Liberia: Rep. Yekeh Kolubah Calls on House to Act on Citizens’ Request for War & Economic Crimes Court
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Rep. Yekeh Kolubah (CPP, District #10, Montserrado County) has called on his colleagues at the House of Representatives to stop ‘playing blind eye’ and act on several petitions they have received from citizens calling for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Courts in Liberia.
Over the years, there have been a plethora of calls from various spectrum of the Liberian society and the international community for the implementation of Liberia’s erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations on the establishment of war crimes court to prosecute individuals that bear greater responsibilities of the Liberian civil conflict.
In 2020, war and economic crimes court advocates Emmanuel Savice and Fubi Henries led a march onto the Legislature on Capitol Hill and presented a petition to the House of Representatives to initiate the process of setting up the court as per the Constitution. Their petition, along with several others, have been sent to committee rooms for review and recommendations for possible actions, but the committees are yet to report.
Against this backdrop, Rep. Kolubah has written the Plenary, the highest decision making body of the House of Representatives to reintroduce two instruments that have overstayed in committee rooms.
He named the “Petition from the citizens of Liberia calling for the establishment of the war crimes Court and the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s recommendations” which was submitted to the Legislature on May 24, 2018; and the “Petition from the citizens of Liberia on the establishment of war and economic crimes court that has been in committee room since June 2020.
In his communication, Rep. Kolubah said “The numerous calls for both the establishment of War and Economic Crimes courts, including the full implementation of the TRC’s recommendations “point to the fact that Liberians do not only need justice but are striving for deterrence”.
He said: “Hon. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, I wish we will not allow the citizens to see us as shielding certain things or people in our governance process for which we are playing blind eye on the numerous calls from our people.”
Gov’t Blame for ‘Laissez-fair Approach’
Although President George Weah continues to renege on his promise of holding those who committed heinous crimes during the war accountable, the call for justice and accountability continue to reverberate throughout every nook and cranny of the Liberian society- from Capitol Hill to city halls, and from coffee shops to street corners.
Long before his election in 2018, and in his capacity as UNICEF Ambassador, President Weah called for creating a court to try crimes committed during the civil war.
At a conference in 2004, Ambassador Weah said, “Those who armed the children and committed heinous crimes against them should be brought to book.”
Such a court, Weah said should identify, locate, arrest, and prosecute the warlords who were responsible for crimes against humanity.
And before becoming President, Weah’s political party, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), backed the prosecution of people responsible for grave crimes.
Ironically, since his ascendancy as President of Liberia, Weah has not taken any action to ensure justice for past war crimes. Many local and international war crimes court advocates have blamed President Weah’s ‘lackadaisical’ approach to establish the court on his unwillingness to offset former warlord turned Senator, Prince Y. Johnson and majority of his kinsmen of vote rich Nimba, who were instrumental in his election in 2017. Senator Johnson is one of the key figures indicted by the TRC for gross human rights violations during the civil war.
Efforts to initiate the process suffered a major setback in 2019 when the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers seized a resolution calling for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
The resolution had already met the required two-thirds majority signature and was set to be passed when the Speaker took the unprecedented decision, much to the dismay of several lawmakers including Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County) and Larry Younquoi (District #8, Nimba County) who were among those that championed the legislative piece.
The Speaker, who was once an ardent supporter of a war crimes court, has been blamed by many war crimes court supporters for using his power to block every effort to initiate the establishment of the court.
His latest decision to replace Rep. Dennis as Chair on the Committee on Claims and Petition with Rep. Gonpue Kargon, a stalwart of Senator Prince Johnson’s Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) Party has been seen by many including some lawmakers as a setback in the fight to secure a legislative approval for the establishment of the court.
Despite these setbacks, significant strides are being made to ensure that justice is served. At the Legislature, several influential lawmakers including former Deputy Speaker Prince Moye and former House Speaker, Edwin M. Snowe before their elections to the Senate backed the move to set up the court in Liberia.
Rep. Sebo, a stalwart of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), is said to have pledged his support to the establishment of the court after he brazenly accused fellow lawmaker, Rep. George Boley of Grand Gedeh County in open session of killing his relatives during the first Liberian civil war. The warlord turned politician has since denied the allegation.
Earlier, the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), had drafted and submitted a bill seeking the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to prosecute individuals accused of gross violations of human rights, serious humanitarian law violations and certain domestic crimes.
Rep. Kolubah Joins Blayhi in Call for Court
Unlike key players of the war including Senator Prince Johnson and Rep. George Bolley who continue to openly denounce the call for a war crimes court, Rep. Kolubah, who also participated in the war has been a staunch advocate of the court. By doing so, he joins former rebel general turned Evangelist, Joshua Milton Blayhi, who was notoriously known as General “Butt Naked” as key ex-fighters backing the establishment of the court. But unlike Evangelist Blayhi, Rep. Kolubah was not indicted by the TRC.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kolubah’s letter is yet to be placed on the House’s agenda for discussion and possible action. His request came just within days his fellow CPP lawmaker, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon reminded the Senate about the citizens’ requests to set up the court. Senator Dillon’s comments prompted Senator Prince Johnson to explode in anger, accusing Dillon of taunting him with the establishment of the court.