West Africa and the Taylor Cancer

Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 25, 2002

It was on June 1, 2001, when we wrote here that someday, Taylor would create the conditions to plunge the entire sub-region into flames in an article titled Desperate Taylor, the next war (http://www.theperspective.org/taylor_war.html). Charles Taylor had just warned the international community that the whole region could be destabilized if nothing was done to stop the war that was coming to him from Guinea, in response to his attack against that country. After agreeing with both Conteh and Kabbah on peaceful co-existence, the Liberian leader backed dissidents from Guinea and used RUF fighters in an attack against Guinea. Many towns were destroyed. Guinea used Liberian dissidents to counter-attack and Taylor panicked, calling for the intervention of the international community. Guinea repelled the attack and left the Liberian dissidents on the other side of its border, feeding them enough to keep Taylor busy without going any further.

When a crime takes place, the most logical question is: "Who benefits from the outcome?" Recent events in Cote d'Ivoire make many raise the same question. Since the death of Houphouet Boigny, there has been a contention between Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire, especially regarding the nationality of Ouattara, the leader of the opposition party RDR. President Gbagbo skillfully negotiated that turn and finally the issue was resolved. Not only was the RDR president granted his certificate of nationality, but also the relationships between Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire started to warm-up, while relationships between Liberia and Ouagadougou deteriorated.

During the military "transition" in Cote d'Ivoire, Charles Taylor and General Guei became close friends. Guei's first visit was to Monrovia where he is said to have received a brotherly "gift" from the former leader of the NPFL. When the General started to antagonize foreigners, and mostly Burkina Faso first émigré Ouattara, Blaise Compaore thought that the solution was a change of regime in Abidjan. He and Taylor consulted and decided that they would send General Guei into exile or underground. Taylor, knowing that Cote d'Ivoire was more important to him then Burkina Faso informed the Ivorian government of the impendent northern threat. Guei was now in Taylor's pocket and Blaise was let go. This is the truth behind the break-up between Taylor and Blaise. Taylor helped Guei during the elections, provided money and sent troops and set-up the same Doe-1985 scenario. The Ivorians and French did not buy it and the general was sent home.

General Guei had always kept an eye on the presidency in Abidjan. The young men and women he recruited during his tenure were the only "votes" he needed to regain the presidency. He and Taylor maintained close contacts. He used his French contacts for the benefits of Taylor and Taylor provided him with what he had in plenty: cash and fighters. It was just a matter of day before the man who grew in the shadow of Boigny would want to claim the presidency. For Taylor, this was a win-win situation: if Guei succeeds, he is assured of a backdoor and a committed friend, who owes him life and power, like he owed Kaddafi and Blaise Compaore. If Guei failed, Ivorian fingers will be pointed to Burkina Faso, as it happened. He will play innocent. Now Guei has failed in his attempt and tension is rising between Mali, Burkina and Cote d'Ivoire. In the regional politics, Liberia is the only one not "threatened". Unlike Konare whom Taylor introduced to Kaddafi-dollars and like many professional soldiers Amadou Toumani Toure has never been fond of Taylor. They met several times during the Yamoussoukro meetings in the early 1990s and Toure avoided Taylor as one avoids plague. His return to power meant that things were closing on Taylor. Risking everything to put Guei in power was like the big Octopus gamble in 1992 when he tried to take Monrovia after ULIMO started to cut into his territories and diamond fields.

At the same time, on the Guinean border, where LURD is supposed to be operating, armed men attacked Guinea and killed a dozen of people, in two attacks. There is an attempt to distract from Abidjan but in truth, it is all part of the same game: destabilizing West Africa. We have been blamed for saying that LURD is a "creation" of Taylor. There might be people who innocently believe that they are fighting Taylor but in truth, they are fighting for Taylor. The more we talk to people who say they are leaders of LURD, the more we are convinced that they are working on a Taylor agenda.

West African leaders will meet in Dakar, to discuss the crisis. One man would show up or may not. That man is Lansana Conteh, president of Guinea, who told a gathering of Heads of State in Dakar, in 1992, that Taylor was a cancer and that unless they extracted him and destroyed him, he would some day enflame the whole region. At the time, Taylor was a small bandit in Gbarnga. Blaise Compaore defended him. Houphouet Boigny was president of Cote d'Ivoire, Ibrahim Babaginda was leader of Nigeria, Dawda Jawara was president of the Gambia before being overthrown by a group of soldiers returning from duties in Liberia.

Taylor is the only one to gain from the chaos in Cote d'Ivoire. The fact that everything falls apart at the same time is not a coincidence. Those who think that this is too grand a scheme for Taylor just need to remember that this man who got Houphouet Boigny, the Libyans and the Americans in one boat, to reach his destination. We have not heard the last of him yet. There will be no stability and peace in West Africa as long as Taylor is in Liberia and in power. Conteh said it 10 years ago and we can now draw our own conclusion. There was no coincidence when Taylor closed down his "national conference" and Guei withdrew from the government of national unity in Cote d'Ivoire, almost at the same time.

Those who want to salvage West Africa may want to take a closer look at Monrovia and Libya.

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