By Mark N. Mengonfia- [email protected]
Former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor is serving a 50-year jail term in London, the United Kingdom, for crimes he committed in Sierra Leone, a neighboring country to Liberia.
Since his conviction, many Liberians have slowly forgotten his days during the war years and when he served as Liberian President.
Some believe that although he was not tried and jailed because of crimes committed in Liberia since he is serving a jail term for crimes committed against a human, they were happy that he faces “political sin.”
Others are yet to forget because of their very close relationship with the former President and the style of leadership they said he possesses.
Because those who love and believe in him want him back to Liberia as a free man, they have started raising signatures to submit to the International community with a plea for him to be set free.
Across the road in the above image is a building that used to be very white during the days of jailed former Liberian President, and it was called White Flower.
The area that motorcyclists are currently sanding in the photo was a no-go-zone as security during those days could not allow you to pass there, needless to talk about stopping anywhere nearby.
Those days are now history as the one-time White Flower has changed colors.
A banner carrying the inscription: “Free Charles Ghankay Taylor Movement” has, in recent days, attracted many Liberians, and it made them stop to know what it was.
Some stopped to inquire what was going on in front of the former President’s home, while others got the information that it was an ongoing campaign seeking signatures to free jailed former President Taylor.
On August 11, 2022, Liberians started trooping their ways at White Flower to voluntarily sign a form that is seeking the release of the former Liberian leader.
They hope to raise a million plus signatures that will seek the forgiveness of Mr. Taylor, who is serving 50 years in jail in London after being sentenced by the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Liberian men, women, boys, and girls are making their way and, simultaneously, informing others to sign for the release of their former President.
This reporter encountered a few of those who signed the document. They are hopeful that Taylor will be released once they can get the needed signatures that will help plead with citizens of Serra Leone and those of the international community for Taylor to be set free.
Mr. Victor O. Bainda has also packed his jeep opposite White Flower to sign.
A few minutes after signing the document, Bainda said, “For me, wanting to free Charles Taylor from prison will be one of the good things for Liberians.”
He said, if there are any other necessary means that we Liberians can do for the international community to accept Taylor to be free, I will be part of it.
Bainda said, “I love the leadership style of President Taylor. He is a man of his word.”
According to him, Taylor was one of the Liberian leaders who stood by what he said and had the posture of a president.
Before I could ask him if he would vote for the former Liberian President if and when he is freed and wants to participate in politics, Bainda could not let me finish my word, and he answered in the affirmative.
Bainda is not the only person who wants Taylor free.
Old man Varney Jalibah was on board a taxicab leaving for home when he saw the banner that said, “Free Charles Ghankay Taylor Movement.”
“I asked the driver to stop for me to sign. If my signing results in Charles Taylor coming back to Liberia, it will be the happiest thing that ever happened to me,” Mr. Jalibah said with laughter.
Princess Jerbo said from the time she got to know herself as a lady; it was days of Taylor’s regime as President, she felt authentic leadership.
“I love Charles Taylor; Liberian people love him, he knows how to use power, and he is a man with rules. If Ghankay comes back, Liberia will be sweet,” Madam Jerbo said.
Shadrick Korkor, who appeared very happy with high hope that the former Liberian leader is set free, said, “Charles Taylor is my dad. He’s going to The Hague changed my life from how I used to be.”
Shadrick used to work with Benjamin Yeaten, former head of Special Security Service (SSS), now Executive Protection Service (EPS), and he served as Special aid to the SSS boss back in those days.
Shadrick is now a motorcyclist, but with this ongoing campaign, he cannot just hold back his joy stating, “I am not happy that Charles Taylor is in The Hague; I am happy now because we will get the 1 million signatures for him to come back.”
If Taylor is set free, will there be a need for War and Economic Crime Court?
As others are signing seeking for the return of Mr. Taylor, others are campaigning for establishing a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia for those who committed crimes against humanity to face the results of their handily works.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is not in London because of crimes committed in Liberia. Still, his conviction was by a United Nations-backed court for crimes committed in neighboring Serra Leone during that nation’s dark years.
Some Liberians have seen the conviction of the former Liberian leader as a witch hunt, while others saw it as a victory against injustice and crime against humans.
Those who see it as a victory for human rights want the court replicated in Liberia.
Liberians have, on many occasions, taken to the streets seeking justice for their dead ones during the prolonged civil unrest in Liberia that took away over 250,000 lives and millions of dollars worth of properties destroyed.
Over 300,000 signatures in a petition were submitted to the US congressional caucus crying out for establishing a War Crimes Court in Liberia.
At one point in time, members of the House of Representatives of Liberia Petition were soliciting signatures that expected to petition the international community for the establishment of a War and Economic Crime Court in Liberia for those who committed mischiefs during the civil war of Liberia to pay for their political ‘sin.’
When the process that sought the said establishment was ongoing, views were mixed.
Some were for it, while others were totally against it.
Some citizens in Nimba County said their County was a no-go-zone for said discussion.
Senator Prince Yormie Johnson’s alias “PYJ” is one person who becomes irritated and distasteful to hear the establishment of the court.
He fought during the civil unrest and headed the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). He has often said he and others who opposed the war got amnesty after the Ghana Pace accord was signed.
Speaking about the establishment of the court, Senator Johnson described any documents of such nature as “toilet paper.”
Nimba County district eight lawmaker Larry Yonquoi responding to the issue of the signatures for the release of the former Liberian President, said, “It is the right of those who are seeking for the release of Taylor.”
Lawmakers and Liberians have had a separate signing for establishing the court in Liberia. Still, the original copy of the signed signatures from the lawmakers was misplaced by Representative Suacoco Dennis.
Currently, they are working on a new one that will call for the War and Economic Crime Court to be established.
Yonquoi said when the Weah’s leadership was in opposition, it craved for the establishment of said court, but to his dismay, the Weah-led government was dragging her feet on the establishment of the court.
According to the Nimba lawmaker, Liberia’s future is bleak under President George M. Weah, as justice for those who died during the ‘senseless’ war is far from being achieved.
The Nimba district eight lawmaker said if the signing seeking Taylor’s release goes through and he is out of jail, it means that establishing a War and Economic Crime Court in Liberia is a wasted effort and might muddy the political water of Liberia.
He believes that freeing Taylor will bring setbacks to the years of fighting for justice in Liberia.
“So, let’s allow the sleeping dog to lie down,” he said.
It is a new two-way street, with one calling for the court to be established and others wanting to ensure that Taylor’s White Flower returns to its original color as it is the hope of many Liberians signing for his release.
Be as it may, pundits observed that freeing Taylor is an issue all Liberians must study carefully, considering the several ramifications, most of which bordered on security.