U.S. Ransom on Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor (Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP-Getty Images)/

The clause in an emergency funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan signed by President George Bush, allocating $2 million for a reward for the capture of “an indictee of the Special Court for Sierra Leone” has been subject of intense public discourse.

The indictee of that special court is the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, who was granted asylum by the Nigerian government. The $2-million ransom has threatened the exiled Liberian warlord’s stay in Nigeria.

Nigeria has reiterated her resolve to protect the former Liberian leader with all her might and described the universal offer by the United States as tantamount to state-sponsored terrorism.

The U.S. Embassy has denied attempt to take “any illegal action against the Nigerian government.” The embassy further stated that the ransom will give the “U.S. government an additional tool they [might] need in future.”

We deprecate the covert attempt by the U.S. government to compel Taylor to be brought before the U.N. Special Court in Sierra Leone. Before stepping down from power, it became obvious that unless Taylor went into exile, there might never be a resolution of the Liberian crisis. It took the collective decision of leaders within the subregion before President [Olesegun] Obasanjo [of Nigeria] agreed to allow Taylor into Nigeria. President Bush also encouraged Nigeria to take Taylor then. The sudden U-turn of the United States from this rational decision taken in the interest of peace in Liberia cannot be understood.

We are not deluded by the fragile peace that currently reigns in Liberia. The tap roots of peace have not been firmly entrenched in that country and whatever treatment is meted out to exiled Taylor will play a crucial role in the firm establishment of permanent peace in the country. The United States, which acts as the number-one policeman of the world, should not through her ransom provoke Taylor’s loyalists. This might exacerbate the conflict in Liberia.

The United States should not believe she can violate Nigeria’s territorial sovereignty and integrity. The United States must subject herself to minimum rules of international standards as espoused in the various articles and conventions of the United Nations.

We acknowledge that Charles Taylor, while in the saddle in his country, created upheavals that affected not only his country but the West African subregion as well. In spite of this, it only makes sense that the ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] peace initiative that is yielding some positive results in Liberia must not be stalled by the kidnapping of the central figure in the crisis, Charles Taylor.

The United States should not be a catalyst to another resurgence of war in Liberia.