Human Rights Watch Tells Liberia To Prosecute Past War Crimes

TRC Final Report

TRC Recommendations for Internationalized Domestic War Crimes Court

The international non-governmental organization dedicated to research and advocacy for human rights around the world Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the new Weah Administration in the West African nation Liberia “should take prompt steps to pave the way for fair investigation and prosecution of serious past crimes committed during Liberia’s brutal civil wars.”

President George M. Weah of Liberia
President George M. Weah of Liberia

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) Associate Director of its International Justice Program Ms. Elise Keppler, “President Weah has a chance to make history by ensuring that Liberia’s victims at long last have a chance to see the people who committed crimes against them held to account.”

“Liberia,” she said, “has made important progress to advance post-conflict stability, but no one has faced justice in Liberia for the brutal crimes during that period.” The call to the new Weah Administration is an attempt by the international community and human rights advocates to pressure the authorities ib Liberia to hold accountable those who committed grievous atrocities during the Liberia civil crisis. An estimated 250,000 people died and nearly 1 million others were internally and externally dislocated due to the conflagration.

According to HRW, “…during two armed conflicts – 1989 to 1996 and 1999 to 2003 – horrific abuses were committed against civilians in Liberia. These included summary executions and numerous large-scale massacres; widespread and systematic rape; mutilation and torture; and large-scale forced conscription and use of child combatants. The violence blighted the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, displaced almost half the population, and virtually destroyed the country’s infrastructure.”

Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier
Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

In July, 2017, the former head of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Counselor Jereome Verdier recommended that any incoming Liberian Administration should address the following:

“(i)That the future government of Liberia considers domestic prosecutions of domestic crimes including murders, and diverse theft cases and graft;

(ii) That the future government of Liberia establishes a committee that will review the Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with the mandate to prepare a timeline, modalities, strategies and how the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC can be accomplished in keeping with law as an advisory tool for government actions;

(iii)That the future Government of Liberia considers the establishment of a robust economic and financial crimes commission to pursue the long list of cases of economic crimes in Liberia and commence redress mechanisms ahead of the establishment of The War Crimes Court for Liberia;

(iv) That the future government of Liberia considers inculcating the values and culture of the rule of law into the socio-cultural and economic and commercial fabric of the Liberian society as a matter of high priority;

(v) That the future Government of Liberia also prioritizes national reconciliation efforts and initiatives to advance national healing and the transition agenda of restoring comprehensive peace, national unity and security to Liberia as a sine qua non for lasting peace, growth and development in Liberia…”

Counselor Verdier also recommended the following to the international community:

“i) That the international community considers continuing or expanding the sanctions regime on Liberian to include travel ban and financial sanctions on specific persons of interest and international arrests and deportations to ensure that there is no haven anywhere in the world for fugitives and alleged perpetrators of economic and war crimes in Liberia;

(ii) That the international community considers assisting Liberia with financial, technical and other forensic assistances in the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth from Liberia;

(iii) That the international community considers reviving and supporting efforts towards establishing a special ordinary war crimes tribunal for Liberia to deal with war time atrocities and crimes committed in Liberia, that closure to that chapter of Liberia’s history can be done with dignity and respect for international norms and standards of justice and;

(iv) That the international community facilitate the accentuating of greater accountability in Liberia by commissioning an audit of all donors and development partners grants, aid and loans to Liberia during the period January 16, 2006 to January 16, 2018…”

Former President Charles Taylor
Former President Charles Taylor

Some perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia have been booked and are facing prosecution in the United States, Switzerland, the UK and Belgium. Chief among them is former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor who is serving a 50 year jail term in the UK.

No one has been charged and prosecuted in Liberia for alleged war crimes. HRW, in its letter to President George Weah, said, “…while supportive of the general approach, Human Rights Watch recommended that several elements of the proposal should be revised to ensure prosecutions of past crimes in accordance with international standards…” 

Liberia’s TRC, established in 2003 following the Accra Peace Conference, was to identify the root causes of the Liberian civil war and determine those who were responsible for committing domestic and international crimes against the Liberian people.

Former Liberian President Ellen-Johnson-Sirleaf-MS
Former Liberian President Ellen-Johnson-Sirleaf

The TRC, in its final report, recommended that Nobel Peace Laureate and former  President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 51 others be blocked from holding public offices in Liberia for 30 years for helping to form and finance the country’s warring militias. That recommendation has not been implemented.

The international human rights advocacy group told the new Liberian government to,” As part of these efforts, the new government should revisit the TRC’s recommendations with a view to establishing a court with international assistance to fairly and effectively prosecute international crimes committed in Liberia.”

Ms. Keppler said, “…The countless victims of the unspeakable crimes committed in Liberia deserve justice for what they have suffered.The era of rampant impunity for international crimes should at last close.”

Map of Liberia
Map of Liberia

Some accused perpetrators and their supporters argue that enforcement of some recommendations of the country’s TRC contravenes the country’s Constitution.

A former rebel commander-turned-senator Prince Johnson from northeastern Nimba County, Liberia who is one of those named in the TRC Final Report as a “notorious perpetrator has accused the TRC of using his testimony to name him for war crimes saying. “… due process is what our Constitution requires.”

Senator Johnson has been named as a person of interest for the execution of several U.S. catholic nuns and one Linda Jury; an American citizen of the Hari Krishna faith in Liberia during the war.

Johnson and his rebel forces were also responsible for capturing, torturing and killing former President Samuel Doe in September, 1990.

Reports say international investigators are continuing to collect evidence against some of the major perpetrators for a possible indictment.

With the renewed focus on holding those accountable for their roles in horrific war crimes perpetrated in Liberia, The Weah Administration must now decide how it proceeds to avoid the risk of appearing weak and colluding in avoiding the prosecution of individuals who are some of its political allies and government appointees.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

Nigeria, Cameroon Vow To Keep Bilateral Security Arrangements

Nigeria and Cameroon have expressed desire to keep the status quo of their bilateral security arrangements at the borders and not to allow the use of each other’s territory to launch any act of destabilisation.

Map of Nigeria and Cameroon
Map of Nigeria and Cameroon

The online news portal Channel Africa  quotes Nigeria’s National Security Adviser as saying, all foreigners living in Nigeria should observe the laws of their host to promote good neighbourliness and a peaceful stay in Nigeria.

Channel Africa

Liberia: UN Ends Successful Peacekeeping Mission

Monrovia, Feb 6 – After a 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission to Liberia,  the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) which stabilized Liberia that already held two successful  democratic presidential and legislative elections, on Monday announced final departure following 14 years of service.
National Coat of Arms of Liberia
National Coat of Arms of Liberia

In a resolution in August 2003, the UN Security Council authorized UNMIL to disarm and demobilize thousands of maurading combatants used by several warlords to commit  atrocities in this country a decade and half ago.

UNMIL also trained a brand new national army, police, immigration as well as other security and law enforcement forces over 14 years during which they were deployed throughout Liberia.
The UN Security Council authorized the mission following the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) by warring factions and civil society leaders in Accra, Ghana following the forced resignation of then president Charles Taylor August 3, 2003.
They also reinforced respect for rule of law, human rights and gender sensitivity.
UN Peacekeeping Policewomen from India Arrive In Liberia
UN Peacekeeping Policewomen from India Arrive In Liberia.png

As nearly 160 UNMIL  personnel died of different causes, new President George Weah consoled the UN family for the human losses sustained and praised the men and women in blue helmets for a success story here.

Decorations of dozens of UNMIL troops from contributing countries  climaxed the occasion held at UNMIL headquarters in the Liberian capital Monrovia.
Reporting by Tepitapia Sannah in Monrovia 

Togo: More Protests Planned Against President Gnassingbe

More political turmoil is forecasted for the small West African nation of Togo in the coming days.

Administrative Map of Togo
Administrative Map of Togo

Reports say, a series of nationwide strikes are expected to be held in in the country beginning Tuesday Tuesday, January 30 through the following week into Thursday, February 8.

In its country security risk report issued on Monday, the world’s largest privately owned security firm Garda says, the first series will be a teachers unions strike which will launch and last for  72-hours beginning on January 30.

Next will be the Togolese health care workers who are expected to launch their strike on January 31 and February 1.

Garda says it is still unclear to what extent the healthcare workers’ strike will affect available medical services across the country. Public sector workers, the firm said, also plan to strike from Monday, February 4, through Thursday, February 8.  Large demonstrations and public gatherings are expected in the capital Lomé and in other areas during the strikes.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe’s government has been dogged by sometimes violent protests organized by the opposition who have called form him to go. The President has resisted calls and has instead called for dialogue with the opposition aimed at political reforms.

Women in Togo have also marched to protest the administration of President Gnassingbe. The main opposition leader Jean Pierre Fabre, who said he supports the women told the AFP that, “Faced with the refusal of the power to move forward, women have decided to enter the game.”

Togolese Anti Government Protesters
Togolese Anti Government Protesters

The opposition is demanding  the return of the original Togolese 1992 Constitution which limits the President to a two five-year term and a two-round voting system. The opposition also wants the introduction of diaspora voting, an independent investigation into killing of protesters, the release of all political detainees and an end to arrests, torture and persecution of members of the opposition.

President Gnassingbe, who was installed in 2005 with the support of the Togolese military following the death of his father General Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled the country for 38 years, is the current chair of the sub-regional economic grouping ECOWAS.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Eurasia Group 2018 Risks Group: Africa

The Eurasia Group has released its 2018 Top Risks Group which includes Africa. The following is an in-depth analysis for Africa.

Africa
Africa

THE “AFRICA RISING” NARRATIVE REMAINS APPEALING, but this year will face a new challenge. The continent’s core countries (Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia, among others) have recently demonstrated robust investment climates, and they’ve been generally sealed off from the troubles of the “periphery” (Mali, South Sudan, Somalia, etc.). But in 2018, negative spillover from Africa’s unstable periphery will increasingly spoil the continent’s success stories.

The threat lies in security risks: militancy and terrorism. The dangers posed by Al Shabaab in East Africa and Al Qaeda in West Africa are not new, but they’re set to intensify. Despite losing territory in 2017, Al Shabaab is still carrying out successful one-off surprise attacks and will look to more international targets in 2018. The Islamic State is likely to increase activity in West Africa and expand into East Africa as it is pushed from traditional strongholds in the Middle East.

Boko Haram Fighters
Boko Haram Fighters

Countries targeted by militancy and terrorism are more vulnerable than they’ve been in years, and external partners are less able to provide unified support.
Target countries are more vulnerable than they’ve been in years, and external partners are less able to mount a united front of support. Local actors in “core” countries are already suffering from weakened political capacity. Kenya’s government will focus on economic recovery after a prolonged election cycle. Nigeria enters an election season with uncertainty over its current leader’s health. South Africa faces internal political strife. Angola is busy with a fresh leadership transition. Mozambique is still struggling with a years-long debt scandal.

Foreign partners who have helped stabilize weak governments in the past are distracted. In the east, a preoccupied Europe has reduced its salary support for troops of the UN-mandated African Union Mission to Somalia operating in the Al Shabaab hotspot. Across the Sahel, the G5 counterterrorism partnership of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania plans to launch a 5,000-strong force in March 2018. But differences among France, the US, and UN officials will slow the necessary funding, leaving the region at risk, despite an injection of financial support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The growing fragility of Africa’s top performers has several implications. Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Ethiopia face increased security costs at a time when their governments need to reduce spending. A spike in attacks would also undermine foreign investment perceptions already shaken by the election-related violence in Kenya, a growing social protest movement in Ethiopia, and presidential succession uncertainties in Nigeria and Uganda.

Naira-The-Trent
Nairas

Foreign investors may see their assets directly targeted. Tourist and energy installations will be especially at risk. This will put downward pressure on FDI into the continent, leaving development reliant on limited local capital. And the pressure of security-related refugee flows—on countries in the region and in Europe—will not abate, creating a headache for policymakers on both sides of the Mediterranean.

About EURASIA GROUP: 

According to its website, the Eurasia Group says it connects geopolitics and business to provide valuable strategic and operational insights. Its combination of strategy consulting methodologies, deep industry sector coverage, and best-in-class country expertise is applied to areas including:

Risk-adjusted market assessment, market prioritization, and market entry planning

Political risk assessment and messaging strategy

M&A macro risk due diligence

Enterprise risk management & process design support

Strategic risk identification and monitoring

Source: The Eurasia Group

 

US Africom To Investigate Civilian Deaths in Raid In Somalia

The US Africa Command (Africom) is launching a second investigation in a raid in August in Somalia in which it was reported that 10 civilians in the northeast African country were killed.

Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser
Africom Commander Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser

The general in charge of U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has requested a second investigation into an August raid in Somalia after reports that U.S. soldiers killed 10 civilians, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday. Reports say that the about-face comes after U.S.Congressman Ted Lieu pressed a senior Defence Department official to review recent media reports that the US troops had shot dead 10 unarmed Somalis on a farm in the town of Bariire in August.

A spokesperson for the US military outfit Robyn Mack in a statement on Thursday said, “As a result, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command, referred the matter to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to ensure a full exploration of the facts given the gravity of the allegations.”

Media reports say that US Special Forces personnel had killed unarmed Somali civilians and a child in an operation on August 25 in Somalia, according to the Daily Beast website quoting survivors in the town of Bariire. Shortly following the news report, Africom released a statement at the time insisting that it had only killed enemy combatants in the operation.

Map - Somalia
Map – Somalia

The account of Africom was duisputed by Somali eyewitnesses who said the US soldiers fired on unarmed civilians in the southern town.

Africom, through its spokesperson now says it will full y investigate the allegations of the killings. According to Ms. Mack, ‘ After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia on August 25, 2017, and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants.”

In a separate development, the U.S is suspending food and fuel aid to the Somali military due to concerns over corruption.

Somali Military
Somali Military

According to Reuters, the U.S. suspension of aid came after the Somali military repeatedly failed to account for food and fuel, according to private correspondence between the U.S. and Somali governments.

An official at the U.S. State Department told Reuters last week that, “During recent discussions between the United States and the Federal Government of Somalia, both sides agreed that the Somali National Army had failed to meet the standards for accountability for U.S. assistance.”

West African Journal Magazine

 

NATO Supports Mauritania In Enhancing Its Crisis Management System

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) says its crisis management center implemented through the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme (SPS) can contribute to the fight against the challenges of trafficking and terrorism in Mauritania and the Sahel region of Africa.

NATO Flags
NATO Flags

According to a statement from NATO’s headquarters, it says the system could also serve as a model for the neighboring countries and regional organizations which have shown interest in this innovative center.

The national center will improve civil protection, operational watch, and early warning of the population against threats and risks, and enhance preparedness against crises affecting national security. It also supports emergency response by compiling and analyzing information from various sources, using modern technology and simulations.

It is based on a system which provides modern communication equipment for crisis monitoring, alert and management. Operators, technicians and other personnel in charge of the system have been trained, at technical and operational levels, so as to be able to implement their responsibilities and follow their missions.

This comprehensive system has been referred to as an example for the entire Sahel region.

“It is with great satisfaction that I see this project achieved,” said Inspector Mohamed Lemine Haidara of the Mauritanian General Directorate for Civil protection. “This project was developed for the Mauritanian Civil Protection in cooperation with the NATO SPS Programme and my French counterparts. I want to pay tribute to all those who were deeply committed to make this project advance and succeed. Its recognition went beyond Mauritania’s borders and it is considered as a model by the countries in the Sahel region,” he continued

General (Ret.) Denis Opplert of the French General Directorate for Civil protection and Crisis Management concluded, “For me, this project has represented an exceptional human and technological challenge. I was happy to see the progressive and complete takeover of the system by its users and managers. I want to thank them, as well as the French experts for their contribution”.

Mauritania-map
Mauritania

The four regional operational coordination centres across Mauritania located in Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Rosso and Néma have also been supplied with portable kits for mobile crisis coordination.

The system facilitates situational awareness in the different provinces of Mauritania. The centres are receiving and processing emergency calls, track incidents, and share the information gathered at the national level and in other regions affected by a particular event.

The crisis management center financed within the framework of the NATO SPS Programme also received substantial national contributions from France and Canada, NATO said.