Taylor Seizes Abidjan Ambassador's Residence?

By J. Amos Wheagar
Abidjan, Ivory Coast

The Perspective

April 24, 2001

The official Liberian embassy residence in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire, has reportedly been seized by President Charles Taylor and transformed into a private property.

Defending the seizure, Mr. James Enders, Vice Consul and Second Secretary, said that it is the foreign ministry that determines where an Ambassador stays. However, according to credible reports, President Charles Taylor has ordered Mr. Mohamed Salami, a French Lebanese businessman who is doing logging and diamond business in Liberia and presently holds a Liberian diplomatic passport but resides in Abidjan, to renovate the embassy residence and office as a concession for his forestry tax of over 1 million dollars he owes to the government. Since the renovation, the residence has been changed to the private suite for the president and his family.

A worker at the embassy confirmed that only the immediate family of the President stops over on a regular basis.

The Liberian Ambassador accredited to the Ivory Coast, Kronyan M. Weefur, stated that the Liberian government was constrained to engage a rented house for $2,500.00 US per month, whereas the staff members of the embassy had not received their salary arrears for up to one year. "It is unbelievable and senseless to have the official residence sealed up for a whole year and pay huge amount of money for rental in view of serious financial difficulties in Liberia", he said.

Meanwhile, Abidjan is slowly becoming the "new home" for Taylor's elite as the country crumbles and as sanction loom. Key members of Taylor's inner circle such as Foreign Minister Monie Captan, presidential confidante Senator Grace Minor, Defence Minister Daniel Chea, and several others have allegedly purchased fabulous homes in Abidjan worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Regarding the seizure of the ambassador's residence, a former diplomat said, "It is illegal and an abuse of presidential power to do such a thing. Liberia is really in chaos".

The present Liberian diplomatic residence in Abidjan was constructed during the Tolbert regime as a testament of good diplomatic relationship between Liberia and Ivory Coast and is valued at over half a million dollars.

It can be recalled that the ambassador's residence in London was sold about two years ago for about £640,000 (six hundred and forty thousands pounds) to a British citizen. What made the situation more discouraging is that the sale was completed on the eve of the arrival in London of the then Ambassador to Great Britain, William Bull, who is currently Liberia's ambassador to the United States.

Just recently, Ethiopia's Ministry of Housing gave the Liberian ambassador in that country notice of forced eviction due to $200,000 rent arrears. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia, declined to interfere where private rent is unpaid. Belongings of embassy staff would be put out on the street, sources say.

President Taylor is said to have now embarked upon the purchase of Liberia's foreign mission properties starting with his traditional ally, the Ivory Coast, where the official residence of the Ambassador of Liberia has now been turned into a private suite for Charles Taylor and his family.

If it wasn't clear before, it is getting clearer everyday as Charles Taylor rules Liberia that his sole objective for which he plunged the country into his so-called revolution that killed over 250,000 people and maneuvered his way to the executive mansion through the so-called "democratic election" under the watchful eyes of ECOMOG, was purely for selfish and personal gains.

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