Global Policy Forum

200 African Civil Society Groups


By Eze Anaba

June 29, 2005

An unprecedented coalition of two hundred civil society groups in Africa has drafted a declaration seeking the transfer of exiled former Liberian war lord Charles Taylor to Sierra Leone for trial at the special court for Sierra Leone. The coalition was put together by Amnesty International and Abuja-based Open Society Justice Initiative. The groups are from Sierra Leone, South Africa, Mali, Botswana, Togo, Benin, Cote d' Voire, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Liberia, Zambia, and Ghana. The highest number of groups came from Cote d'Voire and Sierra Leone that suffered most from Taylor's brutality when he was in power in Liberia.

Although the groups were aware that the African Union was appreciative of Nigeria's gesture to accommodate Charles Taylor so that he would not have any influence in Liberia, they believe that if the problem of Charles Taylor is not solved now it would pose difficult to resolve similar problems in future. Charles Taylor faces a 17- count indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone. The charges include terrorising the civilian population, unlawful killings, sexual violence, physical violence, forced conscription of child soldiers, abductions, forced labour, looting and burning, and attacks on UN peacekeeping personnel.

The former Prosecutor David M. Craine indicted Charles Taylor on March 3, 2003 and unsealed the indictment on June 4, 2003. Official copies of the indictment and warrant of arrest were delivered to the Nigerian government by the court Registry on November 27, 2003 and the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) issued a "Red Notice" for Charles Taylor on December 3, 2003. On May 31, 2004 the Appeal Chambers of the Special Count for Sierra Leone rejected a motion filed by Attorneys for Taylor who sought to have the charges against him thrown out on the grounds that Taylor was a sitting head of state at the time of the indictment. The prosecutor that succeeded David Craine, Desmond de Silva on assumption of office vowed to bring Charles Taylor to trial. "I make a pledge to the people of Sierra Leone that I will strain every nerve and sinew to see that the monster of evil, Charles Taylor is put in the dock."

Nigeria offered asylum to Taylor in 2003 to induce him to step down as president of Liberia amid a deadly siege of his capital Monrovia by rebels. One term of Taylor's exile agreement is that he won't be handed to Sierra Leone. The Special Court, international community and NGOs in Africa believe that he has violated the terms of his asylum and should be handed over for trial. Besides, the belief is that trying Charles Taylor would be the beginning of the campaign to end impunity in Africa.

Bafile Ezenge head of Amnesty International in Boswana who is co-ordinating the campaign insisted that the African Union is an African organisation and must listen to what the mass of the people of Africa are saying. He said that the only time peace could return to Liberia is if people like Taylor are brought to trial.

His view was echoed by Ivef Traore of Burkina Faso who is the co-ordinator of the campaign there. He said "Those of us in Africa have witnessed closely the atrocities in Liberia. What we are talking about is a fundamental problem. I have a little girl who was amputed during the war in Liberia. She can only get justice if those who amputated her are brought to justice…In Cote D'Ivoire there is a situation of impunity. Dead squads are all over the place. If we don't respond now how are we going to respond in future? We need to realise that we are talking about a universality of justice and that should concern us all."

Francis Dako who is co-ordinating the campaign in Benin Republic dismissed the motion that the campaign against Taylor is being fueled by America. He said it is just a campaign to end impunity in Africa. Komive Hotowossi who is leading 18 organisations said "we believe that the campaign against Taylor is a campaign against impunity. He disagreed with the motion that Taylor's exile in Nigeria has brought peace in Liberia. "This issue of peace in Liberia is false. People have been killed. No justice has been given to the victims.

Olajobi Makinwa who is the head of Amnesty in South Africa said the groups that have agreed to join are bent on ending impunity in Africa. We have to let despots know that there is no room for them. Even if the AU does not force Nigeria now it would eventually do so." Saloun Traore of Mali said the question of justice outweighs any other consideration Nigeria might have for harbouring Charles Taylor.

Jimmy Mowoh head of Amnesty in Sierra Leone believes that Taylor's trial would spur the quest for justice for those who suffered during the war in Liberia. He said the awareness is high in Sierra Leone. "There is great expectation...Charles Taylor must be put on trial…At least 35 NGOs are in support of that movement" he said. With this determination Charles Taylor must be uncomfortable in Calabar.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on Charles Taylor
More Information on Liberia
More Information on the Rogues Gallery
More Information on the Special Court for Sierra Leone
More Information on NGOs
More Information on NGOs and International/Regional Institutions


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