Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why Johnson Sirleaf is Wrong

By: ralph geeplay

Peace Laureate President Sirleaf

Introduction: The Liberian Government is yet to act on the much heralded Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, often cited by international experts and meant to addressed the nation's reconciliation process. For reasons best known to the Unity Party led government, the report has been shelved and the chairman of the Commission have fled the country claiming threats to his life from the powers that be. Cllr. Verdier claims can not be taken lightly, Sirleaf own aide that once headed the procurement commission was gunned down in the country, and those who murdered him in cold blood are yet to be brought to justice. In June 2008, this writer raised issues with Sirleaf that her actions or inaction to ignore the commission were atypical to the political peace Liberia sought in the aftermath of war [most of the major actors including Sirleaf would later appear before the TRC].  But back then, her refusal to meet the TRC  almost left it on one leg, and today, the simmering effects of violence, discontent, and trauma from a war weary people is still evident in the Liberian society, with perpetrators and victims living side by side while warlords responsible for gruesome crimes are serving in her government, while Liberia's borders see armed gangs determined to profit from war. It is being re-posted with minor edits.

Three years ago, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf seeking the presidency of Liberia descended on Philadelphia, the United States of America to atone her role in the Liberian civil war. Before a tiny crowd of well wishers, under the banner of Liberians for Ellen (LIFE); the future Liberian president was unequivocal about the need for truth telling, honesty and a robust national policy that held sway for the nation as it sought reconciliation in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, pending her election. 

Johnson Sirleaf went on to affirm her availability to any future process that would involved what the so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is currently undertaking, while at the same time apologizing to the Liberian people for her participation in the war and statements on her part, view in certain quarters as insensitive and naïve during the heat of the civil war.

Widely circulated and heard on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) short wave radio were Sirleaf’s comments that she wanted Monrovia taken at all cost by insurgent rebel forces then loyal to the notorious Charles Taylor: 'leveled the Executive Mansion and we will rebuild it!'.Doe claiming constitutionality, was hold up there while pregnant women and their children were dying from hunger and bullets in the streets. Sirleaf comments were outrageous, but her concerns were legitimate.

Three years later Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the Liberian president, having been forgiven (or at least that’s the sentiment) and voted into office by war weary Liberians. To show her gratitude perhaps, she moved quickly and espoused a segment in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) adopted in the Ghanaian capital of Accra that established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the chagrin of those who have argued fervidly that what Liberia needs at the present is not this South African styled toothless truth commission that forgives people whose penchant to abuse the rights of their own people knew no limits. The TRC creation though was applauded in some quarters.

But Sirleaf has further complicated things in her drive to see the nation reconcile, if that is her purported aim. Her refusal to testify before the TRC has set off a chain of events, and the very fact that the civil society has been silent on this foul is itself a disservice to the Liberian people. This trend more so, has partly ill-legitimized the commission in the eyes of many Liberians who have stood with Ellen and vouched for her even when doing so has been to dress up the greater good that is politics in a place called Liberia. Now what, Ellen wants the Liberian people to wait for a ‘tell all book’ soon to be released that will detail her role in the Liberian civil conflict.

The inherent danger in such a policy by the president who is hailed internationally and still has sympathy amongst a vast slice of the local populace is that major actors such as the murderous and erratic Prince Johnson and his likes have reasons to skirt the commission while providing fickle pretext and thereby denying us the right to know the extend and depth of the atrocities they committed against the very people they now govern.

No doubt Mrs. Sirleaf has been a major actor in Liberian political circles for the past four decades, which began in the 1970s when she served the grand old True Whig Party government led by Tolbert. Her metamorphosis as a political activist, government official and private citizen has traversed three political parties and dozen years in exile, in her quest to be elected President of Liberia. 

The other two political institutions being the Liberian Action Party and the now ruling Unity Party which seized the mantle of state in the 2005 presidential and legislative election. Analysts say, to adopt the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a national policy and vehicle for mending the wounds that are still bleeding profusely from so many years of chaos and then refusing to testify before it, is contradictory and rife with condescension towards a people battered by a cruel war! Her refusal to testify before the commission gives these perpetrators cover.

Of course when Sirleaf’s tell all book is finally released it is bound to garner international press and publicity worldwide[ the book "This Child Will Be Great," was successful]. She is well journeyed and her international resume is thick. But the details and contents of her participation in a conflict that held the Liberian people hostage for nearly thirty years should not be for sale. On its own merits any serious narrative detailing the life of Mrs. Sirleaf will still do well, given the extra-ordinary political sojourn she trekked between the two decades that Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor razed Liberia.

Sirleaf refusal to in total meet the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a slap in the face to those [of us] who have rooted for her all the while as her enemies sought to devour her political chances. She is wrong in principle for relegating the interest of the ordinary Liberian to a book that many of her countrymen will not be able to purchase or read given the dire economic straight and high illiteracy rate that perverse the West African nation. 

The TRC has made serious efforts to operate under dire conditions but its credibility is sapped by internal wrinkles that seem at times confusing, because of President Sirleaf's inaction. How can the TRC and Sirleaf unite the Liberian people let alone reconcile them when bedlam ensues...? 

To date no principal actor has testified, beside the impious General Butt Naked. Alahaji Kromah, George Boley, Wheaday Wreh, Saah Gbolie, Charles Julu, Adolphus Dolo, Prince Johnson, Cyril Allen Grace Minor and colorful many others are yet to be heard from. Sirleaf could do us all a favor by taking the stand willingly, or else public opinion must not remain silent or else the expediency and argument that Prince Johnson intends [that he will NOT appear unless Sirleaf do likewise] will remain a national pastime to the dismay of many.

First published in the Liberian Forum June 2008

No comments: