Sunday, May 29, 2005

Try Charles Taylor now!

In 2003, then-Liberian dictator Charles Taylor accepted an offer to go into exile in Nigeria. This offer was made by Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo as a way of ending war in the country. A national unity government was installed. Taylor was given exile in Nigeria, despite an indictment for war crimes by the international Special Court for Sierra Leone (whose civil war Taylor is accused of provoking and prolonging). This immunity/impunity was given by President Obasanjo to Taylor on the condition that he not interfere in the affairs of his home country.

Not only is he still meddling in Liberian affairs, but he is still funding armed groups and political parties across West Africa. That's according the Coalition for International Justice.

The CIJ claims diplomats from the Liberian embassy in Lagos have been acting as his agents, and that Mr Taylor has been using the help of visitors to circumvent United Nations travel restrictions, reports the BBC.

The CIJ has produced a detailed report on how Mr Taylor got and spent his money, both in and out of office, saying that millions of dollars have passed through his hands over the years. The money came from diamonds, timber and a whole range of businesses, including Liberia's first mobile phone company, the group says. Report author Douglas Farah claims to have found a bewildering network of agents, front men and interlocking companies, which allowed Mr Taylor to make money and spend it buying influence and funding armed conflict in Liberia and neighbouring countries.

Most of the details have been known or reported in the past, but the CIJ's report is the most comprehensive document linking them all together.

The CIJ has called for Taylor to be handed over the Special Court, as has the Sierra Leone government itself.
"We have heard that while in exile in Nigeria, he is still straining his tentacles into Liberia,'' said Sierra Leone's vice-president Solomon Berewa. "If he has done that, then he forfeits his rights of protection and (is) liable to be surrendered to the Special Court for protection."

Additionally, he was also implicated in an assassination attempt against the Guinean leader Gen. Lansana Conté made a few months ago.

If destroying his own country isn't enough, the UN Special Court accused Taylor of working with al-Qaeda on a plan to destabilize West Africa... though in fairness, he's already accomplished this goal quite successfully.

"In November, we started learning about a plot that Charles Taylor and others in the region were trying to engage in destabilizing the region. In particular Guinea… We reported it in November, and we reported it in December in January it went down exactly the way our sources had reported it was going to occur, and that is on January 19th the assassination attempt on president Conte," a leading of official of the Court told the UN Security Council.

Perhaps appealing to the crowd that ignores any horror until the words 'al-Qaeda' are uttered, UN Special Prosecutor David Crane noted, "Al Qaeda has been in West Africa, it continues to be in West Africa, and Charles Taylor has been harboring members of al Qaeda to include those part of allegedly the takedown of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. He harbored them in 1998, we have activities as late as six April 2005."

"It is clear that until Charles Taylor is brought to justice he will be an immediate clear and present danger to the threat and peace and security, not only to Liberia, but the entire West African region," he said.

President Obasanjo's 'see no evil, hear no evil' approach, perhaps adopted from South African President Mbeki's policy toward Zimbabwe, is not working. The impunity/immunity given to indicted war criminal Taylor was designed to give Liberia in particular and West Africa in general some breathing space. But it's increasingly clear that tucking Taylor away into some far away corner of Nigeria has not stopped his malicious activities. He must be shipped to face justice immediately, before he sets the rest of West Africa ablaze.

Update: Monrovia's Liberian Observer has a a good analysis of How the Former Liberian Dictator Drained the Coffers of a Nation in Turmoil


At 6:03 AM, Blogger Black River Eagle said...

Desmond de Silva, the chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, appeared last week on BBC's HardTalk programme. I forget which correspondant was grilling the guy (a HardTalk specialty) but toward the end of the half hour show my personal opinion was that this guy de Silva will not be able to bring justice to the people of Sierra Leone.

Justice Desmond de Silva came across on TV as the stereotypical pompous British ass and he even referred to an African journalist who had published a recent article critical of the Special Court as an Ignoramous! I mean who uses that kind of language these days??

Here is a link to a May 24th article at on the BBC HardTalk interview:

Nigeria Faces UN Sanctions Over Charles Taylor (Daily Trust, Abuja)


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