The 11th of August 2003 went down in African history as the day in which a democratically elected president by the name of Charles Taylor was forced into exile. The exit of Charles Taylor from Liberia appeared crucial for peace to prevail upon the West African war torn nation. Hence Charles Taylor was lured out of power with the promise that he would not be tried for war crimes. However, what many have felt is that this scheme was a set up, which took the aid of Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who lured him to Nigeria with the pretext of protecting him from international persecution.
Taylor had a choice as he was equally promised amnesty by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, another powerhouse in African hooliganism. Believing the old myth which states that when a leader gives his words he is expected to keep it to the finest detail, Charles Taylor decided both were leaders and thus opted for whom he considered the most influential. His final decision was to accept the Nigerian offer as Olusegun Obasanjo (who later turned traitor by betraying him) was the head of the African Union and appeared to have more grounding with the United States, whose president was not in support of Charles Taylor. Taylor is now in trail at Hague for 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sierra Leone from November 30, 1996, to January 18, 2002, for all of which he has pleaded not guilty.
It is ironic that the democracy, which all presidents of the United States swear to uphold, was later shattered by United states President George Bush who mounted pressure on Charles Taylor to step down. US has every reason to scold Taylor as he was the first Liberian leader who stopped Americo-Liberian control in Liberia. Many also believed that Bush wanted Taylor to go down as a result of Taylor’s blatant statement prior to the Iraq invasion. Charles Tailor was believed to have said any attack on Iraq must be with the consent of the United Nations. If true, that was a cheeky statement from a “third world” leader! The game plan was simple but effective: trick him out of his country, hand him over as was done to Yaa Asantewa of Ashante and Oba Ovarame of Benin. Mr. Obasanjo’s decision to seek the approval of other African leaders may be a way of indicting other African leaders in the handing over of Charles Taylor. It was rumoured that Olusegun Obasanjo, who stood to represent the interest of US, tried to wash his hands clean by allowing Taylor escape. This for sure would later prove to Taylor that he himself had breached the deal, which spelt that Charles Taylor would not leave his villa in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, an agitated region clamouring for resource control in South of Nigeria. Taylor took the bait and was later arrested and handed over to the world court for trial.
It is also important to note that Taylor was not supported by the Nigerian leadership at the time. Throughout the Liberian war, Charles Taylor was considered a threat by Nigeria since his force had on several occasions killed Nigerian troops and gone against treaties signed on countless occasions. Taylor’s election was thus not in Nigeria’s best interest but since he was elected by his people in a globally acclaimed free and fair election, Nigeria’s late leader Sanni Abacha had to heed to the choice of the Liberian people, thus showing his respect for democracy unlike his American counterpart George Bush, who refused to go through the proper channel by mounting pressure on the Liberian house to pass a vote of no confidence on Charles Taylor. Instead Bush embarked on a street way of handling things, exactly what he has been known for. Such is the case for all who cross the path of the United States. For instance Military aid was suspended to Benin, Central African Republic, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia as these countries failed to sheed to US demands of signing a “bilateral immunity agreement” that confirms that U.S. nationals can commit war crimes or other serious human rights offenses without fear of accountability to that international body.
The question to be asked is: are democratically sworn in leaders illegitimate if they do not find favour with the super powers? In fact it can be reasonably argued that Nigeria’s military government showed more concern and empathy to the Liberian people than the United States, which refused to intervene at the commencement of the Liberian civil war. In fact, all that was done by the US was to send 2,000 troops to Liberia solely for the purpose of evacuating their citizens as well as protecting their embassy in Liberia.
Although it might appear that peace has finally rested its wings on Liberia, there still exists a group in Liberia who believe the presence of Charles Taylor is still needed to bring final peace to Liberia. Another group believe his exit is truly in the best interest of the Nation. The fact is the world is actually dealing with a country whose individuals have become accustomed to war long enough to have its youth accept it into a natural way of life.
The trial of Charles Taylor has been watched with keen eyes all over the world. Taylor, one of Africa’s most eloquent leaders, known for his showmanship, has not failed to thrill the crowd of viewers. Charges have been laid against Charles Taylor including the most famous in terms of his troop conduct. This has always been the case in war times. Putting the fries down unspiced, how can leaders be blamed for troop misconduct? Clips of misconduct of the United States military in Iraq never ended up putting the then US president on trial, did it? Hence, if Taylor is to blame for the conduct of his army, then US President George Bush should be caned by his side.
Calling Taylor a warlord might not be the ideal word , since only time might tell if he really was behind the happenings in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Charles Taylor has repeatedly denied charges of involvement in the Sierra Leonean crises. As long as he has not yet been proven guilty, he shall remain innocent in the eyes of many Liberians who still support him. One who would have been able to testify on Taylor’s character and conduct would have been former ruler of Ivory Coast Houphouet-Boigny as well as the current President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, as both were close friends of Charles Taylor. It must be remembered that Charles Taylor launched his attack from Ivory Coast and his rumoured involvement in Sierra Leonean affairs might thus have its logical backing.
What appears hazy in our memory is the fact that there were other warlords in the region equally contributing to the chaos in both the Liberian and Sierra Leonean region. The involvement of the West African peace keeping force under the leadership of the former Nigerian Head of State General Ibrahim Babangida at that time did nothing but to further alleviate the topsy-turvy situation in the region. It took the hard stance of Nigeria’s, dark shaded Head of State the late General Sanni Abacha to finally bring order to the region through the restoration of democracy to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
It was believed that Mr. Taylor had a map he carried around with him called Greater Liberia which included sections of Guinea and the diamond fields in Sierra Leone. Proof to this remains illusive and might be a rumour spread by Western diamond factories that obtain their diamonds illegally from this region. Having the diamond fields under a self proclaimed African Nationalist was definitely not in their best interest.
Charles Taylor pleaded not guilty on the trial that was held on July 13, 2009. Some say Tylor’s trail in The Hague might be a result of the death of Milonisevic. The World Court had to find a scapegoat in order to maintain its relevance in solving global disputes. Taylor had been penciled out from the list of villains such as George Bush and Tony Blair, who have created global havoc at a more alarming scale, leading to this great global depression, which many feel could have been the end of the United States. It might take more than a million Obamas to get the world out of this present crisis. This is not to say if Taylor was the villain he should not be tried, he should have been tried in Africa and not used as scapegoat for the death of Milonisevic.
Charles Taylor was a man hard to understand. It was believed he was actively involved in the Prominent West African secret cults that grant him access to unlimited powers. This credited him with an aura of invincibility. Rumours that he practiced cannibalism, human sacrifice and blood atonement rituals merely are no surprise as many African leaders who some how challenge the West have been accused of this mystiques. An example is former Ugandan Head of State Idi Amin Dada. If Taylor had such powers, he definitely would not have been caught and sent to The Hague.
To wage a war of such magnitude for years meant Taylor had access to big finances. It was assumed that Liberia essentially became an adjunct to organized crimes and terrorist networks, including the Islamic terrorist group Al Qaeda. Such may have been false. This is not to say Taylor despised Islam but his quest to gain the trust of a predominantly Christian Liberia made him unlikely of pertaining in fundamental Islamic Fanaticism.
Taylor’s influence in the region is feared till date. He has a very strong convincing power and managed to convince Rev. Jesse Jackson and former United States President Jimmy Carter that he is a good practicing Christian. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, never felt safe while Taylor was in Africa. It was for this reason she asked Nigeria to extradite Charles Taylor, to face war crimes charges in Sierra Leone. Liberia’s economic problem might still remain hazy and more in the favour of the West. The rise of Ms. Johnson Sirleaf to power was expected, as she served five years as an Assistant Secretary General with the United Nations Development Program. Johnson Sirleaf is thus a product of the system.
As the trial of Charles Taylor goes on in The Hague, many believe it was a shame that two faced Obasanjo tricked a fellow brother of his. Nigeria shall bear this shame forever. No matter what, an Africa leader should never be handed over to the West for trial. If we were all equal, then George Bush should be handed over to the world court to stand trial. There are no second class citizens on earth. The rain falls on everyone’s rooftop irrespective of race. Hence, saying members of US troops that committed war crimes in Iraq can not be tried is a breach of the heavenly contract.
Taylor’s trial might take some time to prove him guilty or otherwise. His focus right now is on tailoring his coat of innocence, while the rest of the world is lost in confusion with the global crisis. What direction should global leadership take? That of true democracy (government of the people, for the people and by the people), militocracy (retired Generals in power) or U.S-tocracy (where leaders who are pro US are allowed to seek office)?