Nigeria Beefs-Up Security At Taylor’s Residence
-Expresses Concern Over U.S. Decision
By: J. Wesley Washington
Posted November 13, 2003
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor presently exiled in Calabar, Nigeria is back in the news as his host country has beefed-up security around his compound following reports that the United States government has posted a US$2 million reward for his capture.
Early last week, U.S. President George Bush signed into law a bill providing funds totaling a startling US$87 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “for other purposes”.
The last section of Bush’s financial appropriations for “other purposes”, clearly states that there is a commission of US$2 million reward money for the capture of “an indictee of the Sierra Leone War Crimes Tribunal,” but political observers believe it specifically refers to former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
Mr. Taylor was indicted on March 7, 2003 for providing arms and financial support to the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF)of Sierra Leone.
However, it was on June 4, 2003 that his arrest warrant was issued the Ghanaian government while he was attending the opening of the Liberia Peace Talks in Accra. The Ghanaian government failed to arrest Mr. Taylor and allowed him to return home later that evening
As a result of this unprecedented development, the Nigerian government in its reaction expressed surprise and consternation that the US Government and Congress would encourage “this type of lawless and illegal behavior.”
The Special Advisor to the Nigerian President, Femi Fanu Kwaodu said that such a venture violates not only international law but all norms of civilization that a bounty should be put on the head of somebody that is residing and under the protection of a foreign country, noting angrily, “if anyone goes on the course of this reckless venture, it will be resisted.”
He noted emphatically that Mr. Taylor is guest of the Nigerian government, and under that government’s protection.
The Nigerian President’s Special Advisor reminded the Bush administration that Mr. Taylor was in Nigeria under an understanding that was engendered as part of a peace process for the Liberian problem, adding, “we have an obligation to protect him as long as he’s on our soil.”
He averred that ECOWAS’ Heads-of-State and those of the African Union (AU) especially South Africa and Mozambique, together agreed on this course of action as the only way out to finding a solution to the Liberian problem.
In sharp contrast, as response to what the United Nations make of the US move, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Jacques Klein said, “I’m rather delighted by it and hope it puts the pressure on how to see Mr. Taylor stand trial.”
“I think it’s a signal to the African people that their lives are worth something. That we will no longer let regional dictators and criminals brutalize you, murder you, exploit you, and steal the state treasury. That’s why I think it’s more symbolic to me,” Ambassador Klein reiterated.
Though many assumed that once the former Liberian president was taken out of the country, the international community, especially the Americans would leave the matter there, but this “as yet unexplained provision” in the Iraq and Afghanistan bill makes it clear that they have not forgotten him.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, during a visit here prior to Mr. Taylor’s departure, warned that he does not intend to be intimidated by the international community into giving up Mr. Taylor to the tribunal.
But the Nigerian President may not find it easy to dissuade the United States from financing and attempt to kidnap Mr. Taylor.
In August, an Anglo-American mercenary company, North Bridge Service Group Ltd. was quoted on an American conservative website as offering to attempt to arrest Mr. Taylor.
Mr. Taylor is being guarded by Nigerian troops and observers believe that should there be an attempt to kill or injure him in a kidnap attempt, the U.S. would pay dearly in diplomatic terms.
The observers said when Liberia, during the worst days of the recent civil war, was in need of the United States to save them, all the U.S. did was to send warships to ‘patrol’ Liberian waters. After heavy international criticisms, the US sent about 50 marines on the ground to provide logistical support to the now defunct ECOMIL - the vanguard sub-regional troops - which stopped the fighting.