Congratulations, Mr. Justice


By Theodore T. Hodge


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 11, 2006


The Honorable Counselor Kabineh Ja’neh has won his confirmation battle to become a justice of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia. I hereby offer my congratulations. I am somewhat confident that it is an honor well deserved and that this gentleman will do his utmost best to justify the confidence reposed.

Many groups and individuals have vociferously opposed his nomination and have campaigned against his confirmation on the grounds that he was a chief spokesperson for the military group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, (LURD). According to these detractors, LURD’s continued military attacks and siege of Monrovia during the dying days of the Taylor regime, when pro-government forces had basically ceased its defense of the city, caused unnecessary civilian casualties --- at a time when President Charles Taylor had already been convinced to go into exile.

I don’t intend to downplay the significance of this tragic period. Such deplorable disregard for human life and the wanton destruction of property at that very late stage was quite regrettable. I must agree with those who make the case that the fighters of LURD were most responsible for this catastrophic fiasco. It is a matter of record that many defenseless citizens died at the hands of those unscrupulous forces.

Many of those who have opposed Counselor Kabineh Ja’neh’s nomination and confirmation consequentially hold him responsible for this carnage attributed to LURD, simply because he was the group’s civilian spokesperson. I must beg to differ here and here’s why:

It must be recalled that at the time the last battle for Monrovia was fought and the international community had finally convinced President Charles Taylor to go into exile, Counselor Ja’neh was in Ghana attending the international conference that birthed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that eventually led to an interim government. This attempt to place all blame on Ja’neh would have made perfect sense had he been in Monrovia physically commanding or even advising those forces; he was not in control, that much is obvious.

Counselor Ja’neh had the official responsibility of representing the group in a legal capacity, as a civilian. He couldn’t have been serving in that capacity and still be in physical control of the fighting forces.

I know there are those skeptics who will argue that he could have been in Ghana and remained in control at least with LURD’s supreme military command. Well, under normal circumstances or given normal conditions, that argument could have been considered logical, but conditions were far from normal, we must admit. The military force, LURD, was not a professional, disciplined and conventional army. It did not have a necessary chain of command. On the contrary, it was an undisciplined, unscrupulous and disorganized group of ragamuffins ---- in short, a ragtag army. How do I know, it was described that way many times before the period under discussion.

Given the foregoing, is it logical to assume that all Counselor Ja’neh had to do was yell an order and all would have been well? That is not only illogical; it is ridiculously incongruous and unreasonable – simply foolish. Kabineh Ja’neh was never in control of LURD’s activities in Monrovia; he served in a civilian position as a legal spokesman – that should have absolved him of any direct guilt.

But for the sake of fairness, let’s turn the tables for a moment and focus on the rest of the team that will compose membership of this most honorable body. While it is true that Counselor Ja’neh has been adequately scrutinized in the most public way, what do we know about the rest of the team? What are their unique strengths, professionally, morally or otherwise?

There is Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis and Associate Justices Francis Korpor, Gladys Johnson and J. Emmanuel Wureh, about whom very little is known, especially covering the period of the Taylor regime. That Taylor was a reprehensible leader is no secret. What did these honorable and supposedly well-learned legal scholars and jurists do to voice their opposition to the man who dragged Liberia to its lowest depths? Didn’t they have a conscientious responsibility to speak up for justice? Did they?

It is my humble view, and many will agree, that simply knowing the proper and correct course of action is not enough. Honorable and conscientious citizens, especially those aspiring to be national leaders, have a responsibility to act in the interest of the public. People must be described as having “integrity” not merely on the basis of what they believe, but on the basis of how they act. Did these people demonstrate integrity during Liberia’s most crucial moment or did they find comfort zones and wait for the right moment to emerge as leaders?

I pose these questions and raise this debate because we now know where Kabineh Ja’neh stood --- he opposed the Taylor regime on principled grounds. There are those who will question his association with a military group such as LURD. I am on record of voicing my opposition to the Taylor regime as well as those military groups that acted under shoddy rules --- LURD and MODEL. But now in retrospect, we must give credit where it is due: It was better to have actively opposed the illicit regime of Charles Taylor than to have remained silent or even worse to have worked for him while the masses bled to death. What did the rest of the “honorable” team do in the interest of the public?

Authors Robert and Janet Denhardt on the topic of moral philosophy write and I quote: “One of the most common forms of ethical deliberation, which focuses on the consequences of actions, is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism holds that an action is right, compared to other courses of action, if it results in the greatest good (or at least the minimum harm) for the greatest number of people.” We must all agree that getting rid of Taylor by all means necessary was the most prudent thing to do. Congratulations, sir.

© 2006 by The Perspective

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