By Jacob Sax Conteh
How can justice that has been delayed for so many years be real justice? How can those of us who lost loved ones in the senseless carnage in Sierra Leone be assured that the same thing will never happened again when the perpetrators of one of the most cruel and brutish wars in modern history have not been punished because of an intricate court system which sees many foreign and national workers of the Special Court live in luxurious houses, ride air-conditioned SUVs and fly wherever they want in the country when our people continue to languish in poverty and diseases, some without hands and feet? I often shudder when I think of the untold misery the rebels caused in Sierra Leone, and how up to this day none of the leadership of that movement has been convicted in a court of law.
The rebel leaders – Sam Bockarie and Foday Sankoh died without facing justice. Jonny Koroma is missing, and now Issa Sesay is in Senegal getting first class medical treatment. This is wrong. The UN can do better than that. We cannot continue to wait without seeing someone locked up for good in a less luxurious hotel (prison) like the one the killers now enjoy in Freetown. Though many of us are willing to forgive and move on with our lives, we also need the process of justice to be accelerated. Here in the United States and in many other countries in the world, serious cases are often tried and concluded in a space of a year or two. So why is it that more than six years after the war officially ended, we are still waiting for the Special Court to nab the rebels.
The answer lies in the way the UN operates. In Rwanda, despite warning from several groups, the UN stood by or left the Tutsis and moderate Hutus to be massacred before heading there to set up a tribunal to prosecute the killers, many of whom have either being killed in reprisal killing or have simply disappeared into oblivion. After the Rwanda genocide, many Hutus, including innocent women and children fled to Goma, Zaire to escape from Paul Kigame and his army. But Kigame and his henchmen took advantage of lapses in Zairian security and massacred thousands of Hutus, and the UN did not do anything. In Zaire itself, it took the UN years to react to the continued rape and murder of innocent civilians. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Nigerians would have easily ended the rebel carnage if they had the support of the UN Security Council, but here again the UN failed miserably. They sat in their offices in New York until thousands of people lost their lives. In Sierra Leone, when the UN finally decided to act, they sent a group of inept and ill-equipped peace keepers five hundred of whom the RUF rebels took hostage. That emboldened the rebels to press the war until they almost overran the entire country.
Today, the UN is a toothless lame bulldog when it comes to Darfur. While thousands of poor defenseless people are killed in that regtion in an ethnic cleansing foray, the UN cannot agree on what to do to rescue the people of Darfur. This is an outrage. But the UN will surely set another tribunal to bring the perpetrators to justice years later.
I call on the UN Special Court in Sierra Leone to speed up its process and bring the killers of our people to justice. That will finally put to rest the anguish many of us still feel knowing that the murderers, rapist and gangs that terrorized our people have never paid the price for their act.