Letter of Induction for the Executive Director
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Continental Realty Building
9th Street, Sinkor
Executive Director Induction Speech
March 29, 2007
Distinguished Partners and members of the donor community
Representatives of Civil Society, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am humbled by the opportunity given me to serve this country and its people at this time in the country's transition from war to peace.
We have come a long way as a country, and like many States, our history has been a checkered one, to say the least. Despite romanticizing and savouring our statehood as the first black republic in Africa, our country, sadly is known today more for a conflict steeped in some of the worst violence in Africa than anything else. However, despite this recent history, we are beginning to see a streak of silver lining across this dark cloud.
The tendency of people in societies transitioning from war to peace to be subsumed in amnesia at peace time or in the general scheme of things following war, when most people worry about survival and rebuilding their lives can be disturbing but understandable. In this context, the causes of conflict, the attending violence and abuse, the needs of victims and their families and even of presumed perpetrators are swept under the carpet, leaving a gaping and festering wound difficult to heal. It is in view of this that the need to exorcise the ghost of the past is consequential to national reconstruction and renewal. To use a clich?; the past is the bridge that connects the present to the future.
A little over a year ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia was commissioned by the Government of Liberia to begin the difficult but significant task of seeking the truth, clarifying our violent history, promoting peace, reconciliation and unity among the people of Liberia.
Achieving this mandate significantly rests with the TRC's administrative and operational capacity. My recent appointment to the Commission as Executive Director has completed the creation of the secretariat and brought to full circle the operational and administrative structure required to facilitate the TRC process. I would like to thank again, the Commission and the selection committee for the preferment and opportunity.
With this role, I am tasked with the efficient management of the Commission; putting the financial house in order, developing and implementing with the approval of the Commission, methodology and policy direction to achieve its mandate among others.
We are coming to a Commission that has some of the best qualified staff and personnel, is determined to achieve its mandate but bedeviled by many challenges including the lack of funding, inadequate logistical capacity, and the constraint of time.
A critical first step in ensuring the effective administration of the Commission is to reinforce the harmonious working relationship among Commissioners, treat all Commissioners, without any exclusivity, with the greatest respect, equity and fairness. At the same time, we will honor the pecking order among the Commissioners. Differences in views about policy and other issues pertinent to the mandate of the Commission are healthy and constructive, but achieving the mandate of the TRC must override any other consideration. Commissioners can now be given respite from administrative duties and concentrate on the more difficult aspects of the process.
In addition, with the cooperation of the Commissioners and Staff, we will give force to the new administrative guidelines and procedures currently being reviewed by the TRC Technical Working Group. Staff enthusiasm is high, and with the programs department effort to re-invigorate the TRC process underway, we can only but hope that all stakeholders will engage the process more pro-actively.
As a reflection of the institutional and other reforms the TRC process is expected to generate, we will set example by conducting the business of the Commission with a high degree of ethical responsibility, transparency and openness, fairness and accountability. Our records will be open to the public and partners for scrutiny.
The TRC process, it must be noted is not a symbolic enterprise introduced in the peace process to satisfy the conditions of political settlement following the war. It is more than that; it is a central element in the democratization process, it legitimizes the government, elucidates our past and paves the way to instituting reforms necessary for sustainable peace and the prevention of similar abuses and violence in the future. As I have always maintained, the outcome of this enterprise will largely determine the faith of victims and their families, and Liberians in general in the future of the justice system in the country. In this light, I wish to encourage the public to pro actively engage the process by participating and owning it. It is also essential for the media, as a partner of the TRC to engender the necessary interest and debate on the key issues of the process, while at the same time demonstrating circumspection in its reporting on the Commission's work in a way that does not undermine the process, but informs the public, victims and presumed perpetrators.
We ask our international partners, donors and stakeholders to be more forthcoming and demonstrate their commitment to the process now that the Secretariat is up and running and other institutional effort aimed at enhancing the work of the Commission are in place.
While Liberians embraced the TRC idea, the process was also initiated by the international community who must now work with us to ensure the successful outcome of the process by providing the needed funds and technical support.
As it stands, the Commission is severely under funded, and in the face of high expectation from the public and international community, the need for funding becomes all the more urgent. Given the operational history of truth Commissions, it is almost an impossible proposition to expect an under funded Commission with time limitation to make any significant impact. We` are aware and intend to incorporate the concerns of donors and other partners in the TRC process. Similarly, we also think the Commission should maintain its independence and autonomy in view of the contextual situation of the TRC process in Liberia.
We do not have a crystal ball or magic wand to know the final outcome of this process or achieve everything expected of it. However, we believe working closely with the public, government, the legislature and international partners will greatly ensure a very successful outcome. At the end of the day, the work of this Commission will be one of reputation and product.