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Truth and the TRC

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As documented elsewhere, survivors of conflicts and mass violence often emphasize the need for truth and understanding what happened and why. The results of the survey suggest this is no different in Liberia. Overall, 76% of the population believed truth to be important, most frequently as a means to let history be known. Among the 24% who did not place particular emphasis on establishing the truth, most said it would bring bad memories (11%) or that it was better to forget (7%). Although most respondents value the truth, and despite the work of the TRC, just 44% believed that the truth about the civil wars is known.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been the primary truth-seeking institution in Liberia since the conflicts. Nearly three out of four Liberians (73%) had heard of the TRC, a large number but considerably less than the proportion who had heard of Charles Taylor’s trial (92%).

Table 28: Truth and the TRC

Table 28 - Truth and the TRC

Radio was by far the most frequent source of information about the TRC (82%), followed by family, friends or neighbors (10%). The results suggest the TRC has had differing degrees of impact in different parts of the country, however. In the southeastern counties of Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee, Rivercess, and Sinoe, only between 50% and 54% of the population had heard of the TRC. In Grand Kru and River Gee, radio was less frequently the main source of information compared to other counties, but within those counties it was still the most frequent source (52% in Grand Kru, and 55% in River Gee received information about the TRC from the radio).

Even though respondents reported relatively high awareness of the TRC’s existence, almost all knew very little about it. Many reported no (45%) or little (46%) knowledge of the TRC. The results are comparable to the level of awareness about the formal court system. The data further showed few differences across counties.

Figure 25: Source of Information on the TRC

 Source of Information on the TRC

The level of information about the TRC is further reflected in respondents’ awareness of the commission’s recommendations. About one in three respondents (32%) were incapable of recalling any recommendation, while 31% said the commission recommended prosecution, and 26% mentioned a program to remove from office perpetrators of serious crimes. A smaller proportion of individuals could name reparations (10%), amnesty for certain individuals (10%), a national dispute resolution process (8%), and memorialization (3%) as other possible recommendations. All of the above were included in the TRC recommendations.

Figure 26: Knowledge of the TRC

 Knowledge of the TRC

Although a majority of the respondents believed the recommendations should be implemented (62%), they were generally pessimistic that it would ever happen: 45% said this would not happen and 31% believed the recommendations would be only partially implemented. Finally, a third of respondents believed the TRC had contributed to peace (39%) and unity (38%).