The Misguided Taylor's Apologists
By Winsley S. Nanka
Recently, apologists for Charles G. Taylor have stepped up their attacks against democratic minded Liberians that are criticizing the state of lawlessness in Liberia and the destabilization of the West African sub region by Taylor and his criminal gangs. Accusations against the critics of the regime among others are, they are political asylum seekers and candidates for the deferred departure program in the United States. Therefore, the only way to justify their stay in the United States is to undermine the "democratically'' elected government of Charles McArther Taylor. These supporters, including President McArthur Taylor have also attacked reputable international human rights and environmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Global Witness, and international media organizations including the Washington Post, the Guardian Observer and Time Magazine for documenting the violation of human rights, the suppression of freedom of speech, the absence of the rule of law in Liberia, and the destabilization of the West African Sub-region.
The supporters also justify "Africa's New Big Man'' failure to initiate any viable social economic development program (since his "democratic'' election in 1997) on the war in Lofa County, the limited sanctions imposed by the United Nations, and the failure of bilateral and multilateral development institutions to give Liberia financial and economic assistance.
Liberians in America and around the world are successful in seeking political protection not because of their criticism of the Taylor regime. Liberians are successful because they have been victims of state sponsored terrorism since the "democratic" administration of Charles G. Taylor came to power in 1997. Charles McArthur Taylor's government has failed to protect the basic human rights of the Liberian people as demonstrated by the killings of the Samuel Dokie Family, Madame Norwai Flomo, the hundreds of Krahn women and children that were massacred on camp Johnson Road and the beating of Amos Sawyer, an Ex-President of Liberia. Other violations of human rights that have qualified Liberian for political protection abroad include the gang raped of the thirteen University of Liberia female students by the so-called Anti-Terrorist Unit as reported by Amnesty International, the torture of members of the Mandingo ethnic group in Lofa County because of their alleged support for the rebels fighting to unseat President Charles McArthur Taylor from power and the murder recently of a Nigerian National by four members of the dreaded Taylor Terrorist Unit. In almost all cases, members of Taylor's security forces involved in the above crimes have not been brought to justice.
The Taylor regime as his apologists are aware, has blatantly failed to uphold freedom of the press as indicated by the closure of Star Radio, the failure to grant Radio Veritas short-wave frequency broadcast rights, the closure of local newspapers and the detention of local journalists. These are legitimate reasons while the community of civilized nations is granting political asylum to Liberians around the world.
As for Taylor's apologists claim that Taylor was "democratically" elected, let me remind them that the democratic election of a president does not give that president 'carte blanche' to commit atrocities against his own people. In addition, election is not the only component of democracy. Other components are freedom of expression as guarantee by the Liberian Constitution, the rule of law, good governance, justice and equality. The failure of the Taylor government to uphold the other components of democracy delegitimizes his regime in the eyes of the international community and makes his government a candidate for derecognition.
The sanctions imposed by the United Nations came into effect few months ago, while Taylor came to power in 1997. Most importantly, the sanction does not cover the two biggest foreign exchange earners for the government-logging and the maritime operations. If Charles McArthur Taylor is serious about social economic development in Liberia, why has he not used the funds generated by the maritime and logging operations to bring basic services such as water, sewer system, electricity, a viable medical system and an improved educational system? The answer is simple-Taylor and his cronies have been using these funds to support their lavish lifestyles in the midst of the abject poverty in Liberia, and have also diverted the rest of the funds to illegal arm purchases for the notorious RUF of Sierra Leone and the NPFL terroristic security forces as documented by the United Nations Sanctions Committee.
The international community has failed to give the regime in Monrovia financial and economic assistance because of Taylor's human rights record and the lack of accountability by his government. Key players in the regime including President Charles McArthur Taylor, Emmanuel Shaw (Economic Advisor), Jenkins Scott (Legal Advisor) Kekula Kpoto ( President of the Liberian Senate ), Tom Woewiyu (Senator) among others are internationally known kleptocrats. It is an open secret in Monrovia that President Taylor keeps United States dollars earned daily by the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation at his private residence. Charles G. Taylor embezzled about a million from Samuel Doe's government, while he was Director General of the General Services Agency in Monrovia. He escaped from Liberia in the mid-1980s to the United States (ask Jenkins Scott, Taylor's Legal Advisor). Taylor was, however, arrested in the U.S. He escaped from prison at the Plymouth House of Corrections in Somerville Massachusetts.
The difficulties the Taylor regime is facing in attracting international capital to Liberia is not because of his critics and international human rights and media organizations. Taylors apologists need not to look too far to find answers for our current crisis - they must redirect their efforts to Mr. Taylor himself. Ask President Taylor to free all the so-called political prisoners he has jailed, ask him to reopen Star Radio and grant Radio Veritas short-wave frequency broadcast rights. Ask President Charles McArthur Taylor to establish an independent human rights commission in conjunction with local and international rights organizations to investigate the various violations of human rights in Liberia and prosecute the perpetrators. Ask President Charles G. Taylor and his cronies to divert the resources in Liberia to socio-economic development instead of using them to support their lavish lifestyles and purchase arms for the armed gang in Sierra Leone calling itself the United Revolutionary Front. Ask Charles G. Taylor to bring about accountability, transparency and the rule of law to Liberia. Finally, ask him to create the condition necessary for democracy to flourish in Liberia.
If Taylor's apostles fail to take these steps, they will also be held legally accountable once there is a truly democratically elected government in Liberia.