Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Minnesota Advocates Spearhead U.S. Efforts
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (MAHR) is launching a large scale statement-taking process this month and is seeking the full participation of Liberians and other Africans all over the US in spreading the word and encouraging fellow compatriots to come forward willingly to give their statements to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concerning their experiences in Liberia’s civil war. The TRC U.S. Project is designed to give Liberian refugees in the U.S. a role in promoting international justice and human rights as part of the healing process in Liberia. The purpose of the TRC is to promote national peace, security, unity and justice in Liberia.
Ahmed Sirleaf II, who was recently hired by the Human Rights organization to spearhead the community outreach efforts, says MAHR has designed a vigorous community outreach and public awareness plan to educate Liberians and other West Africans about the statement-taking process. He added that MAHR along with other implementing partners of the TRC process in the U.S. have established a toll free and a local telephone number (to be announced soon), to help Liberians in Minnesota and around the U.S. make appointments with the MAHR or get information about the time and place where they could go to give their testimonies.
Sirleaf said four statement-taking sites have been identified so far: Center for Families in North Minneapolis, VLN Park Avenue Legal Clinic in South Minneapolis, Our Savior’s Church in Brooklyn Park, and The Osseo Enrollment Center in Brooklyn Park. He intimated that other venues have yet to be determined. Sirleaf who has been volunteering and advising the MAHR on TRC and Liberian issues since the inception of the project, says the community outreach plan envisions the engagements of Liberians through the TRC National and local Advisory Committees, the Organization of Liberians in MN, OLM, the Liberian Ministerial Association (LMA), and other Liberian community and religious leaders and groups, as well county and alumni associations in Minnesota and around the country.
“We will go to churches, mosques, temples, and all places of worship to spread the word about this important work,” Sirleaf said in a telephone interview with Mshale. The plan also includes engaging local and national media outlets, including regular press releases and media appearances about the project to foster better participation.
“We call on all Liberian professionals, community leaders, and media organizations to participate in educating our people about the process,” he added.
The TRC will provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, presenting an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences while looking into the root causes of the crisis in Liberia, then recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of the victims. Liberians will have an opportunity to tell their stories and make recommendations to the government and the TRC about reconciliation, reparations, and the potential prosecution of perpetrators.
Mirroring the TRC’s work in Liberia, MAHR is coordinating an effort to collect statements from thousands of Liberian refugees throughout the United States. This groundbreaking project will for the first time give refugees – the victims of human rights abuses – a voice in the peace and reconciliation process. No other truth and reconciliation commission has involved refugees in the U.S. in its proceedings. In addition to providing refugees with a voice, this project will create a model for involving refugees in mechanisms that promote international justice, human rights and the rule of law. MAHR is working directly with Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to develop this project, but is not receiving any funding from the TRC.
More information can be found on the MAHR website on http://www.mnadvocates.org/Liberian_Truth_and_Reconciliation_Commission_Project.html.
Dave is working on his first novel. He is also an author for Kenya Imagine, an online interactive newspaper.