By Mambu James Kpargoi, Monrovia
Defunct MODEL rebel leader Thomas Nimeley while denying allegations of human rights abuses and expressing penitence Thursday conceded that his rebels mistakenly raped women.
“My forces mistakenly raped women; I am not saying that there were no atrocities committed. If anyone did something to somebody, I am saying that I am sorry,” Mr. Nimeley said.
He denied knowledge of MODEL recruiting child soldiers, saying the group had a standard operating procedure (SOP) by which fighters who raped and murderers were executed.
Mr. Yayah Nimeley, former transitional foreign minister was testifying Thursday at the ongoing public hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC).
He also denied allegations that his defunct rebel group violated United Nations sanctions banning the exportation of timber but admitted demanding and receiving US$40,000.00 from a company to release logs he said were owned by the company at the Port of Harper in Maryland County.
“I take full responsibility for the people I controlled. I came here to apologize for the crimes of my people. Don’t put me on the firing squad.”
Mr. Yayah Nimeley’s Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) launched a guerilla campaign against the regime of now indicted former President Charles Taylor in 2002 leading to his exile and the formation of a power sharing government in which he himself served as minister of foreign affairs. Witnesses testifying before the Truth Commission accused the faction of various rights abuses including murder, rape and arson.
But the leader of the defunct rebel group felt short of admitting to rights abuses committed by his fighters, asking commissioners of the TRC to provide a forum where he could face his accusers.
“The people I hurt, I am honestly and earnestly apologizing to them. There were no cases of raping and executions reported to me. I am not saying that there were no atrocities committed but I am saying that this forum was intended to bring perpetrators and victims face to face leading to reconciliation,” he said.
“We are now peaceful but we are not stable. If I had done something to somebody or my boys and girls have done something to somebody, I am sorry. The process of reconciliation has no room for war crimes court.”
Mr. Yayah Nimeley is the latest war actor appearing before the TRC to join a chorus of denials of massive human rights violations by fighters of the former warring factions during the country’s decade and a half civil conflict.
Liberia is recovering from years of conflict that was characterized by horrific human rights violations, including arbitrary killings, use of child combatants, rape and sexual violence, separation of families, and looting and destruction of properties. Out of a population of 3 million, an estimated 300,000 Liberians were killed, with as many as 1.5 million displaced.
But scores of key military and political actors appearing before the TRC have denied responsibilities for atrocities.
With the spate of denials from these key war actors, one question lingering on the minds of most Liberians is how could nearly 300,000 Liberians died in an arm conflict with no perpetrator to take responsibility for their deaths.
Under the theme: “Understanding the Conflict Through its Principal Events and Actors,” the ongoing hearings will address the root causes of the conflict, including its military and political dimensions.
The hearings are focused on events between 1979 and 2003 and the national and external actors that helped to shape those events.
The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation,” and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.