Siakon Nagbe (June 4th 2005)
"... President Taylor took a deal crafted by ECOWAS and endorsed by the international community including the United States. If the exiled president has violated the terms and conditions of the deal including continued meddling into the political affairs of Liberia – which by all indication he has - it raises a different issue and the case needs to be made for that instead of subjecting the Government of Nigeria to unnecessary pressures. ....."
I am opposed to the turning over of former President Charles Taylor to the UN Special Court in Sierra by the Nigerian Government - not because I support nor have any compassion for the ex-president – on the contrary – I believe that those who subject innocent citizens, including women and children to the atrocities of war need to be held accountable. But my opposition is basically out of principles – deals made, must be kept - less we cripple the opportunity to resolve future conflicts.
The deal made by the international community to impose the presence of President Taylor on the Nigerian government was not the only option it had, it was an easy way out – and it took it. The Government of Nigeria did a service to the Liberian people at the request of the international community and President Obasanjo is right in maintaining that the deal will stand.
There were many other options including the military intervention of the United States and subsequent arrest of President Taylor on the soils of Liberia. Remember, marines and other forces of the American military were conveniently loitering in the waters off the course of Liberia while President Bush buffed of pressure of the United States involvement in Liberia.
President Taylor’s decision to take the offer of exile to Nigeria may have resulted in the sparing of many lives which could have been lost if he had opted to be as hard-headed as former President Samuel Doe and remained to fight to the death. Had President Doe taken one of the many offers made to him to leave the country for exile, the history of Liberia would have been written differently.
My opposition to this belated pressure by the American government to have the Government of Nigeria turn the exiled president to the UN for war crimes is grounded more in the perception that it gives to the many other warlord leaders on the African continent. If a President will be offered exile only to leave his country and gets turned over for his past criminal offenses, there will be no incentive to leave and hopefully bring an end to the conflict.
There are two larger issues at hand. The first is the culture of impunity which now seems to exist in third world conflicts and endorsed by the international community. Individuals are committing treasonous acts by taking up arms against elected governments, killing innocent civilians and plunging countries into protracted civil wars only to be ushered into political power by deals brokered by the international community. The Liberian conflict is no exception. Here we have warlords of the LURD and MODEL patrolling the streets of Liberia today as officials in the Liberian government, many with UN security. There cannot be an end to such civil crises on the continent when the international community awards benefits to perpetrators of these atrocities against humanity.
Secondly, President Taylor took a deal crafted by ECOWAS and endorsed by the international community including the United States. If the exiled president has violated the terms and conditions of the deal including continued meddling into the political affairs of Liberia – which by all indication he has - it raises a different issue and the case needs to be made for that instead of subjecting the Government of Nigeria to unnecessary pressures.
The Nigerian government has made it clear that will honor a request from the Government of Liberia; perhaps then the pressure by the United States is misdirected and should instead be applied on Chairman Bryant. Conveniently he has said he will leave that up to the elected government. Perhaps he should be leaving the signing of long term contracts, sale of government assets and privatization issues as well.
While reconciliation is vital for our nation to move forward, accountability for the atrocities is of even greater importance. While we need to show that we are not creating a culture of impunity, it has to be done th right way - and we have to have ALL those responsible for such wartime atrocities face the full weight of international law.
This is where I stand! Perhaps now we should know how our presidential candidates stand ...
About the author:
Siakon Nagbe is a Computer Programmer with Intellicon and lives in Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A.