News / Africa

Civil War Legacy Part of Liberia's Presidential Campaign

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf looks on during the closing session of the 17th African Union Summit, at Sipopo Conference Center, outside Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (File Photo - July 1, 2011)
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf looks on during the closing session of the 17th African Union Summit, at Sipopo Conference Center, outside Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (File Photo - July 1, 2011)

Eight years after Liberia's civil war, the slow pace of reconciliation is a big part of local politics. In her re-election campaign, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the country is making progress. Her opponents say she is ignoring the findings of a commission that called for her to be barred from politics.  

President Sirleaf says her government has worked hard to heal the ethnic divisions that fueled 14 years of fighting. But the progress has been slow.

"Our process of national healing and reconciliation is neither perfect nor complete, but we know we have made the necessary first step on this long journey,” she said.

The president says that journey begins with a “palava hut” program where people can admit a wrong and seek pardon from the Liberian people through customary procedures.

“With peace and stability comes our great need for further reconciliation of the Liberian people traumatized by war and by ethnic and social tensions," she said. "We have started that process and have taken important steps to heal the country through a fully established independent commission on human rights.”

A national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended the “palava hut” for less serious crimes but said those most responsible for violence must face formal prosecution. Jerome Verdier, who led that commission, says the president has failed in her responsibility to bring to justice former rebel leaders and their top associates.

“Without a semblance of justice, without any credible threat of prosecution for people who took arms and waged a senseless war, creates a fertile condition for a recurrence of conflict,” said Verdier.

President Sirleaf told the commission that she helped raise several thousand dollars for then-rebel leader Charles Taylor at the start of the civil war but withdrew her support when Taylor forces started killing civilians.

The commission said that as a “financier” of the Taylor rebellion, she should be barred from politics for 30 years.  With the commission report buried in parliament, Verdier says President Sirleaf's re-election campaign “epitomizes impunity at the highest level.”

“Just when we think we are making progress, it seems there is no moral authority to guide the progression of the country to genuine democracy,” said Verdier.

The commission also recommended banning from politics the former rebel leader and current senator Prince Johnson. Johnson is now running for president as well.  Verdier says that is not what post-war Liberia needs.

“An entire generation has known nothing but conflict and war," said Johnson. "And these are the masterminds, these are the organizers, the financiers of this conflict, of the war.  And to perpetuate their rule and their participation at the highest level of governance doesn't set any example for the new generation.”

President Sirleaf's political challengers say she has lost credibility on the reconciliation issue.

“Our country has yet to be reconciled," said Acarous Gray, secretary general of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change. "While it is true that we enjoy some degree of stability in terms of people shooting guns around here, the head of state has failed to reconcile the Liberian people in term of reaching out, in terms of concentrating on the TRC report.”

Gray is using the president's political vulnerability to promote his party's candidate.

“Ambassador Winston Tubman brings reconciliation to the table," said Gray. "He is not one of those persons who participated in the crisis, who sponsored Mr. Taylor or sponsoring any warlord, unlike President Sirleaf.”

The president's record on reconciliation features prominently in the campaigns of several of her challengers, including Taylor's former senate president, a former rebel commander, and a youth pastor.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid