Charles Taylor's quest for control started the very day he launched his bloody war in 1989. On the surface he called it ‘revolution' and multiple of people, for different reasons, followed him. But not much of his followers were aware that his main intention was to build a criminal empire.
Everything in the country was for ‘Ghankay', the name he took to court ethnic sympathy. It started with force during the active days of the war. Personal properties including houses, cars, food corps, money and cattle were for Taylor. Where he was not present, the rebel commanders who represented him in various localities played the role.
Even no man had control over his own wife, if the C.O. wanted her that was the end of the relationship with the husband. Death or severe beating, in most insistences, was commonplace for any attempt to refuse or resist.
When Taylor became constitutional President, the personalization of the country continued. Whenever a car is bought for any government ministry or agency, “Donated by Charles Ghankay Taylor” is inscribed on it. Taylor determined the ‘color' for the vehicles provided to the lawmakers, because ‘Taylor gave them'. The system of government bureaucracy was strangulated and Taylor charted the course of everything.
After placing the society in the frame of mind that the country is for Taylor, the second move was to legalize his criminality. At this stage, Taylor didn't need the indulgence or rejection of the people of Liberia. The Proportional Representation elections held in 1997 provided him the opportunity to hand-pick people who would sit at the Capitol to help him structure his criminal empire.
As a journalist who covered the National Legislature for over five conservative years, I followed keenly how Taylor and his cronies used the legislature to milk the country. Taylor knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and it was just by accident of history that luck left him soon, bringing an end to his kleptocratic rule.
In criminalizing the entire system of governance, the Legislature passed laws that enabled Taylor to firmly hold a grip on the country. The Legislature passed the Strategic Commodity Act, which reduced the Liberian Presidency to a commercial hub by empowering Taylor to negotiate agreements on all the resources of the country.
The so-called lawmakers also passed an Act granting 10% of the total revenue collected to the Bureau of Maritime Affairs. “The 10% was to be managed by the Commissioner” Benoni W. Urey and “deposited at a bank of his choice.” At that time, the Maritime Program was generating 18 million dollars annually and 10% of it, which is 1.8 million dollars was to be deposited by Urey at “the bank of his choice.”
I can recall when Rt/Gen. Fredrick Leigh of the International
Trust Company (ITC) appeared at the Capitol Building and prophesized what
Liberia was to face in taking the management of the maritime funds from the
International Registry Incorporated (IRI) to the Liberia International Ship
and Corporate Registry
Rt./Gen. Leigh told a joint public hearing organized by the House and Senate Committees on Maritime that he was “worried about the schools without textbooks, hospitals and clinics without drugs” as the result of the decision to allow LISCR to manage the maritime funds.
He said it was his intention to help stabilize whatsoever ‘bad
blood' that may have existed between the IRI/ITC and government of Liberia.
But “if the government of Liberia decides that it is now time to bring
to an end the 50-year old relationship, I will pack my bags and leave”,
the Retire General pensively told the forum.
I followed the drama curiously and in the course of my investigation, it was revealed to me that the LISCR was a new entity established by Taylor and Urey in collaboration with former ITC manager Rt/Gen. Yerks and a Jewish retired soldier. Rt./Gen. Yerks had resigned from the IRI/ITC and was the main architect in the scheme.
So, if the reported figure of 18 million dollars per year was anything to go by, for the six years in power, Taylor and his cronies accumulated 108 million dollars from the Maritime Program alone and 10.8 million dollars was deposited by Urey at “the bank of his choice.” After six years the Taylor's group left our country with an internationally acclaimed title of “fail state.”
Monokomna's faux pas: The man who presided over the making of all the laws that Taylor used to milk and criminalize the country was Nyudueh Monokomna, Speaker of the Parliament. And of course, as they passed the ‘laws', they picked up the crumbs by riding flashy cars and running homes with 24-hour electricity and water reservoir in a country without light and water.
With less one month after the gluttonous regime shamefully bowed out from office, Speaker Monokomna, according to news monitored from Monrovia, told a local radio station that the legislature repelled the ‘laws', before leaving, because they were not in the interest of the people of Liberia. This beats the imagination of any logical person.
The former speaker's confession raises two important issues:
(1) It means that the laws were made with criminal intent as the former Speaker insinuated. The laws they passed caused serious financial loss to the state and both the sponsors and makers cannot escape the criminal liability thereof.
(2) The confession should serve as the basis for the speedy establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to enable the likes of former Speaker Monokomna to reconcile with their conscience.
Their excesses are many and as much history will not forgive them for the broad-day raping of the country, they must be held liable, regardless of how long it takes, for their deeds. After all, that's what democracy is all about, for leaders to account for their stewardship.
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