Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Liberia: Monrovia "gun free" by Thursday

The head of the peacekeeping team says that Monrovia will be free of weapons by Thursday (so precise). The interim goverment led by Gyude Bryant is supposed to take over next week.

For the past few weeks, there have been stories that former president Charles Taylor is still meddling in Liberian affairs. Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo even went on the record, warning Taylor to stop interfering. The U.N. special representative for Liberia, Jacques Klein, is quoted in this VOA report making the same allegation.
"The evidence is that several ministers have visited him in Nigeria, that three or four businessmen have visited him in Nigeria," he points out. "We know that from sources within Monrovia, that he is on the telephone to people in Monrovia threatening them, demanding pay-offs."

In a telephone interview from Monrovia, the Liberian information minister, Reginald Goodridge, denied that the former president is playing any kind of inappropriate role in Liberia. ...

Mr. Goodridge also sees no reason that what he called Mr. Taylor's old friends should not visit him in Nigeria.
This is a fascinating interview with David Crane, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations-created Special Court for Sierra Leone. Crane beleives Taylor's asylum in Nigeria is only temporary ... here are the pertinant bits.
One has to understand that when I publicly announced the indictment of Charles Taylor on the fourth of June, I said that Charles Taylor has to be removed from the equation for true peace to start in Liberia -- and actually all of West Africa. Certainly that happened on 11 August when he stepped on an airplane and went into exile to Nigeria as a disgraced war criminal. A legitimate peace process began to take place.

.... So, what we're doing with Nigeria at this point is allowing the dust to settle to ensure that peace starts in Liberia. But Nigeria is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions ... They state clearly that if you have a known war criminal, or someone who is suspected of being a war criminal that you should investigate or put that person on trial yourself, or turn them over to the appropriate organization. They know this; they know they have to do this and so I am allowing Nigeria to sort this out.

... Internationally, domestically there is a great deal of support for this to happen [hand Taylor to the war crimes court]. President Obasanjo has very little support for keeping Taylor in Nigeria. Civil society, local NGOs as well as the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Journalists Association, former commanding generals of Nigerian troops who lost their lives in Liberia back in the mid-nineties - there have been thousands of Nigerian soldiers and civilians murdered by Charles Taylor and his forces in the 1990s.