War Crimes Tribunal Or Truth & Reconciliation Commission

By Samuel Wonwi Thompson

The Perspective
April 3, 2001

As horrendous as the war atrocities and abuses may seem and despite the loss of lives, dehumanization, destruction of properties, social upheavals, etc., that have occurred during Liberia's turbulent history leading into the 1990 civil war, I think it would be in the long term interest of Liberia's social, political and economic stability if we adopted the South African formula of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The South African approach, as opposed to a criminal or war crimes tribunal proceedings, was based on the Christian principle of confession and pardon. You will agree that it has been the main reason why South Africa is still in one piece today despite similar horrors and abuses during the Apartheid era. There is a tremendous burden of guilt, trauma and unforgiveness on both the victims and the oppressors in the Liberian crisis that I believe can only be effectively and conclusively dealt with via this approach. The South Africans must have realized the danger that fear, hatred and unforgiveness pose to continued violence and mistrust around the world today.

Come to think about it, the thousands of Liberian citizens fighting in wars around the African continent as mercenaries may be forced to continue in that role with dangerous consequences for the rest of Africa - and Liberia. And if they are not given the chance to choose between that life and rehabilitation and re-integration (as productive citizens into peacetime Liberian society), then they will be left in a hopeless state. On the other hand, I can imagine how hundreds of thousands of Liberians in refugee camps and the Diaspora or those who have remained in the country would be able to live in peacetime Liberia without reprisals murders and street fights breaking out continuously as they see other Liberians who have brutally murdered their loved ones, humiliated them or destroyed their properties walking around town. I believe that if this is not happening today, it is either because some people may have already repented and have been forgiven or the perpetrators still have the means to instill fear in their would-be avengers. The fact is that as opposed to Truth and Reconciliation, continuous witchhunting and reprisals have a way of spiralling into an unending cycle of violence.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who understood human nature; that was why he proposed that we live in truth and forgiveness. As hard as it may sound, the "way" to genuine reconciliation and peaceful resolution of the Liberian crisis is for all of us to confess the grievous wrongs we did and continue to do to one another, seek forgiveness and sincerely prepared to "let bygones be bygones."

I am firmly convinced that Liberia has a glorious future but that it will only begin to unfold if we "seek first the kingdom of God AND its righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Only total obedience to God's will unlocks His blessings. This is the truth; only our acceptance of the truth shall make Liberia free from the bondage it currently finds itself in. We should think about this seriously. May God bless Liberia.

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