Two-Tongued Supporters of Freedom
By Edward D. Kollie, Jr.
The refusal of the Ghanaian government to arrest Liberian ruler Charles Taylor as requested by the warrant issued on June 4, 2003 by the UN Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone and the subsequent justifications given by that government and some individuals have terribly undermined efforts to bring true freedom and peace to the oppressed people of Africa in general and the suffering masses of the West African sub-region in particular. The failure of the government of Ghana to respect the UN Tribunal's request and the attempts made to justify the inaction have also done a horrible disservice to practical approaches that are intended to dispense justice to those who are responsible for the untold human misery that has engulfed nearly all of Africa today. That human misery emanates almost exclusively from acts of widespread economic, political and social perversion committed by thieves and mobsters masquerading as African political leaders.
The so-called two-tongued supporters of freedom and justice for the people of the West African sub-region, who have tried to provide excuses for what the Ghanaian leadership did (and did not do) on June 4, 2003 may as well enlist in Taylor’s rebel army and actively participate in the rape, torture, displacement, butcher and maiming of thousands of helpless West African men, women and children. Actually, they could very easily pass as Charles Taylor’s ambassadors and public relations persons were it not for the fact that most of them live in the comfort of safe and peaceful environments, unlike the unfortunate masses whose only crime is that they were born in the West African sub-region and lack the means to escape Taylor's rape, looting and death squads.
The refusal of the Ghanaian government to arrest and turn Taylor over to the UN Special Tribunal in Freetown came as no surprise to most keen observers of events in Africa, given the corrupt, dictatorial and despotic nature of most African rulers. Most of those rulers are birds of the same feathers. They flock together. Any threat to one of them is seen as a threat to all of them.
However, the retarded justifications that have been put forth for this non-action on the part of Ghanaian president John Agyekum Kufuor’s government by so-called “supporters of freedom” smack of all common sense and reason. Listed below are a summary of some of the justifications that have been given so far for Ghana’s refusal to arrest Charles Taylor and a brief examination of each:
The announcement of the indictment itself, at the time it happened, was inappropriate and ill-timed because Taylor was in Ghana to attend “peace talks” on the Liberian conflict.
The premise of this argument is that somehow the Tribunal was under some unwritten (implied) obligation to issue the indictment and arrest warrant at a time convenient to Taylor and/or his defenders. That would have been either before the “peace talks” began in Ghana or thereafter. If I believed that the people who have advanced this flimsy and baseless excuse were born just recently, I would have forgiven them on the ground that they did not know anything about history. But this is not the case. The individuals who have tried to justify Ghana’s failure to apprehend the former Boston, Massachusetts (MA) gas station attendant and US jail breaker and bring him to justice either were not aware of a prior incident in which a political leader was indicted for war crimes just before peace negotiations began or simply chose to ignore this fact.
Just shortly before peace negotiations where scheduled to begin at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio in November 1995, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, located in The Hague, indicted Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic on war crimes charges. Mr. Karadzic had founded and become president of the Serbian Democratic Party in the early 1990s. He was also serving as acting president of the self-proclaimed Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) within Bosnia. After Karadzic was indicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal for Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic (formerly Karadzic’s patron) replaced him in the peace negotiations in Dayton.
Needless to mention that a set of peace accords (known as the Dayton Accords) was initialed in Dayton on November 21, 1995 and subsequently signed in Paris on December 14th of the same year. Peace has gradually returned to Bosnia & Herzegovina, thanks in no small measure to the Dayton Accords which were negotiated without the participation of war criminal Radovan Karadzic. But then again I know the “great African politicians” and their supporters are going to argue that Africans cannot and should not apply Euro-American solutions to African problems. Some Africans, especially those in positions of power, are notoriously known for telling us that we should always seek African solutions to African problems. And God Almighty knows the conflicts in Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa were not settled by Africans only. In fact the main events that brought those conflicts to peaceful conclusions were not devised by so-called African leaders and politicians, for the most part. And it is no secret that the very people who preach about finding African solutions to African problems are usually the first to run, kneel down and beg with open hands for Euro-American financial and other aid, which they subsequently and swiftly convert into their personal use and remit most of it back to US, Swiss and other European bank accounts.
The indictment of Charles Taylor along with its June 4, 2003 announcement to the whole world was a necessary consequence of his decision to be an evil rather than a decent person. To the best of my knowledge, Taylor signed 13 accords during the course of the Liberian civil war. He subsequently reneged on each one of them. The man is a scamp. He did not go to Ghana for “peace talks” because he has/had a genuine interest in bringing lasting peace to the region and freeing its people from the horror and despair he has brought to bear upon them. Charles Taylor’s back is pressed hard against the wall. He controls only Monrovia. The rest of Liberia is either in rebel hands or out of his reach and control. He did not have to go to that Ghana to achieve peace if that was his real objective. He went there (and would have subsequently gone anywhere, were it not for the indictment) to buy himself time so he can re-stock on military supplies and forcefully drug and draft more little boys and girls into his rebel army. It does not require a rocket scientist's brain to know that Taylor is the problem and if he wants to solve that problem, he can do so faster than the time it takes to wink an eye. In fact Taylor himself recently said that if he is seen as the problem in Liberia, then he could bring about a solution at the “stroke of a pen”.
The action, as mentioned above, was embarrassing to and disrespecting of the government of Ghana.
This argument is the one that really takes the cake, from my point of view. Anyone who has any heart at all cannot escape knowing of the suffering and dehumanization of hundreds of thousands of people in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone as a direct result of Charles Taylor’s decision to launch a personal adventure aimed at attaining political power so as to use that power to amass wealth. Those who have argued that the announcement of the UN Special Tribunal’s indictment was such an embarrassment and disrespect to Ghana as to justify that country’s refusal to apprehend the barbarian who has wreaked so much havoc in the sub-region must answer the following questions:
(1) How does Ghana’s embarrassment compare to the embarrassment, degradation, despair, frustration and loss of pride and sense of self-worth that the people of the West African sub-region have been subjected to since December 24, 1989?
(2) Which is worse: the so-called disrespect Ghana felt or the helplessness and dehumanizing effect of being a refugee or an internally displaced person and a mere beggar in one’s own country?
(3) What is the proportionality, if any, between the disrespect and embarrassment caused to the authorities in Accra by the announcement of the UN Tribunal’s indictment of Charles Taylor and (a) the pain and anguish of sons being forced to rape their mothers and sisters in full view of other family members and neighbors, (b) the helplessness felt in seeing one’s town and village being looted and set afire and (c) the barbarity of a pregnant woman’s stomach being split open to determine whether the fetus is a male or female, as a result of a wager between Charles Taylor’s forcefully conscripted and drugged child soldiers?
(4) How about the hundreds of thousands of school age children in Liberia in particular and the sub-region in general who have not gone to school in years as a result of Taylor’s war for personal aggrandizement?
(5) Did the people who raised this argument see pictures of 18-month old babies and others who where maimed (amputated) by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone? Perhaps they saw those horrifying pictures but either do not know that Charles Taylor co-founded and supported the RUF or do not believe that he had anything to do with that satanic group.
I could go on asking hundreds of questions with the aim of weighing the so-called disrespect and embarrassment that were meted against Ghana, as claimed by some, and the consequences of Charles Taylor’s evil adventure since 1989. But I will leave the rest to the conscience of those who have raised this senseless justification for Ghana’s refusal or failure to arrest the Liberian despot.
It is against “African tradition” to invite “your brother” to your home and then arrest (shame) him.
This is the most laughable and sickening justification of all. Charles Taylor should be “brother” to no decent person, African or whatever. How can the principles of brotherliness and brotherhood be applied to such a sinister and endlessly reckless person as this modern day barbarian? It is completely “unafrican” to cause so much harm, disgrace and embarrassment to one’s brothers and sisters as Taylor has done to the people of Liberia and the region. To invoke the virtue of traditional African hospitality and use it as an excuse to let an innately evil man and a pathological liar and soulless thief like Charles Taylor escape capture is to equate virtue to vice and suggest that the two have connived to prolong the misery and despair of the peace-loving people of the West African sub-region.
The action of the prosecutor of the UN Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone was purely “Euro-American centered” and did not take African traditions into account.
What “African traditions” provide that someone who has brought so much misery and suffering to bear upon others should be treated like a king? What specific African traditions the UN Tribunal should have been taken into consideration vis-à-vis the announcement of the indictment and service of the arrest warrant? Are these people talking about the same “Africa traditions” of economic, political and social corruption practiced by African rulers that have brought the entire continent to near paralysis?
It is estimated that about 40 to 50 million people world-wide are afflicted by HIV/AIDS. Nearly 75% of those people live in Africa south of the Sahara. Beside Uganda, no other African nation confronted with the HIV/AIDS crisis has undertaken any viable measure to even control the spread of the disease let alone provide comfort and care for those affected. While President Thambo Mbeki of South Africa spent months arguing about the effectiveness and efficacy of HIV/AIDS inhibiting/controlling drugs, his compatriots who suffer from the disease were languishing in a sea of pain and hopelessness. A large segment of Swaziland’s population is said to be HIV positive and there is widespread shortage of food in that country. Yet the Swazi King was set to spend more than $45 million to purchase a jetliner for his personal use. He retreated only after the International Monetary Fund, the US Government and European donors threatened to halt aid assistance if he went ahead with his more than $45 million jetliner purchase. What is Charles Taylor’s own record on controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS in Liberia? Are these the African traditions that form the basis of African political decision-making, which should have been taken into consideration by the Tribunal? Those who choose to make a mockery of African traditions and use such an argument to buttress the position of the oppressors of Africa’s sons and daughters are themselves not much better than the dictators and tyrants they half-heartedly condemn.
If Ghana had arrested Charles Taylor and turned him over to the UN Tribunal, it would have further deteriorated an already bad situation in Monrovia.
The premise behind this justification forms the basis of a very familiar argument that has been made in almost every African conflict in recent history. That premise is that you do not get rid of the major cause of a political problem, even if you can, until and unless you know and are satisfied with what and/or who will be the replacement For example, when the African National Congress (ANC) and others were fighting against the white racist apartheid system, some argued that a quick removal of the racist government in Pretoria would spell disaster for the country because the various groups were not prepared to assume the responsibilities of running a nation and would turn on each other once there was no “organized government”. It never mattered to those people that the evil apartheid system had been in force (in one form or the other) for more than 40 years. The purported “unpreparedness” of black South Africans and other oppressed groups to govern themselves was good reason to let the oppressive and inhuman apartheid practices last a little longer. Well, Apartheid crumbled under enormous domestic and international pressure and as of today we have not heard of any known civil war in South Africa.
The fact is that it makes absolutely no sense to suggest that when the major source of the Liberian conflict is removed from power, that can only further hurt an already bad situation. Peace did not come to Liberia after the murder of Mr. Samuel K. Doe in September 1990 only because Charles Taylor had resolved that there would be no peace in that country and the entire sub-region unless and until everyone submitted to his totalitarian and despotic authority. That is it, plain and simple!
Because the Tribunal issued the arrest warrant at the time it did, its (and the international community’s) “sincerity of purpose” is questionable.
The individuals who raised this argument either know something about the UN Special Tribunal in Freetown that the rest of us do not know or they were just shooting their mouths around for the sake of doing so. For one thing, the UN Special Tribunal (like the one set up in The Hague for Bosnia and Herzegovina) was formed and agreed upon by member countries of the United Nations. Yes indeed, the Sierra Leone Tribunal is funded mainly by the international community. But so what? For one thing, African rulers have so squandered the continent’s resources that most African nations were not even in the position to contribute money for the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone let alone fund its continuing operations. In any case, what other secret purpose could this Special UN Tribunal serve the “international community”? Could this possibly be a front for the second “European [and American] scramble for African colonies”?
Those who argue that Ghana was justified in not arresting and handling Charles Taylor to the UN Special Tribunal in Sierra Leone, because the “international community” is up to something other than bringing to justice those who bear the greatest responsibility for violating the rights and freedom of Sierra Leonean citizens and others, should consider providing the facts to back their argument or suspicion. Until then we have no reason to take them seriously.
The United States of America (whose citizen, Mr. David Crane, is the Court’s Chief Prosecutor) attacked Iraq in March 2003 without a United Nations resolution and in apparent disregard for that body and popular world opinion. Ghana was therefore under no obligation to respect the order or request of the UN Special Court in Sierra Leone to arrest and hand over the Liberian tyrant.
This argument reminds me of what I told a co-worker in the days leading to the US invasion of Iraq. I expressed the opinion that if the US and Britain went ahead and attacked Iraq without a UN resolution (and in implied violation of UN principles), that would open a can of worms that would have regrettable consequences, especially for people fighting for freedom and justice in underdeveloped and less developed parts of the world. Any nation would and could refuse to obey or submit itself to UN rules or requests and justify its action by making reference to the US/British disregard for the UN.
This is probably part of what formed the basis for Ghana’s refusal to comply with the UN Special Tribunal’s request to arrest and hand Charles Taylor over. It must be stated that Ghana was not legally obliged by UN rules to abide by the request since the warrant itself did not fall under an act executed under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter. However, the argument that because the United States and Britain acted in violation of United Nation rules therefore Ghana (and by extension all other nations) can also do the same is preposterous. The US and Britain were wrong for bypassing the UN and attacking Iraq in the manner and at the time they did. But that does not mean that Ghana was also justified in ignoring a request made by a UN mandated organization (the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone). Like they say, two wrongs do not make a right.
The arrest and turn over of Charles Taylor to the UN Tribunal would have given Ghana a doubly bad standing and a blemished eye because a Ghanaian general (Arnold Quainoo) was head of the ECOMOG peace-keeping force in Monrovia when another Liberian dictator was cajoled, captured and tortured to death in September 1990.
I am not privy to nor familiar with the events that caused then president Samuel Doe to leave the relatively secured confines of the Executive Mansion in Monrovia and go to rebel Leader Prince Johnson’s military camp on Bushrod Island on that fateful day in September 1990. It could have been just fate that called on the guy. After all, you can kill and torture only so many of God’s children before He decides to pay retribution.
Even if it were shown that General Quainoo plotted to have Mr. Doe killed, Ghana’s refusal to arrest Charles Taylor, a man by all counts a lot more brutal and worse than Samuel K. Doe, would still not be justified on this basis. Upon Mr. Doe’s death most people thought the Liberian conflict would immediately come to a conclusion. The basis for that thinking was that Charles Taylor, who had claimed that his sole purpose for waging a civil war was to rid Liberia of Mr. Doe and bring “peace, socio-economic stability and justice to Liberia”, would now abandon war and seek political office through negotiations and the electoral process. The only reason peace did not follow the death of Samuel Doe was Charles Taylor’s uncompromising resolution to arrogate all power to him and to do so at any and all costs and to use that power to enrich himself, his family and friends.
The indictment would have set a bad precedent for other African heads of state and leaders of warring factions, as it would have (in the future) prevented them from participating in negotiations for peace. The suggestion is that those heads of state and leaders of warring factions would fear that a similar fate could befall them.
To make my point against this baseless justification of Ghana’s action, I will put an old saying in a different way. That is: if your home is not made of glass, you should not be afraid to a throw stone. Only an African head of state or leader of a warring faction, who is guilty as hell of committing acts of evil against his/her own people and/or others, would refuse to participate in peace negotiations in another country, for fear that he/she would be indicted and arrested by a UN tribunal. Anyone who has committed terrible acts against innocent men, women and children as Charles Taylor has done, should indeed be afraid of his own shadow. That such fear would prevent a barbaric tyrant from attending “peace talks” in the future is no acceptable reason why Ghana did not act to lessen the burden of the people of Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone.