Wednesday, June 18, 2003

A cease fire to the Liberian civil war was signed yesterday. The most notable condition was the agreement that the current dictator, indicted war criminal Charles Taylor, not take place in the transitional government that will organize elections. The announcement was greeted with mass scenes of "popular joy", according to Le Monde as well as the BBC.

When I read yesterday that Taylor would step down, I nearly choked on the potato chips I was eating. It is, of course, fantastic news to hear that one of the world's most despicable dictators is going to resign. The truly fabulous news will occur when the man most responsible for the instability of an entire sub-reigon of a continent, actually steps down. Taylor's thuggish history requires one to be highly guarded to anything he actually says. The phrase "actions speak louder than words" was coined precisely because of scum like Taylor.

What also remains to be seen is Taylor's future. He was recently indicted by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, as a result of his active sponsorship of that country's sickeningly brutal rebel group (from which he profited personally by getting a cut of the illicit blood diamond trafficking). He is also widely believed to be behind the most hardline faction in Ivory Coast's war, which is now in cease-fire. None of Liberia's neighbors have been spared by Taylor's expansionist meddling for profit.

It is important that he face trial and end up behind bars for the rest of his life. He did not simply destroy his own country, he destroyed an entire region. And it's an ongoing destruction that will outlast Taylor’s sordid regime. Taylor's faction practically invented the insidious concept of child soldiers as a policy. Sure, young soldiers have used in other conflicts. But never before had child soldiers been used with such SYSTEMATIC planning. Never before had they been a PRIMARY aspect upon which warfare depended. Never before had so many children been forcibly conscripted at such a young age; many child soldiers in Liberia hadn't even reached their 10th birthday. Warlords loved these SBUs (Small Boys Units) because young children soimetimes think they're invincible and are easily intimidated by those older than they. And when the boys showed reticence, they were drugged. I was reading an article in The Guardian where one boy spoke of how when he was afraid, his superiors cut his arm with a razor blade and smeared cocaine onto the wound, into the bloodstream, to make him “mad enough to fight or to chop people's limbs off.” This is evil Taylor conceived, and he exported it to other countries.

Now, there are large hordes of armed young men and boys who've known nothing but war throughout their lives. When one country signs a peace accord, they move on to another. This is the most important and most tragic legacy of not-yet-convicted war criminal Charles Taylor. This is why Charles Taylor's resignation and indictment will not solve the problem. But you have to start somewhere. You have to at least stop the hemoragghing before healing can begin.

Taylor was "elected" president in six years ago based on intimidation, coercion and threats. Le Monde recalled his 1997 campaign slogan: "I killed your mother. I killed your father. Vote for me so there will be peace." Now, hopefully all of West Africa can be rid of him so there is the slightest chance for peace.


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