Liberia’s foremost Playwright Appeals to Kinsmen to Accept War Crimes Court

Dr. Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D

A U.S. based Liberian playwright, Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D has appealed to his kinsmen, Liberians to allow the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia which is currently being lingered in Liberia.

In his appeal posted on the social media, the Face Book Dr. Gbaba said:

Fellow Liberians and Citizens of the World:

This is your playwright of forty-four years! Serving you has been a great pleasure but I want to appeal to all of you to support the formation of a war crimes court in Liberia. I also request that President George Weah support the cause of the Liberian people by not defending but to bring to justice those who put our country at the tail end of all nations in the world. This includes those wealthy Liberians that raised millions of dollars to buy guns to kill over a quarter of a million Liberians and foreign nationals living within our borders, with the aim to gain political and economic power in Liberia. Unfortunately, their intent to usurp power by force of arms has brought more misery to us as a nation and people than it has benefitted us. Therefore, it is time for us to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must abide by the laws of the land to redeem Liberia from being wiped out of the world map of nations. Otherwise, we will “stay long inside”, Liberian man says.

The Need to Execute Rule of Law in Liberia

The Executive Mansion of Liberia

You will agree with me there is a dire need to execute rule of Liberia in postwar Liberia because of our prolonged civil crisis. It is also necessary to execute rule of law because the young population that developed during the civil crisis have not really experienced consistent law and order in place. They have observed that those who breached the law seized power by force of arms. So, most of the youthful population born from 1989 up to the present are under the impression it is ‘acceptable’ to steal or kill or break the law without consequences because you will be rewarded with a big government job in Liberia.

Further, the continued presence of Liberian warlords and recycled corrupt government officials in prominent government positions does not project a good image of the Republic of Liberia. Everywhere we turn we are now the laughing stock of the world! A new generation of Liberians has emerged that does not know what their responsibilities are as citizens of Liberia and how to make informed decisions at the polls to elect qualified Liberians to serve in their best interest. This process has even been worsened by the viciousness of some members of the Liberian intelligentsia that chose to steal and participate in the killing party in Liberia. Thus, causing hundreds of thousands of Liberians coming to the conclusion that rule of law is not necessary to have good governance because those who were supposed to be role models like Sirleaf and others failed to live by example. Instead, they chose to use violence, mayhem, and atrocities to resolve a national crisis that needed dialogue and competent leadership and diplomatic skills to resolve. Therefore, to restore genuine rule of law, transparent justice, and stability, the law must be adhered to and applied to ensure perpetrators face the consequences of their actions.

There Must Be Consequences for Our Actions to Prevent the Commission of Crimes in Liberia

Accordingly, in every law-abiding society around the globe, there are consequences for one’s actions to prevent the commission of crimes in society. For an example, when it comes to the preservation and the sanctity of human life in Liberia, those who were convicted of murder during our youthful days were either jailed for lifetime or they were executed on the gallows to deter Liberians from committing cold-blooded murder. Nobody stood up to say, “Let bygones be bygones” to support a culprit who had committed a heinous crime against another citizen of Liberia. The law took its course and the convict faced the consequences of his or her actions. Below are some examples how the rule of law was applied in Liberia to keep everyone safe and protected by the law.

For instance, President Tolbert set an example on his own cousin who was convicted of murder by hanging him on the gallows! Also, the Liberian government put a bounty on Yarkpawolo’s life when he murdered his wife and fled in the bushes of Liberia. He was wanted “dead or alive”, and he terrorized people in the hinterland with his single-barreled gun until when someone said: “Yarkpawolo coming oh!”, people everywhere would take to their feet and run for their lives! Finally, the law took its rightful course. A Liberian army Noko killed him. Yarkpawolo’s mortal remains was brought and put on public display in the army barracks at Barclay Training Center (BTC). People queued on line to see Yarkpawolo’s corpse, and I was among the thousands that saw his body.

Furthermore, when Justin Obey, a Nigerian national, murdered Episcopal Bishop George Brown, the law hunted him down. He was arrested, charged, convicted, and he faced the death penalty. Not to even mention the Cape Palmas episode where prominent citizens from Maryland County were executed for their involvement in murder. The government of Liberia took all these measures to ensure the safety of lives and properties in Liberia. Hence, we grew up knowing that people do not get rewarded for stealing or killing. Instead, the law was applied to ensure transparent justice in the land. This is the Liberian tradition and culture I know: RULE OF LAW!

Back in the day when there was law and order in the Liberian society, it was, for instance, customary to sing “Thiefie-theifie, jan-ko-lee-ko” song in public to ridicule those who were caught stealing when I was growing up in Monrovia, Liberia. The purpose was to teach a moral lesson to everyone that stealing is an unacceptable norm of our Liberian society. Because of this, stealing was minimal because it brought disgrace to your family and the community in which you lived if you or your relative were caught stealing. Also, those days, people had “family pride”. Your family name was your badge because “Who know you” was the order of the day.

So, public stealing was not as rampant as it is glamorized in Liberia nowadays. Even though sad to say, most of the so-called “rich families” in Liberia acquired their wealth from stealing government funds and depriving the Liberian people of the resources they need to live comfortable lives. However, it is fair to also say that not all wealthy Liberians acquired their wealth through theft. There were some very productive citizens that earned their wealth by working hard and engaging in trade and/or agricultural work.

In all the instances I provided above, the government of Liberia did not say, “Let bygone be bygone” when Yarkpawolo killed his wife, or when Obey killed Bishop Brown, etc. Instead, the government pursued the law to get the culprits arrested, tried, and convicted before taking the legal course of action based on the degree of crime committed by everyone. Unfortunately, we do not know our history and so we are unaware what the rule of law can do to help us rebuild a wholesome functioning postwar Liberian society.

Education Is Important: It is the Torchlight That Will Dispel the Darkness and Ignorance in Liberia.

Education is important. It is the torchlight that will dispel the darkness and ignorance in postwar Liberia. This was the reason our parents sacrificed to send us to school so that we may learn and give back to our country. Back in the day most Liberians were marginalized by the status quo (most of whom did not even earn college degrees but got their jobs through social and family connections). The ruling class argued that the masses were not “educated”, meaning that the masses could not read and write and speak or understand the English language which our official language of communication is.

Based on this premise, poor Liberian families, especially our mothers, sold bitter balls, cassava, potatoes greens, dried monkey meat, pepper, snuff, salt, karlah, fish, kanyan, to educate us. But suddenly after many well-meaning Liberians have qualified themselves overtime and are prepared to serve their country and people, the rule of the political game of Liberia has changed. Unexpectedly, I am hearing that “Book is not important.” “Anybody can do anything”! And, rapidly, the rule has been changed from, “You must be educated to serve your country”, to, “Education is not important; anybody can do anything”.

I seriously disagree that anybody can do anything. For an example, even though I am a Doctor of Education, I cannot operate a caterpillar to build roads; I cannot construct bridges, and I cannot treat a sick patient or carry out surgeries in the emergency room in the hospital. Rather, it requires specialized skills to perform these various tasks. It requires medical doctors to treat patients, silver engineers to build roads and construct bridges, and skilled economists and technocrats to manage the affairs of state. These are not skills that people acquire from birth. You must go to school and spend many days and nights, weeks, months, and years to acquire these skills; and after you do, it is the duty of a law-abiding society to provide the opportunity for qualified citizens to use their skills and knowledge to improve the condition of the citizenry.

In addition, it is the responsibility of a responsible government to recruit the best brains in the land to undertake the difficult task of nation-building and to make sure that square pegs are put in square holes and not the other way around where square pegs are put in round holes and do not fit well. In fact, no country that brushes its intelligentsia aside has ever succeeded in making developmental progress by relying on inept individuals to drive the machinery of the state. And, development cannot be achieved in a chaotic and lawless society either. There must be law and order to set things in proper perspective.

In view of the foregoing, the orchestration of this new political game plan by Liberian warlords and their supporters to marginalize the Liberian intelligentsia and categorize us as being “worthless” and “unreliable” is a direct affront to those of us who mean well for our country and its people. While I concur that some Liberian intellectuals who were given golden opportunities to serve Liberia failed us, I still strongly believe it is a clever attempt by Liberian warlords to render Liberian intellectuals irrelevant to the social, political, and economic development of Liberia due to the low literacy rate in Liberia currently. Therefore, we must educate our people to the truths and encourage them to seek the truths through our truthful deeds and the exemplary lives we live.

Against this backdrop, Liberian intellectuals must man up and fight like men and women of conscience against this evil plan which has the propensity to misinform our youth to thinking that they can sit supinely, not prepare themselves, and get rewarded for doing nothing! Our youth must be made to understand that to be a true and productive Liberian citizen, you must acquire some knowledge and skills that will help you integrate into mainstream society with ease of comfort and relevancy. Further, Liberian youth must be taught about the dignity of labor and that they cannot sit supinely or “make vono” (Liberian man says), and expect a silver platter in their laps. They must earn their merits through hard work and not take “short cuts” or use violence to assume power or economic wealth.

Be Law-Abiding Citizens and Put Liberia First

My appeal to you Liberians is two folds: one, you must stop your prejudiced and tribalistic nonsense and two, stop that Country-Congor attitude towards one another and learn to be patriotic. Learn to put your country first and learn to respect and love your fellow countrymen and women as you would like to be respected. Stop the petty jealousy and the hatred exhibited towards one another because no matter how hard you try, you will never be me and I will never be you. Therefore, it is best to appreciate one another as we are and work together for the common good of our country.

If your tribesman or woman breaches the law of the land, it is illegal to obstruct justice and to argue that we should “Let bygones be bygones”, especially after your tribal man or woman has killed human beings that will never come back to this life until Judgment Day! Hence, the best thing to do is to let the law take its course and let Liberians who commit heinous crimes against Liberians and humanity have their day in court to face the consequences of their actions.

When you are blessed with resources, knowledge, and power, it is because God gave them to you to use them for the common good of society, but not to destroy lives and properties. Some of our brethren and sisters used their ill-gotten wealth to kill our mas and pas and today they are parading as though the lives and properties they destroyed are worthless! We must put a stop to the mayhem and atrocities that have occurred in Liberia and that continue to take place. Your silence and your greed for quick wealth, especially those intellectuals for whom anything goes instead of standing for principles, your wickedness and lack of conscience is killing all of us softly.

Therefore, as your playwright, I urge all Liberians reading this message to take my word seriously. Please be patriotic, law-abiding, and stand for justice and rule of law in postwar Liberia. I ask all the youths of Liberia living in Liberia and the diaspora to share this message with your colleagues and family members.

Let us join forces with Liberians who are advocating for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia to cleanse our society of human blood that has been spilled. If you love your country and want a better future, now is the time to act. Put aside your tribal and factional allegiance and let us put Liberia first. War Crimes Court is the best way out for Liberia right now!

Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.

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About Cholo Brooks 14426 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.