Liberia: Court Campaigners Criticizes Government in Ex-Rebels-Lawmaker Saga

Adama Dempster of SEWACCOL

Monrovia – Campaigners for a Liberian war crimes court have criticized the Government of Liberia for being “silent” amid escalating tension after ex-rebel commanders threatened to arrest Representative Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado. 

By James Harding Giahyue, New Narratives Senior Justice Correspondent

At a rare news conference on Tuesday in Monrovia, the ex-rebel commanders gave Representatives Kolubah a 72-hour ultimatum to report to their office after the District #10 lawmaker accused the men of being used by the government.

Scores of supporters of Representative Kolubah—also a former rebel general—on Wednesday flocked at his Old Road residence, pledging their support to the outspoken lawmaker and threatening to resist any attempt to arrest him. The situation sent shockwaves across the city, with members of the opposition bloc jumping in Representative Kolubah’s defense.

The campaigners at Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia (SEWACCOL) in a statement on Wednesday said the comments of the ex-rebel commanders undermined stability, criticizing the government for not condemning the ex-rebel generals. SEWACCOL comprises the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform and the Liberia Massacre Survivors Association (LIMASA).

“The loud silence of the Weah-led Government to what appears to be the remobilization of a militia command represents a callous endorsement of the alternative use of militia force against critical voices, and a threat to Liberia’s fragile peace,” the statement said.

The group questions President George Weah’s commitment to unify Liberia as he promised, adding the silence of the government suggested “a political alignment or a nod of approval that encourages the warlords to feel empowered and legitimized.”   

SEWACCOL said that the comments of the ex-rebel commanders was a disregard to the rule of law in Liberia, a decline of the country’s democracy and a return to the country’s civil war years where an estimated 250,000 people were killed.

It added that their comments were also a disregard of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord, which called for the disbandment of all warring factions, including the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of combatants.

“The unity of purpose demonstrated by these ex-militia generals reveals an alternative militia command to the newly built Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and show of force that CDC-led government is likely to manipulate in wielding political power and clamping down on opposition and other critical voices,” the statement further said.

The ex-rebel commanders who spoke in the Tuesday news conference that featured no question-and-answer segment are Ofori Diah, former general of the disbanded Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD); Siafa Norman, former general of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL); and Benjiman Taylor, former chief of statff of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). Others are Daniel Bracewell, a retired major in the AFL; and Koffi Duo, former major general with LURD.

Some of the ex-rebel commanders were also listed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report’s “most notorious perpetrators” list, including Norman and Diah. Diah was also pardoned by then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the case involving citizens of Grand Gedeh in mercenary activities in the neighboring Ivory Coast.

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.