U. S. Bill Holds Promises For Justice & Atonement In Liberia

By D. Sumowuoi Pewu

Recently, a group of U. S. Congressional Representatives in the persons of Donald Payne, John Lewis, Hastings, Flake, Foglietta, Owens and Norton introduced the "Liberian Peace and Democracy Act" in the United States House of Representatives. The bill failed to make it to the main floor of the House of Representatives to be voted upon, due in part, to the rush of the recent U S elections. However, if Congress re-introduces the bill and it passes, it will seek to isolate and bring to justice individuals whose egregious war crimes have led to summary executions, cannibalism, ritualistic murder, rape, torture and other forms of incivility that have enveloped Liberia into a state of terror. The impact of the bill, if it passes, could well reverberate beyond criminal elements whose madness has plunged Liberia into chaos and anarchy; it could seek to place on notice countries that have aided and abetted armed factions in Liberia.

Although the bill is being sponsored after seven years of sustained period of anarch,. in which, the government has gotten dislocated and the rule of law crumbled and went extinct; thereby, creating a theater of madness where the strongest (those who find themselves in arms) become predators while the weak (civilians) were turned into prey and devoured by mindless and lawless roving bandits; the U. S. bill is one of several international attempts of bringing justice against those criminal elements who have committed unspeakable crimes against the Liberian society. The "Liberian Peace and Democracy Act" will, in effect, punitively take away from those warlords the tools of strong arm-tactics that they unremittingly and conveniently resorted to in the past to escape justice for their horrendous crimes. Accordingly, if our faith in justice should remain unshaken, then, we must all work together to bring to justice these exceedingly arrogant criminals who have perpetrated an orgy of cold bloody murder of unarmed civilians, presided over the pillaging and plunder of Liberia all in the name of prosecuting a war to liberate Liberians from tyranny.

During this unparalleled crisis in Liberia, induced by greed for power, wealth and revenge, warlords have exploited and exacerbated tribal suspicion in order to engender a fratricidal war that has occasioned the death of more than 200,000 of their fellow Liberians and left 1.8 million others displaced into refugee camps fleeing persecution and death. With these armed factions having carved out Liberia into a tribal caldron govern by roving warlords and sub-warlords, each of whom, practicing their isolated and private versions of justice based not on some commonly established rules of conduct and law, but one that is exclusively based on ethnic discrimination and the lust for power, it becomes exceedingly nuts for these armed criminals to feel that Liberians should be grateful to them for the misery they have inflicted upon them.

Incredible as it may seem, the principal players in the Liberian crisis believe they are remotely associated with the orgy of killing, looting, arson and the destruction of the country's infrastructure which, evidently, demonstrates a defiant mischief and chilling carefreeness by the various ethnically based armed factions. For these men, the use of the rest of the population as living shields or instrument to induce hunger is just another fair game in a theater of tribal conflict. The right of individual to life and security has no place in Liberia-instead, it is relegated to the thirst for power and revenge. This dangerous situation as one would expect, at the very least, has resigned Liberia into a perennial state of mourning with its once pride people overwhelmingly humiliated, shamed, defamed and berated with an attendant consequence of crumbling national sovereignty.

The Liberian crisis is not a civil war per se, but a conflict induced by criminals wanting to seize power and using such power mechanisms to abscond with the country's wealth and avenge their frustration by exacting a heavy price on the population. To achieve their machination and sinister intent, the Liberian warlords continue to play up tribal rivalries, division and suspicion. And to further reinforce these negative vices, the guerrilla leaders have armed these traditional rivals with the most modern means of warfare with the view to virtually eliminating the Liberian population at will. Anyone remotely associated with any of the ethnic groups in Liberia is a fair game for all the armed factions, and anyone with wealth and/or any significant private holdings, will become a victim of military action that has degenerated into banditry. The absence of a broad-based government capable of establishing law and order has transformed the Liberian crisis into a contest between varying ethnic armed factions.

Over the years, as this philosophically barren honor continued, it has become clear to almost every Liberian and the International community that greed, revenge and the lust for personal power are the motivating force behind the Liberian crisis, and, ethnic division and antagonisms are the essential ingredients being played and overplayed to recruit the young and innocence to take up arms in a conflict that is by all means confusing even to the ethnic factions themselves. The country's social and various economic infrastructures have crumbled leaving in its wake, the Liberia of today-divided and lawless. This situation imposes on Liberians an enormous burden of reconstruction of not only their economy and physical infrastructures, but of their values as well.

If Liberians are to reconstruct their society, it is about time we started cutting new channels and learn to focus on the big picture by cooperating and be deserving of each others' confidence. I realize this is hard considering the profound suspicion and cynicism associated with us as people, but it doesn't have to be that way. As Liberians, we have more pressing agenda - i.e: our society stands in dire need of peace and reconstruction and to boot out those whose chilling madness has plunged our nation into anarchy and despair. Surely, one way we all can help resuscitate Liberia from the claws of those agents of death and destruction and to avenge the death of the innocence - whose souls and bones are crying for justice, will be to ensure the passage of the "Liberian Peace and Democracy Act" in the U. S. Congress. Liberians can achieve this objective by organizing themselves and petitioning their respective Congresspersons in the districts in which they reside to support the bill. It is important to note, however, that we will miss a historic opportunity for ample justice and reconstruction of our society, if, we fail to eschew intransigence, our false sense of dignity and petite bickering that tend to harden others' resolve to work in cooperative fashion to better the condition of all Liberians.

It should be abudantly clear, however, that I am in no way suggesting that as Liberians, we inhibit ourselves from examining our society to determining where we went wrong as individuals and collectively as a society. Only by looking into ourselves or being introspective enough as a society, can we learn to be courageous and accept responsibility for our misdeeds. At some point in time, it will be necessary to explore the inner depth and interstices of the woes of our society to determine the foundation elements that underlie injustices done our people in the past and now. And for no matter how remotely we are seemingly associated with the problems of our society, we will have to assume the awesome burden, in the most noble manner, of bringing the perpetrators of death and destruction to justice as a meaningful condition for establishing lasting dialogue that might hopefully lead to peace and democracy in Liberia. Henceforth, I am proposing a national leadership conference to be known as the "Crisis Committee On Peace and Democracy In Liberia" (CCPDL) to seek out ways by which all Liberians can be encouraged to put the condition of their Liberia first in their deliberations.

By Liberians cooperating to ensure the passage of the "Liberian Peace and democracy act" and encouraging and rallying the support of organizations like Friends of Liberia and others, we would have succeeded in creating a climate that loudly speaks to every Liberian that it's only matter of conduct, the displaying of respect for others and their rights as of now and in the future would be the most demonstrative and eloquent deterrence to criminal elements wanting to destabilize our society. This method, is neither unreasonable nor unrealistic. The Liberian people deserve to know that the harm done them by armed factions will not go unpunished and before accepting the wrong-doers back into society (atonement), the people must make these armed factions punitively liable for their action.. Because, indeed, craving acceptance without being prepared to celebrate the communion of justice between men is absurd and disproportionately paradoxical.