In August 2003, ex-Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, was flown from Monrovia to Abuja on board a Nigerian Boeing 727 presidential jet. Taylor had just been granted asylum in Nigeria as part of a deal overseen by the African Union, the United Nations (UN) and the United States, which was aimed at ending the Liberian civil war. However, in June 2003, Taylor was indicted for war crimes by a UN court in Sierra Leone, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The Nigerian government promised to hand Taylor over only when a democratically elected government was in place in Liberia.
January 2006: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as the elected president of Liberia. On March 5, 2006, she requested for custody of Charles Taylor from the Nigerian government (according to information on the website of the State House, Abuja). On March 28, 2006, Charles Taylor was declared missing from his asylum villa by the Nigerian government. A day later, he was arrested trying to flee Nigeria. At the time of writing, he should be on his way to Liberia—the Nigerian government appears to have complied with the request of the Liberian government to finally hand him over.
The English-speaking blogosphere has been saturated with in-depth reports and commentaries on the ex-Liberian leader and indicted warlord. We take a look at some of these, written before it was reported that Mr. Taylor had been captured.
The blog GlobalLawAndPolitics laments in the article “The Rise and Fall of International Law in Africa–March 2006” about how “big men” of Africa continue to have their way, fueling a “culture of impunity and corruption that is eroding the continent.” It challenges African leaders to fulfill their human rights obligation by refusing to give refuge to Mr. Taylor.
Transitional Justice Forum describes Nigeria’s behavior following Liberia’s request for Taylor’s extradition as “erratic.” It calls on President George Bush not to go ahead with a meeting with the Nigerian president (scheduled for March 29, 2006) except Taylor is found and arrested.
Black Star Journal describes Taylor’s disappearance as “shock of shocks,” stating that Nigeria ought to have had Taylor arrested and put on a plane to Sierra Leone the moment Liberia requested for him. Africa Beat takes issue with the Nigerian president for failing to have Charles Taylor arrested before publicly announcing his intention to hand him over to Liberia.
Nigerian Times, appearing to have no sympathy for the government of the Nigeria boldly calls on the United States to hold the Nigerian president responsible for Charles Taylor’s disappearance. African Shirts in an article titled “Taylor varnishes” describes the entire situation as a “real muddle.”
David McCullough lashes out on Nigeria over Taylor’s disappearance. He appears disgusted by what appears to be “Nigeria colluding with Charles Taylor” and allowing him escape. McCullough puts Taylor in the class of war criminals like Radovan Karajic of Serbia and calls on “corrupt” Nigeria to clean up its act.
Following reports that Charles Taylor was captured and arrested by the Nigerian police on March 29, 2006, the blogosphere has also been filled with commentaries.
Parenthetical Remarks sums up the general feeling among bloggers in stating: “a bad day for former dictators turns out to be a good day for the rest of us. Taylor will finally get his day in court, likely followed by a lifetime behind bars, right where he belongs.” Mental Meanderings says that Serbia, which is still protecting people like Ratko Mladic could learn a lesson from Nigeria and hand over its war criminals.
Mansel Report sarcastically alludes to the fact that now that Charles Taylor has been arrested, the Nigerian president can expect to have a nice meeting with George Bush where “oil will be discussed…” and “the violence and death [in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria] will be brushed aside at least in private.”
The Counterterrorism Blog while pleased that Taylor was arrested by Nigerian security forces and is to be on his way to Sierra Leone, cautions the American government on its relationship with the Nigerian president calling for a ‘reevaluation of the close and dependent relationship” between Nigeria and the United States.
There are bloggers who see the request for Charles Taylor’s extradition as premature and indicative of pressure from more powerful governments. Grandiose Parlor finds the sudden change of heart by the Liberian leader puzzling. The Liberian president once saw Taylor as being of relatively low priority to her government.
“The Night Before Christmas ”
An African Christmas Story
By P.E. Adotey Addo
It was the night before Christmas and I was very sad because my family life had been severely disrupted and I was sure that Christmas would never come. There was none of the usual joy and anticipation that I always felt during the Christmas season. I was eight years old, but in the past few months, I had aged greatly.
Christmas had always been for me one of the joyous religious festivals. The church started preparing way back in November. We really felt that we were preparing for the birth of the baby Jesus. The children and all the young people loved to make colorful crepe paper ornaments and decorate their homes and schools with them. Beautiful Christmas music could be heard everywhere on the streets, on the radio and even on television. It was the time when relatives and friends visited each other, so there were always people traveling and visiting with great joy from all the different tribes. Oh, how I wished I had some of the traditional food of rice, chicken, goat, lamb, and fruits of various kinds consumed at Christmas now!
All of us looked forward to the Christmas Eve Service at our church. After the service there would be a joyous procession through the streets. Throughout the celebration, everyone was greeted with the special greeting word, “Afishapa” meaning Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Everyone would be in a gala mood. Then on Christmas Day we went back to church to read the scriptures and sing carols to remind us of the meaning of the blessed birth of the baby Jesus. After the Christmas service young people received gifts of special chocolate, special cookies, and special crackers. Young people were told that the gifts come from Father Christmas. They also received new clothes and perhaps new pairs of shoes. We always thought that these were the things that meant Christmas. Oh how I wish that those memories were real tonight!
However, this Christmas Eve things were different and I knew Christmas would not come. Everyone was sad and desperate because of what had happened earlier in the year, in April, when the so-called Army of Liberation attacked our village and took all the young boys and girls away. Families were separated and some were murdered. We were forced to work and march for many miles without food. We were often hungry. The soldiers burned everything in our village and during our forced march we lost all sense of time and place.
During one rainy night we were miraculously able to get away from the soldiers . After several weeks in the tropical forest we made our way back to our burned out village. Most of us were sick, exhausted, and depressed. Most of the members of our families were nowhere to be found. We had no idea what day or time it was. This was the situation until my sick grandmother noticed the reddish and yellow flower we call, “Fire on the Mountain.” It was blooming in the middle of the marketplace where it had stood and bloomed for generations at Christmas time. For some reason it had survived the fire that had engulfed the marketplace. (I remembered how the nectar from this beautiful flower had always attracted insects making them drowsy enough to fall to the ground to become food for crows and lizards.) We were surprised that the fire the soldiers had started that burned the marketplace and the village did not destroy the “Fire on the Mountain” tree. What a miracle it was.
Grandmother told us that it was almost Christmas because the flower was blooming. As far as she could remember this only occurred at Christmas time. My spirits were lifted for a few minutes as I saw the flower. Soon I became sad again. How could Christmas come without my parents? How could we celebrate after all we had suffered? How could we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace? Since April, we had not known any peace, only war and suffering. Even though Grandmother’s last words to us, before she died the night before, were to celebrate, how could we?
As I continued to think about past joyous Christmases and the present suffering, we heard the horn of a car and not just one horn but several cars approaching our village. At first we thought they were cars full of men with machine guns so we hid in the forest. To our surprise they were not and they did not have guns. They were just ordinary travelers. It seemed the bridge over the river near our village had been destroyed last April as the soldiers left our village. Since it was almost dusk and there were rumors that there were land mines on the roads, they did not want to take any chances. Their detour had led them straight to our village.
When they saw us they were shocked and horrified at the suffering and the devastation all around us. Many of these travelers began to cry. They told us that it really was Christmas Eve. All of them were on their way to their villages to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. Now circumstances had brought them to our village at this time on this night before Christmas. They shared the little food they had with us. They even helped us build a fire in the center of the marketplace to keep us warm.
In the middle of all this, my pregnant sister became ill. I was so afraid for my sister because we did not have any medical supplies and we were not near a hospital. Some of the travelers and the villagers removed their shirts and clothes to make a bed for my sister to lie near the fire we had made. On that fateful night my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. This called for a celebration and, war or no war, Africans have to dance! We celebrated until the rooster crowed at 6 a.m. We sang Christmas songs, everyone singing in his or her own language. For the first time all the pain and agony of the past few months was gone.
When morning finally came my sister was asked, “What are you going to name the baby”? Would you believe for the first time since our village was burned and all the young girls and boys were taken away, she spoke. She said, “His name is Gye Nyame, which means except God I fear none.”
And so, Christmas really did come to our village that night, but it did not come in the cars or with the travelers. It came in the birth of my nephew in the midst of our suffering. We saw hope in what this little child could do. A miracle occurred that night before Christmas, and I knew we were not alone any more. I had learned that Christmas comes in spite of all circumstances; indeed the true spirit of Christmas is always within us all. Christmas came even to our village that night.