Liberia: Living With Scars, War Victims Call for Reparation

Monrovia – There is nothing more painful than living with scars long after a civil unrest, according to Victoria Davis, a victim of the Liberian civil war.

It is more than 16 years since the end of the war and victims, who have been speaking to FrontPage Africa, want the Legislature to establish what they termed as the National War Victims Trust Fund to enable them recover.

Like many victims, Davis was only four years old when her late father George S. Davis, a former captain of the Liberia National Police, was killed right before her eyes in 1990. 

Seeing her father being killed at an early age, Davis struggled to survive the carnage but yet she lives with several wounds in some parts of her body caused by particles from rocket and bullets.

She is barely able to move around to get things done without the help of a crushes. 

“The incident happened 1990, August 27 on Jamaica Road. Charles Taylor launching, Doe launching and Prince Johnson launching, we were at the center stage and so, the rocket landed in the cotton tree and some pieces from the rocket entered inside me,” Davis recalls.

“Presently, I also got bullet in me between my ribs and my spinal cord. It makes me unable to move without crusher. Sometime, my feet can get swell-up no way to walk on it; it is the antibiotic I am living on.”

“I need medical attention; I really want these particles to move from in me because someone told me that in the nearest future it will turn into cancel because it is iron [that is] in me”.

Because of the lack finance, Davis says since 2013 she has not gone to any health facility for proper medical checkout.

She was also studying Management and Economic at the United Methodist University but later dropped from school because she’s unable to pay the fees. 

Spreading Out Disappointment 

Right after the end of the war, there were lots of benefits given to people who fought and were willing to put their guns down as part of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR).

The DDRR process provided financial support and education opportunity for former child soldiers and ex-combatants.

Also, just two years after the second phase of the war, general and Presidential elections were held in 2005. Warlords and key financiers of the war were elected into public office.

Many political pundits thought that electing those who committed crimes against humanity was not in the interest of people who got killed or victimized.

Davis and the rest of people who got affected from the war are yet to receive any reparation 16 years after.        

When asked about her stance on the much talk about war crimes court, Davis said she is disappointed that ex-combatants were compensated through the DDRR process and warlords, who committed so many atrocities, were rewarded with public office, while victims are left languishing in hopelessness.

“Yes, it is a good thing to talk about War crimes court but what become of us the victims? No one is talking about the victim. No benefit, I treat myself and do everything for myself,” she said.

“After the war, the rebel guys were settled and people who planned the war were elected to public offices but people like us who got affected from the war are lavishing in hopelessness.”

“I am calling on the President Weah and his wife to see how best they can help get the bullet out of me.” 

Siah Harris is another war victim. She got affected during the infamous “April 6” war in 1996 at the Waterside market.

Harris now lives West Point and cannot walk because of a bullet she still has in her left leg. Because of lack of finance she is unable to get the bullet out of her leg.

Using wheel chair for more than 13 years is unbearable, she said.

“I am disappointed. I asked those people who are talking about the war crimes court; that those who brought the war were settled and other are presently working in the government, but we the victims never benefited, and we are still living with the gunshot pains,” Harris said.

“My feet can get swell-up, and I am not able to do anything without the help of my family. Sometimes one whole month I cannot come outside,” she said with in a tone of sorrow. 

‘The Proper Mechanism Was Not Put Into Place’

Melvin Harding, another war victim who lost his sight and his right arm during the 14 years civil war, frowned on the government of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the United Nation Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for negating the plight of war victims.

“The proper mechanism was not put into place by the past government and even the United Nations. When you look at the Geneva agreement you will find out that right after the civil war in any country there should be reparation given to war victims,” Harding said.

“The United Nations knows that reparation needs to be given to people who were victimized from the civil war, but we find out that in our society people down-played these things because they do not want us to benefit.

“Those who were generals after the war when the disarmament process came about, some of them went to disarm and the United Nations gave some of them 12 to 13 thousand United States dollars but what becomes of us that got victimized from the war,” he said.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made 105 recommendations to the Government. Amongst the recommendations was the issue of reparation for war victims.

Despite grouping themselves (war Victims) to advocate for benefits, Harding claims that “President Sirleaf played games with the portion of the reparation benefit that was to be given to us.”  ‘

He said the former President proposed a community palava hut style of reparation, but they wanted money because some children, who lost their parents during the war, are homeless and that palava hut style of reparation would not solve.

“If some settlements are done for persons that were victimized from the war you will find out that even the disabilities that they are carrying, they will not think on it much,” Harding said.

Hoping on President Weah 

The issue of war and economic crimes court has taken center stage in the country. This has prompted President George Weah to write the Legislature, seeking the body’s advisement on the possibility of establishing the court.

Harding is appealing to President Weah to lobby with international partners for funding to alleviate the many constrains war victims are faced with. 

“My appeal to him is to see reason to bring all war victims together and see how best he can raise funds from the level of the United Nations to establish the National War Victims Trust Fund so that there can be something [finance] for people who got affected from the war,” Harding appeals.

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