MONROVIA – Adama Dempster still graphically recollects his first encounters with conflict. He was in fifth grade at a public faculty in Yekepa in Nimba County, when rebels with the Nationwide Patriotic Front of Liberia began recruiting faculty boys as youngster troopers.
Report By Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, New Narratives
The NPFL recruitment of baby soldiers was carried out discreetly, so some of Dempster’s “very close friends” have been going lacking by the day. They might later reappear. All have been modified and clearly troubled by their experiences.
“I remember at certain point … they came back and wanted to recruit more young people including me,” recollects Dempster in a current interview in Monrovia. “But my dad sensed the difference in my friends, who were good friends before. He warned me and later packed me up and sent me to Monrovia.”
In the subsequent couple of months, the conflict superior on Dempster again, this time within the capital. By then, he, like so many Liberians, turned a witness to virtually day by day horrors together with abstract executions, different atrocities and extra recruiting of baby troopers.
Because the conflict dragged on into the early 90s Dempster, nonetheless a schoolboy, started his advocacy railing towards those who abused his female faculty pals.
“I was born as an advocate because I started advocacy as far as in grade school, where we advocated for the rights of girls who were violated,” he says.
Now, he’s one of the country’s main human rights advocates, campaigning for justice for the horrors Liberians suffered within the warfare. Inside the past 15 years, Dempster has labored his means from being an intern with the Youngsters Towards Violence – a native advocacy group. He’s now a lead advocate for the establishment of conflict crimes courtroom in Liberia.
A Lifetime Witness to Violence
Born in the concession city of Yekepa within the late 1970s, Dempster was in his teens when the first photographs have been fired in what would ultimately erupt into one of the bloodiest civil crises in Africa.
When the second part of the warfare ended, Dempster had already graduated from college and shaped a new entrance for advocacy.
Dempster went on to review worldwide human rights regulation, turning into a transitional justice fellow at New York University’s prestigious Regulation Faculty and later a fellow at america Institute of Peace.
Jocelia Bailloe of the Unbiased Human Rights Investigators, an advocacy group based mostly in Monrovia, describes Dempster’s work as “genuine and not the kind of advocate with a double standard.”
“Lot of opportunities [other than being a human rights advocate] have been around that he can easily heed to, like others will do, but for him, he’s been up to the task, head-up high,” says Bailloe, who has worked with Dempster for the previous seven years.
“Once he’s going for something, he’s going for it.”
Dempster now heads the secretariat of a community of Liberia’s main 30 human rights teams. The Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform coordinates civil society actors advocating for human rights, justice and the prosecution of alleged warfare criminals.
It collaborates with worldwide advocates like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Worldwide and the Middle for Justice and Accountability amongst others.
The group has achieved many milestones in the final yr together with persuading the United Nations Human Rights Council final July to name on the Liberian government to implement a course of to realize justice for victims of Liberia’s wars by July 2020.
Dempster has been working with a whole lot of survivors as well as native and international advocacy teams to profile survivors, victims and incidents of massacres and killings throughout the country. He says accounting for the crimes of the conflict and making an attempt those who have been accountable are essential to Liberia’s improvement.
“I have analyzed over the time that in order to address current human rights issues – challenges that have been faced by society, we must be able to address the past abuses or violations,” he says.
Dempster says Liberians can’t transfer ahead while perpetrators are sitting in government seemingly free from any penalties for his or her crimes.
“Those who allegedly committed those atrocities are seated at the top of power and enjoying at the expense of the victims, at the expense of the common people. These are melting points that will push any professional or anybody to take a stand.”
The community is credited for the presence of the UN Human Rights Fee in the country and the worldwide justice conference last November in Monrovia, which adopted a giant “call-for-justice” protest march.
Time for a War Crimes Courtroom is “Ripe”
It’s 16 years because the finish of the civil wars. Dempster insists now’s the time for a courtroom earlier than witnesses age and die and the time for justice passes. He says the time is “ripe” as a result of the marketing campaign is having fun with massive worldwide backing, many perpetrators are much more visible, and victims and survivors have extra power and are prepared to return out to testify.
“Once we don’t have people to testify, there will be no grounds to prosecute, so we think that having the victims around that are alive and conscious in their minds, it can help to prosecute most of the war crimes,” Dempster says.
Moreover, he says the present government has the “political will” since some of its key figures have previously expressed help for the courtroom.
“We think they (the government) are the right people that can be reminded about the previous advocacy for us to sustain this advocacy. The political will of having a war crimes court is at the point that we can be able to get it.”
Madam Bailloe, a human rights advocate, agrees with Dempster that a failure to deal with justice for the civil warfare may have a huge influence on the advancement of justice and human rights in the country.
She says Liberia has signed as much as a number of worldwide treaties and conventions and should uphold these primary human rights values and laws whether it is to stay in good standing with the worldwide group.
Bailloe is fearful that ignoring the cause may prompt survivors and victims to take vengeance themselves.
“If Liberians today don’t see justice, I’m afraid that those that are seeking justice might likewise turn to perpetrators. So instead of risking the peace that we enjoy today, we should do the right thing,” Bailloe says.
‘Ploy and Detractors’
Advocates like Dempster are getting their justifiable share of criticism from Liberians opposed to a struggle crimes courtroom. Critics contend that the courtroom would stir-up rigidity and plunge the nation into chaos and instability.
Others are claiming that “the time is not right” and that the advocacy is essentially influenced by Western nations with an agenda to target certain Liberians who participated within the struggle.
Dempster warns the Liberian public to remember of the “ploy and detractors”, saying “many of these misconceptions about our advocacy are ill-informed and are coming from individuals who need to undermine the campaign.
“People remain much more justifiable that the war that they brought on the Liberian people and all the heinous acts they committed are justifiable.”
With chapters across the country, the community is making positive aspects in educating Liberians concerning the courtroom course of. His workforce goes into church buildings and mosques to interact spiritual stakeholders concerning the significance of justice.
“Crimes that constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are international crimes that no one can negotiate. Those are crimes that cannot even be reconciled. So as a human rights professional, I am under obligation to ensure that those crimes do not go unpunished and that’s why we keep engaging everyone.”
‘I Have Faced Threats’
Dempster has also confronted threats. He’s cognizant that many alleged perpetrators are indignant about his advocacy.
“We have heard threats have been made by former warlords that they will target advocates. The threats are there and you don’t want to overlook them but we are trying to guide ourselves so that people who want to harm us will not be successful in any way,” Dempster says.
‘Very Important Hero’
Peterson Sonyah, a survivor of the infamous St. Peter’s Lutheran Church massacre by AFL troops loyal to President Samuel Doe in July 1990, has worked with Dempster since 2008.
They met in the course of the TRC course of in 2004. Sonyah, who’s the founder of the bloodbath victims and survivors association, describes Dempster as a “very important hero” who brings nice aid to victims and survivors.
“We victims and survivors that have been calling for justice trust his work, and we I rely on him – he’s a general for this advocacy and he never gives up,” Sonyah says.
“People are coming and pretending that they are human rights advocates with their one foot in and one foot out, and even if they are offer political jobs they will relinquish their advocacy, but for Adama he has denied himself all these things many times and keep doing this work because he is focused.”
Operating Out of Time
Dempster’s long career in advocacy is an emotion-charged process for him despite his resolve. Because the years fade away, he says he has turn into concerned that the hope for justice for many survivors in rural communities is slowly vanishing.
He’s also fearful that the group of conflict victims and survivors is dwindling. Many, he says, are struggling health and social issues and others have died.
“Some of them who taught that help has come have not seen that help for over 20 years. Some are carrying hope that the wheels of justice will turn and that there will be reparation for the crimes they suffered,” he says.
“Until we can find total healing, the real wounds of the civil conflict are still very fresh.”
This story is a collaboration with New Narratives as half of the West Africa Justice Reporting Venture.
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