"Taylor Responds to Pressure," Says Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
August 4, 2001
President Charles Taylor has made several moves in recent days. He had freed three of thirteen prominent Krahn leaders who were imprisoned on treason charges, pardoned exiled opposition leaders and declared the month of August a reconciliation month, and reliable sources in Monrovia say there is plan afoot to free the remaining ten political prisoners including Mr. Raleigh Seekie. ECOWAS Secretary General, Lassana Kouyate and Ambassador Streeb from the Carter Center are currently visiting Monrovia. Why is President Taylor making all these overtures? Is he sincere or is this a gimmick to lure political opponents, real or imaged, back to Monrovia to be liquidated upon arrival?
On August 3, 2001, this magazine contacted Mrs. Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf, one of the opposition leaders charged with treason by the Taylor government to find out if she is ready to embrace the apparent olive branch extended by Mr. Taylor and if so when will she return home? In response, she said:
"I will say to you what I said to Robbin White [BBC] when he called me couple of hours ago. I have too many commitments. I can't just jump on the plane. I have to readjust my schedule and see how I can fit a day in. I will definitely go sometime this month."
Liberians in the Diaspora believe that all political leaders who are covered by the recent pardon must be cautious. As one politician put it, "trust but verify". We asked Mrs. Johnson- Sirleaf as to whether she trusts Mr. Taylor? Her reply was:
"No. But my supporters are in Liberia. Every day they stand up for me, they take risk. If I am not willing to take a calculated risk, how can I expect them to continue to support me. Now I will not be foolish to go when Mr. Taylor says if you come here I will lock you up. It will then mean that I want to commit suicide. With respect to the treason charges, the party [Unity Party] went one step further. The party officials in Monrovia said we don't accept the amnesty from the president until the court itself cancels the case. Yesterday, the Solicitor General, Mr. Theophilus Gould, went to the court and presented the document requesting the court that the government is withdrawing its case, and that they have no more case against me. The court canceled the case in keeping with the Unity Party's request."
When asked as to why Mr. Taylor is making these overtures, Mrs. Johnson- Sirleaf stated:
"Let me just say that people should not think that these actions by Mr. Taylor are coming because he's being magnanimous or he's being conciliatory. There is serious pressure on Mr. Taylor to do all the things he is doing now and more. The second point is that yesterday [August 2, 2001] was the fourth anniversary of Taylor's coming to power. He is in a big trouble and he put our country in big trouble - and he knows it. He knows that if he does not do something it is going to be worse for him. It is due to the pressure that all of us, including The Perspective, have applied in so many different ways. We know that he responds to pressure - when the pressure is off, he goes back to his hole."
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