Taylor's Foot Soldiers, "Flowers" and the UN Sanctions List

By Musue Noha Haddad

The Perspective

August 9, 2001

"Give a man the flower he deserves while he is alive" does apply to almost every situation even in what is seen as a crisis situation. There are times when situation demands that "best friends" be accepted and willingly avail themselves and be proud of their alliance. People need to be recognized for their courage, selflessness, loyalty and the little activities they carry out that have greater impact. Similarly, people who have meted terror on hapless people of Liberia and Sierra Leone must be given the "flowers" they deserve. So it was not surprising when Kofi Annan appointed a Panel of Experts last year to go to the floral shop to fetch some flowers for Taylor and company for a "job well done" (for cutting the limbs of thousands of Sierra Leoneans including women and children for amassing wealth, i.e. diamonds - which have now become a curse to the people of Sierra Leone, and for turning into a criminal enterprise).

Few months ago, the bouquet of flowers arrived at the Freeport of Monrovia in the form of a UN Travel Ban List - a list of government officials and supporters of Mr. Taylor affected by the UN travel restriction. But it looks like the flowers were in short supply. Many of those who deserve flowers were glaringly left off the list. For example, junior ministers, directors, many others who are without governmental positions but continue to terrorize the Liberian populace and those with little known positions who are the life-blood of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) of President Charles Taylor are not included on the list.

Those individuals' faith, loyalty, courage have not wavered since the beginning of Charles Taylor's episode in 1989. Many were militias of Charles McArthur Taylor's rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia, while others were part of the inner circle carrying out negotiations, running errands and doing what many described as " the dirty work" leading to whatever "marvelous results" the armed group has achieved.

Today, most of the militias of the disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) have been given uniform, placed in various government agencies and security institutions as security agents. The immediate placement of these war time militias who were either clustered or rounded up (in their teens) individually or as a group for the Charles Taylor's so-called revolution during the seven-year civil war is scary. They did not go through demobilization, rehabilitation or training after their wartime performance. In fact, prior to becoming fighters for the NPFL, these individuals did not undergo the usual training that is standard requirement or the basic training, which prepare combatants in how to assist and protect unarmed civilians in such conflict. We have seen the repercussions of the lack of training - 250,000 innocent people slaughtered.

Some of the NPFL fighters have been given public positions by their boss, Charles Taylor, and have received the recognition they deserve for the "tedious job they have carried out" to achieve most of the major goals of NPFL/NPP.

But the few who and their family members have been affected by the United Nations Sanctions travel ban, should not be seen as the only true loyalists and the strengths behind the NPP and Charles Taylor. There are others who have continued to work tirelessly, but remain unnoticed to the outside world.

These unknown have helped the known in the Charles Taylor's network to be at the level it presently enjoys. It is these unknown who are also responsible for accumulation of wealth that is flamboyantly lavished and the luxury that is evidenced and displayed by the NPP government and its officials in the midst of prevailing abject poverty in the country.

It is these unknown who have succeeded in destabilizing the peace in many countries in West Africa and other countries on the continent that have enabled the Liberian ruler and his cronies to amass wealth and spread his power within the sub-region.

In times of crisis and peace, everyone deserves recognition for his or her role in building and sustaining an institution. So it is with the NPP government of Charles Taylor. Those deserving personalities, the foot soldiers of the various security institutions - Anti-Terrorists Unit (ATU), Presidential Special Security Services (SSS), the National Security Agency (NSA), National Bureau of Investigation NBI), National Police Force (NPF) and its Special Operational Division, Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), among other groupings viewed as "Friends of the President" - who have remained loyal to Charles Taylor must be seen not only as gun totters but the energy and strength of his activities and achievements. Other personalities who have been engaged in prestigious missions, running errands to countries such as South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Niger, Senegal and Western countries should be seen as true friends and loyalists as well. This means updating the UN "flowers" (Travel Ban) list!

The recognized few and members of Taylor's inner circle have begun to establish their future and those of their families. Many have bought homes in countries within the sub-region and other places. Others have already added more "grease to their elbows". These individuals' financial strength and prosperity come from the labor, sacrifices and commitment of the many unknown who have paved the way for these benefits. The unknown cannot afford to purchase homes or build tiny houses for themselves and their families to rest after a "hard day's work" or weeklong sojourn in Sierra Leone and other areas.

While the few listed on the United Nations Sanctions list have played meaningful role in the activities of the NPP and NPFL, the many unknown need also be publicly recognized; instead of being kept in the back and not allowed to sit at the high table in closed door.

These individuals should realize that while they continue to selflessly achieve the goals of the NPP in the dark, in the dark they shall remain even in times of compensation. In the dark they shall die, in the dark their lives and identity will remain, in the dark their activities and story with the NPFL and NPP will remain and they will not be rewarded by Charles Taylor like the few known cronies who are placed on the United Nations list. It is time these individuals be given their "flowers" too by the UN, while they are still alive. They are also true loyalists who have made it possible for the National Patriotic Party (NPP) of Charles Taylor to continue its campaign of amassing wealth, power, and destasbilizing the West African sub-region.

For subscription information, go to: www.theperspective.org
or send e-mail to: editor@theperspective.org