Nigerian President: Turn Mr. Taylor Over to The UN War Crimes Court

By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 6, 2003

The recent statement by the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo that if the interim government requests that exiled brutal Liberian dictator Charles G. Taylor faces war crimes trial, Nigeria will honor the request and turn Mr. Taylor over for prosecution is intended to accomplish two things:

First, to take political pressure off the Nigerian President because of both domestic and international requests that Nigeria turns Mr. Taylor over to the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone for prosecution. Second, to silence Liberians and the international community because the Nigerian President knows pretty well that Liberia did not indict Mr. Taylor.

The Nigerian President’s statement assumes that Liberia has Mr. Taylor’s fate. It is the United Nations backed war crimes tribunal that has Mr. Taylor’s fate. The Sierra Leone War Crimes Court indicted Mr. Taylor for the war crimes committed by his RUF surrogates against the people of Sierra Leone. Therefore, President Obasanjo must honor the United Nations backed war crimes court request and turn Mr. Taylor over for prosecution. It is wrong for President Obasanjo to ask for Liberia’s approval.

In addition, the Nigerian President needs to use his influence and ask the United Nations to extend the Sierra Leone War Crimes Court’s mandate to the West African sub-region. Warlords in the West African sub-region are committing atrocities against their own people and they are not being held responsible for their crimes. The extension of the Sierra Leone Court’s mandate to Liberia and other countries in the West African sub-region will enable the court to use its resources to obtain evidence against Alhaji Kromah, George Boley, Prince Johnson, MODEL’s Thomas Yaya Nimley LURD’s Damate Conneh’s Charles Taylor’s remnants, and others “self-imposed liberators” for the atrocities they have committed in Liberia over the years.

The prosecution of the warlords in the sub-region serves as a deterrent against power-hungry unqualified individuals taking up arms for selfish motives as demonstrated by MODEL, LURD and Mr. Taylor. Warlords only fight for their selfish interest. For instance, the demands for more government positions by MODEL, LURD and Taylor’s remnants as precondition for disarming their thugs proves the point.

The time has come for Nigeria, the regional power in black Africa to understand that human rights protection is an integral part of a democratic society. Africa has to protect and defend the rights of its citizens if it wants to be taken seriously by the international community. For example, over the years in Liberia, various warlords including Charles Taylor, Alhaji Kromah, George Boley, Thomas Yaya Nimley Damate Conneh, among others committed atrocities without being held accountable. It is time for Nigeria to help defend human rights in Africa. African warlords and dictators must be held responsible for human rights violations. The time to shield warlords and dictators because they are Africans is over. Without Africa’s commitment to the protection of human rights, it will be difficult for the establishment of genuine democracy.