Commissioners of Liberia’s Truth Commission Divided Over Final Report;-Others Labeled It “Witch Hunt”

By: Nat Nyuan-Bayjay,interlink2004@yahoo.com (231-6-402737/231-77-402737)

Comm. Bull Was The First To Say She Didn't Sign Report

Comm. Bull Was The First To Say She Didn't Sign Report

 

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Barely 24 hours had elapsed from the time the Final Report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was released than some of its commissioners have begun to send their dissents on the report.

Commissioner Pearl Brown-Bull who from the onset of the Commission’s establishment has been at the core of TRC’s vivid internal wrangling and continual conflict was the first to have registered her complete dissent on the Final Report which she said she is not a signatory to because according to her,  “I cannot  concur with my fellow Commissioners  that  prosecution in a court of competent jurisdiction and other forms of public sanction will foster genuine reconciliation, combat impunity to promote justice, peace and security”.

In a 35-page document of dissent, Commissioner Sheikh Konneh, among other vital issues outlined what may be termed as the Commission’s refusal to provide the actual outcome of the County Consultative Meeting in which over 50 per cent of the statements preferred reconciliation and forgiveness as opposed to prosecution, the Commission’s deliberate ignoring of the articles of the its own Act that got blessings from of the 1986 revised Liberian Constitution, granting of amnesty by the Commission to alleged perpetrators he termed as notorious as well as exposure of other internal happenings within the Commission such as Commissioner Gerard Coleman’s ignored letter of request for additional 90 days for the better preparation of a comprehensive report. 

Sheikh Kafumba Konneh:These percentages, if gained in a presidential election, can automatically usher in such person as president of our Nation

Sheikh Kafumba Konneh:These percentages, if gained in a presidential election, can automatically usher in such person as president of our Nation

Commissioner Konneh said: “The purported report audaciously imposes blanket charges in order to plant a seed of witch hunting for collective guilt. For example, it surreptitiously determines that ‘All warring factions are responsible for the commission of gross human rights violations in Liberia, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, IHRL, IHL, ICL, domestic criminal laws’. It goes further to state that ‘All factions to the conflict systematically targeted women, mainly as a result of their gender, and committed sexual and gender based violations against them, including rape of all forms, sexual slavery, forced marriage, forced recruitment, etc”.

Sheikh Konneh placed in his dissent as major reason why the TRC’s Final Report is purported the recommendations from Liberians spread across the nation which sees a complete dominance of an overwhelming call for reconciliation as recommended by over 50 per cent of their recommendations, as listed below:

“Table 13: Percentage of Statement-Givers’ Recommendation about Reconciliation in Liberia, by County, out-lines as indicated below:

COUNTY                       FORGIVE AND FORGET:          RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE

Bomi                                                58.5%                                           1.8%

Bong                                                53.8“                                             2.1“

Gbarpolu                                         58.5“                                              1.0“

Grand Bassa                                    62.0“                                              2.0“

Grand Cape Mount                         36.0“                                              3.8“

Grand Gedeh                                  44.6“                                              3.0“

Grand Kru                                      55.2“                                              2.9“

Lofa                                               53.2 “                                              3.2“

Margibi                                          52.0“                                               1.8“

Maryland                                       59.6“                                               2.0“

Montserrado                                 60.5 “                                               2.7“

Nimba                                          47.4 “                                                3.4“

River Gee                                     46.2 “                                                5.6“

Rivercess                                     39.9 “                                                 1.3“

Sinoe                                           61.1 “                                                  2.0“   etc. etc.     

 

The Call For Prosecution: Whose Recommendation-Liberians or TRC?

Based on the above, Commissioner Konneh said: “These percentages, if gained in a presidential election, can automatically usher in such person as president of our Nation. Interestingly, these statistics come from an institution that got no fish to fry in Liberia’s mosaic that is saturated with mutual prejudice, hatred and recrimination. It is also worth stating that about ninety five or more percent of the statement givers constitute the main and actual victims of our civil conflict. They have every right to share their views, concerns and aspirations in determining the process befitting the way forward”. 

It is also reported in Commissioner Konneh’s dissent that Commissioner Gerard Coleman, one of the nine commissioners who was always in the ‘Verdier Camp’ as the TRC persistently experienced continual division among its commissioners, appealed to his colleagues in a June 17th letter in which he suggested that the TRC request for an application of additional ninety days extension from the Legislature and the President to enable them come out with a full report.

According to Commissioner Konneh’s dissent, Commissioner Coleman threatened to not affix his signature to the Final Report.

“Personally, I prefer not being part of such a haphazard report writing process and thus will submit a draft document of core FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS to the report writing committee as my professional responsibility but will refrain from signing the Final Report. I leave the decision of the Commission to the majority of my fellow Commissioners”, Commissioner Coleman is quoted as saying in Commissioner Konneh’s dissent.

Now, given that there is an authenticity of the Coleman’s June 17th letter then there are three dissents or better still, three none-signatories of the TRC’s Final Report which leaves observers to wonder if the Report will ever be given such credence or treated with some level of respectability in addition to Commissioners Pearl Brown-Bull and Sheikh Kafumba Konneh’s refusal to sign as commissioners of the TRC.

 

The TRC, in fulfillment of its mandate submitted to the National Legislature on June 30, 2009 its final report in which it recommended prosecution for eight alleged perpetrators for gross human rights violations and war crimes, labeled 98 alleged perpetrators as most notorious, 21 alleged perpetrators and 19 other corporations, institutions and state actors are said to be responsible for committing economic crimes, and  54 alleged perpetrators recommended for further investigation while at the same time recommending that 36 alleged perpetrators should not be prosecuted for what the Commission termed as cooperating with the process and admitting to the crimes by speaking “truthfully” before the Commission.

Cross section of Liberia's TRC  Divided Commissioners

Cross section of Liberia's TRC Divided Commissioners

TRC Defends Recommendation

But the Truth Commission has defended its recommendations, especially on the 36 persons granted amnesty. It said they deserved the amnesty. As for the 98 other individuals and 19 institutions placed under economic crimes and sabotage, the Commission said they took the process for granted in which they did not make any full disclosure of the truth during their appearances before the Truth Commission.

James Kpargoi, the media officer of the TRC earlier told FPA: “It became a prevalent pattern during the TRC’s truth telling process that major actors and players in the Liberian civil conflict decided not to make any full disclosure before the TRC.”

In further support of his statement, Kpargoi had said: “The issue of reconciliation is a victim-perpetrator driven exercise in which alleged perpetrators should make full disclosure before a victim which can easily lead to reconciliation. But in our own case, most of these perpetrators did nothing of such in which they reframed from saying the fact to the Commission. And so the Commissioners had to recommend for their prosecution. Moreover, this was in accordance with the Commission’s own enquiry processes because an act of the legislation grants the Commission the power to recommend prosecutions for them”, argued Kpargoi.

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