Trying Charles Taylor would open Pandora’s box

Newly elected to the Liberian Parliament, the estranged wife of Liberia’s notorious former president Charles Taylor believes that attempts to bring him before the United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone would open a Pandora’s box.

”If you talk about carrying Charles Taylor to Freetown, my opinion is that there will be lots of ‘Charles Taylors’ that will have to go to Freetown,” Jewel Howard Taylor told Agence France Presse during an interview at her house in Congo Town, a posh suburb of the capital Monrovia.

”I don’t think we are, at this stage, prepared to witch-hunt because there are lots of people that will be involved,” she warned.

”We have a parable that says that if you pull a rope from the bush it is going to come out with other things,” said the former first lady who has regular contact by telephone with her ex-husband who lives in exile in Nigeria.

Taylor has been accused by the Special Court for Sierra Leone of sponsoring rebels who fought in Sierra Leone’s gruesome 10-year war.

The former warlord-turned-president stepped down as Liberian leader and was given asylum in Nigeria in August 2003 to allow a United Nations-brokered peace process to bring an end to 14 years of civil wars.

Taylor has been living in a luxurious but heavily guarded waterfront villa in Nigeria’s southeastern city of Calabar.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has defied international pressure to hand over Taylor to the Freetown tribunal, insisting he would surrender him only to an elected Liberian regime.

Liberia’s President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has said she is not in a hurry to deal with the Taylor case.

Taylor’s former wife is adamant that many more Liberians must be held accountable for the crisis in West Africa.

”I am not against punishing people who did wrong but life is not all about theory,” Howard Taylor said.

”The crisis in this nation did not start in 1989 it started long before. What generation are we going to punish?” she asked.

”Let’s put into place what is necessary so that our nation can move forward, and not go back to where we have come from,” she said.

Howard Taylor, a member of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), was elected a senator from Bong county in central Liberia, where Taylor used to have his headquarters during the civil war.

Now 41, she married Taylor in 1997 about six months before he won the country’s presidential election.

Citing his exile and the UN travel ban against her, she filed for and was recently granted a divorce.

Howard Taylor and three other lawmakers elected last year are under UN sanctions for their close association with Taylor.

She flanked Taylor as he left his motherland for Nigeria. She returned home in 2004 and has been barred from travelling ever since.

Although Liberia’s incoming president Johnson-Sirleaf was a bitter opponent of Taylor, she accepted Howard Taylor’s support in the November run-off election, which brought her significant votes from former combatants.

”I thought that between the two last candidates we had, she brought more on the table,” Howard Taylor said.

”To transform the nation from that of poverty and deprivation and dishonour, to a nation of peace, unity, love and progress, she has the capacity,” she said of Johnson-Sirleaf, who will inaugurated Africa’s first elected female president on Monday. – Sapa-AFP

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