Liberia: The “Absence of War In Liberia” Does Not Mean “Peace”
Oftentimes the word “Peace” is used interchangeably with the term “Absence of War”. But these are two distinct concepts that must not be confused.
The cessation of hostilities in Liberia halted in the year 2003 and “peace” was declared, but no definitive measures have since been taken to prevent a repeat of another civil madness. While the ceasefire has been upheld by all parties to the conflict so far, those underlying factors and causes that led to the fighting have not been addressed at all.
By: Goah Bernard G., [email protected]
President, Operation We Care for Liberia
Unlike Sierra Leone, Rwanda and other countries wherein the post-conflict period maximum attention have been given to tackling the root causes of the violence in order to ensure deterrence; Liberia, on the other hand, has done just the opposite.
Those who orchestrated the mayhem are either elected or appointed to top public positions. They are in charge of dictating a so-called Justice process that holds no one accountable. This is no way to restore peace following a brutal war where almost half a million civilians were murdered and the entire population uprooted.
In Liberia, citizens are implicitly forced to accept those who have terrorized their country and dehumanized the population as their leaders. These leaders, most of whom are perpetrators of heinous crimes, continue to wastefully mellow in state resources with demonstrated arrogance without a single remorse for their past actions. And they do so to the utmost detriment of their own country without any regard for the rule of law.
Actually, there is nothing to suggest that after rebuilding Liberia another “Taylor-copycat” won’t again emerge and destroy everything, killing tens of thousands of innocent people and sending many more into exile.
It must be noted that the smoke-screen tranquility that currently hangs over Liberia has to do with the extreme violence, abuse, and trauma visited upon the Liberian people during the war. The population in general still harbors vivid memories of the horrors; they continue to see those who perpetrated these horrible crimes walk free.
In fact, it is mostly perpetrators that are occupying higher public positions in government. Therefore, victims of war are tacitly forced to tolerate these kinds of inconveniences and even the high level of corruption rather than risk a repeat of the dehumanization associated with the 14 years carnage. But is that a durable solution for sustainable peace in Liberia? Does living in fear mean peace at all?
The guns have since been silenced since 2003, are the people living in peace under these extreme conditions? Are they at ease?
The thing is, justice does not always mean an eye for an eye; it is also a process for establishing accountability and ensuring that there exists a level of deterrence.
Peace and reconciliation in Liberia will only be possible if we prioritize justice and accountability in every stratum of Liberian society.
There will be no lasting peace in Liberia unless a handful of individuals that are largely responsible for atrocities and destruction of the country’s infrastructure are brought to Justice.
* The more we ignore the level of madness that visited Liberia;
* The more we ignore that countless innocent people were raped; tortured, enslaved, and killed;
* The more we illusively think that the passing of time will eventually diminish the severity of what took place in Liberia;
* The more illusions we build for a peaceful and reconciled Liberian nation.
For we know, that it is just too wrong for those accused of committing war crimes, and crimes against humanity to be the same people in charge of running the affairs of the Liberian people.
If we at all agree that those accused of war crimes in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Chad and other countries should not be the same people in charge running the affair of citizens of these countries, then we must as well agree, that it is also wrong for those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity to be the same people in charge of running the affairs of victims of war in Liberia.
Irrespective of the headaches and ruckus that may come with it, we must hold accountable those bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Liberia. And surely the United States of America and the United Nations could help by standing with victims of war to do so.