Once a war criminal scumbag, always a war criminal scumbag
Kudos to this editorial in today's Washington Post.
The paper calls on President Bush, who is meeting today with Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, to pressure the West African leader to hand over Charles Taylor. As you probably know, Taylor is a former warlord who became dictator of Liberia and is now an indicted war criminal. Taylor also helped destabilize Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire and is accused of involvement in a recent assassination attempt against Guinea's leader Gen. Lansana Conté.
As part of the deal that saw Taylor renounce power, Nigeria gave him asylum and imm/punity on the condition that he not cause any more trouble. In addition to the assassination attempt against Conté, he allegedly traveled to Burkina Faso the next month to meet one of the candidates he is sponsoring in the Liberian elections. Mr. Taylor hopes to install a crony as Liberian president so that he can return to the country and renew his regional warfare, according to the paper.
President Obasanjo feels bound by the promise he gave to the indicted war criminal. But however pragmatic that promise may have been at the time, Taylor clearly hasn't lived up to his part of the bargain and thus Obasanjo should no longer feel under any obligation to a man who is the number one source of instability in West Africa.
The Post writes: Mr. Obasanjo has taken the position that he cannot break his promise of asylum to Mr. Taylor unless he is presented with irrefutable proof of his continued criminal behavior or is petitioned by a Liberian government -- unlikely precisely because of the warlord's influence. Mr. Bush can break this logjam by telling Mr. Obasanjo, in public as well as in private, that the United States is convinced that Mr. Taylor has violated his agreement and must be turned over to the court. He can also commit strong American support to a U.N. Security Council resolution that with the support of the current council chair, Denmark, would call on Nigeria to deliver Mr. Taylor to the court. Nigeria's president has no interest in offering further cover to a criminal who aspires to plunge his region into chaos.
Charles Taylor is a war criminal who has destabilized much of West Africa and continues to do so. President Obasanjo is hopefully smart enough to realize that if Taylor continues his activities from the safety of asylum, it's going to affect Nigeria sooner rather than later.