Monday, April 30, 2012

Charles Taylor: Justice served?

As much as the word ‘rain’ brings to mind ‘water’, his name has been synonymous with terror for a long time. Charles Taylor had been a scourge to the people of Liberia and environ for years.

Charles Taylor was born in Arthington, Liberia in 1948. He earned a degree at Bentley College in the US before returning to Liberia to work in the government of Samuel Doe. He had been instrumental in the coup that brought Samuel Doe to power in the first place. Killing the ex-president in the process. Well, what goes around comes around, as he, after being removed for embezzlement from the cabinet, led a mutiny that led to the now infamous coup against Doe.

During his time in office, Taylor ran down the Armed Forces of Liberia, dismissing thousands of former personnel, many of whom were ethnic Krahn brought in by former President Doe. In its place, he installed the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), the Special Operations Division of the Liberian National Police (LNP), which he used as his own private army.

I grew up in Africa and even as a child, I knew the atrocities he performed were horrible to say the very least. Children were killed. Women were raped and killed. Families were separated. The country was in ruins. In the house, a quick way to scare me into doing something was to mention the word ‘Liberia’ and I literarily froze. Put simply, Taylor was not the nicest of people and public figures.

The most important decision to modern Liberians probably came in July 2003 when Taylor agreed to resign. He had been under pressure from foreign governments and from rebels in his own country. In all fairness, there wasn’t much of a sensible choice other than the Gaddafi option which was to die standing his ground – which people like Taylor are not very likely to take. He left the country and fled to Nigeria where the president had offered him a safe haven provided he stay out of Liberian politics. He went to live in Calabar, Nigeria where he lived peacefully until his extradition was demanded by the Liberian president, Sirleaf-Johnson.

Taylor: Justice Served?

Under murky circumstances that include an alleged get-away attempt, he was apprehended and handed over to the Liberian authorities. Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian president breaking a promise (where have I seen that before).He was taken into custody on arrival in Liberia.

After a long legal to-and-fro, he was found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sierra Leone!
Personally, I’ll say a ‘duh’ sentence!

But the question is ‘is that all?’ What about his main atrocities, the ones in Liberia? Has he gotten away with them? I certainly hope not. What example would that be setting for others like Bobby Mugabe and the Equatorial Guinea leader both of whom are responsible for untold suffering on their unfortunate subjects?

Taylor is yet to be sentenced. And there’s not likely to be any sentence meted on him that is deserving of the untold atrocities he has committed against innocent victims. But the bigger concern here is that he is being punished for his lesser crime. And that begs the question, has he gotten away with his biggest crime of all?

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