Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Charles Taylor - a Man Betrayed

Written By Chief Fani-Kayode
Source: allAfrica.com

Lagos — FEMI FANI-KAYODE argues that it's all well and good to try Charles Taylor for war crime atrocities, but that Tony Blair and George W. Bush should get the same treatment.

"AU leaders had an agreement that facilitated peace in Liberia. It's shameful how Obasanjo threw Charles Taylor under the bus after pressure from the Europeans and America (not a signatory to the so-called UN court).

For four years Iraq went through a wave of brutal ethnic cleansing, I don't see the UN Court going after the Iraqi Cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr and co as well as those brutal Afghan tribal war lords; all of whom the US States Department and other foreign powers struck deals. I believe African leaders need to grow more "spine", there will be more ridiculous demands by Western countries and the UN to change some part of our constitution in a few years."- Yele Odofin-Belo.

In many respects Mr Yele Odofin-Belo is absolutely right. This was the betrayal of the century. But I do not believe that President Olusegun Obasanjo was amongst those that betrayed anybody. To be fair to Obasanjo he was in fact the last man standing and he resisted the pressure until it all came to a head during a state visit to America when George W. Bush refused to see him until Taylor was produced.

Ironically, the real traitor was not Obasanjo but rather President Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia. The agreement with Taylor was put in place before she was elected but she was fully aware of it it's terms. She was actually the American and Nigerian candidate for that election and she worked very closely indeed with the Americans, Obasanjo and Nigeria before she was elected to power.

The deal was simple and clear and the terms were as follows. Taylor would be persuaded to step down as President of Liberia by the ECOWAS leaders and the African Union and he was to be given a safe haven in Nigeria after doing so. He would not be harassed, he would not face prosecution in Liberia, Sierra Leone or at the International Court at The Hague, and Nigeria would not be pressured or harassed by anyone to extradite him anywhere.

On his part, Taylor was expected to live quietly in Calabar with his relatives, under the direct supervision and care of Donald Duke, the then Governor of Cross Rivers state and he was to stay out of Liberian politics. All went according to plan and once the African Union endorsed the whole thing no less than 7 African Heads of State went to Liberia and physically accompanied Taylor back to Nigeria and to what was to be his new home and final point of destination for many years.

As a consequence of this concession and sacrifice which was made by Taylor the civil war in Liberia came to an immediate end, peace returned to the land and eventually a free and fair election was conducted in which Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf emerged as the new President as had been planned all along. However after the lady came to power everything changed. She ditched Obasanjo and Nigeria, turned her back on ECOWAS leaders and the African Union and became even closer to Bush.

Johnson Sirleaf forgot all about the sacrifices that Nigeria had made for her country in the past and started to talk only to the Americans. And of course the Americans wanted Taylor's blood. At the end of it all everything boiled down to money. Johnson needed financial support, aid, grants, loans and funding from the international monetary institutions and from the United States directly for her small country and obviously she needed American support to get this. The Americans gave her one condition before any help could come her way.

She was to formally ask for Charles Taylor to be returned to Liberia by Nigeria in order to face allegations of genocide and funding the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone at the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Yes the Americans did a complete u-turn, broke their word, violated the previous agreement and sought to turn all the African leaders that had guaranteed it, including Nigeria, into a bunch of unreliable and spineless liars.

And sadly the lady called President Johnson Sirleaf, played along with the Americans, capitulated and did precisely what they wanted to the utter shock and chagrin of virtually every African leader of that day and in total violation of the agreement and understanding that had been originally entered into by all the parties concerned and by all the major players including the Americans. After the formal request was made to Nigeria by Liberia, America now picked up the gauntlet and turned on Obasanjo compelling and threatening us in initially very subtle and eventually very direct tones and ways. The message was simple and clear.

We were to release Taylor and send him back to Liberia or Nigeria was to be brought to her knees. President Obasanjo stood firm and resisted their threats for a very long time and took the matter to the other ECOWAS leaders and the AU who of course supported us wholeheartedly because they had been privy to and were indeed part of the original agreement and understanding that had been established between all the relevant parties and stakeholders.

After this there was a long stalemate and eventually the whole matter turned a little nasty and became the subject of a loud and acrimonious spat between our government and the administration of President George W. Bush. And of course I was deeply involved in that public spat as one of the Presidential spokespersons. Things eventually came to a head when Obasanjo went on a state visit to America and a final demand was made for Taylor. President Obasanjo's argument, and it was a good one, was that no one or no country would ever believe, trust or take Nigeria seriously again if we breached our word to Taylor and that this is not a Nigerian position but rather it is an African Union position. The old man fought the matter out long and hard and I assure you he did his very best.

When the pressure got too much and President Johnson Sirleaf made a final and public demand for Taylor to be returned to Liberia by Nigeria, Obasanjo ordered that he should be dropped at some border post and allowed to go wherever he wanted rather than for us to formally hand him over to anyone. He was on a state visit in America at the time and when it was announced to the world that Taylor had suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth and was no longer with the Nigerians all hell broke loose and everyone panicked.

It was at that point that George W.Bush point blank refused to see Obasanjo whilst he remained in Washington unless and until Taylor was traced, found and handed over to the Liberians.

In my view Obasanjo could have stood his ground, left America immediately and called their bluff, especially since by that time we were engaged in a full-scale verbal war on the international airwaves with the White House and the American government over this issue. Our hand was quite strong then because virtually the whole of Africa was fully behind us with the exception of President Johnson Sirleaf.

Anyway all of a sudden, and very mysteriously, Taylor resurfaced, was arrested and was handed over to the Liberians who I believe flew him to either Liberia or Sierra Leone, from where he was promptly and immediately flown to the International Court of Criminal Justice at The Hague to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The greatest irony of all of this is that the nation of America herself, who fought for and orchestrated all of this, is NOT a signatory to that Court and therefore no former or serving American President, leader, citizen or even soldier can ever be brought before it to face any charges of crimes against humanity. That tells you just how unfair and ridiculous the whole world system is.

My position is that if you want to try the likes of President Charles Taylor for committing atrocities that is fine and by all means go ahead. However it is only right and proper for you to then do the same to all the living American and Western leaders who have also done the same thing in various parts of the world. This is especially so given the fact that they, more than any other set of leaders in the history of mankind, have been responsible for the most barbaric crimes against humanity that have ever been committed.

The law is surely no respecter of persons. After all it was not an African leader that dropped nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, with its attendant and horrific consequences, after the Second World War. It was not an African leader that committed terrible atrocities in Iraq by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of defenceless Iraqi women and children when bombing Baghdad, all in the name of regime change and the prosecution of an illegal and barbarous war.

It was not an African leader that killed the defenceless Arab women and children of Sabra and Chatilla in Southern Lebanon just a couple of decades ago. It was not an African leader that enslaved a whole continent and pillaged its resources and sold its people into slavery for hundreds of years. I could go on and on.

I have said this earlier and I repeat it here today, unless and until I see Tony Blair and George W. Bush being prosecuted by that same court at the Hague for their own undeniable and irrefutable acts of genocide and crimes against humanity, I cannot in any way be impressed with what they are doing to Charles Taylor or anyone else there.

Chief Fani-Kayode, a former Minister, writes from Lagos

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Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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