They Were Under Duress

By Alvin J. Teage

The Perspective

February 28, 2002

In the spirit of the adversarial legal system, I respectfully answer Counselor Bushuben M. Keita.

If a law without exception requires that a lawsuit be filed within twenty days from the day of occurrence and you file it one day after the deadline, it will be rejected. It is not because the extra day will cause society serious injury. Rather, it is only by strictly enforcing the without exception deadline will the law have its purpose. This settled line of reasoning can be found in the law books of civilized nations. However, most laws are not absolute. They have exceptions.

In his beautifully composed article “The Justification For War” (, the learned Counselor Keita, among other things, seeks the proper title of the NPP administration. “My question is, did the special elections held in 1997 establish the NPP government as a government de facto since there is no provision for special elections under our laws, or did it established a government de jure since it was established by elections held under international supervision and consisting of the willing participation of all of the major political and military factions.”

An answer to the above question lies within the below hypo.

Mr. and Mrs. Liberia are relaxing in their peaceful home. With free time, they decide to watch the local nightly news. The top story on this local news station is about a prison escapee. A security camera visibly shows the escapee to be heavily armed. As a result, the public is advised to be on the lookout for this criminal. It is getting late, so Mr. and Mrs. Liberia decide to sleep.

While asleep, a male burglar kicks down the backdoor to their peaceful home and enters their bedroom. The rogue then places a loaded gun to Mrs. Liberia’s head and tells Mr. Liberia to sign a prepared document. His warning words are, “If you don’t sign my document, I will kill her right now.” At this time, Mr. Liberia correctly recognizes the rogue as the dangerous prison escapee. Not wanting to jeopardize his dear wife’s safety, he immediately signs the prepared document. The words in this document grant the Liberian rogue ownership to their home. Is this signed document enforceable in a civilized court of law?

If the NPFL-NPP body is de facto--having effect even though not formally or legally recognized, it is an illegitimate body and must not be recognized as a governmental entity. But assuming arguendo, that the ‘special elections’ held in 1997 set up the NPFL-NPP as a government de jure--existing by right or according to law, the Liberian masses still have a valid defense. They were under duress at the time they cast their votes for Terrorist Charles G. Taylor.

Taylor’s criminal acts against Liberia regarding the ‘special elections’ of 1997 are very extensive. However, respect for the victims and the limited space at my command keep me from enumerating the horrible details, which gave rise to his bloodthirsty spree. But it cannot be denied that Taylor promised to resume the war if the Executive Mansion were handed to another Liberian. To activate this threat, Taylor rebels traveled throughout Liberia threatening Liberians with pain of serious bodily injury or death if they did not vote for him. This is no secret. Most Liberians and the International Community are aware of Taylor’s elections threats. Sadly, a few Liberians have refused to speak out against said threats. Maybe it is the received benefits that have stopped these Liberians from acting against the duress. Whatever the case maybe, Taylor left his criminal marks during the ‘special elections’ of ’97. His unlawful demand--“Your vote or your life” was directed to the majority of Liberian voters. Taylor was not authorized nor privileged to make said threats. The right to vote is personal and constitutionally protected. It can not be coerced.

As a matter of commonsense, I would submit that it was not freewill that led some Liberians to sing in 1997, “You killed my ma, you killed my pa, I will vote for you (Charles G. Taylor).” This terrible slogan should inform reasonable minds about the degree of trauma Terrorist Taylor inflicted upon the People of Liberia. An individual who kills “ma and pa” generally does not get votes for the presidency. The World is not easily fooled.

In a civilized nation, whenever the threat of detention or harm is used to compel a person to do something against his or her will or judgment, duress is a recognized defense. And if proved, the victim’s action is excused. In our case, the Liberian masses were the victims in Taylor’s criminal run. ‘But for’ his instruments of death and demonstrated terrors, Terrorist Taylor could not have gotten to the Executive Mansion. He undeniably used deadly force and threats of serious bodily injury to obtain votes in the ‘special elections’ of ‘97. Therefore, Taylor must not be left to profit from his criminal deeds. As to the statute of limitations, it has not run. Taylor’s nonstop abuse of the Constitution has frozen said statute. This Terrorist must answer to justice.

As a sidebar, Counselor Keita argues that “Mere allegation of corruption or abuse of power cannot suffice to justify war against a government (Charles Taylor’s NPP) duly established by a legitimate process.” Well, it depends on which side of the fence one is on. It could easily be argued that an individual living under a democracy away from Taylor’s evil could indeed see the NPFL-NPP as a nonviolent legitimate body. However, those that have closely followed Liberia’s cries know that reports of corruption and gross human rights abuses regarding Terrorist Charles G. Taylor are not simple. The arbitrary arrests, unlawful floggings by armed security guards, and the erratic deaths of our People by Taylor NPP body are not ‘mere allegation’. They are substantial and should be troubling to any freedom lover.

The learned Counselor is right ...“that Mr. Taylor and the erstwhile National Patriotic Front of Liberia came to the forefront of Liberian politics over the past twelve years through their invasion of Liberia from the Ivory Coast with the expressed intent of overthrowing the government of President Doe by using their armed forces.” This shows that Taylor strongly believes in usurpation. He chaired the murders of more than 250,000 unwary Liberians. So there should be no attempt to polish his record as ‘mere allegation’. We owe a duty to Liberia to tell it like it is.

My answer to Counselor Keita’s question and view should not be construed as an attack on his patriotism. He is an officer of the court who wants Liberia to have peaceful passing of her presidency. I too desire peaceful passing of the Liberian presidency. Moreover, Counselor Keita is right when he writes, “Let's work within the legal frame work until it is no longer a logical option.” But my inquisitive mind can not help but ask; what legal framework? Taylor’s Supreme Court works for Liberia? Isn’t it wishful thinking to expect that Taylor’s Supreme Court of Liberia will change its current role and perform its constitutional duties?

For the aforesaid reasons, Taylor NPFL-NPP is a de facto body and must not be recognized as a legitimate governmental entity. Taylor used duress to obtain the votes of Liberians during the ‘special elections’ of 1997. Because of said illegality, his Pressured Executive Mansion Contract with Liberia is invalid.

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