By: Varney Dukuly
MONROVIA: Liberian citizens have intensified calls for former Liberian President, Charles Ghankay Taylor, to be pardoned and subsequently set freed from British prison.
The former Liberian leader is currently serving half of a century (50years) jail sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity, among others, based on his conviction in 2012 by the erstwhile Special Court for Sierra Leone backed by the United Nations (UN).
The former Liberian leader was convicted for his role in the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, during which an estimated 60,000 persons, predominately women, children and the elderly were killed.
He was adjudged guilty for providing weapons to erstwhile triggers-happy armed rebel groups including the dreaded Revolutionary United Front (RUF), then headed by CPL Foday Sankor, (late), and other belligerent forces in exchange for so-called blood diamonds in Sierra Leone.
Throughout his trial that lasted for almost a decade, Taylor consistently denied the charges levied against him, describing them as “political” and that they were brought against him at the behest of powerful and influential Western countries including the United States and United Kingdom (UK).
The disbanded RUF rebel group was infamous for hacking off the limbs of civilians to instill mayhem and terror into the Sierra Leonean population.
Despite the crimes for which he was convicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, cross sections of Liberians, under the banners: “Friends of Charles Taylor, Patriotic Consciousness Association of Liberia and Free Taylor Campaign Movement believe that it is time for former President Charles Taylor to be pardoned and subsequent set freed from prison.
Of late, incessant calls for Charles Taylor to return to Liberia continue to amplify across the West African nation with scores of citizens committing their signatures to a formal petition for the release of the former Liberian President.
The pro-Taylor advocates said like former Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo; and Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso who were pardoned amid claims of their involvement in atrocities, Taylor should be forgiven and released from the British Prison.
“I have finished signing already and I feel very excited, I just love that man and I feel that he is the best man for this country; even if they say I should give myself as a sacrifice, I can do it for Charles Taylor,” declared Samuel Mulbah, a die-hard Taylor supporter in Monrovia, Liberia’s Capital.
Other advocates mentioned that since the exit of former President Taylor from Liberia in August 2003, they have been feeling miserable over his absence from the country.
Junior Emmanuel Vah explained that since “August 11, 2003, when Taylor left Liberia, I have been feeling very bad. When Taylor left, I felt that my mother and father had died because I felt so bad. I really want Taylor back.”
Speaking to reporters in Monrovia over the weekend, the lead Campaigners for the Taylor’s Release Movement, who is also a former Liberian journalist, E. Fredrick Baye and David Plator, indicated that their decisions are based on the anticipation of the Liberian people.
According to Mr. Baye, the West African region had its dark history but many countries in the region including Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and others have forgiven others except for Liberia.
Baye acknowledged receiving the blessings of ex-president Charles Taylor’s Family to solicit at least one million signatures and raise public awareness for the release of the former Liberian leader who is currently in British prison.
“Based on complaints from international conspiracy theories, and we are saying enough is enough; sixteen years out of this country, he has not been hostile to international justice system; so we are collecting signatures up to a million or more for his release,” Baye asserted.
As for pro-Taylor Campaigner, David Plator, he viewed calls for the release of Mr. Taylor as encouraging. He expressed optimism that within few months from now, the former Liberian leader will be back in Liberia.
Charles Taylor was the first African Head of State to be prosecuted for war crimes by an international tribunal.
However, Taylor’s friend, former Burkina Faso President, Blaise Compaore, who was in exile since 2014 returned home recently.
Mr. Compaore was exiled in Ivory Coast since his fall in 2014 when he was toppled from state power by a military junta.
There are now ongoing discussions with current military junta in Ouagadougou seeking reconciliation with political leaders.
Discussions are also said to be ongoing bordering on the brutal killing of Captain Thomas Sankara. Compaore served under Sankara as second in command in State Power but was said to have been involved in toppling his boss, Sankara from power.
In June 2021, former Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo, returned to Ivory Coast and the current government, headed President Alassane Ouattara, has been holding series of reconciliation talks aimed at reuniting the Ivorian people.
President Ouattara has also invited former political leaders of the country to a reconciliation table to resolve their differences.
Interestingly, Charles Taylor’s detention in British prison has nothing with his role in the Liberia civil war when his then armed insurgent group, National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), took up arms against the regime of former President Samuel Kanyon Doe, whose regime was accused of dictatorship and tyranny.
It is not clear whether the advocacy for Taylor’s release will be taken to Sierra Leone for his pardon by the Sierra Leonean people.