News

    Liberia Reacts to Taylor Conviction With Mixed Emotions

    People watch a live broadcast of the verdict in the Netherlands-based trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 26, 2012.
    People watch a live broadcast of the verdict in the Netherlands-based trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 26, 2012.
    Kate Thomas

    Key Dates in Charles Taylor's Life

    • 1983: Flees Liberia after being accused of embezzling government funds
    • 1985: Escapes from a U.S. jail after one year in prison
    • 1989: Resurfaces in Liberia, launches rebellion
    • 1991: RUF rebels attack villages in Sierra Leone from Liberia.
    • 1997: Elected president of Liberia
    • 2003: Special Court for Sierra Leone indicts Taylor on initial charges, months later he steps down as president and takes asylum in Nigeria.
    • 2006: Arrested in Nigeria and sent to The Hague for trial
    • 2007: War crimes trial opens in The Hague.
    • 2012: Convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes

    Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty Thursday of aiding and abetting grave human rights abuses and war crimes in a historic verdict by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  While Taylor was not found guilty of masterminding the atrocities, he became the first former African head of state to be convicted in an international court.  In Taylor's native Liberia and in Sierra Leone, where the crimes were committed, interest in the verdict was very high. 

    Liberians gathered around radios and televisions or watched online, using slow connections at internet cafes, as former President Charles Taylor was convicted of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone.

    From the site of the trial in The Hague, the Special Court for Sierra Leone said Taylor was not guilty of committing the crimes himself.  However, he was guilty of aiding and abetting rebels as they terrorized civilians, carved their initials into the bodies of child soldiers and carried out murder, abductions and rape.

    The court said prosecutors had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Taylor was part of the rebel's command structure.

    In Sierra Leone, people watched television as the judge's verdict was dubbed into Sierra Leonean krio. But if people applauded the verdict in Sierra Leone, it was met with mixed emotions in Taylor's native Liberia, where he still has some support.

    Jewel Howard Taylor, a Liberian senator, was Taylor's first wife.  She maintains that her ex-husband was not responsible for the crimes.

    "I can only speak for what I saw and I did not see any connection," she said. "But I don't think he should be held responsible.  I still don't see the connection of how he could be held responsible for those things done in Sierra Leone when they were actually done by Sierra Leonean armed forces."

    Gabriel Morris, 45, said justice will only be done when Liberia can make its own decisions and handle its own prosecution cases.

    "It's not handled by Liberia, so what can we do?  We can't do anything?  Whatever they say is what the Liberians will agree to.  If they say Taylor is guilty, there's nothing we can do.  For me, it's a conspiracy," said Morris.

    Former Liberian President Charles Taylor looks down as he waits for the start of a hearing to deliver verdict in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands, April 26, 2012.
    Former Liberian President Charles Taylor looks down as he waits for the start of a hearing to deliver verdict in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands, April 26, 2012.

    Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor hid behind his reputation as a broker of peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone, publicly participating in efforts to promote peace, while secretly funding hostilities between the government and the rebels.

    The judges found that he urged the rebels not to disarm, even during an arms embargo implemented by regional bloc ECOWAS.

    Thursday was declared a public holiday in Liberia in order to prevent a public reaction to the verdict. Offices were closed, U.N. troops were deployed to the streets and citizens were urged to remain calm.

    Schoolteacher Jerry Brooks said Taylor was far from a model Liberian leader.

    "I'm not surprised," he said.  "He should bear the consequences.  You can't be a leader, and be arrogant.  You can't be a leader, and wage your war on another suffering nation.  You can't be a leader, suppressing other people."

    As the verdict was read out, a rainbow was seen in the sky, encircling the sun.  For many Liberians, superstition is a part of life.  The rainbow heralded a new era, they said, beginning with the verdict of Taylor.

    Liberian Tamba Cole said he welcomed the guilty verdict. He said Taylor has now set an example to other leaders in Africa, and around the world.  Such crimes will no longer be tolerated by the international community, he said.

    "The coming leaders in Africa will have to be very careful.  He is Liberian, but the actions he took make him to be guilty.  He set an example for other people.  Then, next time, it will not happen," said Cole.

    The prosecution and the defense teams have seven days to appeal Thursday's verdict.  Taylor will be sentenced during a series of hearings in May.

    Photo gallery by VOA French to Africa’s Nathalie Barge of photos taken in Sierra Leone and Guinea between May, 2000 and January, 2002.

    In an earlier version of this story, we incorrectly reported that the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor cost the Special Court for Sierra Leone $250 million. VOA regrets the error.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Kay
    April 28, 2012 9:46 AM
    Charles Taylor is evil and heartless to the highest level, you can only compare him to Hitler. How could anyone defend this monster. I bet he never thought that he will ever be brought to justice. I hope he rot in jail.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora