REACTION TO THE TRC REPORT -- A CALMER TONE

Identifier: 
09MONROVIA532

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MONROVIA 000532

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV, KJUS, PREL, KDEM, PINR, EAID, ASEC, LI
SUBJECT: REACTION TO THE TRC REPORT -- A CALMER TONE

REF: A) MONROVIA 487 B) MONROVIA 465 C) MONROVIA 125

Classified By: DCM Brooks Robinson for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Two weeks after the TRC report was released public
opinion still does not appear to be fully informed of the content of
the report. Debate centers around the most publicized aspects of the
report, the banning of President Sirleaf from future public office
and discussion of who was or as not recommended for prosecution. In
response, the TRC plans to offer a summarized version of the report
for public dissemination. The House continues to delay any public
action until the release of the edited version. The International
Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL) released a statement on July 13
supporting the process and discouraging those making inflammatory
statements. President Sirleaf still has not responded publicly to
the report, but privately has indicated the report has given her more
cause to run for re-election. End Summary.

PUBLIC REACTION
---------------

2. (SBU) Roundtable discussions with civil society organizations and
the media held at the Embassy showed that the public in general does
not have access to the TRC report and does not fully understand the
breadth of the recommendations. None of the participants had
finished reading the entire report and others had trouble getting it
because it was only available on the internet. (Note: the TRC posted
the unedited report on their website but has not distributed any hard
copies.) In both of the roundtables elements of society called on
the USG to make a statement about the report to "guide the process.
In both cases the Ambassador responded that "it is up to Liberians to
decide how they want the process to go forward."

3. (SBU) The public has remained fixated on the recommendation of
banning from public office financiers and those who gave political
support to the different factions. The President was the most
prominently named person in this group. Initial reporting in the
press stated that the president would be required to resign
immediately. Later the press reporting changed to show that she
would not be allowed to run for a second term as was actually in the
report. Another prominent discussion is about who was named in the
report for prosecution or other sanctions and which names were
missing. These involved both people considered perpetrators and
supporters. Two days after the release of the report a list of names
started circulating at the University of Liberia listing prominent
public figures and how they had supported factions during the
conflict.

4. (U) TRC chairman Jerome Verdier has gone on radio for the first
time to talk about the TRC report. Verdier said in a meeting with
Poloff on July 16 that he is hoping this action will clarify some of
the confusion in the public. He also said that the TRC would develop
a "50 page simplified summary" that would allow the public to better
access and understand the TRC report and its recommendations. (Note:
The media roundtable group had agreed that a majority of the people
would not read the report in its current version because it is too
long and not in a local language.)

LEGISLATURE DEBATING NEXT STEPS
-------------------------------

5. (U) The Legislature, as a body, has not made any public statements
about the report since sending it to a committee for study.
Individual representatives and senators have attacked the report;
however, these have mainly with those named in the report itself
under the "most notorious violator" section. Other legislators have
expressed the desire to move forward with the process. The
legislature seems content to wait until it is given the final edited
report in late August.

ICGL WEIGHS IN
--------------

6. (U) The ICGL met July 10 to discuss the TRC report. Most members
reported significant interest from their capitals. The ICGL issued a
joint statement on July 13 commending the work of the TRC in
completing the report; condemning those who have made inflammatory
statements that would threaten the peace and those that made threats
against the commissioners; and urging Liberians to work together to
implement the recommendations of the report. The ICGL statement
received extensive media coverage.

SIRLEAF REMAINS SILENT
----------------------

7. (C) President Sirleaf told Ambassador on July 13 that she believes
that the reaction about her being named in the report has a political
dimension. Despite urgings from the ambassador and others, the
President has not made any direct public statements about the report,
allowing her spokesman and minister of information to react for the
presidency. Her staff is reviewing the report and the constitutional
implications of the recommendations. She now believes that her

MONROVIA 00000532 002 OF 002

government's policy of non-interference towards the TRC was a
mistake; they should have been more involved. She is encouraging
members of the legislature to have Town Hall meetings around the
country to discuss the recommendations with their constituents.
Sirleaf hinted that the TRC report has given her "no option but to
run for re-election in 2011" because not to run would appear to run
from a fight -- which she has never done before.

8. (SBU) In the past week political partner Varney Sherman (a 2005
presidential candidate whose party recently merged with Sirleaf's
Unity Party) publically called on her to run again despite the TRC
recommendations. Similar calls have come from a delegation of
traditional chiefs, and a rent-a-crowd of market women.

9. (C) Comment: It appears that calls by the Ambassador and others
on the ex-warlords to tone down their rhetoric are having a positive
effect. Emboldened, several Liberian groups repeated the call, and
the public discussion of a return to violence has ceased. We
understand, however, that threats to TRC Commissioners and staff
continue. Sirleaf's remarks to the Ambassador are the clearest
indication yet that she has made up her mind to run again, suggesting
that not doing so would be capitulating to her political enemies.
Legislators we have spoken to are saying the right things: they do
not intend to bury the report, nor act too hastily. It is becoming
clear that, behind the scenes -- and increasingly in public --
Liberians are involved in a conversation about what to make of the
report, and how to move forward -- a discussion we believe is crucial
to Liberia's future and to the process of reconciliation.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD