Monday December 5, 2005
There is no way that anybody can ever talk about justice in West Africa if you jail a man like Chief Hinga Norman , but you let killers like Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, Issac Musa, Sekou Diamante Conneh and the other Liberia rebel kigpins walk away with the abominable atrocities they caused in Liberia .
As a newspaper set up to fight human rights abuses, injustices, bad governments and corruption, COCORIOKO cannot compromise with anybody who tries to purposely subvert justice by preaching that because of the necessity for peace in Liberia, that country should go easy on the ideas of prosecuting Taylor and forming a war crimes tribunal to punish those who committed atrocities in the country.
What kind of peace would anybody ever nurture without justice ? Can there ever be peace without justice ? Peace cannot flourish in any society where there is no justice. Peace cannot prevail in any country if we set free killers, rapists and arsonists, whose victims are still languishing in pain or whose blood is still crying out in their graves. for justice. Justice precedes peace . AS A MATTER OF FACT, JUSTICE GIVES BIRTH TO PEACE.
When U.S.Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice and Liberia’s President-Elect, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf hold their famous talks in Washington D.C. next week, Dr. Rice should leave no stone unturned in stressing to Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf that Charles Taylor must be brought to justice and she must set the machinery in motion immediately to facilitate Taylor’s transfer from Nigeria to the Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone. There should be no double-talking on the Taylor issue. The man deserves to pay the price for the pain and suffering he caused in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
America must also refuse to buy the Liberian argument that a war crimes tribunal would undermine peace in their country . If any country deserves such a tribunal it is Liberia. All the chaos, mayhem, killings and destruction of the past two decades in West Africa were masterminded by terrorists from Liberia. Those who perpetuated these diabolical acts from Liberia must be equally punished .
But for Liberia, no war would have ever occured in Sierra Leone .But for Liberia, the brief rebel onslaught in Guinea would not have happened. But for Liberian mercenaries and terrorists , the Ivory Coast chaos would not have escalated to the devillish and fiendish depths it keeps going now and again.
And Liberia still constitutes a danger to West Africa, despite the restoration of a constitutionally-elected government, as long as the Charles Taylors, Prince Johnsons, Isaac Musas and Diamante Konnehs are loose in society. Somewhere along the line, these men in whom the seeds of impunity and violence have taken roots, will stir up trouble again and plunge the whole subcontinent in turmoil. One day, they will hurt the people of Sierra Leone and West Africa again. Therefore, what peace are people talking about ? Once a rebel, always a rebel .Once a terrorist, always a terrorist.
Sierra Leone’s Chief Hinga Norman was a famous and legendary hero who liberated many parts of Sierra Leone from the hands of the Liberia-sponsored rebels. His Kamajors took the battle to the insurgents and crushed them wherever they met. Because of the tremendous support given the army, ECOMOG and the UN Peace-keeping Force by Hinga Norman and the Kamajors, the rebels were not able to take Sierra Leone.
Yet Hinga Norman is presently on trial before the Sierra Leone Special Court for alleged war crimes said to have been committed by the Kamajors , whom he headed. How can we put on trial a man who waged a valiant battle in the cause of the people, but free men and women who purposely, wickedly and diabolically went out to harm the people ? Was consideration given to the fact that putting Hinga Norman on trial would destroy peace and the gains of national reconciliation in Sierra Leone ? Infact, no situation is inimical to peace than the trial for war crimes of a man who fought on the side of the people.
The argument that trying Taylor or setting up a war crimes court in Liberia would endanger peace is therefore very silly and should not be accepted by the U.S . and the international community. With the UN and U.S. support, a war crimes tribunal would flourish in Liberia .It will bring all the terrorists to justice and not a dissident will fire a gun. And the benefits of this court will be immense. It will send a strong message to Liberians that those who think they can only settle their grievances by the gun or by inflicting horror on their own people and others will ultimately pay the price.
We therefore appeal to Mrs. Condoleeza Rice to press home to Mrs. Sirleaf that she must hand over Taylor and also set up a war crimes tribunal to try all those Liberians who destroyed their country and Sierra Leone. For the Liberians who brought chaos and horror to West Africa, there must be no escape. That is justice. That is peace.