Book Closed On Taylor
-As Liberia Dashes His Fate In African Leaders’ Hands
By: Lewis K. Glay & Emmanuel S. King, Jr.
A press statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Media, Oluremi Oyo was quoted in the Nigerian First newspaper in Abuja as saying that President Olusegun Obasanjo is consulting on the request by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf with the current AU Chairman President Denise Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo and current ECOWAS Chairman, President Mamadou Tandja of Niger whose predecessors were parties to the original agreement under which Mr. Taylor was received in Nigeria.
The report furthered that in keeping with President Obasanjo’s commitment
to give due consideration to any formal request from a democratically elected
government of Liberia for the return of former President Taylor, President
Obasanjo is said to have duly notified the Chairmen of the African Union
(AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), that President
Sirleaf has made such request.
The world at large is eagerly awaiting to see how the African Union, ECOWAS and other regional groupings would handle Mr. Taylor’s turnover to the UN backed War Crime Court in Freetown, where he is expected to go and exonerate himself from alleged 17 counts of War Crime charges leveled against him.
The concern became the latest development since President Sirleaf told the United Nations recently in New York that her government has made a formal request to Nigeria to turn over the former president whose trial she said has become a major precondition to developmental aids coming to Liberia as far as her bilateral negotiations with foreign partners aimed at seeking support for Liberia’s post war reconstruction were concerned.
According to the President, the Liberian peace process is still fragile in the face of the Taylor issue and reminded the United Nations and the international community to handle same expeditiously in order to avoid any outbreak of further violence that would perpetuate the suffering of the Liberian people.
Speaking at the United Nations when she addressed the UN Security Council President Sirleaf asked African leaders to decide whether to bring former President Taylor to trial for War Crime charges. She said “it is time to bring the Taylor issue to a close.”
According to a VOA report Madam Sirleaf told reporters that she had asked
Nigerian President Obasanjo to reach a collective decision of the African
leaders on this Taylor saga, adding, “he is now consulting with the
African leadership to achieve that objective.” If the collective decision
of the African leadership is that Mr. Taylor should go to the court, that
will be the decision that will be taken collectively.”
Observers who are closely following the Taylor issue told THE FORUM that his return is slowly taking another turn as President Obasanjo had previously said that Nigeria would turn him over to an elected Liberian government, but not to the court.
Now with the revelation that African leaders are being consulted on his
fate, this may drive a wedge in the plan to have the former president sent
to Sierra Leone via Monrovia.
A school teacher who asked for anonymity said judging from the speeches of the president to the US joint Congress and the UN, President Sirleaf seems to be baffled with the Taylor issue amidst pressure from the United Sates, EU, the United Nations and human rights groups. He said while the president wants the Taylor issue to come to a close, she does not want to take full responsibility of handling him over to the Special Court.
Last week, a close aide of Charles Taylor, Sylvester Vanii Passawe told
a local Nigerian newspaper that Taylor’s return is not a matter of
one to three months, but rather a long period of negotiations.
Meanwhile, latest local newspapers reports from Nigeria say the Federal Government has approved the extradition of the former president to Liberia. Quoting Mrs. Oyo, the reports said this was in line with President Obasanjo’s commitment to handover Mr. Taylor on the request of the current Liberian Government.
Some Liberians who spoke to this paper said with President Sirleaf’s determination to bring the Taylor issue to a close, the decision of the AU and ECOWAS could go either way.
Recently, the ECOWAS Special Mediator on Liberia Retired General Abdul Salami Abubakar, responding to calls for Taylor to be turned over said Liberia should concentrate on the hard earned peace recently accomplished and rather forget at this time about the Taylor issue so as to not destabilize the country and region.
The request itself is said to be highly welcomed by authorities of the Sierra Leonean Special Court, who had been heard on the international wire disclosing their preparedness to receive and incarcerate Mr. Taylor whom they said an empty “cell” is awaiting.
The trial of Mr. Taylor, even when he is being extradited to Sierra Leone may not kick off immediately until perhaps the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007 as indicated by a BBC Correspondent’s interview with the court’s authority recently.
It also appears that transferring the former president to his home country before turning him over to Freetown won’t be the plan now given the level of tension that has already been mounted which to some extent poses serious security problem should he touch the Liberian soil.
Classic indications of such analysis have been the recent incident at Waterside, Monrovia where an alleged loyalist of Mr. Taylor reportedly stabbed an advocate for the extradition of the exiled president to Sierra Leone and the invitation of presumed NPP partisans-Sando Johnson and two others by authorities of the NSA to ascertain their reported meeting held at Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor’s residence in Congo Town recently.