No Blanket Amnesty For warlords!

By Kolec E. Jessey


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 23, 2003

A fortnight ago when the transitional government headed by Charles Bryant was installed, there was renewed hope that the suffering and killings that have been the hallmark of Liberia for the past 14 years would come to an end. But if recent pronouncements attributed to Mr. Bryant of his opposition to a war crimes tribunal are true, then Liberia is headed for another round of "war-lordism" very soon.

The crux of Mr. Bryant alleged opposition to a war crimes tribunal is that it will not advance the peace process and that it will do nothing to heal the wounds from the years of destruction and killings. There can be nothing further from the truth of Bryant’s assertion because the facts remain that in countries where human rights tribunals or truth and reconciliation commissions have been set up to address abuses of the past, those countries have not reverted to another round of war or brutal regimes. In fact, it has served as an avenue of healing and reconciliation among the people. For instance, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Serbia, and several countries in South America that had set up similar tribunals or truth and reconciliation commissions are all enjoying relative peace and political and economical transformation.

Mr. Bryant needs to realize that successive transitional governments before him have made similar overtures to these warlords in the interest of peace but have failed to attain the desire result. These criminals know that they cannot survive in a peaceful environment because they do not have the requisite background to prosper. So their natural habitat is in an environment of chaos and destructions where they can loot and kill at will. Therefore, no amount goodwill towards these war criminals will quench their thirst for violence and destruction. It only fuels their appetite.

Moreover, the fact that the US Congress has appropriated $2 million reward for the capture of the master criminal, Charles Taylor, in its Disaster Relief and Peacekeeping Funds as reported by the Associated Press should serve as a motivating factor for all Liberians including Mr. Bryant to make an effort to bring these warlords like Prince Johnson, Roosevelt Johnson, Alhaji Kromah, among others before a human right tribunal to explore their role in the mass killings of the Liberians people in the name of government jobs over the years. Let it be noted that their declared fight for democracy in the name of the Liberian people is nothing but fraud as it was demonstrated at the recent Accra peace conference on Liberia.

It was admirable that in Mr. Bryant inaugural speech he promised to fight corruption and bring about accountability. But words are just not enough this time around because one wonders what accountability will he brings if he can not support the setting up of a court or commission that will hold these war lords accountable for their massive human rights abuses over the years.

The continue appeasement of these war criminals and remnants of the Taylor regime with government jobs can only inspire others to take up arms and continue the killing spree and destruction of Liberia in the name of democracy. Mr. Bryant must realize that his ill-conceived amnesty to these criminals is a threat to the international community renewed efforts to bring about peace to Liberia. The only effective means of bringing peace to Liberia is for these warlords to be held accountable for their actions through a tribunal or a truth and reconciliation commission. This will serve as a deterrent to other would-be criminal elements from taking up arms against their fellow country men. And this will also begin the process of true healing and reconciliation among the Liberian people.

About the author: Mr. Kolec E. Jessey is a Liberian journalist and an auditor in public practice in Washington, D.C.