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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More