History will not be kind to Mr. Taylor because he deserves its condemnation


By Mohamedu F. Jones

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 12, 2003

Charles Taylor
In one of the statements he made shortly before leaving Liberia to go into exile, former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, said that history would be kind to him. This self-assessment is another example of Mr. Taylor's misjudgment, or perhaps another illustration of his delusion of grandeur. Charles Taylor represents the premier example of failed leadership in modern African history. His company is Jean Bedell Bokassa and Idi Amin, leaders, who like him wreaked havoc on their countries and the lives of their people. The only lessons that history will teach from Mr. Taylor's wild adventure with Liberia is what to avoid in leadership. History will denounce Mr. Taylor because he deserves condemnation; he is a political sociopath, who used his skills to take, exploit, abuse and exert power.

Glibness/Superficial Charm
Media reporters, foreign diplomats, international business people, and others who came in contact with Mr. Taylor generally suggest that he uses language without effort in a manner that exude self-confidence. He apparently worked hard to confuse and convince his audiences, and for a time his "charm" appeared to work on persons like former U. S. President Jimmy Carter, Rev. Jesse Jackson and some members of the Black Congressional Caucus. He is reportedly persuasive, and has the capacity to destroy his critics verbally or emotionally.

Manipulative and Conning
Taylor never recognized the rights (legal or human) of others. He was hostile and domineering. He dominated and humiliated the entire country, its people, its legislature and judiciary. His presidency was marked by manipulation and con games.

Grandiose Sense of Self
Mr. Taylor felt entitled to the presidency of Liberia as "his right." He continued fighting after Samuel Doe was killed, and threatened Liberians with continued war in 1997 if he was not elected president of Liberia. In his last speech, he insisted that he was leaving of his own volition when it was clearly not true. He craved adulation and attendance, which explained the Tubmanic behavior, the "Dakpana" title and the "African chief" photographs. He had to be the center of attention, and proclaimed that "God made me president."

Pathological Lying
It is clear even to the most casual observer that Taylor has no problem lying coolly and easily and that it is almost impossible for him to be truthful on a consistent basis. He self-created and became convinced about his own powers and abilities.

Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
Mr. Taylor's approach to governance was not seeing Liberians as people, but only as targets and opportunities. For him, the end always justifies the means and he let nothing stand in his way. In his statements and speeches leading up to his departure, he was the victim, the wronged-one, never once admitting self-culpability, not even admitting mistakes. It was all about how he had been treated wrongfully.

Shallow Emotions
Several persons who have interacted closely with Mr. Taylor suggest that when he shows what seem to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and always had an ulterior motive. He is said to have been easily outraged by insignificant matters, yet remained unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. He easily failed to keep his promises, and never seemed disturbed and even concerned about the country he led, so long as he was accorded the pomp and circumstances of the presidency.

Incapacity for Love of Country
There is general consensus that Mr. Taylor’s recent profession of love for Liberia was not genuine. There are reports that he was very harsh in testing loyalty among his devotees and expected them to feel guilt for their failings. He expected unconditional surrender to his leadership. Some Liberians argue that this character trait may explain the murders of several prominent Liberians such as Jackson F. Doe, Mose Doupou, as well as Samuel Dokie, and why he forced out former Senator Charkes Brumskine from his leadership role, and seat in the Senate.

Need for Stimulation
As President, Taylor relished living on the edge. Many Liberians believed that when things were settling down and returning to normal, Taylor would make a speech or take some other action that would create a row in the country, and start a political storm. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments were said to be routine for his followers.

Callousness/Lack of Empathy
President Taylor was unable to empathize with the pain of his victims, the people of Liberia. He and his family and friends lived opulently, while the overwhelming majority of the people lived in poverty, without even electricity or running water. His statements and policies only showed contempt for the people's feelings of distress and readily took advantage of them. He adamantly refused to change his policies and actions as a means of obtaining international support for the country, even as the international community laid out what he needed to do to return Liberia into international respectability.

Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Perhaps the best description of Taylor's presidency is that he believed he was all-powerful, all-knowing, and entitled to every wish. He had no sense of personal boundaries, and had no concern for the impact of his actions on others, or the country, or even the region.

Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
Many persons who went to school with Charles Taylor report that he had a history of behavioral difficulties, and yet "got by" by conning others. He is said to have exhibited aberrant behaviors such as the persistent report that he defecated or urinated into the drinking well of his boarding school, Ricks Institute.

The one compelling attribute about Mr. Taylor’s political career as it was unleashed in December 1989 until it ended in August 2003, is that it wrecked the lives and dreams of countless Liberians. Even as he was leaving, he was oblivious or indifferent to the devastation he has caused. He does not accept blame for anything, but rather blames others, including President Bush and the United Nations for his failures.

Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
Throughout his presidency, Mr. Taylor made all encompassing promises for the future that he failed to achieve or to do what he needed to do make them possible. There was a great contrast between his opulent lifestyle and the citizen's impoverishment. He was supported by gifts and donations from his followers, the Government treasury, his business partners, and others who were pressured to give through fear and guilt. The whole purpose of his presidency was to support his parasitic lifestyle.

Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility

Taylor's governance of Liberia was no more than a criminal enterprise. Likewise, the facts underlying the allegations contained in the indictment in Sierra Leone appear to be related to nothing more than facilitating a criminal empire throughout West Africa.

As a leader, Charles Taylor exhibited many of the behavioral characteristics of a sociopath--an outstanding ability to charm and seduce people and seamlessly carryout predatory activities. Since they appear apparently normal, sociopaths are not easily recognizable as deviant or disturbed. Although only a trained professional could make a diagnosis of Mr. Taylor's mental condition, it is important for us to be able to recognize a political sociopath in order to avoid or resist their assumption of leadership in Liberia again. History will judge Charles Taylor harshly, just like he ought to be judged.