Taylor Refutes House Testimonies
By Our Staff
March 27, 2001
President Charles Taylor has disputed recent testimonies by
various witnesses before the US Congressional Sub-Committee on
Africa, which indicted his regime for regional destabilization
and gross human rights abuses. In a lengthy letter dated 20 March
to the Committee's chair Congressman Ed Royce, Taylor said the
testimonies by Liberians and others misrepresent his good human
rights record and are geared towards winning legal immigration
status for Liberians in the US.
During the Hearing, Congressman Royce noted that, "Taylor has ruined what remained of the Liberian economy after the seven-year war he waged. He and his cronies, the so-called 'Inner Circle,' control virtually all the nation's significant trade, as the United Nations recently reported. Liberia has been described as Charles Taylor, Inc. This corporation is corrupt to its core... Taylor is a menace to West Africa. One of today's witnesses will state that Taylor's role has been to mastermind carnage in Sierra Leone for the sole purpose of controlling its diamond mines, from which he derives income to enrich himself and buy arms and ammunitions to continue his control over Liberia, and ultimately over the West Africa sub-region."
Senator Russ Feingold, who saw first-hand the atrocities committed by the RUF during a tour of Sierra Leone, said, "At the heart of this trend is Liberian President Charles Taylor. While the Liberian Embassy and the man himself are currently trying to persuade the world of their good intentions, no one who has followed Africa in recent years should be deceived. Taylor has absolutely no credibility. All reliable reports continue to indicate that he is manipulating the situation in West Africa for personal gain, at the expense of his own Liberian people, the people of Sierra Leone, and now the people of Guinea".
Ms. Mydea Reeves-Karpeh, President of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), said her group was "considering filing class action lawsuits against the perpetrators of political and economic crimes committed against the Liberian people before, during and after the Civil War". She added that:
"Taylor's role has been to mastermind carnage in Sierra Leone for the sole purpose of controlling its diamond mines, from which he derives income to enrich himself and buy arms and ammunitions to continue his control over Liberia, and ultimately over the West African sub-region. Mr. Taylor is no longer just a Liberian problem; he is now become a regional terrorist".
A humanitarian worker Timothy Bishop told the Hearing that, "In the eleven years since, I have seen first-hand many of the haunting images above. I have helped build refugee and IDP camps to house over half a million people. I have passed military checkpoints decorated with human skulls. I have interviewed victims of rape and torture. And I have visited hospital wards full of amputees. In mid-1996, I sat at the bedside of a fifteen-year-old boy who, one week earlier near the town of Bo, had been captured by rebels and had a thick plastic bag placed over his head. The bag had been lit on fire, the molten plastic burning hair and skin off of the teenager's face. When I met him a few days later, the right side of his face had peeled away from his skull and jawbone. He resembled a grotesque Halloween costume. Unable to speak, he looked at me out of his left eye, his only remaining eye. I could not pretend then, and I cannot now, to know the thoughts that ran through his mind."
Stephanie Mertens, Coordinator, Peace and Justice Office of the Order of the Adorers of Christ, dwelling on the gruesome murders of five American nuns by NPFL fighters, said, "I will now describe the events that led to their deaths. The night of October 20, a security guard at the convent said he was worried about his family. Two of the sisters, Barbara Ann and Joel, agreed to drive him home. On the way they picked up two ECOMOG soldiers. The sisters did not return from the trip and the other sisters feared the worst. Later it was learned that the two sisters had been killed.
"On October 21, the sisters and the young women with them, packed some belongings into a car with a view to move into Monrovia, but they were afraid to leave because of the intense shooting all day. On October 23, at about 5:00 p.m., NPFL soldiers arrived. Five of them entered the Convent grounds under the command of C.O. Mosquito. He ordered everybody out of the Convent. Mosquito said he was going to kill all the white people. Sister Shirley begged him not to kill the Sisters. Sister Kathleen went towards the gate in order to open it. As she did so, Mosquito shot her in the forearm. She fell and he then shot her fatally in the neck."
US State Department, in its report on human rights situation in Liberia, said: "The Government's human rights record remained poor, and there were numerous, serious abuses in many areas. The security forces committed many extrajudicial killings, and they were accused of killing or causing the disappearance of persons. Security forces tortured, beat, and otherwise abused or humiliated citizens".
The report said, "The Government investigated some of the alleged abuses by the security forces; however, offenders were rarely charged or disciplined. Prison conditions remained harsh and sometimes life threatening. Security forces continued at times to use arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention remained common. The judicial system, hampered by political influence, economic pressure, inefficiency, corruption, and a lack of resources, was unable to ensure citizens' rights to due process and a fair trial".
The report further stated, "More than 20 political prisoners remained in jail. Security forces violated citizens' privacy rights, conducted warrantless searches, harassment, illegal surveillance, and looted homes. The Government restricted freedom of the press; it detained, threatened, and intimidated journalists into self-censorship and shut down two radio stations, one temporarily. Security forces restricted freedom of movement, using roadblocks to extort money from travelers and returning refugees. Security forces frequently harassed human rights monitors. Violence and discrimination against women remained problems. The welfare of children remained widely neglected, and female genital mutilation (FGM) continued to increase. Societal ethnic discrimination remained widespread ethnic differences continued to generate violence and political tensions, and the Government continued to discriminate against indigenous ethnic groups that had opposed Taylor in the civil war, especially the Mandingo and the Krahn ethnic groups. Forced labor persisted in rural areas. Child labor remained widespread, and there were reports of forced child labor. Ritualistic killings also persisted".
The US Committee for Refugees says, "Years ago, Taylor escaped prosecution in the United States for charges of embezzlement. Today, the United States should see that he is finally held accountable--this time for his continued role in the widening cycle of violence in West Africa that has left a million people uprooted from their homes."
Amnesty International, in its recent release on the deteriorating human rights conditions in the country, noted: "Intolerance of criticism was further exacerbated after the publication of a UN report in December 2000 accusing Liberia of providing military support to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the armed opposition group in Sierra Leone which has been responsible for widespread human rights abuses, and of profiting from the illegal trade in diamonds from Sierra Leone which fuels the war."
But Taylor, extending an invitation to the US Committee to tour the country and verify the charges, said these claims are false. A man who once declared that, "I will do it (commit crime) and apologize." He apologized for the killings of the American nuns, insisting that Senegalese soldiers, financed by the US to meet his demand for a neutral peacekeeping force, were responsible:
"The sad and unfortunate death of the three Catholic nuns for example was blamed on the NPFL. The fact of the matter is that, the American-backed Senegalese unit of The ECOMOG peacekeeping force was in charge of the area where the deaths occurred. Coincidentally, the same Senegalese unit 'discovered' the bodies of the nuns, and yet, the deaths were blamed on NPFL forces that were miles away from the site of their demise. As a compassionate Christian, I have mourned the tragic death of the Sisters. I understand the pain and share the grief of their families, and wish to categorically reiterate that my Movement, the NPFL was not responsible for their death. As a matter of fact, many Americans and other foreign nationals were rescued by my organization and taken to safety during the civil war."
Although he is reputed to have established the Small Boys Unit, composed of child soldiers during his war who committed several atrocities, Taylor told the Americans: "I have gone on record several times to condemn in the strongest terms the despicable act of cutting off the limbs of innocent people, especially children, in Sierra Leone. I believe that those responsible ought to be found and punished. No such acts were ever carried out by the NPFL during the Liberian civil war, because we instituted strenuous punishment against anyone who was guilty of rape, murder or any other form of human rights abuse."
Nevertheless, his spokesman now businessman, J. T. Richardson admitted in 1998 during another attack on Monrovia that left 300 dead and tens of thousands displaced, that:
"What the journalists have failed to point out is that
this time, unlike previous fighting in Monrovia,
the civilians have not really suffered... In the past, fighters would rip out people's intestines and use them to string up roadblocks, or cut off people's heads. This time there has been none of that". At the same time, Taylor warned opponents criticizing his brutalities that:
"They are writing 'Angels of Death.' Look, I am no Angel of Death and I am going to prove it in this town. I am very serious, me, Charles Ghankay Taylor, I will prove that I am no Lord of War and I am no Angel of Death. If you don't respect this presidency, you'll respect it or I am going to lock horns with some people here one on one. They think ECOMOG here to support their nonsense and their talks. ECOMOG will not stop me. It's almost reaching now that we will make sure that different processes; due processes of law maybe, and in some cases, the laws of the jungle to bring things under control in this town. You know Charles Taylor, we will straighten things out."
He said claims against his regime are the result of a conspiracy: "Sadly, the TPS (Temporary Protective Status) has become a bread and butter safe haven for many Liberians who were never victims of our civil war, and is used to regularize their immigration documents in the United States. In order to perpetuate their lifestyle, many Liberians have conveniently invented lies and falsely accused our government of human rights abuses and prosecution, to engender the sympathies of the American government." Despite the immense backing he received from individuals in the Clinton administration such the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others, Taylor now says his problems are the making of the Clinton White House. "The dis-information (sic) campaign, coupled with outright lies is the brainchild of some officials of the Clinton Administration", he wrote.
Although he recently admitted that the north of the country, Lofa, among other parts, is empty due to periodic incursions by ethnic groups targeted at home for elimination, Taylor said, "Liberia today remains among the safest nations in the sub-region. Armed robbery, rape, murder and many of the social ills that plague post-conflict nations are virtually absent in Liberia. We are a peace-loving people with a long tradition of hospitality toward foreigners and peaceful co-existence with our neighbors". Over 18,000 Krahns were forced to flee across borders of neighboring states in 1998 and tens of thousands in 1999.
And despite charges against main opposition leaders and his personal threats of arrests barring them from returning home, Taylor listed his "democratic" credentials, reminding the Committee that: "I personally led protest demonstrations at the United Nations and the White House against the Tolbert government in the mid-1970s to encourage multiparty democracy, equal justice, human rights and economic emancipation for all Liberians. In fact, I was the leader of the ULAA delegation to Liberia in 1979-80 to interact with the Liberian government on the above-mentioned issues when the military coup occurred".
Disregarding his war and human rights record, and links to Libya, along with the invasion of the US Embassy and the killing of a fleeing man within its compounds, coupled with regular threats against American embassy officials and allegations against Washington, Taylor said: "It is still a mystery to me what the source of the reversal in US-Liberia relations might be. I do recall the cordial relations that existed between the State Department and I as leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, NPFL. There might have been some misunderstanding of a number of events that occurred for which my revolutionary movement might have been unjustifiably blamed".
Contrary to reports, Taylor said he was a victim and the aggressor in the sub-regional conflicts linked to him: "Our position on the resolution of that conflict has always been crystal clear. We have condemned in no uncertain terms the evil amputations of innocent civilians by the RUF. We have urged the disengagement of all warring factions in Sierra Leone, to pave the way for disarmament and demobilization. We continue to advocate that the ECOWAS initiative be recognized and respected as an inevitable ingredient for lasting peace not only in Sierra Leone, but the entire sub-region. We have also called for the monitoring of all our borders to ensure that there is no illicit trade in diamonds or cross-border raids by anti-government insurgents. As soon as these prescriptions are accepted in combination with efforts of the United Nations, I believe that we could move closer to a resolution of the crisis.
"The crisis in Guinea is obviously custom-made by virtue
of internal political discord in that country. Additionally, the
authorities of the Lansana Conte Government, and perhaps even
President Conte, have unwittingly allowed six rebel incursions
by Liberian dissidents using bases in several strategic areas
of Guinea. Guinean-assisted artillery and air power accompanied
the latest attacks on Lofa County in Northern Liberia. We have
exercised tremendous patience and have thus far not retaliated
for this unprovoked attack on our sovereign territory and the
destruction of the northern tier of our country. And yet, Guinea
is being portrayed as the victim and Liberia the aggressor in
this wanton cross-border armed conflict."