Global Policy Forum

Taylor Missing from Nigerian Home

March 28, 2006

Liberia's ex-President Charles Taylor, who is wanted on war crimes charges, has disappeared from the villa where he lived in exile, Nigeria says. All of those supposed to have been guarding him have been arrested. At the weekend, Nigeria said it would let him be arrested, but both Liberia and the US said Nigeria should send him to a UN-backed war crimes court.

Mr Taylor stepped down as president in 2003 under a deal to end the Liberian civil war, which he started in 1989. He went into exile in Calabar, in south-eastern Nigeria. The BBC's Mark Doyle in Freetown says there are powerful political forces at play over Mr Taylor's fate.


Mr Taylor's spiritual advisor Kilari Anand Paul told the AFP news agency that the former Liberian leader would be happy to face justice in The Hague but not in Sierra Leone. He also said he was looking for a country to grant Mr Taylor political asylum. On Monday he told the BBC that four or five countries had already agreed to take him.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo is "very shocked" by Mr Taylor's disappearance on Monday, Information Minister Frank Nweke told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. Nigeria has set up a panel to investigate the matter, and to establish whether he escaped or was abducted, Mr Nweke said.

Lobby group Human Rights Watch blames Nigeria for Mr Taylor's disappearance, reports Reuters news agency. "This is a serious indictment of Nigeria's commitment to peace and security in Liberia, to seeing justice done for victims of the violence in Sierra Leone and to the fight against impunity throughout Africa," said Corinne Dufka, head of the group's West Africa office.


After Nigeria announced that it would let Mr Taylor face trial, Desmond de Silva, chief prosecutor of the war crimes court in Sierra Leone, called for Mr Taylor's immediate arrest, warning that he could use his vast wealth and contacts to organise his escape. He described Mr Taylor as one of the three most important wanted war crimes suspects in the world. Mr Taylor was indicted on 17 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, concerning his alleged backing for Sierra Leone's rebels, shortly before stepping down in 2003.

The news is comes as a huge embarrassment for Mr Obasanjo, who is travelling to the US to meet President George W Bush in Washington on Wednesday. On Monday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "It is incumbent upon the Nigerian government now to see that he [Mr Taylor] is conveyed to the international court."

But Mr Obasanjo's spokeswoman has said Nigeria's job was done, with Liberia "free to come and take President Taylor into her custody". Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said she wanted her predecessor to be sent directly to Sierra Leone, as he had not been indicted by a Liberian court. A number of Mr Taylor's supporters have been detained in Liberia amid fears they may stage an armed uprising.

Tens of thousands of people died in the interlinked conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Mr Taylor is accused of selling diamonds and buying weapons for Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels, who were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians during a 10-year war. He also started the Liberian civil war in 1989, before being elected president in 1997.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on Charles Taylor
More Information on the Special Court for Sierra Leone
More Information on Liberia


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