Friday, August 22, 2003

Liberia: new interim leader wants amnesty not tribunals

The new chairman of Liberia's interim government said that he wants a general amnesty granted to all who took part in the civil war. Charles Gyude Bryant doesn't want a war crimes court like the one in Sierra Leone because he said, "It will do more damage than good."

"Neutral" is how Bryant describes himself in this NY Times article. He spent the 14 years of the civil war in Liberia ... and managed to stay out of trouble. According to reports, his party, the Liberian Action Party, called for Charles Taylor's resignation and also criticized the rebel groups for their violence.

Bryant and the interim government will talke over on October 14, when President Moses Blah steps down. That is the date Charles Taylor's mandate, elected in 1997, would have officially ended.

I think people had expected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to easily win the chairmanship. She came in a (distant) second to Taylor in the 1997 elections, capturing 10 per cent of the votes. She is also a former UN official. But it appears she may have been more popular outside Liberia that inside. She has lived outside Liberia for many years.

There is an interesting argument in this article that having Johnson-Sirleaf as chairman would have helped gain the confidence of the UN and western governments who are familiar with her.

Here is a thought ... Bryant isn't allowed to run for office in 2005, but Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is.

According to this, so far, about 500 of Charles Taylor's relatives/dependants have gone to Nigeria.