June 22, 2006
I wanted to share this column in Black Britain written by Godwin Nnanna, “Why Charles Taylor Must Answer for His Deeds?” It was written in April, but makes an excellent point about the problems in many African countries since gaining independence.
The post-colonial leadership, with few exceptions, established defective political and economic systems in which enormous power was concentrated in the hands of the state and, ultimately, one individual. Power in most of Africa today resides with the national governments and not many of the continent’s leaders are doing anything to reverse it. Rather than do that, the Taylors of the continent through progressive impoverishment of the people, have churned out more sycophants in their camps than reformers – sycophants who will rather campaign that such leaders stay in power longer than necessary than insist that national constitutions be upheld.
This explains why incumbent leaders in Africa never lose elections even when it is obvious that they run oppressive governments. When they are shown that the tune has changed as the Special Court in Sierra Leone is currently doing in the case of Charles Taylor- perhaps, a lot more of the enemies of Africa who by either hook or crook have found themselves in power, will learn to act with the future in view.
April 29, 2006
I saw this press release from Human Rights Watch, “Taylor Trial: A Third Country Must Step Forward.”
It seems before our old boy Charles Taylor can get a trial at The Hague, a country (presumably one not involved in the conflict) has to offer to put him up in prison, if he is convicted of crimes against humanity. Until this happens Taylor’s trial remains stalled.
I can’t believe this…I thought for sure…countries would be lining up ready to offer a cold, dank 4×6 room with primitive plumbing for the International Criminal Court’s first major trial. Taylor is one of the top dogs in West Africa when it comes to human rights abuses. Who else can have a country terrorized for eight years as a guerrilla leader–and still win ‘free and fair’ (wink, wink) elections. The press release said:
“Liberia’s new president took a real risk by requesting Taylor’s surrender, and security concerns prompted the Special Court to request relocating the trial to The Hague,” said Richard Dicker, International Justice director at Human Rights Watch. “How can other countries now sit back and do nothing?”
How come other countries aren’t stepping up? What about the U.S? Did it run out of room in Guantanamo already? No vacancies at Abu Ghraib? Oh, that’s right…the U.S. isn’t a signatory to the ICC. Well, perhaps the administration has enough problems.
I think it is crucial for West Africans to know they do have accessibility to the ICC and Taylor will still be held responsible for his actions despite these setbacks. We should start planning now if in the next ten years the Iraqi people decide to take Rumsfeld or Cheney to the ICC and charge them with war crimes.
Oh I have a feeling there will be no problem finding a place to keep them in lockdown…
April 17, 2006
In today’s International Herald Tribune, John Leigh who served as Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1998-2002 wrote the op-ed “Try Charles Taylor in Africa”
This is an interesting piece, but I disagree with Leigh’s points. The main one being that West Africa is still unstable with countries reeling from the aftermath of a civil war that former President Taylor fueled by providing arms and training insurgents in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone. Despite this, Leigh says that it’s better for Taylor to be tried in a neighboring country rather than transferring him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“Such a transfer would defeat a main purpose behind the establishment of the court in Sierra Leone: to teach Africans, in their own countries, the fundamentals of justice and to drive home the principle that no one is above the law.”
Africans can learn this lesson with the trial at The Hague too. Having the trial in Europe does nothing to undermine the integrity of the Special Court in Sierra Leone. The new president of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson doesn’t want Taylor tried in Africa. Taylor still has strong supporters among insurgents. Some of these rebel groups are active in the region. Why give them someone to rally support for? But Leigh argues:
“Taylor’s transfer abroad would seem like favoritism rendered to one of the most brutal of warlords out of perverse respect for the extreme horrors he perpetrated.”
This isn’t about the U.N. or the ICC showing favoritism. It’s about making someone who fueled an ethnic conflict into a civil war accountable. Up to 200,000 people were killed and more than 1 million were forced from their homes during 1989-1997.