Liberian President Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf's long-awaited testimony before the country's Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (TRC) finally took place Thursday. The President had
been accused by others testifying before the commission of soliciting financial
support for former President Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of
Liberia (NPFL) rebels to overthrow President Samuel K. Doe.
Massa Washington, a member of the TRC, told VOA President
Sirleaf admitted being a sympathizer of the cause to overthrow Samuel Doe but
that she was never a member of the rebel group.
president did state that there was no time that she was ever in military
uniform. But she did admit that yes she visited Mr. Taylor in the early days in
Nimba County. She also clarified that she has never being a member of NPFL but
had been a sympathizer. She wasn't with them when they formed the NPFL; she was
never part of any of their meeting. She's not an executive of the NPFL, never
was. However she sympathized like a lot of people were doing at that time, and
in so doing she tried to solicit moral assistance for the cause of the NPFL but
not necessarily as an NPFL founder or executive," she said.
Sirleaf's appearance before the commission had been on and off. At one point
and after expressing her desire to appear, the president said she did not want
to create a spectacle and would prefer narrating her role in the war in a book.
Washington said the Truth Commission is pleased now that the president has
are actually glad she testified. You know the president is the number 1 citizen
of the land, and the TRC process is a key component of the Accra Comprehensive
Peace Agreement that brought in this new government. But it enhances the rule
of law. We wanted to make sure that at this particular point in time that no
one was above the law," Washington said.
denied the Commission kept President Sirleaf's appearance in secrecy by
allowing only a hand-picked group of journalists to witness the President's
testimony, and also for not broadcasting the testimony live as the commission
had been doing with most of its hearings.
testimony was not carried live. It was part of a special arrangement to
accommodate the office of the president. Under the constitution, we are obliged
to show respect for the presidency. So the president wasn't comfortable
appearing at the commission at the Centennial Pavilion. She did not want the
bigger crowd. As you know sometime the crowd there can be a bit rowdy, and for
security reasons she felt comfortable coming to the offices of the TRC, so the
commission decided to work along with her. There was an array of journalists
from all sectors of media. And so the media coverage was not really restricted
per se. The space couldn't accommodate every journalist in the land. There were
recordings. As we speak now those recordings are being played on the radio for
the benefit of the general public," Washington said.