Taylor verdict: Liberians fear instability

2012-04-26 22:11

Monrovia - Liberians shed few tears for Charles Taylor after their ex-president was found guilty of war crimes on Thursday but there were fears his conviction could undermine a still fragile peace.

A large number of Liberian police and UN soldiers were deployed in down town Monrovia as a UN-backed court handed down its verdict on Taylor for fuelling war-time atrocities in neighbouring Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds.

Taylor was Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003 after being elected by compatriots who had hoped that he would put a halt to their own civil war.

There was to be no let-up, as rebels rose up against Taylor in 1999, forcing him to flee to Nigeria in 2003 from where he was later extradited to The Hague.

Taylor retains significant pockets of support back home.

The government on Thursday called "on all Liberians, irrespective of our social and political difference, to respect the verdict of the special court and continue to pray for enduring peace and unity in the nation."

But there is also deep bitterness in Liberia where the atrocities Taylor caused as warlord and president have gone unpunished.

"This will serve as a deterrent for other African leaders who like to suck innocent blood," said Monrovia resident Mohamed Keita as he digested the verdict from the Netherlands in a bar in the Liberian capital.

Keita was one of many Liberians who had been keeping a close eye on events near The Hague where Taylor became the first former head of state to be found guilty by an international court since the 1946 Nuremberg trials.

Bloody civil war

Samuel Yarkpah, a doctor in Monrovia, bemoaned that others who had blood on their hands were still at large, both in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"Charles Taylor was tried only for what he did in Sierra Leone. But people have done worse than that in Liberia and today they are in Liberia, free to move around. Nothing has been done about that," Yarkpah, 37, told AFP.

Taylor led a group of rebels into Liberia in 1989 in a bid to overthrow the hated regime of Samuel Doe, a move which descended into bloody civil war with a panoply of warring factions.

Taylor's NPFL and units of child soldiers carried out massacres, torture and terrorised the population, placing human heads and entrails on sticks at checkpoints to incite fear.

Since Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took power in 2005, Liberia has managed to turn its back on conflict but the situation remains fragile as evidenced by the tensions over her re-election last year which the opposition said was fixed.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report released in 2009 named Taylor among those who should be prosecuted for war crimes, and suggested a list of people including Sirleaf be barred from office.

Sirleaf admitted financing Taylor in the early days of his rebellion before she realised the extent of his atrocities.

For Anita Williams, another resident of Monrovia, Thursday's verdict should not be a cause for celebration but could instead be a portent for trouble.

"This verdict against president Taylor should not be seen as a victory or justice. We have to start thinking on how this is to affect the fragile peace in Liberia," said the 49-year-old.

"If you look up in the sky, you will see the dark cloud surrounding the sun. It is not a good sign for our country. The Lord is trying to tell us that there are still problems ahead."

Read more on:    ellen johnson sirleaf  |  charles taylor  |  siera leone  |  liberia  |  west africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

/South Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.