Courtesy of AP
The prophets of doom and gloom must be in anguish. Their vaunted inclination that surrendering Mr. Taylor to the Special Court in Sierra Leone would spell disaster for the rest of us has not happen and will not happen. The reasons are simple and pristine. The new Liberian Government does not have any option but to obey the law. The law says that crimes were committed in Sierra Leone; the law says that Mr. Taylor may have been involved in the commission of those crimes. The law says that his participation is so central to the commission of the crimes that he was indicted first on 17 counts but subsequently amended to11 counts. The amendment of the indictment according to the law is to focus on more substantial charges and perhaps to achieve a conviction in a less onerous manner. That is the law.
The Government of Liberia, headed by Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has said that among its unique feature, which would distinguish it from previous regimes, would be: commitments to the rule of law, respect for human rights, securing our elusive peace, deepen democratic tendencies and improve the material conditions of the people. Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf was thus elected and to the delight of the Liberian people, she has been embraced worldwide. Perhaps the embrace may have been resident in the fact that she is a woman. But women have run in the past in a number of elections in African countries, including our neighbor, Sierra Leone and lost. What distinguishes our new President is her declared sentiment that she believes in the rule of law and respect for human rights, after all she was a victim herself. Liberia military dictator, Master/Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, illegally arrested her and she was tortured. She worked to remove the Doe regime. Taylor illegally attempted to label her activities treasonous but was unable to have her detained, if not eliminated. No doubt, our new President assisted the process in getting Mr. Taylor indicted.
One reason she was not successful in heading the National Transitional Government of Liberia, I have been told by someone who should be in the know, was because the warlords at the conference were convinced that she would have probably sought their indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Her history and public pronouncements indicated in many ways her commitment to justice and respect for human rights. She can therefore not retreat when the greatest opportunity is presented to her to set into motion a possible legacy that impunity will not go unpunished. Crimes against humanity, war crimes – heinous crimes must be punished. Sirleaf-Johnson’s legacy has already begun, less than three months in office. Most leaders legacy happen after they leave office.
Another reason why the sky has not fallen is the following. A cursory appraisal of the elements which constitute a threat to Liberia’s fragile peace, the deepening of democracy and the fight against corruption would inevitably show a prominent, diabolic and dangerous role by Mr. Taylor. Embracing an available mechanism, the Special Court for Sierra Leone process, to eliminate a major source of threat is a welcome undertaking. By detaining Mr. Taylor, thus restricting and constraining his ability to cause mischief (Taylor once said that “I am the most mischievous Liberia), the country can now focus on other threats to our nascent democracy including massive unemployment, destroyed or non-existent infrastructure such as road networks and telecommunication as well as the lack of social service delivery to the Liberian people.
The enhanced vigilance by the United Mission in Liberia and expressed decision by the Liberian people to banish war forever combine to offer reasons that the sky will not fall. Those who think otherwise will in due course accept this reality. For the time being they will shout and scream; they may even issue threats and perhaps act on those threats, but the Liberian nation is resolved to move forward, to disentangle itself from the blood-letting of the past by taking this courageous first step in curbing the culture of impunity, not only in Sierra Leone but in Liberia and by extension in all of Africa. The sky still hangs though ominous, dark and cloudy yesterday. The nation can see “clearly now for the dark clouds have gone.” No more war!
*ezekiel pajibo works as Direct of the Center for Democratic Empowerment (CEDE), Monrovia, Liberia