MONROVIA: A leading UN official on Thursday urged Liberia to implement the recommendations of a truth commission, dating back to 2009, which included prosecuting eight ex-warlords for alleged crimes against humanity.
“Liberia is at a turning point”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a conference in Monrovia, adding that a lasting peace “will only be possible if we ensure full and true reconciliation.”
She said it was “critical to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and for the legislature to pass key bills that will support local inclusion and reconciliation.”
She warned that peace would “remain fragile as long as people feel excluded from the economic and political life of the country, and as long as corruption undermines confidence in institutions”.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to probe war crimes and rights abuses linked to Liberia’s 1989-2003 conflict has said a compensation scheme should be created alongside a dedicated war crimes court.
None of those measures, however, has yet been implemented.
Sirleaf earlier held a joint event with President George Weah on the eve of the final departure of a UN mission first deployed at the end of the war in 2003 to guarantee the safety of the population.
Mohammed told AFP she wanted Liberia to deal with the “unfinished business” of its long civil conflict, for which no one has ever been prosecuted for war crimes, ahead of the March 30 departure of all remaining peacekeepers.
Weah was accused of sidelining war victims when he chose Vice-President Jewel Howard Taylor, the ex-wife of former rebel leader and president Charles Taylor, as his running mate in last year’s election.
Taylor is currently serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a British jail, although he was convicted of funding rebel groups in Sierra Leone, not the recruitment of child soldiers, killings, rape, and pillaging of which he is accused at home.
One of those recommended for prosecution by the truth commission was former warlord Prince Johnson, who backed Weah’s bid for the presidency and now serves as a senator.
An estimated 250,000 people died in the 1989-2003 conflict.
The president has not made specific commitments to reconciliation since taking power in late January, but on Thursday said his government must ensure “that either we forget or justice is done to those justice needs to be done to”.
He emphasised that perpetrators had to “face their victims”, but did not elaborate on how.
Weah meanwhile said the UN had the government’s “fullest commitment to the continued consolidation of peace in Liberia” and would “warmly welcome a continued partnership”.