News / Africa

Taylor Sentence Sparks Justice Debate in Liberia

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor listens to the judge at the opening of the sentencing judgement hearing at the court in Leidschendam, near The Hague, May 30, 2012.Former Liberian President Charles Taylor listens to the judge at the opening of the sentencing judgement hearing at the court in Leidschendam, near The Hague, May 30, 2012.
x
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor listens to the judge at the opening of the sentencing judgement hearing at the court in Leidschendam, near The Hague, May 30, 2012.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor listens to the judge at the opening of the sentencing judgement hearing at the court in Leidschendam, near The Hague, May 30, 2012.
Kate Thomas
DAKAR - The sentencing of former Liberian president Charles Taylor on Wednesday was heralded as an historic moment for Sierra Leone. But in neighboring Liberia, many say the justice and reconciliation process is only just beginning.  As Taylor was handed a 50-year jail term, Liberian rights groups and activists were debating whether Taylor's allies and rivals should also be subject to international justice.  

The sentencing of Charles Taylor for war crimes committed during Sierra Leone's conflict has sparked debate in the former leader's native Liberia.

Many Liberians did not follow the trial proceedings, believing that it was more relevant for Sierra Leoneans.

But others gathered around radios Wednesday as news of Taylor's 50-year jail term was read out.

The matter has sparked calls for other Liberians suspected of war crimes to be handed over to international courts.  Liberia's media have run editorials and held radio debates on the advantages and disadvantages of the idea.

Larry Tengbeh, who lives in Monrovia, is among those who think Taylor should not be the only one held responsible for war crimes. "There are a number of them roaming around in Liberia.  They need to face justice," he said.

He's talking about former rivals, and in some cases, allies of Taylor during Liberia's civil conflict, which ended in 2003, a year after Sierra Leone's.

At least five members of Taylor's wartime inner circle are still under U.N.-imposed travel bans and subject to economic sanctions.

Others had recommendations made against them by Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But those recommendations, including one that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf should be barred from public office for funding Taylor's pre-war rebellion in Liberia, have never been implemented.

There have been calls for Prince Johnson, Taylor's former rival who came in third in last year's presidential race, to be pursued for crimes against humanity.

In 1990, Johnson was videotaped drinking from a bottle of beer while soldiers loyal to him tortured the late President Samuel Doe.

"Other warlords like Prince Johnson who led another rebel group in Liberia, face the full weight of justice too.  He must have his day in court for the killing of former President Samuel Kanyon Doe," said Tengbeh.

But Marpue Tarnue, a 35-year-old housewife, said the issue of pursuing justice should be put to rest.

"I think the people of Sierra Leone got the justice they had been looking for.  The trial is over and it is time for the two countries to put the past behind them and move forward," she said.

Some feel that during Liberia's conflict, which left 300,000 people dead, many people came away with dirty hands.

They say that everyone became a part of the system of war, and that holding individuals responsible will prevent Liberia as a whole from moving beyond the conflict.

Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee is currently leading a reconciliation initiative in Liberia, backed by President Johnson-Sirleaf. But Liberians say the process, which focuses mostly on discussion, has been slow to get off the ground.

Teddey Morris, who has been following the trial, asks how Liberian reconciliation should be defined.

"Reconciliation is about forgiving and forgetting the past.  A sentence of 50 years is not what you call reconciliation," he said.

In 2008, Liberian novelist Elma Shaw published a book called "Redemption Road."

It told the story of a Liberian girl, Bendu, who was abducted during the war and forced to marry a rebel fighter at a camp in the forest.  It is a story that speaks to thousands of Liberian women who had similar experiences.

After the war, Bendu reflects on her time in the forest.

"For Bendu, forgetting was out of the question," Shaw writes, "but remembering and doing nothing about it was even worse."

The question, for Liberians, is just what should be done.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
June 13, 2012 1:04 AM
Why it is the war court cannot prosecute Russian president or syrian president?what about north korean president?until Africa be able to stand on their own and need no voice from the west we will always be behind.We cannot acess unless there be intervention from the west.we are not capable to solve own problem?this is a shame,and it is what it is.why the rest of the rebels that were fighting in Liberia were not prosecuted?Ellen Jonhson Sirleaf,Prince Jonhson,George Borley etc,etc for killing the Liberian people?this is nonsense

by: P. Dindas from: London
June 01, 2012 9:53 AM
Dictators who put the law into their hands must dance the music. Why live Robert Mugabe who did ethnic clensing with the North Koreans between 1983- 87 in the Midlands and Matebeleland and all is documented by the Catholic Peace and Justice.
During the 2008 Presidential Election his Defence Minister M'nangagwa conducted with the state machinery a mass killing of MDC SUPPORTERS.
Just as the UN EMMISSARY WAS PACKING HER BAGS NIVI PILLAY, a well respected uncle Magura had his life terminated under state police supervision.
WHEN WILL THE UN, EU,AU AND SADC PROTECT DEFENCELESS ZIMBABWEANS? Where will this lead the country to? Does the International await to resolve acrisis management?
Please stop the murderers who continue to violate Human Rights with impunity

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City,NJ
June 01, 2012 1:41 AM
This is an in justice to the Liberian people,first of all Charles Taylor did not carry war into sierra leone,it was late Fody Sankor and the rest of RUF rebels that took war into Liberia along with Mr.Taylor.at that time,in 1990 the Liberian people was running away from Liberia,what was Fody Sankor and RUF doing in Liberia?they were fighting along side with Mr.Taylor killing the Liberian people.The people of sierra leone took war to our country.that is the true.so this is non sense.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs