Critically reviewing processes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of the Republic of Sierra Leone and identical to that established in the Republic of Liberia since 2004, the words of a contributor to the process of the former, Wurie Mamadu Tamba Barrie, sums up the significance of such undertaking by any nation emerging from protracted civil crisis when he says: “The inspiration is let’s sprint, if we can’t sprint, let’s run, if we can’t run, let’s walk, if we also can’t walk, then let’s crawl, but in any way possible, let’s keep moving.”
Precisely in this direction and having been granted the mandate to investigate gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law bordering on abuses encompassing massacres, sexual violations, murder, extra-judicial killings and economic crimes that occurred between the period January 1979 to October 14, 2003, the Liberian TRC of Chairman Counsellor Jerome Verdier has remained unwavering in ensuring the successful implementation of the herculean task over the years.
Howbeit the many hurdles experienced from the onset of its works, thus necessitating the moral and financial support of government and international partners, the Commission has continued to demonstrate resilience in not only achieving the above but has also used various fora in allowing voices of victims and perpetrators voluntarily sharing their experiences, as means to effectively gathering and synchronizing substantive clues, among other responsibilities, with the objective of producing a comprehensive report that would help safeguard future generations against recurrence in Liberia and perhaps the Mano River Union-Cavalla sub-region.
Thus, evolving from the many thematic hearings conducted over the months, as well as consultations with cross-section of citizens in the various regions of the country, it became evident that against the backdrop of the timetable provided the Commission in completing its work, a five-day consultative forum under the theme: “National Reconciliation and the Way Forward” was conducted last week at the Unity Conference Center (UCC) in Virginia, near the capital, to arrive at the mean of the several deliberations held, in contribution to the finalization of its report for presentation to government.
Quite intensive as the exercise proved, with participants having had to go into committee rooms and later present findings at plenary that was graced by political parties, civil society, human rights organizations, youth groups and students, several salient issues contained in the final resolution read by Mrs. Lucinda Eastman Herbert, wife of former Planning and Economic Affairs Minister Christian Herbert, who is noted for having helped in crafting the GMAP intended to tackle Liberia’s socio-economic and political problems in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), have begun creating healthy debates among concerned citizens and partners in progress.
Prominent among them are calls for the creation of a Land Dispute Commission, something already gaining grounds at the National Legislature, a historical review commission, the election and not appointment of county superintendents, reduction in the number of political parties, change of the national motto from “The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here” to “The Love of Liberty Unite Us Here” and that the palm tree be used as national identity.
More interestingly are also recommendations to bar perpetrators of human rights abuses from participating in elections or been appointed to public office and the memorialization of those who died with specific date set for exhumation and reburial, among others.
While other issues are also raised in the final resolution of participants, and considering the interval of the Commission’s completion and presentation of the final document to government, suggestion advanced to have the TRC perpetually exist, as opposed to earlier proposal made by it that the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) assume the responsibility becomes conflicting.
However drawing experiences from the recommendations arrived at in the final report of the TRC of Sierra Leone, moreso with both countries having experienced similar nightmare that has conspiratorially drawn into the picture what most members of the population from both countries now describe as “an uncle-nephew affair” within the identical traditional setting, the Government of Liberia may just as well categorize the long recommendations into three categories.
The three categories, suggestively and as borrowed from the Sierra Leone TRC, are the “Imperative,” “Work Towards” and “Seriously Consider” since, in fact and truth, some are repetitive of the many recommendations made by several human rights and civil society institutions over the years but have since been on ice and awaiting appropriate time for action, as well as not attempting to suave government’s thrust at first improving the socio-economic conditions of the people.
On a very serious note and consistent with pronouncements by Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to have government work within its own means, though appreciative of the numerous assistance being received from very friendly partners in the reconstruction of the nation, allowing the TRC to exist perpetually involves capital for sustenance, amidst global financial crisis.
Rather, given also the grave importance attached to the sustenance of the hard-earned peace, stability and democracy to the Liberian nation, with immense support of international partners, perhaps should realities dictate that a specific arm of government be established to oversee the implementation of whatever will be contained in the final recommendations to government by the TRC, upturn in the financial melt-down currently facing the industrialized world may lead to such consideration.
Jokingly said but quite serious and real that “Once a Liberian man is getting his needs and wants daily, reconciliation will naturally occur without going through many headaches,” work of participants at the just-ended consultative meeting is however worth hailing.
Lest Liberians however forget, the ability of the nation to succeed in its reconstruction process greatly depends upon the population preparedness to genuinely reconcile their differences and not on a false smut basis, especially with the mud-slinging already begun by few as if already absent-minded about the plight of the country and vast majority of its people. Ceteris paribus, as spoken in Latin, the TRC must keep moving for now.