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Liberia's Truth Commission Three Months Behind Schedule, Says Chairman

The chairman of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) said his work is three months behind schedule and faces serious financial problems. But chairman Jerome Verdier hoped through the commitment of his staff and the international donor community, the commission can make up for the lost time.

The TRC was set up in 2005 to promote national peace and reconciliation while at the same time holding accountable those who violated human rights between January 1979 and October 2003.

Chairman Verdier was in the United States this week to launch other branches of the Liberian Diaspora Project, which is supposed to assist in taking statements from Liberians outside the country. He told VOA that the statement taking process is continuing, although slowly.

“At the moment, statements are currently being taken from Liberians in Minnesota. That process will commence on June 30th in Pennsylvania, and then subsequently in early July, the process will commence also in Atlanta. We intend to take as many statements from Liberians everywhere; we intend to extend the process even to Europe so that all Liberians would have the opportunity to participate and contribute to the peace and reconciliation process in Liberia, so that by the end of our work, a comprehensive recommendation representing the collective aspirations of all Liberians will be reflected in our report,” he said.

Verdier said the taking of statements from Liberians in the Diaspora has been difficult and slow, but progressing.

“The Diaspora is a very vast territory. Liberians are very, very busy. A lot of them have to do more than one jobs to make ends meet. A lot of them have immigration and other concerns, and we are doing awareness around all of these issues and the process in general. But I’m satisfied that all of the Liberian associations and community groupings are supporting of the process, and eventually it is going to be all right,” Verdier said.

He said the TRC’s work in Liberia has fallen behind three months because of insufficient finances.

“At the moment, we went through a three-month period of reassessment to strengthen our capacity for fundraising. It’s being very unfortunate that as a truth commission we have to do fundraising ourselves, since the partners have not been able to come forth with their commitments, and the minimal commitment received from government is insufficient to carry the work of the TRC. So because of that we are three months behind schedule. But we are looking forward in July to recommence all the activities of the TRC,” he said.

Notwithstanding, Verdier said the TRC would be able to make up for the lost time with the commitment of its staff and hopefully the support of the international donor community and the Liberian government.

Verdier also said Liberians empathize with the commission and therefore would not lose interest in its work despite the fact that the TRC is three months behind schedule.

“I doubt whether Liberians will lose interest in the work of the commission. Losing interest in the work of the commission means giving up on reconciliation, giving up on healing, and the future development of our country is dependant on the extent to which we can heal and reconcile,” Verdier said.