Liberia & France Collaborate To Investigate Alleged War Criminal, Civitas Maxima Says

Geneva – June 12, 2019: In spring 2019, the French and Liberian authorities collaborated on a fact-finding mission relating to proceedings that were commenced in France following the arrest, in September 2018, of Kunti K. for acts committed during the First Civil War in Liberia between 1989 and 1996. This mission required significant logistical resources and took place in Lofa County in northwestern Liberia.

Ex Liberian Warlord Alhaji Kromah and some fighters of the disbanded ULIMO-K Militia - File Photo
Ex Liberian Warlord Alhaji Kromah and some fighters of the disbanded ULIMO-K Militia – File Photo

Civitas Maxima, in a press statement issued Wednesday in Geneva say, this was the first time since the end of the Second Civil War in 2003 that Liberian authorities have proceeded, along with foreign authorities, to undertake crime scene reconstructions relating to war-time crimes. These reconstructions took place in the presence of the French prosecuting authorities, investigating judge, defense lawyers, and the civil parties. Throughout this one-week mission, the contribution of the Liberian authorities was exemplary.

Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project, in its statement said, it  acknowledges the quality of the work undertaken by both French and Liberian authorities and congratulate them for taking this step in fulfilling their international obligations. This, Civitas Maxima and GJRP believe, is an important development in the fight against impunity for crimes that were committed in Liberia during the two Liberian Civil Wars.

Civitas Maxima and Global Justice & Research Project
Civitas Maxima and Global Justice & Research Project

Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project have been collaborating since 2012, and together represent hundreds of victims of the two Civil Wars which killed more than 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003.

Civitas Maxima, represented by the lawyer Simon Foreman, stands alongside Liberian victims and takes part as a civil party in the proceedings against Kunti K. in Paris, the statement concluded.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

No one has faced prosecution in Liberia for human rights and atrocities committed during the country’s devastating civil wars in the 1990s.

International and local rights organizations are coordinating efforts to ensure that recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which include the establishment of a war crimes court are established.

West African Journal Magazine

How Liberia Lost Out As A Host Country For US Africa Command HQ

Liberia squandered a valuable opportunity in 2007 to host the headquarters of the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) Africa Command known as AFRICOM.

AFRICOM

AFRICOM which is based in Stuggart, Germany says it maintains partnerships with African nations to strengthen security forces, counter transnational threats and respond to crisis in an effort to advance the interests of the United States.

It is one of six Geographic Combatant Commands that the U. S. maintains globally.

According to AFRICOM, “Along with regional partners, U.S. Africa command conducts military operations to disrupt, degrade and neutralize violent extremist organizations that present a transnational threat.

Operations set conditions for continued partnering to help African partner nations build the capacity they need to secure the region.”

According to the document seen by West African Journal Magazine, Liberian Legislative Committees lawmakers – Representatives and Senators, who were briefed by US Embassy officials at the time on AFRICOM “…expressed overwhelming support for the initiative and reiterated President Sirleaf’s request that Liberia be chosen as the new site of the headquarters…”

At the time, AFRICOM was actively seeking a continental base in Africa and the West African country expressed interest in being a host country.

Liberia -Some Strategic Characteristics

Geographically, Liberia is accessible through its southern coast via the Atlantic Ocean. It has a relatively young civilian population whose capacity can be trained to function in support roles. Liberia and Liberians have and maintain a “positive view” of the United States due to a very long period of mutual co-existence and collaboration in diplomacy, government, education, culture and economic matters.

Map of Liberia, West Africa

Additionally, it is in the strategic interest of the US to ensure the maintenance of a stable Liberia and the subregion.

In their enthusiasm, Liberian lawmakers at the time asked the U. S. diplomatic mission near Monrovia to assist them to, “counter arguments against AFRICOM and two legislators who also hold seats in the ECOWAS and Pan-African Parliaments agreed to lobby their African counterparts on behalf of AFRICOM.”

The US Embassy in Monrovia further briefed and educated the relevant Liberian lawmakers on the history, structure and function of AFRICOM and provided assurances to dispel the misconception that AFRICOM would “take over USAID”.

Richard Saah Gbollie

According to the documents, former Margibi County Representative Richard Saah Gbollie told U.S. Embassy officials that the Liberian Senate would ultimately be the ones to approve any agreement to host the AFRICOM headquarters and requested that some lawmakers travel to the US for further discussions on the issue with U. S. Congressional Armed Services And Foreign Relations Committees in Washington DC.

But US Embassy officials who saw the request as an attempt to get a “free trip” to the US discouraged the idea.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Senator Prince Y. Johnson, who is a member of the National Security Committee in the Liberian Senate told U. S. Embassy officials at the meeting that ECOWAS Parliament members, at their recent meeting, were concerned that hosting an AFRICOM Headquarters would make Liberia a terrorists target. Senator Johnson said he countered to his colleagues at the ECOWAS Parliament that “…AFRICOM’s fundamental role is to bring stability to the continent and ultimately help Africa fight global threats itself. The security brought by AFRICOM would help foster development… (C) Senator Johnson said the Liberian Special Security Services had been advising President Sirleaf not to offer to host AFRICOM because of an increased terrorist threat, but that they were the only GOL agency that felt that way.

Johnson said he would be willing to introduce a bill in the Senate to support AFRICOM because of the stability it could bring to all of Africa. He and the other Senators present agreed that they would introduce a formal resolution echoing

President Sirleaf’s offer for Liberia to host AFRICOM when the legislature reopens in January.”

Another former Liberian lawmaker and Pan African Parliament member Representative Eugene F. Kparkar of Lofa County in the briefing disclosed thatat their last Pan-African meeting, a colleague from Botswana called AFRICOM “anti-African Union measure” and “U.S. neo-colonialism.”

Representative Kparkar reportedly said he rebutted the position of the Botswana Representative and instead advocated for hosting AFRICOM on the African continent but asked that the U.S. undertake advocacy with other African countries.

Representative Rufus Gbeoir, a lawmaker from the Administrative District of Grand Gedeh County, who was the Chairman of the House Committee on Defense at the time, suggested a visit to AFRICOM’s headquarter in Stuggart, Germany “…to personally vouch for what AFRICOM is and is not and would have a better understanding of its mission.”

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The confidential US document seen by West African Journal Magazine, and which is now in the public domain, revealed that although there was huge support, especially among lawmakers at the time, for hosting AFRICOM’s headquarters in Liberia at the time, they had to table the effort because of a tug-of-war between the Executive and Legislative branches of the Liberian government.

The U.S. Embassy, through its Ambassador in Monrovia at the time, sent a cable to the State Department in Washington DC and summarized that, “While we cannot get in the middle of this tug-of-war with the two branches, we need to recognize the complicated nature of the relationship of all these actors with checkered and sometimes violent pasts, and do our best to ensure that all parties feel part of the process. Whether or not an AFRICOM presence comes to Liberia, the legislators remain an excellent resource for us in the public relations effort on AFRICOM, both in Liberia and all over the African continent through the Pan-African Parliament and ECOWAS. They are eager and willing to help. It is in our interest to keep them involved.”

The U. S. Embassy cable which included a mention of Liberian lawmakers with violent past include former warlord turned Senator Prince Johnson of the former rebel Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), former lawmaker Richard Saah Gbollie, a military police commander of the Taylor led rebel National Patriotic Front (NPFL).

Capitol Building in Monrovia

It is unclear if the Government of Liberia made further serious overtures to the U. S. Administration afterwards, given the enormous benefits of hosting a strategic ally.

AFRICOM’s Headquarters did not make it to Liberia nor Africa and remains in Stuggart, Germany where it coordinates Education and Training, Threat Assessments, Pandemic Response, Deployment Assistance, Military Partnership and Foreign Military Sales, etc. for the 53 countries in Africa.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia’s Offshore Accounts May Be At Risk Of Potential Compromise

The West African Journal Magazine is in possession of a document entitled Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Offshore Accounts Funds Transfer Details which was easily found on a Miinistry of Finance  Revenue page.

Seal of Liberia
Seal of Liberia

The highly sensitive document details the Government of Liberia account information for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and account details for Credit Suisse Bank in Zurich Switzerland. Details include routing numbers from each account and Swift Codes.

A Swift Code is an international bank code that identifies particular banks all over the work and it is also known as a Bank Identifier Code (BIC).Usually a Swift Code has 8 or 11 characters. West African Journal can confirm the following:

The GOL Swift Code for its Federal Reserve Bank of New York Account consists of 8 characters while that of its account at Credit Suisse consist of 11.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York which, according to its website says, “As part of our core mission, we supervise and regulate financial institutions in the Second District. Our primary objective is to maintain a safe and competitive U.S. and global banking system…”

Building of Credit Suisse Bank
Building of Credit Suisse Bank

Credit Suisse based in Zurich, notes on its website that, “Our strategy is to be a leading wealth manager, with strong investment banking capabilities. We seek to follow a balanced approach to wealth management, aiming to capitalize on both the large pool of wealth within mature markets as well as the significant growth in wealth in Asia Pacific and other emerging markets. Founded in 1856, we today have a global reach with operations in about 50 countries and 46,840 employees from over 170 different nations.”

GOL Offshore Accounts
GOL Offshore Accounts

West African Journal Magazine cannot independently verify the offshore accounts document in its possession and has redacted identifiable information as a precaution and to protect the accounts of the Government of Liberia.

But a U.S. based Liberian financial expert with background and knowledge in and of the U.S. Banking and Financial sectors, who reviewed the off shore accounts document, termed them as “legitimate”.

It is unclear if the Government of Liberia through the Central Bank is aware of the exposure of this sensitive information and whether the information contained in its accounts are still valid.

POTENTIAL RISKS TO LIBERIA

Hacking: The exposure and access of the GOL Offshore accounts information are at risk of hacking by shady individuals and institutions who can then drain the entire account of the Government.

Default: The Government of Liberia is at risk of defaulting on payments  its local and international obligations, if its accounts are compromised.

Terrorism: Terrorists seeking access to funds for facilitate their operations could utilize Government of Liberia compromised accounts to wreak death and destruction against Liberians and allies,  including the United States and European countries.

Credit Risk: Liberia could face years of international credit denial and access to conventional loan facilities due to its poor banking systems and management.

Reputational Damage: Liberia’s image could be further tainted as a risk to the international banking and financial management systems to which Liberia’s banking systems are connected.

Mega Financial Loss: Liberia may lose its entire critical offshore revenue from its compromised accounts.

According to another financial expert whom West African Journal Magazine contacted to review the document, the GOL through the Central Bank is now under obligation to adopt sound practices to address the following areas which pose significant risks to the country’s financial systems and management regime.

  1. Establishment of an internationally acceptable an appropriate credit risk environment;
  2. CBL operating under an internationally acceptable sound credit granting regime;
  3. Installation of a new, credible and untainted Finance and Bank Management administration to begin develop international confidence and good will for Liberia and d
  4. Maintenance of the requisite credit administration, evaluation and strict monitoring process to ensure adequate controls at the Central Bank
Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah
Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah

It can be recalled that last December, a fraudster from Sierra Leone attempted to transfer millions of dollars out of the account of the Government of Liberia because he was able to trick the country’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah into disclosing Government’s swift code and account information.

It is unclear how many senior government officials have system access, security, authority and clearance to Government’s Swift Code and Account information to avoid the potential for theft of Government’s offshore accounts.

Central Bank of Liberia Governor Nathaniel Patray
Central Bank of Liberia Governor Nathaniel Patray

The reputation of the CBL is in tatters following a series of damning scandals including the “missing billions”, the publication of incorrect financial information on its website and the arrest, detention and pending prosecution of some former and current officials for the roles in the “overprinting of banknotes” and the inability of the bank to account for missing monies.

The Kroll forensic audit indicted the CBL for having poor financial and record keeping systems.

Widespread corruption and lack of proper financial defense mechanisms have plagued the impoverished country Liberia for decades.

A second investigation has been ordered by the Liberian President into the “mop-up” exercise during which the country’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah admitted that about $25 million USD was infused in the Liberian economy using untraceable and un-registered local money changers.

 

By Our Economic Correspondent in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia Blacklisted As An “Offshore Tax Haven”

Monrovia, Liberia – February 19, 2019: The West African nation of Liberia has been named as one of thirty countries worldwide on the European Commission (EU) Offshore Blacklist.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

West African Journal Magazine can report that according to the Crystal Worldwide Group, the list created by the EU Commission and recently released is composed of countries that have refused to cooperate with tax matters.

“…To be registered on the list, a country must had been reported by at least ten EU member countries….” Crystal Worldwide said.

The only other African country blacklisted in the report is the Indian Island Ocean country of Mauritius. It has been disclosed that Liberia is among other countries that have asked to be removed from the list.

Crystal Worldwide Group says it is an international business consulting firm which specializes in tax planning and asset protection for its clients.

Liberia has long been named for inclusion on the EU list of countries whose weak laws allow for the setting up of secret offshore companies. The small West African country  appeared in the “Panama Papers” a few years ago when it was revealed that a secret Liberian company connected to the family of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was used to move funds. The Africa Report published by Jeune Afrique reported in 2016 that in the particular case, “… there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Sharif’s family.”

Offshore-Bank-Account
Offshore-Bank-Account

The “Panama Papers” is a report by global investigative reporters on the offshore links of some of the world’s most prominent figures which include leaders and celebrities and their “wealth” which are stashed away in secret tax havens abroad to avoid legal taxation and law enforcement scrutiny.

The African Report publication wrote in 2016 that, “ For a few hundred dollars, and in a matter of hours online, anyone in the world can set up a tax free Liberian company that offers total anonymity to its owner. Such anonymity allows individuals to hide their assets from tax and law enforcement agencies…”

A former Liberian Maritime head Mr. Binyah Kesselly, in February, 2013 said he expected Liberia to be removed from such black lists of international “tax havens” because of active measures the Government was taking.

The measures included passage of Amendments in the national Legislature to provide transparency in the ownership information and full compliance with peer review recommendations for accounting records of offshore companies which use Liberian laws to skirt international oversight.

It is unknown if Liberia is now in compliance since the latest EU Commission Report lists the country as one of many countries which can be used to set up secret offshore companies.

A Global Witness campaigner Jonathan Gant notes that “Secret companies have been used to hide ill-gotten money from drugs, corruption, and terrorism.”

By Our Economic Staff Editor

West African News Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

London: Liberian Opposition Leader Tells Diaspora Community Corruption “Unprecedented” Back Home

London, UK January 21, 2019 – “The bottomline is that the country is struggling.”

Liberia Opposition ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Jr. in London

The charge, made on Saturday, January 21, 2019 by opposition leader Mr. Alexander B. Cummings Jr. of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) in London, England, is in apparent reference to the current economic challenges facing the small West African nation of Liberia.

Cummings was speaking to a group of Diaspora Liberians who gathered to hear first- hand about the current situation in the country and how they could help.

In a four-hour engagement with Liberians in which he gave a candid assessment of the political and economic conditions, Cummings recalled that when President George M. Weah was inaugurated a little over a year, he urged all Liberians to wish the new President and Government well, “because if he does well, that means that the country does well. And if it makes it harder for us to compete with him, then we should work harder because Liberia is in a difficult situation; everybody gotta work hard, if we want to change the country and take it to where it used to be,” Cummings said.

Some Liberian Diaspora Members At London Gathering With Cummings

He told the gathering that Liberia, after a year under the ruling Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led Administration, “the early signs are not good.”

Cummings characterized the level of corruption as “unprecedented” but was quick to qualify his charge by indicating that the Weah Government is not the first corrupt Liberian Administration.

The ANC leader who is now viewed as the leading opposition voice in Liberia blamed the economic crime of corruption as the major reason for the country’s under development, describing corruption as “the bane of our country.”

The Liberian opposition leader further charged that, “the level of corruption now is just unprecedented; it’s kind of in your face. It’s almost disrespectful to the Liberian people because other Governments at-least would pretend. They would hide what they are trying to do. I think this government is so upfront and aggressive in acquiring properties, building properties…”, Cummings openly asserted.

The gathering of Liberians who traveled to engage politician Cummings heard him sharply contrast the high level of pervasive corruption against the economic struggles of ordinary Liberian. He pointed to country specific economic indicator data released by Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and the World Bank as declining.

“…Inflation is up, the Liberia Dollar is losing value, the current account deficit is expanding, revenue collections are going down…these are the facts,” Cummings, popularly known as ABC, told his compatriots.

ANC Logo

He cited the recent designation of Liberia as “the poorest country” in the world” and said all Liberians should concerned.

According to him, although he was calling out the facts of where the country is, it was also important to suggest solutions and potential alternatives, adding that, for him, “it was not just good enough to criticize.”

The opposition ANC leader who joined the local political fray over two and a half years ago from a successful corporate career at one of the world’s most successful beverage conglomerate and Fortune 500 companies Coca Cola, states that the opposition has a responsibility to hold the government in power accountable but will always offer solutions; so as not to be seen as always criticizing.

Although, he said, in his personal assessment, the “state” of the nation Liberia is not that great, President Weah is expected to deliver his constitutionally mandated “State of the Nation” report to the country ‘s National Legislature on January 28th, the opposition is planning to issue a “response”; an alternative point of view to the President’s address.

“And then we should hope that things get better,” Cummings stated. adding that, “as Liberians that should be our hope.”

The Liberian opposition leader, who was visiting London to get acquainted with the local Diaspora community, however, said he was less optimistic that things would improve but he remained hopeful.

Cummings In Middle and Some Liberians in London

The Diaspora community were told that government should create conditions for all Liberians to have equal access to opportunities and not just partisans of the ruling CDC.

Cummings, speaking at the engagement, clarified his recent statement in which he said “leaders should eat last”. He said the statement was being mis-characterized but said his view is that leaders are “servants”.

Alex continued that, “…but somehow, when some Liberians get into government, that servant- leadership characteristic goes missing.”

He emphasized that, “When you go into government, your role is to serve the people; not the other way around. And, somehow, that changes when we get into government. Eating does not mean corruption,” Cummings explained to the audience.

“And the idea of leaders eating last is that as a leader, you serve your people first. You should make sure they are taken care of; all the basic needs as necessities. Then pay yourself fairly for the work that you do. And that’s what we should be thinking about our leaders; they should be servant leaders…”, the ANC leader stated.

Map of Liberia

Cummings told Liberians gathered that as they think about change in the country, there were some fundamental questions that they needed to ask themselves about Liberia’s leadership model; why the country continues to do business the same way since independence in 1847 and expect a different result, and why those from the Diaspora…when they government, adopt corrupt behaviors.

During the Question and Answer period, attendees and Cummings exchanged views and discussed issues around Liberian youth empowerment, Technical, Vocational Education And Training (TVET), building and promoting political alliances and processes, Constitutional Amendments and term limits.

Some Liberians in London and Alex B. Cummings Jr. seated in Middle

They also discussed issues around resolution of war and economic crimes and electoral reforms.

Sound Cloud link – https://m.soundcloud.com/douglas-farngalo/town-hall-meeting-with-leader-of-alternative-national-congress-alexander-b-cummings-london-uk/s-9CjXo

By Our Staff Reporters and Contributing Writer Douglas Farngalo in London

Photos: Courtesy of Douglas Farngalo

Dutch Supreme Court Upholds Gus Kouwenhoven’s Conviction; Extradition Pending

The Hague, Netherlands December 18, 2018 – The AP is reporting that the Supreme Court in the Netherlands has upheld the conviction of the notorious Dutch arms smuggler Gus Kouwenhoven – a long-time associate of former rebel turned ex-President of Liberia Charles Taylor.

Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor
Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor

Kouwenhoven who operated the Oriental Timber Company (OTC) in Liberia was convicted in 2006 of international arms and timber smuggling including supply of cars, weapons,  and ammunitions to the main rebel group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in exchange for access to timber, diamond and natural resources of the poor West African country during its devastating civil war in 1990s. He appealed that conviction and was cleared.

However, new evidence surfaced on which the Dutch national was convicted again early 2017 and sentenced to 19 years  in prison.

In his 2016 book on conflict diamonds entitled, “ The Lion That Didn’t Roar: Can The Kimberly Process Stop the Blood Diamonds Trade?”, author Nigel Davidson wrote that, “…The Netherlands utilised its national war crimes legislation to initiate a prosecution about the related issue of so-called ‘conflict timber’. Although not a conflict diamonds prosecution as such, the war crimes legislation was used to prosecute timber trader and Dutch national Gus Kouwehoven. Reminiscent of the conflict diamonds problem, Kouwehoven allegedly provided financial assistance through is logging activities to human rights violators. Kouwenhoven was charged with war crimes for his role in the conflict in Liberia, as well as breaching United Nations sanctions. The indictment alleged that in at least four locations, Kouwenhoven committed, directly or indirectly, the killing, inhuman treatment, looting, rape, severe bodily harm, and offences against dead, sick or wounded persons. Machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used in an attack that made no distinction between active combatants and civilians…”

A Dutch Magisterial Court in 2006, however, did not find Kouwenhoven criminally liable for the alleged crimes. An Appeals court in 2008 overturned the decision and ordered him re-tried and he was subsequently convicted.

Charles Taylor Fighters
Charles Taylor Fighters

At the time of Mr. Kouwenhoven’s arrest last December in South Africa, the Executive Director of Global Witness, in a press statement said, “The arrest of Gus Kouwenhoven marks a banner day for the people of Liberia and those around the world who suffer at the hands of companies that trade in conflict timber and minerals. The message to those that trade guns for resources and profit from international crimes is that the rules of the game are changing. You will be found and you will go to jail…”

“Gus” as he was known in Liberia, was a business fixture at the once famed Hotel Africa Hotel in the northern western Liberian suburb of Virginia.

“Years of dogged work by the Dutch government, and now the South African authorities, are paying off and are finally bringing an infamous criminal to justice. Global Witness applauds their efforts. Charles Taylor has already been sentenced and imprisoned. Kouwenhoven now faces a similar fate,” the Global Witness official said last December.

Mr. Kouwenhoven, now residing in South Africa who was appealing his second conviction but with the Dutch Supreme Court’s decision, he is now awaiting extradition to the Netherlands.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

His lawyers argued before the Dutch Supreme Court that the Kouwenhoven could not be prosecuted because of am amnesty granted to him by former President Taylor in 2003. That argument was rejected by the Court and his conviction upheld.

Over 250,000 Liberians were killed in the country’s civil war and another 1 million others were displaced internally and externally by the bloody conflict. Charles Taylor himself was convicted of charges by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in the Hague in May, 2012. He is currently serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK.

In Liberia, the Administration f President George M. Weah is facing international and domestic pressure to establish a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of gross human rights abuses and economic crimes.

But the Weah government has said that the establishment of such a court is not a priority.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

 

US Lawmakers Signal Major Support For War Crimes Court In Liberia

Washington DC – November 14, 2018:  In a strong signal against the perpetuation of a  pervasive culture of impunity in Liberia since the end of the brutal back-to-back civil war that brought the West African nation of Liberia to its knees, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 passed Resolution 1055 “to reaffirm strong U.S.-Liberia ties and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendations.

Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia

As part of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2003, all belligerents in the Liberia conflict agreed to the establishment of a  Truth or Reconciliation mechanism to investigate “perpetrators of massacres, sexual offences, murder, economic crimes, extra-judicial killings, and all incidents of gross human rights abuses and violations from January, 1979 – October 13, 2004. The aim of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which began work in earnest 2006, was to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation”.

Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement ARTICLE XIII: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

  1. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission shall be established to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.
  1. In the spirit of national reconciliation, the Commission shall deal with the root causes of the crises in Liberia, including human rights violations.
  1. This Commission shall, among other things, recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.
  1. Membership of the Commission shall be drawn from a cross-section of Liberian society. The Parties request that the International Community provide the necessary financial and technical support for the operations of the Commission.
Former Fighters In Libera - File Photo
Former Fighters In Libera – File Photo

The TRC completed its work and submitted a Final Report to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration in 2009. However, the Government of Liberia has failed to take the necessary steps for implementation in spite of local and international urgings to address gross human rights abuses and economic crimes committed by major actors; some of whom serve in high positions in the current Liberian government.

The UN, Germany, the United States, European Union and local non-governmental organizations have made private and public representations to the George M. Weah Administration on the matter but without success so far.

Liberian diaspora civic groups and individuals and international human rights organizations including the International Justice Group (IJG) have been vigorously  lobbying the U.S. and European governments for support for the establishment of an accountability mechanism like the War Crimes Court. International war crimes investigators who traveled to Liberia over the years to collect first-hand evidence from victims and eyewitnesses have presented their findings to the U.S. government including lawmakers to make the case for passage of the resolution which supports the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia.

IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera
IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera

The Chief Investigator of the International Justice Group (IJG) Mr. Garretson Al Smith who played a key investigatory role which helped with the passage of U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1055 said, “this is a major step in the accountability process for those who are accused of committing war crimes in the West African nation.”

Prior to the vote on the Resolution, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Ed Royce stated that, “ …The Africa Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and the people of Liberia to apprehend the notorious warlord Charles Taylor. Today, he remains behind bars. In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia. Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal has never been established, although Liberian government figures and activists alike have continued to call for one. This resolution repeats this important call.”

According to the U.S. lawmaker Representative Royce, “…We have turned the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and stability in the region…”

Former Warlord Prince Y. Johnson

In a recent interview on a local radio station in his home county of Nimba in northeastern Liberia, a former militia leader turned Senator Mr. Prince Y. Johnson threatened those calling for his arrest. “If you were to come to arrest me, I will fight you. You know why? The same crime you want to arrest me for is the same crime Taylor committed. When you said you killed my ma, you then compensated Taylor with the Presidency. You paid Taylor to be President of Liberia…,” Johnson angrily said in the interview.

Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper
Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper

He cited calls to arrest and prosecute him for alleged war crimes as “selective justice” and defended his role as a fight to save his kinsmen who, he said, were being massacred by the Samuel K. Doe regime. Johnson and his militia were responsible for snatching former President Doe from the base of the Peacekeeping Force on September 9, 1990, after killing nearly 70 members of his entourage during the late President’s visit there. Doe was later tortured, killed and his body mutilated by rebel fighters loyal to Johnson.

The former warlord said Parliament in Liberia passed an Amnesty law for all acts committed between 1990 – 2003 and defiantly added, “ If you want, come catch me. The resistance you will find from young guys…it will be maximum, uncontrollable and ungovernable…”

Liberia’s TRC Final Report

Liberia’s TRC Final Report recommended the prosecution leaders of warring factions for “…human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia and economic crimes…”

Liberia - TRC
Liberia – TRC

Those recommended for prosecution include now jailed former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor of the National Patriotic Front, (NPFL), Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), Alhaji G.V. Kromah of United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO-K) and Dr. George S. Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).

Other former warlords named for prosecution in the TRC Final Report were Thomas Yahya Nimley of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Sekou Damate Konneh of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Rebel Leaders Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO -J faction and Francois Massaquoi of the Lofa Defense Force (LDF) pre-deceased the TRC Final Report.

US – Liberia Relations

US Representative Ed Royce
US Representative Ed Royce

The U.S. wields significant economic power and influence in Liberian matters and the House Resolution is expected to force the hand of the Weah government to implement the TRC Final Report or it will face further international isolation and sanctions. The Liberian Administration is already facing a crushing economic deterioration and has been unable to access international loan facilities.

The Weah government is said to be frantically seeking unconventional avenues to solicit loans and lines of credit to keep it afloat amidst rising local economic discontent and pressure to deliver much needed relief.

In his prepared remarks before passage of the House Resolution on Liberia, Chairman Royce noted that, “Much more needs to be done to crack down on corruption and create a more conducive environment for trade and economic investment. The government must ensure policies are in place to encourage businesses to invest, grow and create jobs. But this resolution affirms the U.S. commitment to continue to partner with Liberia to support civil society, rule of law and good governance. We stand by the Liberian people in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and democratic Liberia…”

Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes
Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes

On last Monday, hundreds of Liberians marched in the capital Monrovia in support of victims and survivors of the war and presented a petition to the Government of Liberia, the United States and international partners in which they called for the setting up of a war crimes court.

The Weah Administration Liberia has not officially responded to the U.S. House Resolution.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal