Liberia had suffered 14 years of brutal civil conflict! The crisis ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Accra, Ghana, on August 18, 2003. The CPA, among other things, sanctioned the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission as a means of initiating the process of transitional justice in the country. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was therefore created in 2005 to investigate the root causes of the war and other conflicts ranging from 1979 and 2003 and advance recommendations conducive to fostering national healing and peaceful coexistence.
After three years of work the TRC released its final report in 2009 with various recommendations, including recommendations on the establishment of a National Palava Hut Program, criminal prosecution for war crimes, reparation and memorialization. In the words of the TRC, “The Palava Hut Program, common to rural communities around the country, is a conflict resolution mechanism wherein select members of integrity in the community adjudicate matters of grave concern to the community and seek to resolve disputes amongst or between individuals and or communities. Palava Hut derives legitimacy from a host of cultural influences including the Poro, Sande and Bodio institutions and has the greatest legitimacy and viability in rural areas. Decisions through Palava Hut are binding. This mechanism is adopted by the TRC to redress outstanding transitional grievances and create both the basis and opportunity to repair and restore broken relationships at the community and national levels.”
The TRC emphasized that “the purpose of the Palava Hut is to afford anyone who has committed a wrong or crime, whether knowingly or unknowingly, against an individual or the state, to admit the wrongful act and seek pardon from the people of Liberia through the Palava Hut.”