Rights Advocate Says Taylor is a "Despot"
December 27, 2000

George Soros, the millionaire founder of the humanitarian and pro-democracy group, Open Society, says Liberia's President Charles Taylor is a "despot" who is "destabilizing" the West African region.

Mr. Soros, who recently opened a Nigerian branch of his foundation which is committed to free speech and democracy-building, told the BBC, "There is not much we can do about Liberia" in terms of ensuring free speech and democracy. But he added that he intends to use his resources for democracy building in West Africa. He said he is influenced by the terrible repression he saw as a child when growing up in Hungary.

A number of media outlets have been shutdown since Taylor became President in an election conducted under the dictates of late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. Key political figures have been executed while others, including journalists, have fled. Several Krahn leaders, kinsmen of late President Samuel Doe, were convicted by a kangaroo court last year after a questionable treason trial and sentenced to 10 years in prison. But the Supreme Court, headed by one of President Taylor's loyalists, recently upped the sentence to 20 years. Demonstrations are banned, except those authorized and organized by the President.

Mr. Soros said it is unimaginable what Taylor has done to the children of Sierra Leone and the region. Taylor's allies of the Revolutionary United Front rebels have amputated thousands of children in a war that has lasted for about a decade. The RUF was formed and organized in Liberia as an offshoot of Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia. A recent UN Panel of Experts' report blamed Taylor for the war in Sierra Leone. The Panel proposed a series of sanctions against the Liberian regime, including travel ban and flights to Liberia. Other moves proposed include the freezing of assets of the Liberian rulers and a ban on timber exports.

A number of Mr. Taylor's many children attend European and other foreign schools.

"Here is the heart of the African. His children are living in luxury at the expense of ours who have no hands, no feet, and no home. Sierra Leone is filled with orphanages and thanks to Liberia's Taylor. Let his children enjoy our diamonds. There is God," cried a Sierra Leone woman living in Amsterdam.

Tay Taylor rose to prominence when he served as a key figure in Liberia's military junta. He was later accused of stealing close to a million dollars. He fled to the US, where he was arrested, but escaped prison to launch a war that brought him to power after the killing of 250,000 people.

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