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Delaying Justice in the Name of Peace in Liberia?

Ben Browne ~ (November 3rd 2005)  

"...How prepared are we in Liberia to bring an elected senator like Prince Johnson or Aldophus Dolo to justice? How prepared and willing is the new president in bringing Alhaji Kromah, Domante Konneh and Thomas Nimely to justice when they become government officials? In Liberia (Africa), where Government officials are considered to be above the law, how sure are we that justice will prevail?...”

Since the departure of Charles Gankay Taylor, the most notorious rebel leader in Africa from Liberia, many well-meaning Liberians and some people in the International Community continue to push for Taylor to be brought to justice for his roles in the war in Sierra Leone. While I think bringing rebel king, Charles Taylor to justice is very important to peace in the West African sub-region, if other rebel leaders in the Liberian war are not equally brought to justice, the peace we so desired may not be realized. Prince Yormie Johnson, Alhaji G.V. Kromah, Thomas Yaya Nimely, Demante Konneh, Aldophus Dolo, Benjamin Yenten, and many others must equally be brought to justice to finally close the chapter in the 14 years senseless war in Liberia. They are all as dangerous and notorious as Charles Taylor.

In Mid-1990, like many Liberians who feared for their safety in the areas controlled by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during the war, I was forced to leave from Sinkor to go to Bushrod Island in anticipation of going to my brother in Gardnersville. Little did I know that Gardnersville was considered a different country that was controlled by Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and Brushrod Island was another country too that was controlled by Prince Johnson’s Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), a brake-away rebel group from Taylor. I was forced to stayed on Bushrod Island without food, money, family, and friend or loved-one like many other Liberians.
After spending a night on the water-filled-living-room-floor of Madam Joanna Koffa in Logan town, I was told that Prince Johnson distributes rice to new comer at his Duala, cotton tree sub-office on a daily basis. Some of the displaced people who had spent the night at Madam Koffa’s house and I decided to check the food distribution out.

After we waiting for about 45 minutes at the distribution site, a convoy of looted jeeps carrying boys and girls dressed in jeans and T-shirt on top speed came rolling down at the crowd, nearly knocking some of the by-stander in their path. Before the jeeps could come to a complete stop, a well-built man dressed in a complete American styled military uniform jumped out of the second jeep in the convoy. He jumped down with a guitar in his left hand. He walked to the crowd and started to sing a popular gospel song, “What a friend we have in Jesus?”

The more then three hundred hungry displaced people had no choice but to join him into singing. Before long, a malnourished boy, about eight years old found his way right next to Johnson. The young boy with his swollen feet, stomach and wide eyes that seem to be begging for nothing but food stood at the feet of Johnson like a squirrel at the feet of an elephant. Immediately Johnson recognized his presence and screamed at him to go away but like any child his age, he was gone out of the crowd for a few minutes and was back.

Johnson, with his left hand holding his guitar pulled out his silver pistol and shot the boy in the head. Before the boy’s body could fall to the ground, some of Johnson’s trigger-happy fools (bodyguards) emptied the magazine of their automatic guns on the boy’s innocent body. Many of us ran a little distance from the spot. Some of the women in the crowd were seen covering their faces and screaming. Some who could remember their faith made a quick sign of the cross.

“Bury him and come for rice.” Johnson screamed at the group of men standing nearby. About 20 men dragged the boy scattered body and pushed it under a disable truck nearby. The men tried to cover his body with anything from paper to grass. They later received a 100 pounds bag of “gold dust” rice. The rest of us stayed around more then two hours after Johnson left for his Caldwell headquarter without distributing rice or providing any explanation for taking that innocent armless life away.
I am of the mind-set that there are many horrible stories out there in areas formally controlled by Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, Alhaji Kromah, Roosevelt Johnson, Domante Konneh, Thomas Nimely and many others; so why should we keep pushing for Taylor to be brought to justice when some of the names mentioned above are being elected to powerful positions in the new Liberian government or waiting to be appointed to positions of trust by the new president?

How prepared are we in Liberia to bring an elected senator like Prince Johnson or Aldophus Dolo to justice? How prepared and willing is the new president in bringing Alhaji Kromah, Domante Konneh and Thomas Nimely to justice when they become government officials? In Liberia (Africa), where Government officials are considered to be above the law, how sure are we that justice will prevail?

Over the time many people have argued that in order for Liberia to move forward as a nation, we must let “by-gone, be by-gone.” I think we need to stop kidding ourselves, the “by-gone” we are referring to may not be totally gone if we continue to reward these war zealots with positions in government in the name of peace to serve the same people they committed all the barbaric acts against in the name of liberations. I think they must all be brought to justice like their king, Charles Taylor.

Now is the time for all well-meaning Liberians to vociferate to the in-coming government and the international community to help us bring all these war lords and their cronies to justice to answer to questions for their crime against the Liberian people. This will help set an example for the generations after us.

The young boy who died at the hand of Prince Johnson, like thousands of other young people who died at the hands of men playing God during the war for no justifiable reasons could have grown up to become Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Engineers, Bankers, Preachers or President of Liberia. We must not allow their killers and the killers of more then three hundred thousand Liberians to go unpunished. If Liberia is to move forward to relative peace, we must not continue to delay justice in the so-called name of peace.
Let us remember that the ultimate question for any well-meaning Liberian to ask at this time in our history is not how we can extricate ourselves heroically from the affair, but how the generations after us shall continue to live in peace.

About the author:

Ben Browne is a Liberian living in Minnesota.

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