A Culture of Impunity No More!


By: Momoh Sekou Dudu


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 1, 2006


Courtesy of AP
Yes, Charles Taylor, the ruffian and indicted war crimes suspect has been arrested and caged. For most of us, Liberians, there could not have been a better ending to our many years of suffering orchestrated by the Machiavellian Major Taylor. (Enjoy your stay in Freetown, sir!) As the euphoria over this momentous arrest ebbs, however, we must pause to reflect on the larger significance and implications of this whole drama. What does it mean for Africa in general, and, Liberia in particular? Are our leaders going to draw a lesson from this experience and get their acts together, or are they going to think this is just a happenstance and conduct business as usual?

With the culture of impunity being such an ingrained and pervasive aspect of African political power, it is debatable as to what many of our leaders on the continent are going to make of the Taylor reality. One thing is for sure though: the downtrodden masses of Liberia yea Africa have witnessed the dawn of a new political dispensation. We are no longer going to be fidgety about holding repressive and criminal leaders accountable for their actions and/or inactions. No more are we going to keep quiet as ruthless dictators have their way with us; we will ensure that those who commit atrocities against their own people and/or other countries’ citizens face the music of their creation. Taylor’s arrest and soon-to-come trial are transforming occurrences in the history of our continent. A trend is truly taking hold in Liberia and, by extension, in Africa.

If the growing human rights activist community in Liberia and elsewhere in Africa epitomizes this trend, we have a lot to be encouraged about, and the sinister leaders have a lot to be worried about. No level of threats and intimidation will ever again stifle our resolve to out abuses perpetrated by gutless leaders. All sectors of society should now be watchdogs for responsible government. The media, most especially, must rededicate itself to its towering role as the eyes and ears of society. Actions of our political leaders must be scrutinized with the view of ensuring transparency and accountability to the people. The days of peripheral reporting on governmental activities must come to an end; media outlets must now get more investigative, even hawkish, if you will.

Moving forward Liberians, and of course, all Africans must make concerted efforts in bringing international pressure to bear on leaders who offer blanket asylum to deposed dictators as a way of helping these buffoons evade prosecution. Hissene Habre of Chad and “Red Terror” Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia come to mind. Wherever they are, whatever they are doing at this moment in time, make no mistake about it they are cognizant of the Taylor scenario. And, they must take it very seriously as it is only a matter of time that they too will have to answer for their actions.

A new political order is being ushered in on the African continent, one that respects the rule of law over impunity. The nurturing of this new order should engender having murderous leaders face up to their crimes no matter how long it takes. When these hooligans begin to stare long-term incarceration, forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth, or death sentences straight in the face, they will wake up to the callous reality of their past. (Yes, the expression on Major Taylor’s face upon his handcuffing at RIA said it all!) When we start to exert pressure on leaders harboring suspected war and economic crimes suspects, when we start to lobby for these keepers of suspected criminals to be charged as accessories to the crimes, we will be well on the path to stamping out impunity on our continent.

Taylor’s arrest is bound to change the dynamics of political leadership across Africa. Transparency is going to replace devious machinations. Like it or not, African leaders as well as ordinary folks must take serious note of the unfolding reality. That is why I was confounded when I listened to the BBC interview granted by Thelma Taylor, the rebel Major’s sister. In the interview, she expressed concern for her brother’s safety, treatment in jail, and the propensity for an unfair trial abroad. When did these concepts become a part of the line of thought of the Taylor clan? Where was Thelma Taylor when her beloved brother meted out jungle justice to the likes of the late Samuel Dokie, the late Dr. Stephen Yekeson, Counsellor Tiawon Gongloe, Activist Hassan Bility, and many others? Thelma, give me a break; your dear Major is housed in a comparatively hospitable cell, he’s going to have access to a defense team; he’s not going to get beaten senseless. These are the basic judicial rights that he denied others. Stop complaining, Thelma, Liberia is on the march to accountability and Major Taylor is going to bear witness to this all-important transformation.

Under Charles Taylor, impunity in all of its manifestations thrived in Liberia. His arrest and up-coming trial will clear the way for sweeping institutional reforms in this and other regards. At the risk of jumping the gun, I have to emphatically state this: For Liberia, A Culture of Impunity No More! Charles Taylor is a done deal!

About the Author: Momoh Sekou Dudu lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be reached at sijama@yahoo.com.