George W. Bush, Charles G. Taylor And ECOWAS

By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 4, 2003

Demonstrators Demand Taylor's departure from Liberia
The billions of people living on Planet earth would say from the start that the mere thought of pinning these two men against each other could only be the result of a fantasy, born out of the mind seeking drama where there is none. After all, George Bush is the incontestable and uncontested leader of the world most powerful nation.

On the other hand, Charles Taylor, Charlie or Chucky is but a hoodlum, pretending to be leader to a country that has sank to rock bottom - when Madeline Albright said in 1995 that Liberia had hit rock bottom, she had no idea that there was even a lower bottom to where the country stood back then, with 5 clowns parading as "leaders" in the comical Council of State. Taylor is a liar, cunning and treacherous human being, who has managed to survive with total impunity after slaughtering more than 250,000 human beings, uprooting millions from their homes in the sub-region, destroyed thousands of villages and brought war and instability into a whole region.

The fact that the President of the United States has pronounced the name of Liberia in a major African policy speech is history in many ways. For the past two decades, besides Jimmy Carter who developed a personal and passionate interest for the country, American presidents have avoided talking about Liberia. Liberia's was only mentioned by press secretaries or spokespersons in briefings, usually calling on "parties" to stop hostilities, because, for the past 15 years, there were always some "parties" killing innocent Liberians. It was as if Liberia ceased to exist in the sphere of American politics. Was America so ashamed of its only "African stepchild" or was it a mere neglect, because the country of the Lone Star no longer had any strategic value after serving as a port of entrance for US into the continent?

But in Africa, a continent just emerging from colonial rule, the US commitment to any serious long-term friendship is judged by what she does or does not do in Liberia. Because, everyone in Africa, in the 1950s, in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and today perceives Liberia as an "American country" Liberians themselves listen to Americans to solve their problems. Just as Britain salvages Sierra Leone and France stood by Cote d'Ivoire in times of need. Humanitarian handouts are no longer sufficient. Of course, the irony is that nobody in America seems to care to know much about Liberia.

In the 1990s, President Abdou Diouf of Senegal, President Jawara of the Gambia, President Houphouet Boigny of Cote d'Ivoire and even President Lansanah Conteh of Guinea as well as Ibrahim Babanginda of Nigeria all asked this same question, in their own way: "what does America want to do with Liberia?" Because, as one of them said, "Taylor would not be there if American didn't want him to be there." Today, as Liberians politicians meet and talk in Ghana while "parties" are slaughtering innocent Liberians at home, the same question prevails: "what is US ready to do? How far would she go?"

Britain, France and everyone else say that the US should lead the way. Peace in Liberia means peace in Cote d'Ivoire, peace for Sierra Leone and stability for Guinea and much of the sub-region. It would also mean the end of billions spend on peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in a once very stable and productive region.

Is the US still so embroiled in a post Somali-trauma that the mere thought of sending troops to the "Dark Continent" creates panic in political circles? Or would they go over and, in the name of the high moral standards for freedom and human dignity that Bush holds dear, get rid of the most abusive human being history has produced since Hitler and Idi Amin Dada?

President Bush would soon be in Africa. He would talk to Africans about freedom, market economy and America's commitment to fight global terrorism. But for every one, from Obasanjo of Nigeria to Mbeki of South Africa, the lingering question, uttered or not, would be: "what are you doing about this terrorist in a country that you are supposed to care for?"

George W., by naming Charles Taylor in a speech, has taken up a challenge. He must follow up on his call for Taylor to step down. Solving Liberia's human crisis can be accomplished at a very low logistical and political cost but the rewards for US foreign policy in Africa could be tremendous. It would show to Africans and much of the world that the US cares about its friends and that it is ready to commit resources to defend human rights and dignity, without narrow consideration for immediate material benefits or strategic interests.

Liberians hope that George W. would ensure that before he steps off Air Force One onto African soil he would have solved the Charles Taylor issue. Taylor is as much a thorn in the flesh of Africa, a plague for West Africa as he is a political embarrassment for US foreign policy in Africa. If US can't solve Liberia's problems, it would hardly convince any African that it cares about security and the war on terrorism on the continent. Charles Taylor is a terrorist and a threat to world security, as David Crane, the Chief Prosecutor of the Sierra Leone Special Tribunal said.

ECOWAS, with its limited means, has done much and spent billions and tremendous human resources in Liberia in the last decade. Now it needs the direct support and political involvement of the US. They may have faulted by not arresting Taylor in Accra but then again, this was an African president - although a crook and a criminal - in an African country, they could not have arrested him to hand him over to the UN, but there is no doubt that they would work to get him out of the sub-region.

The Bush Administration in dealing with ECOWAS and Liberia may want to review the issue of the indictment. Does the need to bring Taylor to justice here and now is more important than the welfare and lives of millions in Liberia and the sub-region? Taylor can run now and he may even be allowed to get away but he can't run forever. Liberian justice, human rights organizations, an orphan or his own accomplices in crime would one day catch up with him. Now, the most important and most urgent thing is to restore freedom, dignity and stability to Liberia and West Africa. Therefore Taylor must go, by any means necessary.

For things to move faster, Liberian parties negotiating under the auspices of ECOWAS must now take the bold step to form a transitional government now so that process will become irreversible. Such a move would put an end to the jockeying going in Monrovia.