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Following The Issue

Is This The Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia?

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Columnist’s Note: This article was first published on the LiberianForum.Com website in March of 2006 when former President Charles Ghankay Taylor was arrested in Nigeria and turned over to the UN Special Court on Sierra Leone. The historic nature of the closure of his trial has prompted the republication of the piece, with a few changes.

I was born in Liberia. I was living in Liberia when the civil war started on December 24, 1989, a war that later culminated into a series of other meaningless wars, killings, sufferings, etc. Not only that, I lived in Liberia during the years of the different wars, except the last Monrovian War that took Taylor to Nigeria.

During all those war years, we saw the surfacing of various warlords – Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, Roosevelt Johnson, George Boley, Francis Massaquoi, Alhaji Kromah, Sekou Conneh, and so forth.

I strongly believe that the strongest of all these warlords was Charles Ghankay Taylor. Not only that. He was believed to be the most respected, the most cunning, the most mischievous, the most established, the most connected, the richest, the most flamboyant, the most obstinate, the most defiant, the most demanding, the most ruthless, the most deceitful, the most vindictive, the most notorious, etc., warlord that Liberia and, yea, Africa, had ever had.

What is shocking to me, to many other Liberians and, perhaps, to many non-Liberians, is the fact that the Charles Ghankay Taylor, the man who possessed all of the qualities above has been arrested and is awaiting trial.

I have read a number of articles and news reports about the arrest of Charles Taylor. I have seen a number of pictures showing his person in the mist of UN police, disembarking planes, etc. But I saw another picture showing a handcuffed Charles Taylor. It is this one that has prompted this article.

I may sound insane, buffoonery, childish, uneducated, histrionic, bemused, moronic, and all the other adjectives you may have in the best-unabridged dictionary of the English language. But the fact of the matter is that I can’t believe what I have seen: a handcuffed Charles Taylor.

This picture might be the result of an artistic ingenuity, aided by computer technology.

This handcuffed Charles Taylor cannot be the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, I mean the Charles Ghankay Taylor that headed the NPFL, the Charles Ghankay Taylor that was once the President of the Republic of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor that …

But wait a minute! Do you, both Liberians and UN Court officials, really want me to believe that this handcuffed Taylor is the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia? Stop that expensive joke, my people.

Just look at the picture. Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia? I can’t believe it.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose convoy had about fifty cars in Monrovia, and, according to many people, every time he was going to work or coming from work, all other cars, including ambulance carrying emergency patients, had to stop and wait for minutes until his convoy had passed? It is inconceivable that this Charles Ghankay Taylor is the one that is handcuffed.

Just look at the picture once more. Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia? I can’t believe it.

The Charles Ghankay Taylor that I know is that invincible figure that told his challengers, “Even if you run under your mom’s bed, I will still grab you.” He proved this by going to the James Spring Airfield himself to search an airplane in which was George Boley. Reports say he had gone there to check for Roosevelt Johnson with the intention to arrest him. It is inconceivable that this Charles Ghankay Taylor is the one that is handcuffed.

Just look at the picture again. Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose security forces, it is said, almost killed Dr. Amos Sawyer, Commany Wesseh, destroyed the offices of the Center for Democratic Empowerment and caused these men to run into exile? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor who, according to sources, sent his security forces on the campus of the University of Liberia and beat students, instructors, professors, administrators, etc? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose intimidation caused some of my comrades at the University of Liberia to flee Liberia and go into exile in Ghana? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? I can’t believe it.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor who, after recapturing the city of Kakata from Ulimo-J in either late 1995 or earlier 1996 in less than twenty-four hours, registered his pre-eminence by using the Creole expression: “Trousee pass trousee, na so man pass man?” Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor who, in 2000, closed down the Star Radio Station and said, “The Star Radio Station will never be allowed to operate in Liberia as long as I am the President?” Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? You want me to believe this?

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose arrogance and stubbornness and self-aggrandizement, many believe, caused thousands of our countrymen to be killed and Liberia destroyed? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? No way!

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor on whose order, according to reports, many journalists, like Hassan Bility, and human rights activists, like counselor Tiawon Gongloe, were arrested, tortured and imprisoned incommunicado? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Taylor whose greed, many maintain, caused hundreds of thousands of our compatriots to be internally displaced, as well as become refugees in other countries? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Taylor whose activities caused thousands of our countrymen to go into self-imposed exiles? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose security forces were so brutal towards the Liberian people? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that expensive joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose dictatorial tactics and threats, a lot of people believe, caused many of us to flee Liberia? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose activities reduced Liberia to so an unbearable condition that a Liberia police officer remarked, “It is better for me to be a prisoner in America than to live freely in Liberia?” Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Taylor who launched the15 October 1992 war, a war that was infamously termed “Octopus,” on Monrovia, killing scores of our brothers and sisters and destroying properties worth millions of dollars? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor on whose orders, some say, his opponents or potential opponents were killed? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whose quest for power and inclination to aggression started the infamous April Six War in Monrovia, a war that made some Liberians believe that hell was better than Monrovia, a war that sent some of us in hiding for three months because we were being witch-hunted for articles we had published in the New Democrat newspaper? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor whom other rebel leaders, coup plotters, nation destabilizers, etc. came to for consultation? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor who once boasted his mischievousness at a press conference when he said, “If you think you are mischievous, I am more mischievous than any other Liberian?” Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor who felt that he was the biggest rock in West Africa, the hardest substance in nature, the most invincible figure in Liberia, the Zeus of Greece, the Apollo of Rome, the center of the solar system? Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor that is handcuffed? Stop that joke.

Is this the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, the Charles Ghankay Taylor who …

To cut long matter short, as Liberians usually say, I will stop here, but I will stress my point once more. I can’t believe that the handcuffed Taylor is the Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia.

Maybe I am just blind to the reality. Maybe I am so used to the unreal picture of the real situation that when I see the real picture I am not able to associate it with the real situation. Don’t blame me for this, please. The Liberian wars were fought for fourteen years. Fourteen years is a long time, not so?

Once, my maternal grandfather and I went to a little creek to fish. We sat on a nearby log and dropped our hooks in the creek. We were there for more than an hour without any fish jerking his line or mine. I became impatient and wanted to go back home or find another spot to fish.

“Grandpa, there is no fish in this creek,” I said.

“Why do you say that, my little boy?” he questioned.

We’ve been here for more than an hour, and there has not been a single jerk of your line,” I defended myself.

“Be patient, my little boy. Everything has time. Besides, no condition is permanent,” he advised.

I understood the “Be patient,” but not the other two expressions, yet I did not bother to ask him to explain, as I was tired and wanted to leave. After awhile, he took out a sheet of paper and a pencil from the left-side pocket of his African gown and wrote this sentence and handed it to me:

“It’s sad that leaders usually fail to learn anything from history, and that’s why they will always be hunted by the reality of history.”

Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues?

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