Liberia: United Nations, why now and not then?


Implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) recommendation now will not put food on the Liberia people’s table but will instead cause instability and prevent food from getting on the table; writes Jerry Gbardy.

The call by the UN Deputy Secretary-General for implementation of the TRC recommendations as was reported in the FrontPageAfrica March 23rd edition, to me, reeks of the trappings of a conspiracy against the George Weah administration.

I think the UN and other powerful individuals and countries are setting the stage for political and economic turmoil in Liberia, post-Madam Sirleaf. When there is political and economic instability, there will be hardship. At that point, the Weah administration’s pro-poor agenda will be difficult if not impossible to implement. As always, Ma Nowai or Old man Farley will suffer the brunt of it. They are already catching hell but their situation will be exacerbated by the chaos that will ensue.

They say, “When the iron is red hot that is when you beat it.”  Why didn’t the UN make that implementation call immediately after the TRC Report was presented to Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2009? Where was the UN during the twelve years of the Johnson-Sirleaf administration? Was it a calculated design by the UN and others at that time to keep their darling, Madam Sirleaf in power and wait for her term to expire before taking steps to undermine her successor?

The TRC Report clearly recommended that the Madam not hold public office for 30 years due to her unscrupulous role in the Liberian civil conflict. Pushing for its implementation at that time would have forced her to resign. So the UN and others turned a blind eye or pretended like there was no TRC while the report was gathering dust in Madam Sirleaf’s office drawer or somewhere in her house.

Calling for the TRC recommendations to be implemented in 2009/2010 by the UN would have made more sense because the UN Military Mission (UNMIL) forces numbering about 15,000 strong was present and available to deal with any eventuality such as, warlords resisting arrest, quelling organized pro-warlord demonstrations, providing the logistics for the ICC, paying legal fees for defense/prosecution lawyers; providing security for lawyers, judges, witnesses and defendants; flying the guilty to UN jails, etc. 

The UN has just completed its mission in Liberia and all its troops will be or have been withdrawn. And so, here are some critical questions to ponder: Does the present Liberian government have the financial, security and other logistical muscles to deal with these kinds of situations; prominent among which is the arrest of warlords? Can this new government set up a criminal court and follow through with all its security, financial/logistical supports and legal ramifications associated with it without the UN?

I do not speak for the Liberian government but I think implementing the TRC recommendations is not and should not be the priority of this government and the Liberian people at this time. Socioeconomic development is and should always be. The private sector needs to be strengthened so that it will help the Weah government in getting more people in the country to work. Our failing schools need to be revamped/reformed. Roads need to be built and paved from Ganta to Sanniquellie and from Ganta to Harper to Sasstown to Barclayville, to Greenville; and from Buchanan to Cestos City. Roads also need to be paved from Clay to Tubmanburg to Bopolu; and from Gbarnga to Zorzor on to Voinjama. Our agricultural sector needs to be robustly invested in so that we grow more food crops to feed ourselves.

Once all these things are done and the country is on the right trajectory to socioeconomic development, only then can we talk about implementing the TRC recommendations. Anything before that will be a recipe for disrupting the peace and stability of the country that we currently enjoy.