Press Releases

Truth and Reconciliation Hearings Open

January 9, 2008

MONROVIA (TRC)?The national public hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) commenced Tuesday at the historic Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia, following months of massive preparation and awareness.

The opening ceremony, attended by Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, brought together stakeholders including cabinet ministers, past and present officials of government, educators, traditional and religious leaders, students and marketers, as well as the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Jordan Ryan, members of the diplomatic corps, the international community and international and local NGOs.

Speaking at the opening program, President Johnson-Sirleaf, on behalf of the Government of Liberia and other governments around the world, asked Liberians for forgiveness for their actions?either by omission or commission.

President Johnson-Sirleaf called on officials of government and Liberians to give the hearings their full support by responding to the TRC when they are called upon to share their experiences and to tell what they know about the conflict. She cautioned them against allowing the TRC to use its subpoena powers.

The President said she was delighted for the TRC to begin the process of addressing impunity in the country and beyond. She said though sometimes it may be painful, but she was confident that it will bring relief to the country and its people, declaring that "the nation has today started the process of healing and justice."

"The TRC hearings will entail, for some, the process of grief and for others it would be the process of relief. But however, it is a long process, as the nation starts another period of healing, not only for truth and forgiveness but also justice," President Johnson-Sirleaf said.

She said the hearings are introspection and public dialogue to establish the causes of conflict and promote peace, justice and reconciliation, expressing the hope that those healing processes would lead to recommendations that would foster peace, justice and reconciliation among Liberians.

TRC Chairman Counselor Jerome Verdier said the TRC is key to national renaissance as nothing exists in reality except the truth. He said the national public hearings are expected to be conducted across the country, as well as in the diaspora.

Verdier said the public hearings are meant to provide the ultimate forum for victims, witnesses and perpetrators to recount their experiences in the full glare of the public eye.

He said that in a society haunted over the years by denials and amnesia, the hearings will provide an opportunity to acknowledge past sufferings and abuses, as well as the role of institutions, systems and groups in the culture of violence.

"Through these hearings we hope all Liberians can share in the TRC process and support the effort to reconcile the people and ensure justice," he noted.

As we go through these proceeding throughout the country, Cllr. Verdier said, we ask the public to follow them closely and show compassion and demonstrate tolerance, patience, understanding and support.

He thanked all those who supported the process leading to the TRC hearings, especially the thousands of Liberians, as well as foreign residents, who have given testimonies. Mr. Verdier also thanked political and war actors who cooperated with the process and pledged their support to the end.

During Tuesday's hearings, three witnesses testified about their experiences in the Liberian civil war. David D. Saweh, Johnny Saweh and Paul Flomo from Grand Bassa County accused popular local musician, Michael Davies, alias "Sundaygar Dearboy," who they alleged was a combatant of the NPFL, of gang raping their 16-year-old sister along with 25 other combatants. They claimed that the 16-year-old died later as a result of the incident. They also accused the musician of complicity in the murder and torture of several men, women and children in the county.

The second witness, Reverend Jeremiah Walker of the Liberia's Lottery Baptist Mission School, accused forces of the disbanded Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group of using the school's campus as a military base and destroying it.

Thomas Biddle, son of the late Patrick Biddle, former Deputy Speaker of National Legislature and General Secretary of the then ruling National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), blamed the NPFL for the death of his father.

The hearings started Tuesday, will last for six months, will end on May 31, 2008 and will be held throughout the country. The process will continue in Monrovia until January 31, before extending to Maryland County in February for one week. The Commission is investigating and documenting the country's ugly past from 1979 to 2003.

Cclic This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This had been the official website of the Liberian TRC. The Commission ended operation
in 2010. This website is maintained by the Georgia Institute of Technology.