Liberia: Echoes of Ugly Past - Cause For Concern Over Rights Violators in Weah’s Circle

Liberia: Echoes of Ugly Past - Cause For Concern Over Rights Violators in Weah’s Circle

MANY WERE CAUGHT unaware by a FrontPageAfrica investigative report this week unearthing a damaging but exclusive revelation that some key figures from Liberia’s ugly and brutal civil war and former officers of late President Samuel Kanyon Doe’s Special Security Services (SSS) are making their way back into the security sector as members of President George Manneh Weah’s security details.

SEVERAL CURRENT and former EPS agents told FrontPageAfrica that in addition to the rebels and unqualified figures from the civil war, many are being referred by the Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, and perhaps the President to an already over-staffed service and integrated in the President’s circle thereby presenting a serious national security threat.

SADATT HENRY WOLO, the newly-appointed Assistant Director, Executive Protection Service confirmed the FrontPageAfrica report when he said in an interview this week that although the EPS under his watch has some ex-combatants, society must accept that most of those who found themselves in activities of the civil war are now remodeled and refined. “We all came from some kind of background. Some of these guys have been remodeled. They’ve become transformed. Some have attained education and are now different and reformed persons. So, why should we deny them the opportunity to serve?”-

AS EXPECTED, some of the President’s die-hard supporters greeted the report with disdain going as far as to suggest that the war is over and there should be no fuss over bringing former combatants back into the fold.

LIBERIA IS WITHOUT A DOUBT, still a fragile, post-war nation. Despite three successful elections after a brutal civil war, the country is yet to implement findings of a Truth and Reconciliation Report on why Africa’s oldest republic went to war, the impact of the conflict on women, children and the generality of the Liberian society; responsibility for the massive commission of Gross Human Rights Violations (GHRV), and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (IHRL) as well as Egregious Domestic Law Violations (EDLV).

THE REPORT was clear in recommending that Criminal Prosecution for violations, Reparations and a "Palava Hut" Forum is necessary and desirable to redress impunity, promote peace, justice, security, unity and genuine national reconciliation.

THE WAR which rocked Liberia on the eve of Christmas in 1989 was marred by massacres, economic crimes and scores of extra-judicial killings.

THE REPORT NOTED: “Lack of human rights culture and education, depravation and over a century of state suppression and insensitivity, and wealth acclamation by a privileged few created a debased conscience for massive rights violations during the conflict thus engendering a culture of violence as means to an end, with an entrenched culture of impunity.”

THIS IS WHY we applaud a statement by the Liberia Council of Churches this week, calling for the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or TRC recommendations.

BISHOP KORTU K. BROWN, the LCC President, said full implementation of the TRC recommendations will resolve the long-standing problems facing Liberia as a result of atrocities committed by warlords during Liberia’s civil crisis. 

Bishop Brown, also General Overseer of the New Water in the Desert Apostolic Pentecostal Church or NWIDA in Brewerville said posterity will judge harshly those who continue to stand in the way of implementing the TRC recommendations, noting the country is still troubled by the wounds inflicted. 

PRESIDENT WEAH must proceed with caution here. The reports are alarming and rightly so. Many Liberians who survived the civil war are only lucky to be alive today. Some lost a father, a mother, a brother or sister. Others lost cousins, nephews, aunts, grand mothers and grand fathers. Many lost loved ones killed in cold blood.

TODAY, SOME ARE SAYING the war is over and we must let bygones be bygones. But the essence of a Truth and Reconciliation process is to ensure that those who killed, maimed and destroyed families are brought to book and made to pay for the pain and sorrow they caused others.

TODAY, WE ARE seeing semblance of the old days creeping up in the motorcades escorting the President, the vice President and senior officials of government. They run through the streets, nearly running pedestrians and other motorists over. It’s just a matter of time before something tragic this way comes.

TODAY, WE DISHONOR THE memories of those who lost their lives if we return those who took up arms and killed people back to positions where they are likely to become engage in similar acts again.

THIS IS WHY the international community spent millions of dollars on a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program to address the post-conflict security challenges that arise from ex-combatants being left without livelihoods or support networks, other than their former comrades, during the critical transition period from conflict to peace and development. DDR seeks to support the ex-combatants’ economic and social reintegration, so they can become stakeholders in peace. While much of a DDR programme is focused on ex-combatants, the main beneficiaries of the programme should ultimately be the wider community.

A 2004 REPORT OF THE HIGH-LEVEL PANEL ON THREATS, Challenges and Change concluded: “Demobilizing combatants is the single most important factor determining the success of peace operations. Without demobilization, civil wars cannot be brought to an end and other critical goals—such as democratization, justice and development— have little chance for success.”

WE CANNOT AFFORD for impunity to continue to linger in our midst.

THE INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG group, Human Rights Watch was right in a letter to President Weah following his inauguration when it noted that while Liberia has come far in advancing post-conflict stability, securing justice is crucial to sustaining the peace dividends Liberians have worked so hard to realize.

“Liberia’s brutal armed conflicts (1989-1996 and 1999-2003) were characterized by the commission of widespread and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Liberian citizens were subjected to horrific abuses including summary executions; numerous large-scale massacres; widespread and systematic rape and other forms of sexual violence; mutilation and torture; and large-scale forced conscription and use of child combatants. The violence blighted the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, displaced almost half the population, and virtually destroyed the country’s infrastructure.”

PRESIDENT WEAH and his vice President have every right to choose who they want in their security detail that is their prerogative and their right as leaders. But they must also take into consideration our history and how we got to where we are today.

WOUNDS ARE STILL healing and memories are simply just too fresh for us to allow those who killed, maimed and destroyed people and divided families to walk about into the very space they used to carry out their brutal acts. We must hold perpetrators of war accountable for the atrocities committed and not reward them by handing them power on a silver platter with ammunitionsto do more harm.