Is Charles Taylor Serious About Peace?
August 14, 2001
I have been listening to and watching with keen interest all the talks, maneuvers and posturing by the Liberian ruler, vis-à-vis the issue of ending the horror and terror he has brought upon Liberia. This once-upon-a-time tranquil West African nation has been completely transformed, almost overnight, into a living hell by the evil machinations of one man, Charles McArthur Taylor, actively aided and abetted by a conglomeration of unscrupulous local and international characters. I must admit that I have been taken aback by the reactions of some of the players in the Liberian political theatre, who (one would think) share at least one thing in common with the rest of us ordinary people - the desire to see an end to the suffering and despair so rampant in Liberia today. Call me a pessimist. Call me a realist. Call me whatever you wish. But when it comes to politics and the behavior of politicians, I take my calling from history and human experience.
Like a lot of people who are concerned about the troubles facing Liberia today, I am cognizant of the oppression and denial of basic democratic rights the people of Liberia have suffered over the years. This oppression and denial of basic democratic rights started and continued during the regimes of so-called democratically elected civilian leaders under the True Whig Party banner. That situation, to a very large extent, led to the events of April 14, 1979 and April 12, 1980. The almost total collapse of all institutions in Liberia, as a direct result of Charles Taylor's tyranny, despotism and adventurism, is also a precipitate of the lack of vision on the part of, as well as the oppression and undemocratic rule practiced by men and women who were supposed to know better. Let us note that when people who are expected to be of goodwill and common sense fail to live up to expectation, they give cause (justifiably or not) to barbarians and thieves like Charles Taylor and his followers, to wreak havoc in the way we are seeing in Liberia today.
Before Charles Taylor grabbed power, the people who denied the masses of the Liberian people some of their most fundamental rights did not just quietly fold up and fade out of political existence. It took the events of April 14, 1979, April 12, 1980 and September 1990 for those greedy and corrupt individuals to relinquish or lose power. For those who are not up-to-date with recent Liberian history, here is what these three dates mean: April 14, 1979 marked the first major revolt by the masses of the Liberian people against totalitarian rule. On that day, thousands of citizens took to the streets of Monrovia to peacefully demonstrate against an unjustifiable increase in the price of imported rice by the regime of president William Richard Tolbert. Rice is the staple diet of Liberians. Several hundred people were unnecessarily gunned down, mainly by Mr. Tolbert's national police force. Nearly a year following the April 1979 revolt, a group of lower rank military officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe overthrew and killed president Tolbert in the early morning hours of April 12, 1980. And as they say, those who rise by the sword shall also fall by it. And so it came to pass that Doe himself was kidnapped and tortured to death in September 1990 by forces loyal to then Liberian warlord Prince Johnson.
Those who believe that Charles Taylor's recent gestures are genuine overtures for peace are either hopelessly naïve or grossly negligent. But I refuse to believe that anyone seriously concerned about the hell Taylor has created in Liberia is naïve or negligent. That is why I am suggesting to those who want to jump on the bandwagon and praise this cunning despot and tyrant to sit back and take a deep breath. As history has taught us about corrupt and authoritarian rulers, there is absolutely no way Charles Taylor will relinquish power without a very serious and perhaps more deadly struggle. Idi Amin, Ferdinand Marcos, Jean Claude Duvalier, Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko, Laurent Kabila and Slobodon Melosovic did not rise from their beds one morning and through some divine guidance decide it was time for them to step down and return power and freedom to the people of their respective nations. They were forced out violently. Of course Kabila was shot to death at point blank range by one of his own soldiers.
Anyone who thinks that Taylor is serious about peacefully resolving the Liberian conflict must keep this very important issue in mind. The brutal security forces in Liberia today are composed of former National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) child soldiers, active as well as former rebels from Sierra Leone's notorious (un)Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Burkinabe and other mercenaries. Burkina Faso and Libya train Taylor's security and military forces. Former South African neo-nazi security officers, who were very instrumental in the enforcement of the racist apartheid laws that denied black South Africans all the basic rights of citizenship in their own country, are also said to be in Liberia giving security and military advice to the government.
In fairness, let us note that Charles Taylor, through his Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) has told the world that there are no mercenaries and non-Liberians in the country's security and military forces. MICAT indicated to the world in a recent Press Release that all foreign-born persons serving in Taylor's security and military forces have been naturalized. One therefore should not be surprised if the former commander of Sierra Leone's RUF, the infamous "Prince of Terror" Sam 'Mosquito' Bockarie and some South African neo-nazi security and military advisors are now naturalized citizens of Liberia. Given the history of the horrific brutality and terror Taylor's security and military forces have meted out against people who have voiced discontent about his totalitarian rule, what type of security protection can be expected for those who wish to return to Liberia and challenge the corruption, decadence and terror that have engulfed that country under the rulership of Charles Taylor?
For all the talk about a peaceful resolution of the Liberian fiasco, I must caution those concerned that Charles Taylor has been cornered by the publicity his tyranny in Liberia and barbaric adventures in the West African sub-region have received in the world media. The recently imposed United Nations sanctions have further added injury to insult for this man who honors no acceptable standards of civilized behavior. Taylor's guns-for-blood diamonds-trade with and support of the evil RUF of Sierra Leone has been dealt a serious blow by the UN sanctions imposed on May 7, 2001. The presence of British military forces and UN peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone has put a screeching halt to the inhumane practice of limb hacking by Taylor's comrades in the satanic RUF. Guinean military forces and the Kamajors of Sierra Leone have done serious harm to the RUF terrorists. Charles Taylor and his local and mercenary terrorist forces now face a new wave of armed attacks from various directions in Liberia. The recent pronouncements and maneuvers by Taylor are typical of what despots and tyrants do when their backs are to the wall. They try to buy time to re-enforce their position by posturing and sounding words of peace and reconciliation. The sad truth is that Charles Taylor's evil nature does not allow him to break away from his barbaric tendencies and thieving behavior to make real genuine efforts for peace.
Realistically, does anyone truly believe that this man will voluntarily institute peace and democracy in Liberia? Before one answers this question, consider the following: The institution of peace and democratic values in Liberia at this time must include, among other things, (1) freedom of the press, (2) freedom of speech (including the right to ask questions about past injustices and atrocities and to criticize the government), (3) freedom of assembly and movement, and (4) the right to vote for a leader of one's choosing, through a truly free and fair electoral process.
In view of the foregoing, does anyone honestly think Charles Taylor is willing to commit political (and inevitable physical) suicide by voluntarily releasing his brutal grip on power? Does anyone doubt that if the people of Liberia are given an honest chance to freely choose their leader at this time, they will not only resoundingly pick someone else but that they will opt to "feed Charles Taylor to the lions"? And here is another significant point to consider. Taylor has surrounded himself with a herd of local and international opportunists and thieves who continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the suffering masses of our people. These mindless and heartless men and women continue to luxuriate in stolen wealth behind reinforced concrete bunkers in Monrovia while the rest of the country continues to sink deep into a hellish hole. One has to be seriously oblivious and careless to think that these people will be willing to lose all the privileges they now enjoy by pointing their master (Taylor) in the right direction.
If the contemporary definition of politicians is "a bunch of rogues and crooks who carry under their arms a bag full of propaganda gimmicks", then Charles Taylor is the consummate modern day politician. Our experience with this cold-blooded and faceless liar, especially relative to his abrogation of the letter and spirit of numerous peace accords to which he was a signatory during the years of active civil war in Liberia, should tell us that he is up to something sinister. Those who expect Taylor and his gang of spineless followers to voluntarily submit to a peaceful resolution of the Liberian conflict should also expect to rise from bed one morning and see the sun rise from the West and set in the East. Let us not delude ourselves. Evil rulers like Taylor understand only one language: the language of pressure and force.
Let us keep the pressure on this modern day pirate and his criminal cohorts and continue to work with freedom and peace-loving people throughout the world to urge the United Nations to add Liberian timber and related products to the May 7, 2001 sanctions regime.
Finally, on account of pure human experience alone, we can correctly predict that Charles McArthur Taylor and company of broad daylight looters and torturers will soon succumb to the basic political ailment that has afflicted corrupt, tyrannical and barbaric rulers in the course of human history - a steep and mighty fall into shame and disgrace, along with the concomitant loss of all the power they have so forcibly and brutally arrogated to themselves.