Meddling in West Africa

Charles Taylor
1st African Head of State
on War Crimes Tribunal


Charles Taylor had many reasons to meddle in the domestic affairs of neighbouring West African countries. Some of them go back to the 1990 ECOWAS meeting, hosted by President Sir Dawda Jawara of the Gambia. In Banjul the ECOWAS Monotoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) was created and the ECOWAS meeting eventually led to the creation of the interim government of President Amos Sawyer.

The West African peacekeeping ECOMOG soon turned into a peace enforcement military force. ECOMOG was very instrumental from withholding Charles Taylor's NPFL forces seizing the Liberian capital ('Thanks God for ECOMOG' was a common expression in Monrovia in the 1990s).

Charles Taylor's hatred against the Nigerian-led ECOMOG resulted in his support for domestic opposition groups, financing armed rebellions, coups and assassination attempts. He particularly focussed on the governments of the countries providing military to the ECOMOG force: Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Gambia.

His relations with Burkina Faso were of a different nature. He had become friends with Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaoré in Khadaffi's Lybia in the 1980s. President Blaise Compaoré had supported the 1989 Christmas invasion of the National Patriotic Forces of Liberia (NPFL) led by Charles Taylor. Burkina's President also supported Taylor by allowing arms trader Victor Bout to transship arms through Burkina Faso to the NPFL forces in Liberia, allegedly in exchange for diamonds ('Arms for Diamonds').

Both this introduction and the background information below do not pretend to be exhaustive on the subject.


"By March 1990, law and order had virtually broken down in most parts of Liberia (Monrovia was clearly threatened). (...)

The Economic Community of West African States in response to the total break down of law and order in the country, the humanitarian catastrophe and the growing threat to sub- regional peace and security met in Banjul, the Gambia and established a Standing Mediation Committee to resolve the crisis.  (...)

ECOMOG deployment was vehemently opposed by the by Charles Taylor who saw ECOMOG as a ploy by some West African counties (particularly Nigeria) to deprive him from taking over Monrovia. NPFL thus launched immediate attack on ECOMOG as the troops landed in Monrovia. In response, ECOMOG was forced to change its operational mandate from peace keeping to peace enforcement within a month of deployment with specific order to create a buffer zone between NPFL forces and Monrovia.

While in Liberia, ECOMOG were involved in various types of missions-peace keeping, peace enforcement, mediation, disarming of rebel groups, and the protection of humanitarian aids. ECOMOG peacekeeping operation ended in February 1998 (...)"
Source: University for Peace
  • Received Al Queda funds to destabilize

    Liberia's exiled former president, Charles Taylor, received money recently from an al-Qaida operative and is trying to destabilize west Africa, prosecutors for Sierra Leone's U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal said Tuesday. Chief prosecutor David Crane said Taylor harbored members of al-Qaida including those who allegedly took part in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1997, and was allegedly in contact with a member of the terrorist network as recently as last month.
    May 28, 2005



"(...) Investigators from several countries concluded that President Charles Taylor of Liberia received a $1 million payment for arranging to harbor the Al Queda terrorists who were in the region for at least two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The terrorists moved between a protected area in Liberia (the Gbalata training camp) and the palace of president Blaise Compaoré of neighboring Burkina Faso, investigators say. (...)"
Washington Post, December 29, 2002






  • The Gambia
    Charles Taylor also needed a foothold in The Gambia.

    (...) the small narrow West African country is also a major base of operations for notorious Russian international arms smuggler Victor Bout.

    The Gambia is the headquarters for one of many of Bout's front companies -- companies that are used to smuggle everything from weapons to diamonds and mercenaries to international relief supplies.

    In fact, Bout was the character on whom fictional arms smuggler Yuri Orlov, played by Nicolas Cage in the movie Lord of War, was largely based.

    Bout was Liberian dictator Charles Taylor's primary arms and diamond smuggler.

    Bout and his associates were given Liberian diplomatic passports and, with Taylor's blessing and protection, they registered a number of their front companies in Monrovia, the Liberian capital.



Victor Bout
A Russian arms dealer and former KGB officer who is undermining international sanctions by supplying arms for diamonds to rebel forces in Africa is named and shamed in a ground-breaking report published by the UN yesterday.
Victor Anatoliyevich Bout, who holds at least five passports and uses as many as seven aliases, is identified as the businessman responsible for fuelling civil wars across Africa, including conflicts in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is accused of ferrying heavy weapons, automatic rifles and ammunition from eastern Europe to rebel groups that control diamond mines. (...) Earlier this week a separate UN report claimed that Mr Bout's fleet of ex-Soviet planes, registered as Air Cess, had been used to deliver attack helicopters, armoured vehicles and anti-tank mines to Liberia, which supports the RUF rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.  Source: The Guardian, December 23, 2000



  • Guinea
    • Assassination attempt at President Conteh

      When unidentified gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of Guinean President Lansana Conte on 19 January 2005, there was little surprise. (...) In June 2004 at least two people were killed in Nzerekore in clashes between Konianké and the Guerzé, one of the main ethnic groups in the Forest Region. (...) The Konianké are related to the Mandingos of northern Liberia who fought on the side of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group during that country's civil war. The Guerzé, on the other hand, have links to the Mano ethnic group, to which former Liberian President Charles Taylor, LURD's sworn enemy, belongs.
      IRIN 2005
    • Taylor accused

      "There is an objective risk from the direction of Taylor in Liberia and we must be vigilant, verifying systematically all our information," Bangoura (Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation) said. "Infiltrators coming in must be systematically handed over to the authorities".
      Guinea had often accused former Liberian President Charles Taylor of supporting armed groups that crossed over from Liberia in late 2000 and early 2001.
      IRIN 2005
    • Taylor loyalist recruits Liberians to fight in Guinea

      Tragen Wantee, a comrade-in-arms of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, has been recruiting former members of Taylor's armed forces for the past two months in order to launch an insurrection in neighbouring Guinea.

      IRIN September 22, 2004


The Guinea conflict explained

(...) Charles Taylor and Guinean President Lansana Conte have always been on opposite sides. (...) The spread of the war to Guinea has caused ripples of alarm around the region. (...) The conspiracy theorists are talking once again in terms of a West African domino theory, of a master plan fronted by Charles Taylor, but involving Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast, backed by Libya.(...)
BBC News, February 13, 2001

The Mano River Union States

The wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone and the threath of war in Guinea create a complicated situation: Charles Taylor fomenting the RUF rebellion in Sierra Leone, the RUF army invading Guinea from Sierra Leone and Liberia, whereas the Guinea army on various occasions crossed the borders with both countries.

To make complications worse, the death of ailing president Conte may unleash civil unrest in Guinea where opposition leaders have already commenced the struggle for power. 

Guinea Conflict-Global Security

Guinea: Threat of a military takeover?
April 11, 2006



  • Ivory Coast

    Court documents obtained by the Financial Times concluded that Mr Taylor was plotting the overthrow of the Ivory Coast government as part of his master plan to plunge West Africa into further chaos and return to power.

    Financial Times May 7, 2005



  • Liberia

    Charles Taylor has been warned not to interfere in Liberian politics from his exile in Nigeria.
    Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo told Liberia's ex-leader not to use his telephone to communicate outside the conditions of his asylum.
    Last week, the United Nations warned that Mr Taylor was still trying "to influence events" in Liberia.
    October 13, 2003



  • Sierra Leone       

    The personal connections between President Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh go back ten years to their training in Libya, to their combined efforts on behalf of Blaise Campaore in his seizure of power in Burkina Faso, and to Sankoh's involvement in Charles Taylor's struggle as head of the NPFL to take power in Liberia in the early 1990s. These events are well documented, (...)

    Report of the Panel of Experts (UN),
    December 2000

Charles Taylor
1st African Head of State
on War Crimes Tribunal