Liberia: Pres. Weah Raises Issues over Mounting Pressure for War Crimes Court at UN Assembly

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Monrovia – President George Mannah Weah has expressed concern over the incessant pressure piling on his administration for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court as compared to his predecessor, Ellen Johnson.

During his speech at the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA on Wednesday, September 25, the Liberian leader once again hinted that his administration’s willingness to implement the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.

But he did express some concerns about the mounting pressure from home and abroad.

“We are at a loss to understand why the clamor for the establishment of the Court is now being made, almost a full decade after it was first called for, and during which time no such pressure was brought to bear on the government that grew out of the Accra Peace Accord,” said President Weah.  

The TRC came out of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement in August 2003 which called for the establishment of the courts. 

The TRC was intended to provide a forum that would address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation. 

During the administration of President Sirleaf, there were increasing calls for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Courts, but those requests did not come to fruition. 

Observers contended that because Sirleaf is named in the TRC Report, she was therefore hesitant to implement its recommendations, which also bans her from participating in politics for 30 years.

‘Listening Administration’

It is now two years into Mr. Weah’s term since he was elected in 2017, and the backers of the courts are arguing that he’s the right person to implement the TRC report because he played no part in the civil hostilities.

In the wake of these suggestions and increasing pressure, Weah has admitted that his government is a “listening administration” and will pay keen attention to its people. 

“What I have discerned from their cries is that it is important to bring closure to the wounds from the 14 years of Liberia’s brutal civil war, and that we need to agree on a mechanism that would guarantee the sustenance of peace, stability, justice, and reconciliation, as well as enhance our prospects for economic recovery,” he said. 

He told world leaders that he has already begun consultations with the Legislature and will have a broader engagement with the Liberia Judicial System, strategic international partners and organizations to determine pertinent issues such as legal framework, timing, venue, and funding for the establishment of the courts.

Weah attributed his decision to voices by many international organizations as well as some international partners supporting calls for the establishment of the court.  

“It is my hope that at the end of this consultative process, a National Consensus will determine the pathway to resolving this issue. I, therefore, ask for your unflinching support, as we embark upon this important national endeavor,” President Weah said. 

President Weah’s 2019 UNGA position of implementing the TRC report is in sharp contrast to his 2018 UNGA address.

Last year, the Liberian leader mentioned that dialogue was a preference for conflict-resolution mechanism, emphasizing the need for the government and Liberians to jointly focus all efforts on poverty reduction, growth, and economic development, rather than “retribution” –  in essence the punishing of perpetrators of war, economic and crimes against humanity.

However, he said since his last appearance at the UN there has been a rising “chorus of voices” from many quarters, calling for the establishment of an Economic and War Crimes Court. 

“These voices include not only thousands of war victims, but also some of the alleged perpetrators, who seem to wish to either clear their names or their conscience,” he stated.

‘Creeping Threat’

Meanwhile, President Weah has expressed concern over what he termed as“the emergence of a creeping threat” to Liberia’s democratic space, and to peace and stability. 

These threats, according to him, are being instigated by his opponents. 

Said President Weah: “Some individuals within and out of our country, particularly those who have lost democratically-held elections have resorted to incitement, threats of violence, misuse of social media, and hate speech, with the aim and objective of achieving power through undemocratic means.” 

He warned that such an act must not be encouraged by “those who would wish Liberia well”.

For democracy to thrive, the Liberian leader says every Liberian including the ruling and opposition parties must respect the rule of law, and abide by the procedures and regulations prescribed therein.

“As the leading opposition party in Liberia during the past 12 years, our Party, the Congress for Democratic Change, accepted the disputed results of the two previous Presidential Elections, in 2005 and 2011, in the interest of peace,” he recalled. 

“Nevertheless, throughout those two terms, we continued to engage the government of the day in a constructive manner, even accepting to serve as Peace Ambassador when called upon to assist them to maintain the peace under their regime.” 

‘New opportunity’ 

The Liberian leader has also expressed concern about the “heightened tension in global politics, security, and trade”. He said these factors have placed the global economy under “undue stress” which is having a negative reflection Liberia.

“Security tension is on the rise in many parts of the world, trade protectionism and climate change both are having unintended consequences especially on developing countries,” he said.

Mentioning his government’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), he described the plan as a “compass for reconstruction, development, and modernization” of Liberia.

“While it gives priority to poverty reduction, it is also intended to support the efforts of middle and upper income Liberians to grow and prosper,” he said.

However, he stated that emerging challenges in Liberia are due to the continued decline in prices of major exports, revenue shortfalls, and structural imbalances as well as increasing inflation and currency depreciation.

“We have exercised our best efforts as a Government to address these challenges, and will continue to do so. Yet, many of them persist, and are claiming our fullest attention in finding practical solutions to resolve them,” he said while also pitching to world leaders the business opportunities Liberia offers.  

“My administration has recently developed a new investment framework of incentives and tax reliefs that will directly benefit the private sector, and we hereby invite the investment community to take advantage of this new opportunity.”

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