We Are Skeptical Of Any Agreement Signed By Mr. Taylor Without International Guarantee

(Editorial)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 24, 2003

When the Taylor regime and dissident forces in Liberia initialed the ceasefire agreement on June 17, 2003 in Akosombo, Ghana, the event was widely viewed as a sign of progress. That process gave the besieged Liberian capital, Monrovia, an immediate relief from the inferno of violence that was rapidly descending upon it as representatives of the various warring factions began to tackle the intricacies of a post-Taylor governing mechanism.

And we applaud and welcome the efforts made so far by key players, especially the Taylor regime and rival armed factions for exercising reason, sound judgment and common sense over recalcitrance and continuing national destruction. But that was just a beginning. There are challenging times ahead.

Liberians everywhere also must pay special tribute to those world organizations and heads of government that are helping with the process. We know we speak for most Liberians when we say the facilitators' timing couldn't have come at a better time. Clearly, Liberia has dug itself a dangerous pit from which the country cannot be extricated without international assistance. The Liberian people, without any fault of their own and by actions of a few dangerous people, have suffered much too long, and every effort must be made to bring sanity to their situation.

In the past, Liberians had witnessed the signing of peace agreements, which in turn raised false hopes that their suffering would soon end, only to slide back into more violence and devastation.

Understandably, they are skeptical of any agreement signed by Mr. Taylor without international guarantee that such agreement would have adequate enforcement component. If there is no serious international commitment to put an end to the tragedy in Liberia, Charles Taylor will continue to cause chaos in the West African sub-region.

By convening the Ghana peace conference on Liberia, we hope West African leaders as well as the world community at large have finally realized that Charles Taylor is a menacing cancer that started in Liberia; but had since advanced across the neighborhood wreaking inestimable havoc in its path. And we further hope that by this recognition, the international community would be prepared to remove this devouring disease that has been eating at the region's stability.

The Perspective urges African governments to demonstrate bold leadership by taking action against those rulers on the continent who consistently retard African progress. African leaders cannot continue to use African solidarity to kowtow to the debilitating ruthless rulers such as Charles Taylor. Africa must begin to isolate those tyrants who defy international norms and standards, and embark on concrete policy by which such scoundrels can be reined in so as to restore order to a chaotic continent.

As we welcome the political bargaining going on in Ghana, we urge all Liberian stakeholders that it is the future of Liberia at issue here. Hence, our national, not individual parochial, interests should be the guiding principle in all their deliberations. We call upon compatriots not to let temporary political advantage obscure their judgment at the expense of sustainable peace. We are convinced that they will give serious consideration to the greater national interest. In that light, we urge the delegates to remember that Liberia cannot afford to become a victim again of haphazard interim arrangements.

In this respect, we reiterate the position we took in our last editorial, which essentially said that no loyalist to either Mr. Taylor or the dissident factions should be allowed to head the interim government. And we strongly recommend that those individuals who would take leadership roles in the interim governing body be barred from standing in the elections following the end of the interim period.

This will allow the politicians as well as all those who have waged against Liberia in the name of democracy the opportunity to communicate their message directly to the Liberian people through a political campaign. Besides, this would be the most equitable way by which the playing field is leveled for all candidates.

Of course, the key for success to all this international effort is President Charles Taylor, the man who is not at these negotiations in Ghana. He is the only character who can set Liberia free. He had said he wants his people to live in peace and dignity, and we would like to hold him to those words.

But Mr. Taylor has serious credibility problem. He is not a man of his words. In the past, he made pledges in a dramatic public manner only to repudiate them. Throughout his grip on Liberia, the only thing has mattered to Charles Taylor is his personal and material welfare.

One prime element - though by no means the deciding factor - which gave impetus to the current peace talks was the dramatic statement Mr. Taylor made that he would step down if that would bring peace to Liberia and end the suffering of his people. In the past, many people would have dismissed such a dramatic announcement as yet another empty promise by a man better known by his theatrics than substance. But the situation and circumstance are different today.

Why the optimistic outlook of the peace talks, has Mr. Taylor's basic pathology suddenly changed for him put Liberia's future above his selfish interest? No. Charles Taylor has not been transformed to a patriotic Liberian who would advance the country's welfare over his own. But Mr. Taylor has certainly overplayed his hands in dealing with the international community. And as a result of his reckless adventurism in West African affairs, he is falling victim to his own games of international outlaw. That's why the Liberian people will triumph.

What we witnessed on TV, after Mr. Taylor was indicted on war crimes charges by a special UN-backed court in Sierra Leone, was best described by the New York Times as "a surreal diplomatic drama in which Mr. Taylor was transformed from statesman to fugitive in a matter of minutes." And contrary to occasional rambling of serving out his term, it won't be long before the depth of his trouble dawn on him. Sooner than later Charles Taylor will come to grips with the severity of crimes for which he has been indicted.

Whether he acknowledges it or not, Mr. Taylor is an indicted war criminal, a "wanted fugitive" being sought by the United Nations-backed special war crimes court in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The enormity of the charges against him cannot be overemphasized, nor the debasing implications that go with being an international fugitive wanted by INTERPOL. What a disgrace!

That's why we are convinced that Mr. Taylor will set Liberia free and concentrate on his legal troubles. The walls are fast closing in on him. Charles Taylor can pretend to be in denial about his current predicament, but the reality is, he has failed Liberia and should not hold the country hostage any longer. His international criminal indictment and Liberia's political problems are separate issues, which must be addressed in different arenas.

If he is a patriotic Liberian, the best legacy Taylor can give Liberia is to disengage himself from the political process and let the people determine their own future. For once, put Liberia first.