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11.05.2006 Feature Article

Is the trial of Taylor the remedy for Liberians?

“If Charles Taylor is the main problem in Liberia, I well step down for peace to prevail” This was what embattled Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor said in a voice touched with emotions at the Accra Peace Accord in 2003.

“If Charles Taylor is the main problem in Liberia, I well step down for peace
to prevail” This was what embattled Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor said in a
voice touched with emotions at the Accra Peace Accord in 2003.

This was when the Government of Ghana, African Union, (AU) and the Economic
Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) on 4, June 2003, facilitated the
inauguration of peace talks among the government of Liberia, civil society and
the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement
for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), the two rebel groups that fought Taylor
during the civil war of Liberia in 1989 to 1996.

On July 17, 2003, both the LURD and the MODEL alongside the government of
Liberia, signed a peace- fire agreement within 30 days. Unfortunately, the
three combatants subsequently broke that ceasefire repeatedly, which resulted
in bitter fighting that eventually reached downtown Monrovia. The leaders of
ECOWAS finally persuaded Taylor to step down .After that all the leaders from
the Liberian government, the political parties, rebels and civil society groups
signed a comprehensive peace agreement that opened a framework for establishing
a two year National Transitional Government of Liberia, in which Gyude Bryant
became the chairman.

Liberia was largely peaceful, until April 12, 1980,when a group of non
-commissioned officers led by Samuel Doe,from the Krahn ethnic group stormed
the executive mansion and assassinated President William Richard Tolbert and
seized power. There was an elections in 1985 where Doe and his political party
won the elections. Immediately after the elections there was an increase in
human rights abuse, corruption, unemployment, the standard of living declining
as well.

Unfortunately, on December 24,1989, a small group of rebels led by Charles
Taylor , invaded Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire. The bloodiest civil war that
sparked from 1989 to 1996, claimed the lives of over 200,000 Liberians and led
million others into refugee camps. The United Nations, United States of
America, the then African Unity(now African Union) and ECOWAS made a
considerable progress in negotiations and suddenly disarmament and
demobilization of warring factions were quickly carried out. This, then paved
way for a special elections on 19 July,1997,with Taylor winning
overwhelmingly with 75 percent of the vote cast.Q

Suddenly, two years later another civil war broke out in which the ECOWAS
stepped in to have a solution to that.

In June 2003,in Acccra,during a peace making process the UN War Crimes Tribunal
in Sierra Leone, indicted President Taylor for war crimes and crimes against
humanity.

After the long meeting from the 4 June,2003 to 18 August,2003 ,Taylor
voluntarily stepped down for peace to prevail. Under the term of agreement, he
was to benefit an immunity from prosecution. He was to desist himself from
the politics of Liberia, neither to give his support to any party.

Thereafter, Taylor was granted an asylum by President Olesegun Obasanjo,to stay
in Calabar,Nigeria.This ,has indeed, paved way for the peaceful elections in
Liberia in which President Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf ,has become the democratic
elected leader.

Why the current pressure from the international community by urging Madam
Sirleaf in bringing Taylor to Sierra Leone to face trial? Do they know its
implications on the people of Liberia and the Sub region?. Although Taylor's
immunity was strictly on Liberia and therefore trialing him outside the country
do not affect the promise by ECOWAS,it could still be unfair to Taylor. The
ECOWAS need to understand that in the 1997 general elections, Taylor had 75
percent of the total vote cast and clearly shows that he has a lot of
followers which includes ex-combatants who are still not having any meaningful
employment and better still accommodation. Clearly ,majority of those
combatants even wanted to cause havoc when Sirleaf was declared winner, by
saying “there was vote rigging”.

There are one or two questions that the leaders of ECOWAS might need to know.
Was Charles Taylor a fugitive? Is he the only person to have destabilized the
country?. This is because there have been many warring factions that have
contributed to the destabilization of Liberia.

It could be better for all of them to face trial; but is bringing them to
face prosecution going to solve the deteriorated conditions of the country.
Some have argued that trialing Taylor would be the way to deter
others.Indeed,if it is about deterrence we would not have witnessed the
current coup in the Gambia. Since there are many people on the continent who
do not care of given themselves to the highest bidder.

It could be clear that all these do not make Taylor an angel; he may be a
criminal or murderer. But the peace accord signed in Accra could have been a
guiding principle.

Nigeria, under the leadership of Chief Obasanjo,did well from international
pressure against Taylor but now why the repatriation or is it because of
“Baba's” third term agenda that is why he is doing this to lobby his
“bosses”?

The political, economic and socio cultural conditions of Liberia have
deteriorated for far too long and the leaders of Africa could do well if they
supported Liberia rather than leaning on international community to refurbish
the country. For example ,Nigeria can provide Liberia with oil on credit. There
must be a positive concern about the socio-economic well being of the people of
Liberia.

During the political campaign in Liberia, Madam Sirleaf assured the people
that if she won there could be no way she would advocate for Taylor`s trial but
rather put up the proper measures to revamp Liberia. But why the sudden
overturned or because of the $50 million that the US had promised to give to
Liberia but on the condition that she allowed Taylor to face trial. The leaders
of Africa could even do well by providing the said amount to Liberians.

Anyway it would be that the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone may not even have Taylor`s on their agenda if you ask them but what they could do to contribute meaningfully to their countries respectively. Therefore what Liberians need now is a national reconciliation rather than thinking about Taylor`s trial which could bring out the anger of most victims.

President Sirleaf could do well without listening to ill pieces of advice from any quarters but continue with her reform agenda of transforming Liberia on the right track. What Liberians could be doing is to bring all their sons and daughters together to move their deteriorated country forward so that they can work and improve the livelihood of Liberians.

The writer is a student at African Institute of Journalism and Communications.

P.O.BOXLG510

LEGON-ACCRA

Daniel Nana Aforo
Daniel Nana Aforo, © 2006

This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DanielNanaAforo

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