Massa Washington, former TRC Commissioner of the nine commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (TRC) last Friday night appeared on the popular “Liberia Speaks” teleforum (teleconference styled forum) at the invitation of that institution to address the stalled final report of the TRC, why is it no being implemented and what is being done to ensure it fully is implemented.
Addressing the stalled TRC Final Report, Commissioner Washington eloquently articulated the TRC Report and the recommendations contained in it, explaining in detail the evolution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how it is rooted in the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement and enacted into law by the Liberian Legislature under the Transitional Government of Chairman Judy Bryant.
The TRC Commissioner said the TRC report is being undermined and hijacked by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government, the minute 0.4% of the 3.5 million people in the country and the several hundred thousands more living abroad who overwhelmingly support the TRC final report and the recommendations.
Responding early to question from a participant on the forum who puzzled why she is assuming a prosecutorial role knowing it was her commission that developed the report and made the recommendations banning 5o Liberians from holding public office for 30 years including President Sirleaf for their in the Liberian civil war and periods of civil unrest from 1979 to 2003 and why not be silent on the implementation since their job was done and over with, Commissioner Washington said, she is first and foremost a Liberian citizen and a stakeholder in what happens in the country and as someone who worked on the commission and knows what the TRC report and recommendations are, she is under obligation to provide explanation and clarification at any time when their work and the recommendations are being distorted and misrepresented, in most instances purposely to avoid its full implementation.
When Commissioner Washignton was asked if she had hard evidence to support her accusation against President Sirleaf that she is undermining and has hijacked the TRC Report, the TRC former commissioner said there are evidence everywhere to support her position saying for the President to have come out in January of this year during her “State of the Nation Address” and announced she will contest the 2011 election and “will be a formidable force”, though she is banned from holding public office for 30 years was itself violation of the law which created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and undermining and hijacking the TRC Report. Madam Washington further went on to say the gross disregard for the TRC Report and dismissive stance by the President is a disrespect of the rule of law and the recommendations something which have created a frustrating political environment where we see hard core perpertrators of human right violation, crimes against humanity, war crime, and international law to the extend Senator Prince Johnson of Nimba County who is recommended for prosecution has himself declared his intention to run for President in 2011 and his political party just got certified by the National Election Commission. The Commissioner continuing said, when the President and those in government implicated in the TRC Report found out during the commission’s work that the report was not in the thought process of what they anticipated, they did all they could to undermine the commission’s work and one such conduits they used was Pearl Brown-Bull, a fellow commissioner on the commission. Madam Washington said Commissioner Pearl Brown-Bull did not hide political affiliation, she remained an Executive of the Unity Party and boast of being a personal friend of President an attitude which was in contrast to the act regarding regulation of commissioners on the commission which clearly stipulates all commissioner should resign from political parties and their position and renounced and any political affiliation or conflict of interest.” Commissioner Bull was more interested in securing her political interest after the life of the commission while some of us were very serious about our job, future of our country and only wanted to see the right thing done”.
Answering questions why other perpetrators were not recommended in their report for either political sanction or prosecution such as Dr. Amos Sawyer, Dr. H. Baima Fahnbulleh Jr., Josiah Blyee (General Butt Naked) and others, Commissioner Washington said in the case of Dr. Sawyer and Dr. Fahnbulleh, these Liberians cooperated with the commission and provided the truth about what their roles in the Liberian conflict and no one or institution filed any complain to the commission alleging both men were involve in human rights violation, ordered killings, or committed crimes during the conflict. Based on the circumstances and the evidence, their remorse, we cleared them, Commissioner Washington said. On Josiah Blyee (General Butt Naked) vindication, the former TRC boss said his was taken as a special case. The Commissioner said Josiah Blyee was also cooperative, he candidly provided a honest explanation of his role and most importantly he told the commission he killed nearly 20,000 persons most of which he did through witchcraft, saying he was initiated into witchcraft when he was a child and it was the witchcraft power he used to kill and spilled over to the war. Commissioner Washington said the commission also took Josiah Blyee case into special consideration as a child soldier and a child who life was manipulated by adults and had no fault of his own of becoming who he was with witchcraft power which led him to commit those killings onward d to the war. It was on these basis and tied with his sincerity and remorse, the commission vindicated him consistent with the terms of the TRC mandate.
Commissioner Massa Washington explained, former President Charles Taylor, now in jail at the Hague and former NPFL Defense Minister Tom Woewiyou are not mentioned in the report because in the case of Taylor, the commission did all they could to have him testify at th commission. She said they contacted the Sierra Leone Special but did not get cooperation in affirmation of their request. For former NPFL Defense Minister Tom Woewiyou, Commissioner Washington said they had the full cooperation of Mr. Woewiyou when they requested his appearance at th commission. She said the commission offered to underwrite Mr. Woewiyou’s cost to and from Liberia and provide security. Unfortunately few days for Mr. Woewiyou departure to Liberia, he informed the commission that he lost a relative and could not make it to Liberia at the time and being that the commission was pressed with time, they had to deal with other cases since there was a narrow window unfolding on their timeline.
When asked what she would do differently if she were to go back in time, Commissioner Washington said she would add more names on the list for political sanction and prosection and insert in the final report the reasons and conditions upon which they base their decisions matching the names of persons and institutions all listed in the report.
Wraping up, Commissioner Massa Washington called on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government to put Liberia ahead of their individual interest, muster the courag and hard road, and implement all the recommendations in the TRC report, saying Liberians do not have the power and authority to implement the TRC report though they overwhelmingly in support of its full implementation but the President and her government do. Commissioner Washington said if the President failed to take the interest of the country first and insist on violating the laws which created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC and ignore the rule of law anyway and contest the 2011 elections, Liberians must then use their authority and reject her and all others implicated in the report at theballot box. The former TRC boss also appealed to Liberians to rally everywhere to ensure the TRC report is fully implemented. Madam Washington passionately advised Liberians to take a deep look at the act which created the TRC to go along with recommendations for doing so, she emphasized, one will know much about what the TRC is and what it was meant to do not to fall victim to the intentional distortion of vices of the report implementation.
Commissioner Washington said she understands the TRC Report is not perfect but is a good road map for going forward and frowned on those handful of the larger poulation who support the report implementation but has the life and death of the report’s implementaion. Governments come and go, yesterday we had the Doe government,the other time was the Taylor government, and today is the Ellen government. Governments will come and go but our country will always remain, let’s take politics out of the TRC Report implementation, it is matter respecting the rule of law, Commissioner Maasa Washington concluded her discussion with Liberians living in the United States on the stalled TRC Report on “Liberia Speakes”.
Below is the Act of Legislature creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
Click picture for TRC Mandate