Liberia: President Weah Opens Pandora Box On War Crimes Court

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IN LAUNCHING HIS BLISTERING verbal attacks of Mr. Benoni Urey, leader of the four party-All Liberia Party, Unity Party, Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress last Saturday, President George Manneh Weah may have unknowingly opened a pandora box on the issue of the controversial calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia  

THE PRESIDENT, speaking during a program marking the launch of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) campaign launch for by-elections in Montserrado County for seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, accused the businessman/politician, who is also the political leader of the All Liberian people party (ALP) of being a killer and a thief. 

THE KILLER REFERENCE alluded to Mr. Urey’s ties to former head of state Charles Taylor, whose National Patriotic Front of Liberia launched a brutal civil war on the eve of Christmas 1989, that led deaths of thousands of Liberians with thousands more finding their way into exile. 

THE REFERENCE to killer also drew strong reactions from Liberians both at home and abroad who have been advocating for the establishment of a war crimes court.

IN PARTICULAR, THE President’s strong ties to Senator Prince Y. Johnson, one of the notorious killers of the brutal Liberian civil war, responsible for the death of scores of Liberians and the inclusion of several former combatants from the civil war in the mix of the President’s security details with the Executive Protective Services(EPS).

RESPONDING TO THE PRESIDENT’S verbal tirade, Mr. Urey told FrontPageAfrica Sunday: “It is regrettable that the president of Liberia will stoop to that level. Now the Liberian people can see the gravity of the problems in our country. Today my heart bleeds for Liberia. “God have mercy on Liberia.”

THE BUSINESSMAN/POLITICIAN said he will not return hate-filled verbal insults on the President but will explore his legal options. “I am viewing all legal options as this is a treat on my family and we don’t take it lightly. I view the President’s utterances as a threat on my family.”

FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW, Liberians and its international partners have been advocating for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.

THE LIKES OF Mr. Urey and former warlord Milton Joshua Blaye aka General Butt Naked have also expressed support for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia. Rep. Yekeh Korlubah, a former child soldier often linked to the civil war has repeatedly expressed his support to the establishment of the war crimes court.

PRESIDENT WEAH and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change  can bring an end to all the noise surrounding this controversial issue by making a bold statement and laying the cards on the table for the court to be established.

TODAY, SOME of Liberia’s international partners are doing their part to bringing many of those who were involved in the civil war but now residing in America, Europe and elsewhere to book.

THROUGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY of the Monrovia-based Global Justice and Research Project, the Geneva-based Civitas Maxima, and by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, some high-profiled alleged perpetrators of war from Liberia are being prosecuted.

IN 2008, A UNITED STATES federal court convicted the son of former President Charles Taylor’s son, Chuckie, who ran the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) of torture. US courts also convicted the former ULIMO leader, Mohammed Jabbateh, and the NPFL spokesman, Jucontee Thomas Smith Woewiyu, for fraud and perjury related to their failure to disclose to US immigration authorities their involvement in alleged wartime crimes. Moses Thomas also faces a civil lawsuit in the US, where victims filed a complaint against him for allegedly ordering extrajudicial killings, torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

IN 2014, BELGIUM authorities arrested Martina Johnson, former commander of the NPFL, for her alleged role in war crimes. In 2017, United Kingdom authorities indicted Agnes Reeves Taylor for her alleged role in torture in Liberia between December 1989 and January 1991. In 2018, French authorities arrested Kunti Kamara, a former ULIMO commander, in Paris for alleged war crimes committed in Liberia. On March 26, 2019, Swiss authorities announced the indictment of Alieu Kosiah, a former ULIMO commander, for international crimes. These cases have yet to proceed to trial.

FORMER PRESIDENT Charles Taylor is currently serving a 50-year sentence in a UK prison after being found guilty in 2012 for committing war crimes during the long-running civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Judges at an UN-backed tribunal in The Hague said his leadership role and exploitation of the conflict to extract so-called “blood diamonds” meant he deserved one of the longest prison sentences handed down so far by the court. Mr. Taylor, was found guilty of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes against humanity when supporting rebels between 1996 and 2002 in return for conflict gems. The offences included murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruiting child soldiers, enforced amputations and pillage.

THERE SEEMS TO BE a selective approach to branding and labeling those liked to the civil war. There are tons of pictorial, video and audio evidence showing a direct link of Prince Johnson, now a Senator representing Nimba County and regarded as the most notorious of the bunch.

SINCE THE END of the civil war political players appear to have developed amnesia when it comes to the former warlord, who commands a strong support in vote-rich Nimba County.

FORMER PRESIDENT Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was guilty of this, striking a political alliance of convenience with the former warlord for a political gain. Her successor, President Weah is following the pattern and playing to the tone of Mr. Johnson, who unlike others who are routinely picked on has been abrasive toward the establishment of the war crimes court.

IF LIBERIA IS TO MOVE ahead, we must begin to take ourselves seriously before outsiders will begin to take us seriously. 

SELECTIVELY PICKING AND CHOOSING who to label a killer without aggressively advocating for a court does not bode well for the peace and reconciliation that is seriously lacking in Liberia today.

LIBERIANS MUST begin digging deep inside their consciences and find a way to address and discuss the issue of war crimes.

THIS IS THE only way we can truly rid this post-war nation of the so-called killers and thieves, who robbed Liberia and its people of a normal life under the guise of ridding Liberia of the pain and suffering brought on by Samuel Doe.

DOE IS LONG GONE, but the issues those who sought his removal trumpeted are still visible; while everyone sit idly by waiting for that sudden moment of convenience to selectively pick and choose who they believe is the only guilty Liberian responsible or the wary. 

THE FACT of the matter is, only a war crimes court can lay all this to rest. The current government, beginning from the head, has the power to do this – and do this, he must!!!

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