Liberia: Reflections On The Necessity Of A War And Economic Crimes Court



The 195 countries in our world today share two important factors without exception. First, each country’s national experience comprises some aspect of war or conflict; and, second, they all have endured poverty. In the case of Liberia, a War and Economic Crimes Court could be a game changer in our quest for sustained national development.

Report by M. Nathaniel Barnes, Contributing Writer

Those nations that are considered prosperous, progressive or “advanced” are unquestionably those that have tenaciously and consistently sought to crystallize valuable “lessons learned” from their conflict and poverty experiences. They have formulated and implemented strategies that would, not only minimize the reoccurrence of the malaises of conflict and poverty, but establish a solid foundation upon which progress; development and prosperity could be built bearing in mind that such initiatives should never be considered an event but an enduring evolutionary process. 

One irrefutable factor in these “success” paradigms has been focused, visionary, selfless and patriot leadership of diverse models (i.e. Caesar, Hannibal, Chaka Zulu, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Lee Kuan Yew, Mandela etc.).

A second driving factor in their success paradigms comprises a clear and solid philosophical grasp of the concept that Sustained Development and Advancement are by-products of Peace and Stability driven by creating effective and sustainable political, economic and social systems. This factor provides the impetus that insures overcoming the hurdles towards advancement.        

The means, methods, strategies or morality (i.e. slavery, colonization, exploitation, genocide etc.)  utilized by countries in pursuit of alleviating conflict and poverty is not the focus of this exercise; rather, the focus is using lessons learned the experiences of  conflict and poverty to cater to national needs, desires and ambitions.  

Contrarily, unsuccessful, poor, underdeveloped countries that have experienced conflict and poverty,  seem to be plagued with the inability to formulate and implement practical applications of lessons learned; thus, they find themselves in the poverty traps described in economist Paul Collier’s book, The Bottom Billion.   


Liberia was born out of crises.  The crisis of the inhumane acts associated with slavery; the crisis of the clash of cultures and values resulting in military confrontation, conquest and subjugation; the crisis of social discrimination, exclusion and intolerance; the crisis of tribalism and inter-ethnic conflict; and, most importantly, as subtle as it may be, the crisis of denial.  It was the denial within our national consciousness of the existence of these very crises that caused us to proceed to build a nation on a defective foundation of lies, deceit, injustice, ignorance, corruption, ineptness, and ineffectiveness leading to the most profound crisis of all: our identity crisis. 

Two and a half decades of self-mutilation and destruction became  the manifestation of over one hundred and twenty-five years of suppressed tension resulting from unresolved crises.  This deep-seated self-loathing has been vented through war and strife. This “Mother of all Crises” had been simmering for generations in all aspects of our national life; and, it exploded with an unimaginable vengeance!

As violent and all-consuming as our civil conflict was, it was, to a large extent, a massive “National Catharsis” – an explosive purifying release of decades of the suppressed emotions of hatred, envy, fear, doubt, and suspicion. 

Humanity is replete with instances of the truism that “In chaos there is opportunity”.  If there has been any doubt about this axiom, our particular history has served to remove it.  Over the generations of crises that we have endured and the throughout the years of civil strife, there have been opportunities.  However, those opportunities were purposefully created by and limited to a diabolical, calculatingly ruthless few, who exploited the dis-unity and chaos for their personal gains. Throughout our history, from early to recent times, these individuals and small groups have systematically executed an agenda of dominance and exploitation.  Through fear, intimidation and the manipulation of the emotions and sentiments of tribalism, sectionalism and elitism, they effectively carved up our national wealth among themselves with no regard to the needs, hopes and aspirations of our people.  In several instances in our history, these exploitations have resulted in national shame, global isolation, and a threat to our very sovereignty.   

All this is the result of consciously and unconsciously building our society on this faulty foundation of denial.  

We have experienced our national catharsis.  It has cost us dearly:  massive loss of life and destruction of property and infrastructure; displacement of a significant portion of our people; disease and epidemics; illiteracy; marginalization and violence against women and children; an uneducated, untrained, violent, corps of youths and countless other ills.  It is now time to heal our wounds and build a future as one nation, one people.

While the establishment of a War and Economic Crime Court is ostensibly to address the atrocities and wrongs of Liberia’s civil war, this initiative has the potential to address a deeper and more serious crisis that has haunted Liberia since its founding. 

The perpetrators of war and economic crimes against the Liberian people must face justice.  More importantly, Liberians owe it to themselves to use the opportunity of a War and Economic Crimes Court to bring important aspects of our societal dysfunction to closure thus opening the door to a brighter future. Rather than a witch hunt, this exercise should seek expose the ways in which powerful individuals committed crimes which seriously harmed the people of this nation.


An un-reconciled society can never expect to achieve sustainable economic, social or political development since stability, predictability, inclusion and the Rule of Law are indispensable ingredients for development.

There are many reasons why insuring a national rebirth in Liberia is important.  Some critical elements of our rebirth are truth, justice, nationalism, patriotism, competent leadership and full participation of all Liberians in the process of governance. 


Contrary to the opportunities inherent in chaos, the opportunities derived from peace are bigger, sweeter and more enduring.  Peace and stability bring opportunities for ALL through equal justice, fair sharing of our national wealth and full participation by all in the determination of our destiny.

A national “coming to grips” with the fact that something is seriously amiss with our common wellbeing appears to be invading our consciousness at all levels of our society. This “invasion” generally manifests itself through a heightened awareness of societal ills through perceived injustices, inequities and impunity coupled with an urgent desire by the people to rectify the wrongs.

The present state of affairs in Liberia is the result of a steady erosion of trust in our government over the generations.  The absence of trust in our government has now reached a point of critical mass from which our national direction will be determined. Do we continue down the dark abyss of backwardness, dependency, injustice, impunity and chaos? Or do we engage, embrace and tackle the denials and facts concerning our “troubled” past and open the elusive door to national renaissance and renewal? 

There is no better time than the present, when there is a heightened awareness and a thirst for justice, fairness and equity, for us to take serious steps towards restoring the confidence of our people in their government. Let’s not kid ourselves about the seriousness of the need to rid ourselves of the sting of denials and delusions. Our national rebirth demands courage, humility, sacrifice, tenacity and absolute inclusion.

The fiery signs are all there. The people are ready; and, fate awaits us.

Our leaders only need to take courage, have faith in Mama Liberia and lead us to our National Promise Land.  A fair and honest War and Economic Crimes Court certainly puts us on the  path towards national healing.