‘He’s Not A War Criminal’

Reporter

…Fmr. TRC Executive Comes In Defense of Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee

Following claims from the International Justice Group (IJG) as it relates to the involvement of Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson T. Koijee wanton abuse of power and his alleged involvement into the country’s 14 years of civil upheaval, a man claiming to be former employee of the defunct Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has termed as a complete falsehood any information linking the young mayor to such crimes.

Fmr. TRC Inquiry Officer, Ezekiel B. Freeman

According to Ezekiel B. Freeman, working as an Inquiry Officer of the TRC, there has never been a time where Mr. Koijee name was mentioned in any of the body’s hearings by perpetrators and victims of the war.

He said, considering at the time, his experienced of working directly from the offices of the TRC Chairman, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, there have never been cases or testimonies were victims and or perpetrators of the war point accusing fingers at Mr. Koijee by linking him to a particular warring factions nor a particular warmonger.

Mr. Freeman, in his published online article, described as “unfortunate” the repeated claims from the IJG which was recently elevated by a ranking member of the United States House Subcommittee on Africa, Congressman Chris Smith.

The IJG which is headed by former TRC Chairman, Jerome Verdier said in sometimes this year, that it was investigating cases linking Mr. Koijee of being one of the followers of jailed Chucky Taylor- a militia warrior in Liberia and the son of former President Charles G. Taylor.

Mayor Koijee has since denied such allegation and has termed the IJG reported investigation against him as a “political propaganda” only intended to muddy his hard-earned reputation.

Meanwhile, the former TRC employee has come in strong defense of the Monrovia City Mayor and has reportedly validated the clarity as made by Mr. Koijee.

Bestman wrote, “I must in this public manner apprise you with arguments defending the character and integrity of Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee. Indefatigable it bemoans me and aggrieves vibrant spirit for and of the truth, to hear and read of vile spews, maligns, innuendos, willful misinformation, disinformation, character assassination, false and dubious allegations against Jefferson T. Koijee, ‘that the Monrovia City Mayor committed war crimes and other atrocities during the brutal Liberian Civil War, 1989 to 2003’ and other allegations. Individuals and groups resigning to these false assertions against an innocent Jefferson T. Koijee, falsely maligning his character seem to befoul the TRC war crimes investigative processes and the calls for war accountability in Liberia if not checked. It is so disheartening that because of hate or because of some sinister political aggrandizement, individuals and groups sink to such a level of low ebb and disparagements against an astute, energized brilliant young Liberian. I worked for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) in various positions from June 2006 to September 2009.

I was also engaged in the post-TRC project by coordinating the identification and memorialization of summary executions and mass grave sites in and around Monrovia. I must emphatically say that at no time during my involvement with the TRC and its war crimes investigations, research and investigations of other atrocities, my engagements with the implementation of processes, programs, projects and procedures did anyone mention, link, refer or allege Jefferson T. Koijee with the commission of any iota or quark of heinous crimes during the brutally perpetuated and perpetrated Liberian civil war, 1989 to 2003. I also can attest to all the investigative assignments with the TRC that I was directly or indirectly, involved with, debriefed, gained knowledge of, consulted on in fulfillment of the TRC Liberia’s mandate. No anyone mentioned, linked, referred or alleged Jefferson T. Koijee with the commission of any iota or quark of heinous crimes during the brutally perpetuated and perpetrated Liberian civil war, 1989 to 2003, and the antecedences. I significantly functioned within the TRC from 2006 to 2009 and helped the TRC in its investigation and determination of responsibility for ‘egregious’ domestic crimes, ‘gross’ violations of human rights and ‘serious’ humanitarian law violations. I was and remained a working encyclopedia for the workings, processes, procedures, policies, decisions, programs, engagements, internal wrangling, and political conundrums at the TRC. I worked with local and international interns, provided consultancy to international consultants, investigators, and researchers on the Liberian TRC process. Other professionals local and international sought and benefited from my consortium. I can safely say that I, Ezekiel B. Freeman former TRC Inquiry Officer was involved with almost every aspect of the TRC processes and remain knowledgeable of the TRC inner workings, operations, intrigues, program, and administrative functions. I briefly served as Program Assistant in the office of Commissioner Gerald B. Coleman in 2006. By the end of 2006, I became an Administrative Assistant in the office of TRC Chairman, Jerome J. Verdier, Sr. (Cllr.). While in the Office of Chairman Verdier. For a period spanning over a year, I sat in Commissioners’ meetings, recorded minutes and read the minutes and other communications vital to the TRC’s mandate…”

He furthered, “I sat in meetings with commissioners and partners, sat in some meetings with foreign diplomats, sponsors, prominent individuals, groups and organizations significant to transitional justice in Liberia. I particularly recall being in TRC Commissioners’ meeting with philanthropist, George Soros and recorded minutes. I also sat meetings and recorded minutes for the initial International Contact Group of Liberia (ICGL) Working Group on the TRC at the TRC head office, Realty Continental Building 9th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia. Due to my commitment, dedication and brilliance for the successful implementation of the TRC mandate, I simultaneously provided administrative and program support to the functions, responsibilities, and duties of the office of the former TRC Executive Secretary, Nathaniel Kwabo, the office of TRC former Program Director, Stephen S. Manley, the office of former TRC Commissioner OumuSyllah and intermittently provided administrative and program support to other commissioners, program staff while at that same time worked as one of the Inquiry Officers responsible for research and investigation. My tasks as TRC Inquiry Officer included conducting secondary and primary research (field interviews) into various cross-cutting issues, tracing the military and political history of the conflict, and researching the political governance of Liberia from 1979-2003, and investigating window cases. I investigated some of the major massacres perpetrated in Liberia and helped colleagues at the TRC with their investigations and report writings. I coordinated ‘TRC’s peoples with special needs project’, investigated the St. Peters Lutheran Church and J. J. Roberts United Methodist School Massacres, and Coordinated the Memorialization program of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Massacre. I investigated the Phebe Hospital and the Phebe School of nursing massacre, the Kpolokpallah, Samay, massacres, the Charles Chucky Taylor and Gbartala Base Atrocious operations, and is fully knowledgeable on the St. Thomas Episcopal Church massacre, Poor River Massacre, the Maher Bridge Massacre, the April 6 Fracas, the Capture and murder of Samuel Doe amongst other investigations conducted by the TRC. I researched, investigated and provided the preliminary report on the impact of the war on the Liberian Children. The draft was finessed by a UNICEF consultant. This report annexed the TRC final report. I researched, investigated the impact of the war on vulnerable groups, organized and coordinated the TRC child-friendly victims’ hearings, the People with Special Needs hearing, and the governance of Liberia institutional hearings with the oversight Commissioner, OumuSyllah. During my investigations and war crimes inquiries, I listened to stories of rapes, murders, massacres, cannibalism, tortures, mutilations, serious humanitarian law violations‚ murders, mutilations, attacking civilians, cruel treatments, taking of hostages, outrages upon personal dignity, enforced prostitution, sexual slaveries, sexual violence, sentencing or execution without due process, attacking objects or persons using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions, collective punishment, acts of terrorism, enslavements, pillage and using, conscripting or enlisting children in armed conflict. Hours that turned to days, and days into weeks and then months of despicable experiences where vulnerable people, at best, left abandoned to their own survival instincts or, at worst, directly victimized by marauding fighters of all factions that participated in the Liberian war, including ECOMOG. In all or any of these cases, instances and incidences no one person, man, woman, girl, boy, a victim, witness ever mentioned, linked or alleged Jefferson T. Koijee to have committed any one of these crimes enumerated above. Jefferson T. Koijee’s name was never mentioned, neither brought up as a member, a fighter, a perpetrator, an abuser, a militia, a militant fighter, neither was his name mentioned as a supporter of any factions, nor a bodyguard, buddy, servant, an ally of Charles Chucky Taylor. In a crisis as Liberia’s, rife with victims – over 200,000 persons killed; an estimated 1 million displaced – there can be no shortage of victims. I interacted with victims of the Liberian civil war in the 15 counties of Liberia. If the false allegations against Mayor Koijee are ever true someone would have called his name. And I took very informative notes, verbatim and extemporaneous. My notes are useful for book writing projects and other work. I traveled to and worked in the 15 counties of Liberia, not only as TRC Inquiry Officer but also as an Armed Violence Researcher at Land Mine Action now Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a Field Supervisor with UCLA-Berkley’s Liberia Nationwide Postwar Recovery Study, Deputy Local Consultant on USAID’s ARD and RDI’s Liberia, Land Commission Institutional Land Policy and Support Program. Jefferson T. Koijee’s name was never intimated, mentioned, alleged to have contributed to any of the over 200, 000 people’s victimization during Liberia’s war, 1989-2003. I was the Inquiry officer responsible for Bong County, Liberia and the atrocities, abuses and war crimes committed by warring factions that intermittently occupied that County. I traveled every length and breadth of Bong County. I traversed remote towns and villages on foot, on motorbikes, in cars and over treacherous terrains conducting investigations of war crimes and other atrocities. I visited horrible sights of massacres and spoke with direct victim and survivors of the most horrific atrocities. At no time did anyone mention one or any Jefferson T. Koijee as the perpetrator, an accomplice, an instigator, a supporter or contributor to any the atrocities.

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