Bar Sirleaf from office for 30 years, truth team rules

Saturday July 4 2009

By SUNDAY NATION Correspondent

MONROVIA, Saturday

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 70, should be barred from holding public office for 30 years for abetting atrocities committed by one of Liberia’s armed rebels, according to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

She is said to have provided “moral and financial support” to the Charles Taylor-led National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), said one of the leading dailies, the News, in its leading story today. Other papers were awash with stories from the TRC’s final report submitted to the Legislature on June 30, 2009.

During her testimony at the TRC’s public hearings, President Sirleaf admitted to allegations that she supported Taylor and his rebel movement during the civil crisis.

The Liberian President is among 50 Liberian barred from holding public office. The list includes prominent personalities in government, the Legislature, and those in the public who have served previous regimes.

Besides this, the TRC has also served a clampdown for others, recommending them for prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity and economic crimes.

Interestingly, this list includes Taylor currently being prosecuted in The Hague for similar atrocities committed in Sierra Leone.

In category for prosecution for war crimes also is Prince Y. Johnson, a seating Senator, who is described as one of the “most notorious violators”  and accused of “killings, extortion, massacre, destruction of property, forced recruitment, assault, torture, forced labour and rape”.

The implications for the report are far reaching. First of all, if implemented, it practically locks President Sirleaf from running for a second term in the 2011 elections and might put to rest one of the issues that remains the suspect of speculation – whether or not she intends to run. She herself has remained dodgy on this. It will be interesting to see how this debate now evolves.

In submitting the final report whose work took two years, TRC chairman Jerome Verdier expressed the optimism that the report’s recommendations will be fully implemented.

“The majority of Liberian people, including members of the TRC who are victims or survivors of the massive wave of atrocities induced by the conflict, expect that all the recommendations contained in the report will be implemented,” said Verdier.

TRCs’ final report covers the civil conflict in Liberia from 1979 to 2003 and findings on the causes of the conflict and makes recommendations on how the country can move forward.

Some of these recommendations include reparations for groups affected by the conflict.