Source: (2003) Journal of Asian and African Studies. 38(2-3): 295-320.

This paper analyzes the impact of two accountability mechanisms in Sierra Leone—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court—on peacebuilding and democratization in the Mano River Union (MRU) sub-region of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. It traces the origins; outlines the main features and structures of the two institutions; explores the relationship between the two bodies; and compares them to similar transitional mechanisms in post-Apartheid South Africa and post-genocide Rwanda. I argue that attempts to link immunity from war crimes prosecution for former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, to future stability in that country are completely misplaced and bound to produce long-term negative consequences. The Nigerian government’s offer of political asylum to Taylor; and attempts to pressure the Special Court to lift his indictment threatens to undermine peace in the sub-region. Furthermore, it sends a terrible message about the sub-region’s commitment to justice. The paper argues that accountability for crimes committed during more than a decade of conflict is an essential first step toward ensuring long-term peace in the sub-region. To achieve lasting peace and democratization, I conclude that a regional approach is urgently needed to resolve the sub-region’s interconnected conflicts. The search for a permanent solution to the Liberian conflict in particular should be linked to political developments in the wider region. Author's abstract.