Why The Issue Of War & Economic Crimes Courts For Liberia? GNN Finds Out From Liberians

Joel Cholo Brooks

Flash Back: Armed fighters during the Liberian Civil War, that took the lives of over 250,000 Liberians

As Liberians ponder over the establishment of war and economic crimes courts for Liberia, others feel the difference, wondering as to what will really be the dividend for the lager population of the country when these much talked about courts crave for are established.

In other to find out from Liberians their take to this issue, a team of GNN reporters ventured into communities in Monrovia, and its envision to sample the views of Liberians, many of whom are young people at the country’s major universities and colleges, while others came from the public sector.

Those who expressed the interest in seen the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Courts, believed that if these courts are established in the country (Liberia) with qualified and neutral lawyers and judges who will preside over these cases that are part of the above, their input will immensely reduce the culture of impunity which has permeated our country over the years.

Flash Back: Fighters in their war gear

Like this lady, Annie Mamie Cooper, a resident of Caldwell, who spoke to our team of reporters claiming that forces loyal to one the then armed factions, the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL) publicly murdered her four children, and husband who were leaving their Bushrod Island resident to her parents’ home where she was.

She noted that these murderers are still alive and are currently in Monrovia bragging of their doings during the country senseless and brutal civil war without remorse, “These guys must come out to admit their wrongful doings, then I and others will also forgive them”, Ms. Cooper speaking to the GNN in tears noted.

Many of those who poke to our reporters, and also claimed to be victims of the country’s bloody civil war said they are prepared to forgive those who admitted their involvement in carrying out these heinous crimes that took the lives of over 250, 000 Liberians and other foreign nationals but are refusing to recognize their actions must be able to face the Liberian people via the War Crime Court in Liberia.

“As much I am willing to forgive those who kill my only son during the war, they must come publicly and admit of what they did; killing of innocent people, they must face the weight of the law, if this is done it will deter others who many want to do same”, Nathaniel Seaway, Jr. of Central Monrovia gave the assurance of forgiving those who will publicly come out to admit that they killed their family’, Nathaniel speaking to our staff said.

But for others who are against the establishment of War Crime Court, but welcome the establishment of Economic Crime Court, said bringing about war crime court will be like digging out what they termed ‘Old worms’, adding, “I support the establishment of Economic Crimes Court, these guys are stealing our resources, and living with impunity must be punished for their wickedness”, the man only identified as Amos said.

Recently, some grassroots activists and government officials have reignited calls for the judicial body. These demands come amidst both the rise of a former warlord to a top senatorial position and ongoing allegations of corruption and violence within the administration of Liberian President George Weah.

Flash Back: People fleeing for their lives

While the rallying cry has reached a fever pitch within a matter of weeks, some Liberians across the globe, including Robtel Neajai Pailey, have long used their platforms to espouse support of the court along with other measures that would allow Liberians to confront the deep-seated problems plaguing their small West African nation.

“It’s almost like the elephant in the room. People have to pay for those crimes,” said Pailey, the author of “Development, (Dual) Citizenship and Its Discontents in Africa” in which she challenges the popular notion that dual citizenship would improve Liberia’s socioeconomic situation. Additionally, she makes the case for Liberians to establish an identity outside of what the American Colonization Society manufactured in the early 19th century.

In her book, Pailey posits that since the country’s founding, Liberia has struggled to formulate citizenship norms under which each and every Liberian, regardless of ethnic identity or economic standing, feels included.

She said the relevance of this perspective comes at a time when those responsible for human rights abuses during the war continue to walk among the people and hold positions of power.

“People are still very supportive of the war crimes court [because] the level of impunity doesn’t bode well for the future. It sends a message that anyone can do anything,” Pailey said.

Flash Back: Prince Y. Johnson of the INPFL

“How do you create social cohesion given that people have legitimate grievances? The question of citizenship, national identity and the failed diaspora project goes back to post-war transitional justice.”

A report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would later designate theft and rape of women as the primary means of control among rebel leaders. It also implicated all involved warring factions for committing human rights violations while touting the war and economic crimes court as a form of reparations for affected Liberians.

However, that has not been the case throughout the Weah presidency or that of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, his predecessor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. While alleged mismanagement of funds and intimidation of political rivals incited opposition for nearly two decades, recent events have served as icing on the cake.

Earlier in May, the successful elections of Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson as head of the Liberian Senate’s Committee on Defense and National Security and Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman as head of the Committee of the Judiciary drew the ire of both Liberians opposed to the Weah administration and the U.S. Embassy in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.

Taylor, Johnson, Kromah and Conneh

Johnson, a Liberian rebel leader-turned politician, has been connected to multiple murders committed during the Liberian Civil War, including that of Liberian President Samuel K. Doe. According to witness reports, Johnson and his troops publicly tortured, mutilated and killed Doe who killed his predecessor, President William Tolbert, a decade prior.

As for Sherman, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Sherman for his alleged bribery of judges, so ruled in two corruption cases (2010 and 2019), one of which involved the approval of a government contract with a British mining company.

Since Weah, a world-renowned soccer star and Congress for Democratic Change [CDC] party leader, entered office in 2018, Liberia’s economic situation has remained unchanged. Neither has the Liberian government convened a war and economic crimes court.

Throughout the duration of the Weah Administration, few have been more critical of the president than radio host and opposition leader Henry P. Costa who has not only criticized Weah on broadcasts but organized protests and helped usher the defeat of CDC senatorial candidates during elections in 2020.

In a recent broadcast, Costa made the case for a war and economics crime court by envisioning a world in which Weah did not win reelection in 2022 and a new political party, most likely his, took over the executive office.

“Weah and they would have destroyed the country so badly; it would be a while before the people could feel the impact of the new government. You won’t be able to make things happen overnight [because] the economy is so bad. In order to not be unpopular, the new government would have to go after the old people. You can’t go into power, see the people suffering and let the old government people go free,” Costa said during his May 24 broadcast.

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