Taylor Grants "Clemency" to Three Krahn Prisoners

The Perspective

July 23, 2001

Liberian history is replete with stories of how Liberian rulers treat opposition politicians who differ with them or who prefer not to shut their mouths. The opponents are either murdered, charged with treason, imprisoned for time indefinite, or chased out of the country. S. David Coleman, Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Didho Twe, and S. Raymond Horace are examples of these practices during the reign of the late President William V. S. Tubman, the mentor of President Charles Taylor.

It was, therefore, nothing unusual when on Sept 18, 1998, a group of armed men commanded by Charles Taylor's son, Chucky Taylor, raided Camp Johnson Road, killing hundreds of innocent Krahn people including women, children and the elderly in their bid to murder former warlord Roosevelt Johnson and prominent Krahn citizens. The government initially said the raid was intended to evict people who were illegally occupying private properties on Camp Johnson Road. But most Liberians felt that, from all indications, the raid was aimed at supporters of former warlord Roosevelt Johnson. Johnson and few of his men sought refuge at the American Embassy. In the process, two of them were killed at the U.S. embassy's gate. The Liberian government claimed that only fifty-two people died, but according to the US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices, over 300 ethnic Krahn people were killed.

When the government failed to achieve its ultimate aim of killing Johnson and prominent Krahn opponents, it immediately changed the reason for the raid, saying it intended to crush sinister efforts by some elements to overthrow the Taylor government. Accordingly, the government charged thirty-two people, mostly from the Krahn ethnic group, with treason in an indictment.

Thirteen Krahn defendants were convicted after a Kangaroo court trial and sentenced to ten years in prison. Their ten-year sentence was doubled last year by the Liberian Supreme Court.

Ironically, Mr. Taylor (the man who wrongfully imprisoned these people) now says he wants peace and reconciliation. So in preparation for the festivities of the 154th Independence Anniversary of Liberia, and as we predicted here less than two weeks ago in the "Hint to the Wise...", Mr. Charles Taylor freed three of the many political prisoners he has been holding unjustly in prison. Indeed, Mr. Taylor freed Mr. Bai Gbala, his brother David Gbala and former senator James chelley. We share the joy of friends and families of the three men, but as we also put it earlier, Mr. Taylor should not expect a pat on the back or any form of congratulations for this gesture long overdue. we believe that all other prisoners must be freed immediately and unconditionally.

President Taylor called the release of the three men a step aimed at "bringing Liberians together to ensure the peace they are yearning for." He said that the so-called clemency was granted "in an effort to promote peace and reconciliation." We disagree! We cannot have peace and reconciliation in Liberia when the president continues to grab people who differ with him and throw them into prison. We cannot have peace and reconciliation while Mr. Taylor continues to chase opposition politicians out of the country with bogus treason charges. No, we cannot have peace and reconciliation while his thugs (the so-called war veterans) continue to terrorize opposition leaders and civilians.

Mr. Taylor must dispose of all the bogus treason charges hanging over exile Liberian politicians. He must free all political prisoners. He must stop terrorizing opposition elements and civilians. He must stop the clampdown on the press. These are the "Hints to the Wise..."

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