Recognition of Civil Society Role in the Charles Taylor’s Case

By Korto Williams


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 1, 2006


Courtesy of AP
Liberian history has been fraught with falsehood and fallacies as is evident in our national educational curriculum. This situation does not mean that substantial work is not being done to rectify Liberian history to the extent that the truth can contribute to national reconciliation and learning. It is challenging but possible. The Liberian civil war and its resultant effects have presented an opportunity to develop associated reforms. In the last fifteen years, Liberians have scored many historical victories and suffered horrific incidents that should be included in the textbooks for our children to learn and understand their value and significance with respect to our future. Prominent women no longer have to be restricted to Matilda Newport or Susannah Lewis. They can be called many other names. This is a victory and a great opportunity to understand the multi-dimensions of Liberia and its associated events. Tiawon Gongloe reading Mr. Taylor his Miranda rights is not merely a bureaucratic task. It has its significance and learning opportunity and our children must know this.

Having said that, I believe that the capture of Charles Taylor and subsequent transfer to the Special Court in Sierra Leone is no small matter in our history. We survived to see the demystification of one individual whose personal goal to attain resources and its accompanying power, destroyed the lives of many West Africans, not just Liberians. Liberians call for a photograph of Mr. Taylor’s arrival had more importance that only we as a people understand. Charles Taylor elevated himself to the level of a deity, while destroying the lives of young people, women and children. His regime depleted the energy and pride out of Liberians and restricted our lives for approximately fifteen years. Yes, we planned around Mr. Taylor, with his ever changing and progressively destructive, whims and caprices. His actions provided decision-making around when we lived in displaced camps and when we got raped.

With all of these actions having a direct effect on Liberians, it is important to note that Liberians did not take this lying down. Responses that led to Mr. Taylor’s present residence emanated from Liberian. We must relate the Charles Taylor’s issue to our history and its documentation. It has become so easy to thank the international community, especially President Bush of the United States of America regarding his government’s role in transferring Mr. Taylor to Freetown, Sierra Leone to face justice, something that Charles Taylor denied thousands of people. The US government had a pivotal role in March 29th, 2006 victorious culmination, and perhaps commencement of our newly achieved peace. This role can never be underestimated, especially given the events of the last 72 hours. The appreciation that Liberians extend to the US Government, especially President Bush, Secretary of State Rice,and relevant member of the Congress is in place and genuine as the exile and capture of Mr. Taylor was influenced by President Bush’s utterances, and subsequent support to the UN Mission in Liberia.

However, we must recognize the contribution of Liberians in this process. This contribution must go down in history and not be relegated and forgotten. When Liberia was not a foreign policy priority for global institutions and governments, Liberians took the responsibility to make it that. For this struggle, they should be commended. This advocacy effort took many forms but rested on similar issues with Charles Taylor at the core. It was a process that was supported and validated by many Liberian individuals and organizations, who saw the Charles Taylor issue as a threat to social stability in Liberia and the West African region. Liberian advocacy networks fearlessly influence this process despite the numerous criticisms from at home and abroad. As recent as March 27th,2006, a network of human rights groups and non-profit think-tanks: Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC);Center for Democratic Empowerment (CEDE); Foundation for Human Rights And Democracy (FOHRD); Foundation for International Dignity (FIND); Green Advocates and Liberia Democracy Watch (LDW), were providing suggestions for Mr. Taylor’s transfer. This advocacy process began long before then, not only with this network but also with women advocacy groups, notable Liberians, among them, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer and Hassan Bility. We need to remember and recognize this.