Friday, April 27, 2012

Still Healing in Liberia

I'm sure many of our Loyal Readers thought of Helene Cooper, New York Times reporter and author of a memoir, The House at Sugar Beach, about growing up in Liberia when they heard the news about conviction of Charles Taylor, ex-President of Liberia for war crimes. In today's paper she relates the stories of how Taylor's trail of brutality tore apart the lives of her sisters Eunice and Janice and the reactions of her relatives upon hearing of Taylor's fate. The conviction was for Taylor's actions in Sierra Leone and Cooper remarks,

It was in Liberia that Mr. Taylor campaigned for president using the slogan “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him anyway,” in a telling acknowledgment of the psychological damage a pointless war can inflict on a country. It is in Liberia that, almost a decade after Mr. Taylor was driven from the country, men and women today are trying to turn former child soldiers into functional people.
There are dizzyingly complex reasons Mr. Taylor was tried for what he did in Sierra Leone, instead of Liberia, many of them involving the effort to keep the hard-won peace that now exists between factions in Liberia. I know this. I just hope that when history books recount this first head of state to be convicted by an international court since Nuremberg, they remember Liberia.
Amnesty International has issued a press release calling for additional prosecutions, reparations and more attention to war crimes in Liberia.

By the way, Janice Cooper, a physician was featured by PBS Newshour in a report last year. She returned to Liberia as project lead for a mental health initiative supported by the Atlanta-based Carter Center and Liberia Ministry’s of Health and Social Welfare,

Cooper recently paid one of her weekly visits to Monrovia Central Prison, where the mental health program has launched a groundbreaking initiative to support prisoners. The prison was so overcrowded and dirty it was singled out by Amnesty International [see report] for human rights violations. Cooper and her staff have converted a cinder block building there into a small, modest mental health facility where prisoners can now attend psychotherapy sessions and meet with family members.
Read the article to learn more about why mental health is such an urgent need in this struggling nation. Let's hope bringing Charles Taylor to justice will help heal a few more scars.
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