A Psychological Portrait of Charles Taylor
By James T. Krah
February 4, 2002
There is a general consensus among Liberians and the international community that President Charles Taylor has undoubtedly the worst human rights record that Liberia has ever known. And the personality traits that propel the psyche of the Liberian leader are also known and exhaustive: pariah, criminal, Bin Ladin terrorist connection, jail escapee, mafia, dictator, sadist child abuser, megalomania, irrational, con artist, drug pusher, warlord, despot, despot, tyrant, philander, impostor, buffoon, gangster, just to name a very few. Certainly there is no need for definitions.
But this is how well charged is the psychological portrait of Charles MacArthur Taylor. And a very keen look shows that it bears an unequivocal resemblance to that of most of the first class graduates from the Francophone school for neo-colonial national leaders: Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Mobutu Sese Sekou, General Habyarimana (Rwanda), Blaise Compaoré, Sasso N'guesso, Albert Bongo, former sergeant Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadéma, etc. etc.. - all ruthless and deadly despots from Francophone-Africa and Haiti.
In this book, “La Françafrique” (1998 - Stock), François-Xavier Verchave, a Frenchman, an outstanding critic of French policies in Africa - has a chapter on Liberia entitled: “My Taylor is rich”. He traced the adventurer route of Charles Taylor from his brief jail tenure in Ghana up to the mysterious jail escape in the United States from where he landed in La Côte D’Ivoire and on to Burkina Faso and finally to Libya where he was trained by Kaddafi as Liberia’s gas chamber. And thanks to the elaborate Franco-Africa politico-criminal network of Jacques Foccart who was affectionately called “Mr. Africa.”
Curiously, Colonel Kaddafi - Grand Master of a decadent revolution - was very cooperative in this genocidal undertaking not particularly because of his qualms with Doe or dislike for the United States as many would have thought, but because he needed favours from Paris. But how did Taylor escape from a federal prison and why did the United States government remained silent while Taylor was being trained by Libya then classified as a “terrorist state” was not dealt with. But this would be understood by us that in this game of genocide and crime against humanity everybody’s interest was being amply served.
However, what has interested us is how the French took the advantage over their Anglo-Saxon rivals: United States and Britain. According to Verchave, the Foccart-Houphouët tandem had three main objectives - of course, apart from Houphouët’s own personal grudge against Doe - in masterminding the French engagement with Taylor that we summarised as follows:
1. A commercial revenge to give advantage to the French -Ivorian-Lebanese business clique - very influential in Paris - over their Nigerian rivals for the control of gold, diamonds, logs, other precious stones and local trade. We can now see why the Lebanese business tycoons were quick to become very influential in the Taylor government; and French companies have also signed major contracts with the government.
2. A military revenge by making sure that the African multinational force, ECOMOG, dominated by Nigeria did not succeed.
3. A comforting position for French business in the region, and revenging for the loss of the Biafra twenty years earlier.
Of course, to implement such an ambitious programme it had to be a well-trained and audacious Francophile. Because when France was at the brink of its colonial empire collapse from the early 1940’s, it massacred and tortured , with total impunity, the indigenous opponents in some of its colonies: between 40 000 to 90 000 killed in Madagascar; 300 000 to 400 000 bamilékés bayoneted and tortured in Cameroon; tortures and massacres in Algeria, and so on.
What a formidable past for a country now the champion of human rights and the home of the famous “French Doctors.” And guess what? As cynical as it may sound, the NGO of “French Doctors” was established precisely during the Biafran genocide. Ah, the “French Doctors” have also won the Nobel Peace Prize; a compensation, perhaps, for having given the West a huge “Humanitarian “ face, if not for another “big business” base on human suffering, skeletons and corpses. Because the amount of money and resources put into the humanitarian business today could simply be utilised to create industries, schools, hospitals, infrastructures, etc., that could make Africa self-sufficient, efficient and competitive.
As independence became inevitable in the colonies, the strategy of annihilating entire tribes and population evolved. The French (and not the least all the colonial powers) learned that it was far better and safer to train and equip the nationals themselves as human gas chambers to the job even more efficiently. From whence comes the creation of species like Charles Macarthur Taylor: 250 000 children, women and elders perished to his greed and power; Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone: 10 000 to 20 000 gruesome deaths and amputations to foster his diamond trade; the Hutu-power of Rwanda under the watchful eyes of the French army: one million Tutsis were systematically butchered under a false ethnic pretence, and many thousands more were crushed in the final days of the Mobutu regime. My poor Africa, wake up!
In this nebulous and insane barbarity, mafioso, drugs, arms, ill-gotten wealth and manipulation, the principal actors used as scape-goats and pawns - like the Taylors - do understand very little or nothing at all. They only wake up, like in a nightmare, when their contractors and manipulators put them on the international stage and denounce them for what they really are.
Of course, it hurts when those they have been serving so diligently leave them naked on the world stage. It is then that the irrationality of these scape-goats and pawns becomes even more acute , and all their other vices are again multiplied by hundred-folds. They would lash out their deadly venom in every possible direction. And the objectives of their contractors and manipulators are still achieved as these despots, tyrants and buffoons would continue in their delirious anger to rein unabated terror and humiliation on their own people.
Then come the empty threats to reveal some hidden secrets between them and their foreign contractors and manipulators. But how could a Charles Taylor ever make public the condition surrounding his escape from an American Federal prison when that would merit an immediate international arrest warrant from the United States government? Has Blaise Compaoré ever got the courage to tell his people how he was entranced to marry Houphouët’s step-daughter, and in the process assassinated his bosom and charismatic friend Thomas Sankara before he was awaken to the monstrous reality of his act? Or can former sergeant Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadéma put into his autobiography (if at all he could he could write any) how he assassinated one of Africa’s best, President Sylvanus Olympio, in 1963; and almost forty years onward he is still ruining Togo?
No. The fact is that these individuals of the like of the Taylors, Compaorés and Eyadémas do have other inherent personality traits that expose them to manipulation and excesses. Contrary to what many may think, these individuals are cowards in the very extreme and are motivated mainly by their strong instincts for women, power and illegal wealth. We must add also that an extreme cowardice is one who possesses a multiple complex character.
Taylor had a very strong social complex from his youth. He had freckles and piqué hair that made him to resemble an albino or “moon-light” as we normally say in Liberia. He was considered a social outcast by his peer group; what was even worst, he had an abusive father. As a result, he grew up not only hateful of himself but also the society as a whole. He was an atypical anti-social. Such an individual acts excessively to prove his importance and when in fact he is actually nothing. This attitude has the propensity to produce vindictive tendencies and intolerance: the fear of challenges since there is nothing in substance to offer in return.
Thus a Charles MacArthur Taylor who butchered 250 000 unarmed innocent Liberians, destroyed an entire nation and still had to engage in cannibalism to prove that “he is a man”, can be nothing more and nothing less but an insane addicted coward. He is absolutely incapable of confronting the realities and his adversaries. He would prefer arranging your funeral at distance then letting you get near to him - a quality of a professed first-strike gangster.
When men of this specie are imposed on their people as Presidents, leaders and regimes, it is a real heal on earth for the population. Like Taylor and his pal Compaoré, they are dangerous and also become serious national security risk not only to their country and people, but an entire region and far beyond. The case of the Taliban regime is still fresh in our collective memory. Since they make the world around them so very small and inhospitable, they then see power in their subconscious mind as the only escape route. They are scare to die, but they will eventually die in power. That is the logic of an irrational, insane addicted coward.
Is there anyway forward for the forces of democracy, progress and development?
First, it is the ultimate responsibility of Liberians to get Taylor off their heads. But his psychological portrait as we have described is totally immune to any logical reasoning. Thus for the sake of our country and dignity as a people - and, if we want to rid our continent of these deadly psychopaths - we should never give such men the impression that they can get away with their crimes to survive peacefully in power or anywhere else for that matter. Life must be made extremely difficult for them to exist. Therefore, as we are doomed to fail our objectives through a democratic process and the pen, then we must all subscribe to the additional element: FORCE.
Second, we support, in addition, the proposal of former interim President, Dr. Amos Sawyer, that Taylor must be brought before the war crimes tribunal. In this respect, we urge the Liberian Diaspora to set a human rights commission, headed by a legal expert or an eminent person, to gather data on the atrocities Taylor continues to commit against the Liberian people. The data should be compiled and forwarded with an appeal to the United Nations and other international organisations for the indictment and arrest of Charles MacArthur Taylor.
And lastly, the good news is that the French and British foreign ministers recently toured together the Great Lakes region (Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, etc.) . There are indications that they are discussing a truce to their obsolete colonial rivalries, which continue to ruin the African continent and the future of its people. It is importance to note that while the Foccart-Houphouët tandem was having the upper hand in West Africa, the Anglo-Saxons’ military gear knocked the French out in the Great Lakes region , more prosperous and important. But Laurent Kabila’s mysterious assassination seemed to have given the French some leverage - one genuine reason which might be behind the current attempt by the two former colonial powers to settle their scores at a reconciliation table. Thus observing the positive developments in Sierra Leone, we can only hope that the same positive trend will filter through to West Africa.
We must not lose sight, though, that Liberia’s historical particularities have been its greatest handicap as well as a victimising factor. We are very proud not to have been “colonised” but in the process we have no reliable protector. This is why historians and writers continue to reveal that Britain and France have always used Liberia as a testing ground for their colonial rivalries - paradoxically, too, it is also these two colonial powers that have come to the aid of Liberia during most of the difficult periods in its history.
Therefore Liberians, instead of talking loudly about America, America..., will also do well to be talking as much to both Britain and France. What is even more, tomorrow both countries will be part of the United States of Europe: common currency, policies and interests - and no more rivalries. And now they need organised commercial activities again in Africa (genuine economic partnership and not exactly re-colonisation, please!) in order to support their unified economy. We must also cease this opportunity.