By Isaac Vah Tukpah, Jr. (November 25th 2005)
"...We must set a precedent here and go after Charles Taylor and the warlords. There have to be legal remunerations for the sins and wounds these people have inflicted on Liberia. I understand that quite a few Liberians are devoid of patriotism but the detestable actions of these warlords and Charles Taylor against Liberia is similar to rape and assault and has had a crippling effect on at least two generations of Liberians, if not three...”
Here we go again. Are we crossing a deal with the devil? Are we trying to sweep the past 15 years under the rug? Are we really that weak as a people that we will accept the carnage wreaked on Liberia by the warlords and Charles Taylor as a thing of the past? I honestly believe that it is incumbent upon every Liberian to bring to justice, Charles Taylor and the war lords who are primarily responsible for the depths to which our beloved nation have sunk. Who can Ellen hold accountable if she cannot begin to rectify the wrongs of the past? Even in present day America, there are efforts to correct the wrongs of slavery and various groups are seeking direct apologies and reparations. Are we going to allow the major proponents of the warring factions to continue to co-exist in our midst with impunity? Where are the reparations to liberia and those who suffered the most from the senseless killings and devatations of the last 15 years? Ultimately, if we cannot hold them accountable now, who can hold her accountable in the event she has to resort to dictatorial and despotic tactics? We must set a precedent here and go after Charles Taylor and the warlords. There have to be legal remunerations for the sins and wounds these people have inflicted on Liberia. I understand that quite a few Liberians are devoid of patriotism but the detestable actions of these warlords and Charles Taylor against Liberia is similar to rape and assault and has had a crippling effect on at least two generations of Liberians, if not three.
What is the fear factor here? Are we afraid that if we go after Charles Taylor there will be a resurgence of armed conflict? Or is it that a deal has been cut between Charles Taylor, Jewel Howard Taylor and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that if the Taylor family supporters in Bong County throw their support behind Ellen (10,353 votes in the October Election versus 53,608 votes in the November 8 run-off) she will back off pursuing the request for Charles Taylor and subsequent prosecution? It is common knowledge that Ellen and Charles were bedfellows and fell out but was that pact so strong that after having been elected president, she has no inclination to pursue the prosecution of Charles Taylor and his cohort of warlords? Or is it the possibility that Ellen holds as much responsibility for the death of hundreds of thousands of Liberians and if Charles Taylor were to go before a war crimes court, her complete role in his invasion of Liberia will be exposed, and she will have equal culpability for the grave crimes, crimes against humanity, and all the other major violations of international humanitarian law that occurred since Christmas eve of 1989? There is precedence for trial of incumbent presidents for crimes against humanity.
It has been clearly documented that Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has said that if a freely elected Liberian government requests Taylor's extradition, he will turn him over to said government for either trial at home or in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, our president elect has been quoted as saying that "It is better that he be sent straight to Sierra Leone. That's where the trial will be. There is no need for him to come here first" when she knows that Obasanjo will not go back on his word of releasing Taylor directly to the Special Court of Sierra Leone. One of the reasons I did not support George Weah for president was I did not believe he had the political maturity to make the difficult decisions or could objectively weigh the pros and cons of controversial issues and make executive decisions befitting a president. I did not support Ellen but I believe that based on her career, political experience, and tenure in government, she has that capability. Therefore, her preceding statement seems more like a cop out or avoidance of making a major decision. As president, it is her responsibility to spearhead such an important process for the country and not pass the buck. We are watching and waiting to see what the Iron lady does! If she cannot become a champion of the people, someone will have to fill that void!
Justice in this case can be delayed but at some point, it will not be denied. Part of our national rehabilitation and reconciliation has to be the prosecution of those who "bear the greatest responsibilitÿ" for all the crimes that have been committed against the people of Liberia and through Charles Taylor, the people of Sierra Leone also. The Liberian government must take a stand here for its downtrodden people. The mere fact that Taylor remains at large in a nearby country, living in luxury, manipulating, meddling, and influencing Liberian and regional politics, is a slap in the face to justice and democracy. In order for Ellen to continue to elevate faith in the democratic process in the hearts of Liberians, that the recent elections have engendered, she must pursue the extradition of Charles Taylor from Nigeria, his prosecution and the prosecution of the warlords who hold the greatest responsibility for the crimes inflicted upon Liberia. The elections have gone a long way in letting the international community know that we are in the process of moving in the right direction. If we cannot do the right things by international standards, we are encumbering our progress and holding ourselves hostage to the limitations that will be imposed upon us with respect to aid for redevelopment. We must consider and comprehend that if our citizens are guilty of violating those laws, a concerted national effort to bring them to justice is our civic and international responsibility.