Continuation Of Impunity?

By Washington Tumay Watson

As Liberians continue to seek for justice, genuine peace and national reconciliation in the country, Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson has once again vehemently rejected the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.

Senator Johnson who headed the defunct Independent National Patriot Front of Liberia (INPFL), a splitter group of the defunct National Patriot Front of Liberia (NPFL) under the then leadership of Mr. Charles Ghankay Taylor says Liberia’s President-elect, Joseph Nyumah Boakai will not give credence to the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court as his main focus is on developing the nation.

PYJ, than fiercest battle front commander and leader of the defunct INPFL, one of several warring factions accused of coming egregious crimes during the nearly 14 years of civil unrest in Liberia says Boakai’s attention is on development and therefore, he will not give credence to the establishment of a War and Economic crimes Court at this time in Liberia.

The former rebel leader turned politician and Evangelist spoke recently at the Christ Chapel of Faith Ministry, a Church established by the former warlord in Monrovia. His stance on the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court was echoed recently by newly elected Nimba County District# 7 Representative-elect, Musa Hansan Bility who has added his voice in rejecting the establishment of the court in Liberia. Both Nimba County lawmakers spoke separately on the establishment of a war crimes court.

Few months back Senator Johnson who is also the Chairman of the Governing Council and Vision Bearer of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) said his detractors are angry because of his party’s decision to join forces with the Unity Party for which Nimba County Senator Jeremiah KpanKoung was fielded as Vice Presidential candidate to Joseph Nyumah Boakai in the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.

Prince Y. Johnson noted at the time, “They are using surrogates to malign and call me all sorts of despicable names, even as they demand that I subject myself to a war crimes court trial.

“They are using war crimes court to intimidate me. Is it me you will intimidate? Why don’t you bring it one time? Bring it! You can’t fool old lady with what you have,” Senator Johnson said few months back at a thanksgiving service held at the Christ Chapel of Faith Ministry.

PYJ reflecting on the Liberian peace process and his own contributions that led to the restoration of democratic governance in Liberia reminded Liberians that it was God who brought peace to Africa’s oldest republic, but it was Liberians who chose how the issue of War Crimes and impunity would be settled.

“There was a reason for the 14 years of civil war. There was a reason the Americans had to go through civil war. There was a reason why the minority whites enslaved the blacks in South Africa through the Apartheid system. There is a reason for everything.

“Today South Africa is moving; South Africa is well developed and continues to develop. There was a reason for the 14 years of war because of bad governance. Bad governance comes about because of bad advice from people who are belly-driven, and those who want to be closer to the powers that be. They influence the leader to terminate people’s lives; and that brought the civil war, Senator Johnson noted.

He went on, “But have we learned a lesson? No, we haven’t. Maybe some of us, but the majority hasn’t. They continue to beat the war drums, calling people war criminals; calling people names, provoking people to violence. Do you know one thing Liberians? I laid my weapons down for peace to reign. Bushrod Island was a safe haven that God used me to create; dividing food, electricity, water, everything was intact during the heat of the war. But here people are jumping up: ‘criminal, criminal; they say all kinds of things; but I say; my future is in the hands of God, I care less about what you say.

“They went to Ghana when the war was raging. Everyone was therethe Church people, civil society, human rights groups. The international community cannot impose on any country what you should choose for yourself. They asked the Liberians who were present. I was in NigeriaI was not part of the peace accord, but it was binding on me,” PYJ noted.

The former INPFL leader added, “The international community put war crimes court and Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) after that of South Africa. Every Liberian that was therethose so-called human rights groups talking today about war crimes court, they were there. They rejected the war crimes court and chose the TRC.

And after they signed, it was not guaranteed until the international community that convened the meeting attested or affixed their signatory to that accord. The United Nations affixed its signatory. The AU also signed. ECOWAS also signed, to accept the TRC as in South Africa, and denounced war crimes court. So, what is the nonsensical demand for war crimes court now,” Johnson wondered.

He stressed, “When you pursue people, do you want to live in peace again? We may be getting old, but we’ve got soldiers, we’ve got former generals, we’ve got former combatants. We have told them to subject their whole lives to peace. When you pursue us, will you rest?”

For his part, Bility said the establishment of a war crime court will divide Liberians into a greater stage. He said the War Crimes court should not only focus on the 14 years of civil conflict but should include those who took Liberians into slavery.

The Nimba County District #7 Representative-elect welcomed the establishment of an economic crimes court and a special court for electoral matters.  According to him, Liberians’ focus is on addressing the issue of corruption and improving democracy among others.

Bility further disclosed that he will not focus on combative political activities but is supportive of the incoming government’s developmental agenda. He told the media that it was time for Liberians to reconcile following the October 10 and November 14 Legislative and run-off presidential elections.

Bility however vowed to return to combative politics if he is attacked as a means of retaliating.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) final report contains findings, determinations and recommendations made by the Commission to the National Legislature.

The report contains major findings on, the root causes of the conflict, the impact of the conflict on women, children and the generality of the Liberian society; responsibility for the massive commission of Gross Human Rights Violations (GHRV), and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (IHRL) as well as Egregious Domestic Law Violations (EDLV).

The report also determined and recommended that Criminal Prosecution for these violations, Reparations and a “Palava Hut” Forum is necessary and desirable to redress impunity, promote peace, justice, security, unity and genuine national reconciliation.

Count eight of the TRC report calls for a form of both individual and community reparation is desirable to promote justice and genuine reconciliation. Count nine noted that all factions and other armed groups recruited and used children during periods of armed conflicts; count ten states that all factions engaged in armed conflict, violated, degraded, abused and denigrated, committed sexual and gender based violence against women including rape, sexual slavery, forced marriages, and other dehumanizing forms of violations and count twelve calls for prosecution mechanism which it says is desirable to fight impunity and promote justice and genuine reconciliation.

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