Liberia: Monrovia Mayor Has His Flaws but Linking Him to Chuckie Taylor Could Undermine TRC Quest


IN JULY 2009, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission submitted its report containing major findings on: the root causes of the conflict, the impact of the conflict on women, children and the generality of the Liberian society; responsibility for the massive commission of Gross Human Rights Violations (GHRV), and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (IHRL) as well as Egregious Domestic Law Violations (EDLV).

THE COMMISSION recommended that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 51 others be blocked from holding public offices in Liberia for 30 years for helping to form and finance warring factions.

SIRLEAF HAD testified before the commission that she had endorsed former president Charles Taylor's rebellion against President Samuel Doe but had never been part of the rebel group, admitting to being a part of a group of exiled Liberians who lent their support to Mr. Taylor without being aware of his true intentions.

THE TRUTH COMMISSION also recommended that about 98 individuals considered to be notorious perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes be prosecuted in a court of competent jurisdiction.

PRINCE Y. JOHNSON, leader of the former Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia rebel movement was named in the TRC report as a notorious perpetrator and recommended for prosecution for alleged killing, extortion, massacre, destruction of property, force recruitment, assault, abduction, torture and force labor and rape.

THE TRC WAS agreed upon in the August 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

OVER THE PAST few weeks, there have been several insinuations and assertions that Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee was a former bodyguard of Chuckie Taylor, who was the Commander of the former notorious ATU from 1997-2003.

THE INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE Group (IJG) of Cllr. Jerome Verdier, head of the erstwhile TRC, has formally referred Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, the Netherlands to be investigated for "Crimes Against Humanity".

WHILE WE ENCOURAGE efforts toward the establishment of a war crimes court and bringing those responsible for atrocities to book, we find it difficult to understand why anyone would in this day and age try to diminish and undermine the findings of the TRC.

THE TRUTH of the matter is Mr. Koijee was still a young man during the Taylor years and no one came out to single him out when the TRC was conducting interviews for its findings, which has become the standard for those advocating for war crimes court in Liberia.

TO PUT IT SUCCINCTLY, Mr. Koijee was born on Sept. 7, 1985, that would make him 12-years old in 1997 and at 18-years-old in 2003, the period during which the IJG claims Mr. Koijee was Chuckie's bodyguard.

MR. KOIJEE LAMENTED RECENTLY: "I too lost a parent in the civil war. I was born in 1985 to parents in Monrovia. One of them did not survive the Liberian Civil War which began when I was four-year-old and continued till I turned 18. As a pacifist, upon reaching voting age, I joined a party led by an anti-war figure, a UNICEF Peace Ambassador and my generational hero, who is now President George Weah."

AS PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL Students Union of Liberia and later as Secretary General of the National Students Intellectual Council of Liberia, Mr. Koijee says he articulated peace messages and has put himself on record for using the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report produced by the Commission headed by Cllr. Jerome Verdier to challenge the eligibility of one of the candidates in the 2009 Senatorial By-Elections. "Not satisfied with the handling of this matter by the National Elections Commission, I became a founding executive of one of the pressure groups calling for the full implementation of the TRC report."

WE HOLD MR. KOIJEE TO HIS WORD. And while we have no way of proving whether or not Mr. Koijee is involved in any current human rights abuses, except for photographs relating to recent elections-related incidents, we feel strongly that linking him to Chuckie Taylor taints whatever objectives the TRC sought to achieved in its findings.

SOME OF WHAT Verdier's ICG is accusing has also been cited by United States Congressman Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, linking him to gross human rights violations in Liberia amid looming threats of sanctions.

IN A STATEMENT RECENTLY, Rep. Smith, in a scathing indictment of Liberia under President George expressed concerns in a statement this week, that the political situation in Liberia was deteriorating and worsening.

THE STATEMENT FROM Congressman Smith, who was instrumental in pressuring Nigeria to turn over former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes trial in Sierra Leone, has already drawn a response from the Weah administration who have said the Congressman's concerns does not reflect what is happening in Liberia today.

THE WEAH GOVERNMENT, through diplomatic channels, declared that the Congressman's position, based on complaints from the International Justice Group(IJG) was flawed.

MR. KOIJEE, in his own defense, says that he has never participated in any acts of violence in his life.

SAID MR. KOIJEE: "As a product of the US Government International Visiting Leaders Program as recently as 2016, I have gone through extensive character and background checks by the US Government and applied the skills acquired from that experience in ensuring that tensions associated with the subsequent 2017 Elections held in Liberia did not result in violent confrontation between my partisans, then in opposition and the partisans supporting the former government now in opposition."

FOR THE SAKE of transparency and accountability and the pursuit of justice for those lost in the civil war, we urge the ICG to offer more evidence to Mr. Koijee's connection to Chuckie Taylor and even more evidence of human rights violations in Liberia today.

WE THINK it is unfair to link the Mayor to Chuckie just for the sake of doing so. If Mr. Koijee is proven to have been involved at that young age, then he should face the full weight of the law and deserves to face justice, if it is proven.

BUT the burden of proof now rests with Verdier's ICG.

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