I have been reading for the past six hours the proceedings of Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp’s examination of Charles Taylor’s former Vice-President, Moses Blah, and related websites. Moses Blah became President of Liberia after Taylor’s resignation following international pressure in 2003. During three days, May 14 – 16, former Liberian President Moses Blah unravelled Taylor’s machine of death and destruction, inspired by his hunger for wealth and power. Without any doubt, Blah’s testimony will turn out to be one of the most crucial contributions to the trial of the Liberian war-lord President Charles Taylor.
But I was not only struck by Charles Taylor’s greed, his apparant ruthless and heartless character, and the confirmation of cannibalistic practices, encouraged or condoned by the war-lord President. Blah also confirmed the international character of what seemed to be a civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone. This is another devastating part of his testimony.
The civil wars that raged in Sierra Leone and Liberia as from the late 1980s and the 1990s (Sierra Leone) and until the early part of the 21st century (Liberia) were not merely a part of nation-building in these countries nor where they the result of a struggle for political power of groups with opposing views as to how to organise the country. In reality, they were organised crimes at a large scale. Criminals disguided as politicians determined these nations’ history.
The international context and support of the civil wars and brutalities – through arms deliveries, training, military and financial support – in Sierra Leone and Liberia, confirmed by Blah during his testimony, are extremely important, not only to determine and judge Charles Taylor’s role and responsibiliy, but also to look at his accomplices. There are many.
Among these accomplices are not only Liberians (like Benjamin Yeaten, ‘Zigzag’ Marzah, Cyril Allen, Taylor’s son Chuck Taylor and Grace Minor, to name just a few) but also others, the most known being RUF rebel leader Foday Sankoh (Sierra Leone), President Muammar Gadhafi (Libya) and President Blaise Compaoré (Burkina Faso). Moses Blah confirmed that the governments of Libya, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast supported Taylor’s 1989 invasion of Liberia. Training camps in Libya and Burkina Faso, cooperation with rebels from the Gambia, support from Ivory Coast, involvement of Guinea, Ghana and Nigeria: the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia were not merely civil wars.
Is it likely that the wars and turmoil in West Africa, and in particular their international background, went unnoticed in European counties or North America? I cannot speak for other countries than the Netherlands, and even in that case I have to be prudent since I certainly do not know all details. Nevertheless, I dare to say that the Dutch government was not aware of all the foregoing and my sincere guess is that this was no exception.
But, isn’t that amazing? All these (developed) countries are member of international organizations, which are active in the region, whereas most of these European and North American countries have well-staffed and equipped embassies reporting on events and trends in the region. How well-informed are they, how competent are they, how reliable is their reporting? What do we – outside the West African region – know and understand what happens in the region? Yet, non-African presidents and other politicians pretend they know what happens behind the curtains.
I have my doubts.
Trial of Charles Taylor Blog:
Charles Taylor trial advances at sustained pace: http://www.hirondellenews.com/content/view/1984/329/
Witness: Gadhafi helped Taylor to take over Liberia:
President Charles Ghankay Taylor 1997 – 2003: The war-lord President
Blah diggs into Taylor’s bloody past:
Blah cites death threats in war crimes tribunal
“This type of things happen at war”:
BBC Profile of Moses Blah: