Truth and reconciliation commission launched in Liberia

Monrovia_(dpa) _ A truth and reconciliation commission was launched Thursday in the West African state of Liberia as it emerges from a quarter of a century of conflict and 14 years of civil war.
The ceremony simultaneously took place in all the 15 political subdivisions in the country.

The commission is expected to investigate and establish the root causes of the conflict in the country with a view to putting the war-scarred country firmly on the path to national reconciliation and healing.

Launching the commission in the Liberian capital Monrovia, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf called on all Liberians affected by the war or those who committed wrongful acts to come forward and tell the truth.

"This is the greatest contribution any Liberian can make to the peace and reconciliation of his country," the Liberian leader added.

"The government will ensure that those culpable of the commission of crimes against humanity will face up to justice, no matter who you are, from the president downwards," Johnson-Sirleaf said to loud applause.

She said the launching of the commission marked a historic and defining moment in efforts to rebuild, reconcile, reunify and heal the nation.

No matter how successful the government was in the reconstruction programme and the provision of jobs to citizens, the future stability of the country would remain in doubt unless Liberians faced their shameful past and told the truth, the president said.

Former interim president, political scientist Dr Amos C Sawyer described reconciliation as the "most painful and difficult part of the reconstruction process."

Sawyer challenged Liberians to look each other in the eye and explain their individual and collective wrongdoing.

Sawyer also challenged the commission to try to establish the issues underlying the Liberian conflict, the dynamics of the conflict and the behaviour of the perpetrators.

He further challenged the commission to find a lasting solution to the nation's tribal conflicts which are a threat to national stability.

Sawyer made specific mention of the Gio and Mano-Mandingo conflict in north-eastern Liberia and the Lorma-Mandingo conflict in the northern part of the country.

Diplomats present described the launching of the truth and reconciliation commission as a milestone in the Liberian peace process.

US Ambassador Donald Booth hoped the commission would enable Liberians to heal the wounds of the past much more quickly.

The launching of the commission was preceded by a march through the principal streets of Monrovia. dpa tas wjh


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