Holding Public Officials Morally Accountable
An Open Letter To The Liberian People
January 21, 2004
The undersigned organization observes with gratitude that the people of Liberia are experiencing the initial and tentative steps towards re-establishing peace and institutionalizing democracy in Liberia. The recent inauguration of the Interim Government and the manifested commitment of the international community to work with the Liberian people to resolve the dysfunctions of Liberia are encouraging for the long suffering people of Liberia.
The transitional government and its officials have the legal commitments to fulfill the terms of the peace agreement, as well as a moral obligation to act steadfastly in the best interest of the people of Liberia. Unless these solemn commitments are met, Liberia will not again enjoy stability, security and development.
These commitments can only be met if persons in leadership roles have respect for the rights and dignity of human beings. After all these years of suffering, human rights considerations should therefore be at the forefront of efforts to restore peace and normalize government in Liberia.
While there are always tragic dimensions to armed conflicts, inflicting deliberate harm on innocent citizens is a fundamental violation of human rights and is never warranted. Those who undertook to wantonly violate the rights of citizens, even if not lawfully convicted, ought to not be “rewarded.”
Mr. George Dweh, the Speaker of the National Transitional Assembly, has been persistently accused of notorious violations of human rights during the civil war. Mr. Dweh denies these accusations, and points out that he has never been indicted nor charged with any crime. While he is correct that he has never been charged or indicted, no one has ever been charged nor indicted for human rights violations, and yet at least 250,000 non-combatants were murdered in Liberia over the last 15 years of war.
As a citizen, Mr. Dweh is innocent until proven guilty, as it ought to be. But this issue is beyond his citizen’s rights. As a leader of a nation taking initial steps to recover from war, the cloud of such grievous accusations undermines the entire process embodied in the peace agreement and the hopes for peace of Liberians. With these longstanding and consistent accusations against him, Mr. Dweh does not present a model for leadership in a “new” Liberia. It should not be that Mr. Dweh should hold his leadership position because he has never been found guilty of human rights crimes (no one in Liberia ever has - but there is no dispute that gross violations did occur). It ought to be that Mr. Dweh should not be Speaker because of these serious accusations against him.
The National Transitional Legislative Assembly should recall its present leader and elect another person as its Speaker - in the best interest of the people of Liberia. Such an act would enhance its moral authority with the people of Liberia, and demonstrate the commitment of the Assembly to a new Liberia.
Liberians For Good Governance (LIGG)