July 7, 2003 Partnership Africa Canada today condemned the amnesty arrangement worked out between Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanajo and Liberian President Charles Taylor, and called for immediate action on Liberia by the UN Security Council and the United States.
Liberia's problems lie in decades of bad government and underdevelopment, but the immediate cause of the crisis today is Liberian President Charles Taylor. Taylor has waged war inside Liberia and in neighbouring countries since 1989. He fomented and supported a murderous rebel war in Sierra Leone and the pillage of the country's diamonds, he fostered rebellion in Côte d'Ivoire and an invasion of Guinea. His soldiers and their allies have mutilated civilians and committed horrible crimes against humanity. Taylor himself has been indicted for war crimes by the UN-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone for a reason. In addition to the 200,000 Liberians who have died in his wars at home, as many as 75,000 Sierra Leoneans died in the proxy war he started and supported in that country.
All factions in Liberia, including the government, have asked for peacekeeping troops. A robust, well-equipped, properly mandated peacekeeping force must be sent to Liberia as soon as possible. Given Liberia's long ties with the United States, given the pleas of Liberians, requests made by UN Secretary General Kofi Anan and others, it makes sense for the United States to lead this force. It is time now for the U.S. to do more than talk about Liberia.
Under no circumstances, however, must an amnesty for Charles Taylor be part of the deal. This would be a travesty of justice that would resound through Africa for a generation. It would demonstrate to Liberians and others that war, murder, theft and pillage pay, and it would saddle any effort to build a long-lasting peace and democracy in Liberia with a crippling liability. It would demonstrate to the Special Court in Sierra Leone and to Charles Taylor's Sierra Leonean victims that short-term expediency takes precedence over longer-term stability and justice. It would send a message to tyrants and warlords everywhere that in the end, the world will let them off the hook.
The UN Security Council must sanction a peacekeeping force for Liberia, with or without the United States, and it must support the Special Court it has mandated in Sierra Leone. It must send troops to Liberia now and mandate them to arrest Taylor if he is still there. Nigeria should rescind its offer of amnesty to Taylor if it hopes to be a credible promoter of good governance in Africa. The Security Council, the United States, Nigeria - and most importantly, Liberia - must not be held to ransom by this tyrant.
Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) has researched and reported on Charles Taylor's destablizing activities and his role in the diamond wars in West Africa through the Diamonds and Human Security Project. More information is available in the Publications section.