Sekou Damate Conneh Centre


Flag of LiberiaSekou Damate Conneh


AUGUST 11TH, 2003

President Charles Ghankay Taylor -- known as "Pappy" to his band of child soldiers -- blamed for 14 years of bloodshed in Liberia and indicted for war crimes in Sierra Leone, resigned August 11, 2003, and surrendered power to his vice president, Moses Blah. The excessive focus on the departure of Charles Taylor elevated him to a status and conferred upon him a legitimacy he did not deserve. But West African leaders are hopeful that, with Taylor gone, they can help Liberians to rebuild their country and usher in the beginning of what should be a democratic transitional period in Liberia.

Monday August 11, 2003 will be remembered as a historic day in Liberia and indeed in Africa- seeing an African leader resigning under whatever condition. In Africa, we fight to the last because we don't want to accept defeat even if we cannot win. We seldom accept our errors, always believing that what we say and do is the only right way and others will have to agree and follow or go to hell. In this stubbornness, many innocent lives are lost before start reasoning.

Taylor was indicted by the UN-backed court for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, where he allegedly supported a rebel movement notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians. Taylor has been charged with serious violations of the Geneva Convention, which establishes the rules of warfare, and crimes against humanity. The court alleges that he is among those who bear the greatest responsibility for widespread and systematic rape, murder, physical violence, including mutilation and amputation and other atrocities in Sierra Leone through his support and guidance of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel movement. Taylor's forces included children, often dressed in costumes and blond wigs. Often under the influence of drugs, they were noted for their brutality. Elected president in 1997 after leading a brutal bush rebellion, Charles Taylor has been accused of setting West Africa aflame by exporting insurgencies to his neighbors. He was quitting under enormous pressure from LURD controlling most of the country and from African and western leaders as well as.

Charles Taylor stole from his country, ran away with the loots, was captured and locked up, broke jail on to return to invade his country, butchered thousands, became president, stole millions, and as if that wasn't enough, decided to annex Sierra Leone's diamond-rich region. Other despots also ended up as exiles but some demanded that he leaved in style. In a 17-minute, articulate and unscripted speech, Taylor was ever the master of the spoken word - alternately defiant, dismissive, bitter, hectoring, emotional, gracious and prophetic, showing little of the ruthlessness, cruelty and impatience he is said to demonstrate in private. Taylor said at his long-awaited resignation ceremony in Monrovia that history would judge him kindly, beginning his farewell address by exhorting the international community to help Liberia. "We beg of you, we plead with you not to make this another press event. History will be kind to me. I have fulfilled my duties," he said, adding, "I have accepted this role as the sacrificial lamb ... I am the whipping boy." "God willing, I will be back." Whether this is a threat, or not, only Taylor knows.

August 11, 2003: on the day of high drama, Liberia's warlord turned president stepped down from power and headed for exile as Nigerian peacekeepers took over Monrovia and three US warships laden with marines steamed over the horizon. The executive mansion, like the rest of Liberia, was in ruins, but aides scrounged enough diesel to run the generator, lighting the three chandeliers overhead and casting the chamber, flanked by velvet curtains, in a golden hue. A gospel choir sang Onward Christian Soldiers, followed by the theme song from the film ĎAn Officer and a Gentlemaní. Diplomats, foreign dignitaries and well-wishers packed the audience. Moses Blah, dressed in flowing white robes, resembled a bride as Mr. Taylor entered the chamber, a military brass band playing in the balcony. It was pure theatre and the three visiting heads of state, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Ghana's John Kufuor, and Mozambique's Joaquin Chissano, had the crucial roles of furnishing gravities. They praised Mr Taylor's "courageous" and "statesmanlike" decision to step down. Nobody detailed the hundreds of thousands dead, the rapes and mutilations, the looted diamonds and timber. Resplendent in a white safari suit and green sash, Charles Taylor played the wise and beloved statesman who resigned to spare his people from further suffering. Before boarding the plane for Nigeria, Taylor looked back briefly and waved a white handkerchief . The thief was permitted by the greatest statesmen of Africa to bring his stolen property to safety. He left nothing. Indicted for war crimes by a UN-backed tribunal in Sierra Leone, his Swiss bank accounts frozen, his people angry and desperate. He became escorted. He was cared. One was concerned for his safety. One put airplanes for him. He took even his state Mercedes Benz along.

Hours later Taylor stepped onto the red carpet in Abuja - perhaps for the last time - to the warm embrace of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was accompanied to Nigeria by President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, the current chairman of the African Union, and President John Kufuor of Ghana, who is chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is sending a peacekeeping force into Liberia. Chissano said: "We admire the bold position taken by former President Taylor; it's not easy to accept not only to relinquish his powers, but also to leave his country to come for a second time into exile."

Until, and unless, Taylor is adjudged guilty in a court of law, legally he is only 'an accused' and thus 'the presumption of innocence'; ergo, the diplomatic protocols extended him by Nigeria was only fitting an abdicated Tyrant and 'Human Blood Drinker'. Charles Taylor is recidivist, an habitual criminal. A special prosecutor with the special court in Sierra Leone said offering Taylor asylum from the war crimes charges would violate international law, but one senior U.S. official said the issue of whether Taylor should escape prosecution "is really on the back burner." Liberians must never think they are safe with him "living in exile" in Nigeria. Remember, Taylor was in jail in Boston, and still found a way to get to Liberia to cause mayhem. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that Taylor is tried, or our children will have no peace, just like we have had no peace.

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