Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Doctor that can not Heal His Own Sore
Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

A serious argument sometimes ensued between two older persons probably in their eighties over issues of competence, credibility, and will of a particular doctor in a village that could not properly prescribe drugs for himself, or treat a sore on his right thumb. I was a pedestrian on the road stretching from the main road to Fassie Town in Bomi County. Fassie is situated up the hill some one and a half miles from the Richard Henries Junction just few kilometers from Tubmanburg City. I stood and listened to the wisdoms and wits of the older people. Though in a state of fatigue from the distance just covered, I could not afford losing the opportunity to learn some of the conventional and traditional wisdoms of the two octogenarians.

One contended that if the doctor could suffer from a sore on his right thumb for over six months yet he moves with medical kits, drugs and supplies; his ability to cure people with similar cases is questionable, let alone a person suffering from appendicitis and in need of a surgery. The other lady, in sharp reaction suggested that the doctor could suffer from the sore because he lacks the particular drugs to cure himself, but not the training. On, and on they continue; and I kicked off to end the apparently last quarter of my one and half mile journey.

So is it with the healing of the wounds of our country, Liberia, inflicted by prolonged civil strife that was characterized with some of the worst forms of barbarity in human history; and the ignominious pillaging of the wealth of the land and the people.
The question of healing such wounds that were endured by a people now in complete traumatic disorder supported by the falsification of prospects by the current status quo is indeed a lingering and ponderous one. It is evident that there are various kinds of wounds- physical, that which results to a sore on the body; psychosocial, that which results to a state of stress and traumatic disorder. The latter also leads to a complete incoherence in society, and erosion of vital fabrics due to extreme frustrations and disillusionments. The psychosocial wound of our society is deepening daily due to the unavailability of soluble options to recover the people from stagnated poverty conditions.

The Liberian population or society is currently suffering from a serious psychosocial wound or traumatic breakdown in the population. The answers of recovery from such a state of nature have spurred debates in many quarters. Some argue for a form of retributive justice to prosecute and penalize those responsible for the mayhem. In some quarters, particularly ones dominated by the perpetrators, like the Accra Peace Accord, restorative justice is the subject. The legitimacy of the Accra Peace Accord succeeded in establishing an institution of restorative justice apparently in search of amnesty from the victims. The question of which succeeds or which fails is not a major concern now. But the prime concern of many Liberians is to have a cleanse and healed society with people properly recovered from the shackles of trauma ignited by the civil decadence; and systems of rule, order and effective civil administration restored to avoid the recurrence of war. This concern also raises its own question as to who or what kind of institution can effectively heal those wounds and establish the historical or root causes of war that will prepare the people to adopt attitudes that will ensure perpetual peace and mutual coexistence.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the available institution now charged with the responsibilities of healing the traumatic wounds, reconciling the population, and putting forth appropriate recommendations to avoid recurrence. Looking at its present content and dispositions, it has come into sharp contradictions with its mandate and intent. News regarding the moral behavior of some of the commissioners and issues concerning violations of the Act establishing the TRC had not only dragged the commission under the microscope of pundits, but had also brought to the fore questions on the competence and ability of individual commissioners to sit on that ‘noble’ bench. This had further led to a generalization of inquiry on the ability of the commission to perform its function of truth gathering and reconciliation since it had proven unable to reconcile a burning conflict between two of its members that ended into a fist fight in southeastern Liberia where the commission had gone in continuation of public hearings. What a disillusionment and abuse of the people’s expectation of this commission.

Reflecting on the case of the village doctor who can not heal a sore on his right thumb, the TRC has drawn analysts’ attention to its moral will and ability to heal the wounds of this country when it suffers from internal wounds since its creation. During its early days, there was an issue with an expatriate worker and some commissioners regarding salaries and benefits, the heat that surrounded this issue was sufficient to steam the expatriate, and he silently left. After the commission has wallowed in some millions of dollars, one off its financiers, American Billionaire George Soros came to the country and alarmed at the financial extravaganza at the wound-healing and reconciliation body. This also happened at a time statement takers of the commission were striking for salaries at the offices of the commission.

One of the commission’s primary functions is to gather the truth, and nothing but the truth. It is because of the relevance of the truth in establishing the root causes of our civil war that witnesses are made to take oath before testifying before the commissioners and the public. Therefore, it must be on the volition of the witness to appear. I was fortunate to be among the few Liberians who lively witnessed, Day One of the public hearings at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion on January 8, 2008. On that day I recall seeing one David Sayweh as the first witness to appear. David gave startling revelations of the involvement of Liberian musician Sundaygar Dearboy in the gang rape and death of his sister in 1994. This relevation have aroused series of hullabaloos with the TRC accusing the Executive Mansion of interference into its affairs. Though Dearboy have denied his involvement into the allegations, the controversies continue to spur unabated with David taking a surprising u-turn from his earlier revelation this time implicating one of the commissioners. Here we are with the recent relevation of David that he was paid by one of the commissioners to besmirch the character of Dearboy publicly. Whether the last testimony of David on April 13, 2008 is true or not, what remains troubling is the web of controversies entangling the credibility of this commission, and the depth to which it have collapsed into gross public disrepute that is rendering it untrustworthy and irrelevance to the wound-healing and reconciliation process of this country.
As the case of conflict of interest on the commission moves on with the warning of a commissioner who serves on another body, the commission moved to suspend said commissioner. But as it had been crisis-driven internally, with every commissioner attempting to accentuate influence over others, the suspension was challenged by a court order. It was unimaginable for the people of Gbarpolu County, haven gathered to listen and narrate war experiences to see a commissioner of the reconciliation body being escorted by a court sheriff to take seat at the hearing. What a frustration? What hope can those people have that they can be reconciled by such a body?

It will be illusory and self-stultifying for the Liberian people to continue to repose confidence in this body, or even to believe that the facts will not be tempered with by this commission; or that this commission will indeed accomplish the task of genuine reconciliation in this country haven conspicuously demonstrated attitudes that flagrantly contravene the spirit and intent associated with its establishment. So help us God.

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