hostilities. Therefore talks of celebrating ten years of peace are deceptive and can only further delay the recovery.
How could there be peace in Liberia where currently thousands of heavily armed international peacekeeping troops are deployed across the country with no fixed date for their departure? Why are we lying to ourselves? The Liberian people desperately want peace, but standing in the way are agents of war who currently hold the reins of power.
This tenth anniversary of relative calm should be an occasion for Liberians of all persuasions, under the proper leadership, to come together and lay out a realistic agenda that will finally usher in lasting peace. Because the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Accra, Ghana, cannot bring peace to Liberia, it has only temporarily halted the violence. This document in and of itself cannot compel Liberians to live in harmony, which brings to mind the words of a former U.S. President: “Peace is not a piece of paper.” Therefore Liberians must work for peace and be willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
Genuine peace can only return to Liberia when those bearing the greatest responsibility for the brutal war and those who committed atrocities against the Liberian people are no longer celebrated, but rather held accountable for their actions and excluded from public office.
Liberians will only know peace and reap its benefits when there is deterrence, rule of law, justice, and an end to impunity.
The savage 14 years war which claimed the lives of more than a quarter million Liberians and displaced over a million people was orchestrated by a small group of Liberians that erred in believing that war was the best option to contain President Samuel Doe and rein in corruption in his government. These individuals included Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr. Amos Sawyer, Dr. Richard Tolbert, Mr. Byron Tarr, Mr. Harry Greaves, Mr. Thomas Woewiyu, and Former President Charles Taylor, among others. The organizations they created for this purpose (Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia - ACDL and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia - NPFL) placed deadly narcotics and powerful weapons in the hands of children as young as nine to fight their war. Evidently, this proved to be a colossal error which they must accept.
President Doe fiercely resisted the invading Libyan-trained rebels; and before long, the entire country was engulfed in one of Africa’s most brutal and destructive wars. The combination of ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, blind ambition, greed and witchcraft resulted in the downfall of the Constitutional government as well as Liberia’s disintegration. And the unprecedented chaos that ensued has yet to abate.
Following the assassination of President Samuel Doe in 1990, Dr. Amos Sawyer became the first interim head of state. Sixteen years later, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first female president. The military campaign succeeded in overthrowing the government and ushering its architects into power, but it has done nothing to curb corruption or instill the rule of law. In fact Liberia has regressed.
Following the execution of an extremely brutal and unnecessary war that decimated the country’s infrastructure, destroyed a generation, caused mass displacement of people, and created wounds that will never heal; the architects of the senseless violence have now emerged as the new corrupt elites. Is it possible that these individuals could successfully lead the peace and reconciliation efforts, or effectively spearhead Liberia’s transformation? And will the international community investment in Liberia produce the intended results under the current leadership? We believe the answer to these questions is a resounding NO!
Let there be no mistake, the calm that is currently prevailing in Liberia has little to do with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s leadership ability or the presence of international peacekeeping troops; rather, it must be credited largely to the following:
1. The individuals who introduced and perpetrated mass violence across Liberia are now the current national leaders. Therefore they have no interest in starting a war. To cite an example: Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who described the 1985 presidential and general elections as fraudulent and refused to accept her senatorial seat, proceeded to organize an arms insurrection that overthrew the Samuel Doe government. Later in 1997, after losing the presidential election, she backed yet another arms insurrection that brought down the Charles Taylor government. Considering this pattern of behavior, which also includes sponsoring the failed coup against President Doe led by General Thomas Quiwonkpa; it is safe to assume that had Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf not been elected president in 2005, and with current living conditions as deplorable as they are, it is likely she might have organized yet another arms insurrection;
2. Those who once held sway over the population and could very easily mobilize thousands have lost credibility due to past behavior. Now their criticisms and activism have no effect. However, there are upstanding personalities within the country who demand the people’s respect, but they have yet to act; and
3. The strongest and most compelling explanation for the prevailing tranquility has to do with the extreme violence, abuse, and trauma visited upon Liberians during the war. The population in general still harbors vivid memories of the horrors and are momentarily paralyzed; hence, they are willing to tolerate inconveniences and even the high level of corruption rather than risk a repeat of the dehumanization associated with the 14 years carnage. Unfortunately, the current administration has exploited this vulnerability and engaged in practices that are inimical to a sustainable peace.
Most troubling in this tenth year since the guns were silenced, is the likelihood that certain elements might conclude out of desperation that violence is the only option to rid the nation of individuals such as Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr. Amos Sawyer, and the many others that are responsible for the misery. Afterall, the will of the people, as expressed in the TRC recommendations, has been suppressed using the corrupt justice system as well as other diabolical means. And President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the Iron Lady -- has blatantly refused to accept a graceful exit as a compromise for her role in the mass destruction of lives and properties.
Also, since coming to power eight years ago, the Sirleaf administration has yet to arrest or prosecute a single individual for atrocities committed during the war, even though former President Charles Taylor has been sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for aiding and abetting similar crimes in Sierra Leone. And Chucky Taylor, his son, is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S. for crimes he committed in Liberia during the war. Yet, under Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s leadership, the people of Liberia continue to be subjected to the whims and caprices of our abusers.
The Loyal Opposition would like to use this occasion to appeal particular to Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Dr. Amos Sawyer as current and former heads of state respectively to provide the requisite leadership that will finally bring lasting peace to the Liberian people. Taking a noble step for peace will not only discourage others who might be contemplating violence, it also will effectively launch genuine reconciliation. Remember, your rise to prominence came through violence; why should others not follow your footsteps if you are unwilling to denounce violence through a bold demonstration of personal remorse?
We urge our fellow Liberians to remain peaceful, but let us not hesitate to voice our discontent even through civil disobedience if necessary. Because collective silence in the face of ungodly leadership, rampant corruption, and injustice may yet again result in the forceful surrender of our freedoms to those inclined to violence. Therefore be ever vigilant and remember the words of Mr. Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
We pray that the coming decade will bring for the Liberian people lasting peace, unity, and unimaginable prosperity under the leadership of men and women of integrity.