28 Mar 2006
The Liberian government has called for calm following the reported disappearance of Charles Taylor from his exile home of Calabar, Nigeria. Taylor’s apparent flight comes on the heels of a recent decision by the Nigerian government to deprive him of continued refuge in that country.
The ex-Liberian president came to Nigeria in 2003 following a brokered agreement to end a war that was responsible for the death of more than 150000 Liberians and possibly more people in neighbouring Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.
The Nigerian government has come under serious criticism for the dramatic turn of events. Days earlier, the Liberian and Nigerian governments were engaged in a cat and mouse game on the question of who should physically hand over Taylor to the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. While Nigeria held that it was the responsibility of Liberia to come and take Taylor, the Liberians said that it was that of Nigeria to arrest and transfer him.
The news of Taylor’s disappearance has shocked the international community and has drawn sharp reactions. The chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal described it as an “affront to justice”. Condoleezza Rice (U.S secretary of state) views it with “utmost seriousness” and talks of “serious consequences”. The U.N secretary general Kofi Annan has expressed concern and urged countries in the region not to give refuge to Charles Taylor.
In an apparent attempt to wade off the gathering storm the Obasanjo administration in Nigeria has reacted by setting up “a panel of inquiry” to find out how Taylor disappeared and who were responsible.
The fear is that Charles Taylor may get back to the bushes of Liberia and start another devastating war similar to the one that engulfed that country in the nineties of which he was the principal architect and actor. This fear is heightened by the declaration of Taylor’s spiritual leader over the BBC that the man left Nigeria on Saturday March 25th at 6.45 apparently for the bushes of Liberia.
If this is true, the image and credibility of the Obasanjo regime in Nigeria would have been seriously tarnished and the future of stability in the West African sub region brought into question.
Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah