Charles Taylor: War-Lord turned President

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    The long awaited verdict to determine the guilt or innocence of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor will be delivered at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2012. The international tribunal will issue a verdict in the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor next month in this long awaited trial according to the United Nations. We would like to explore the history behind Charles Taylor and some notable allies that helped him build his empire. Charles Taylor was the Liberian Leader from 1997 to 2003. Some of the power behind this war-lord turned President is shrouded in mystery. He has been linked with high profile people including Model Naomi Campbell and Televangelist Pat Robertson who lobbied on his behalf. In addition he aided the rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone and fueled the illegal diamond trade in that country.

    Charles McArthur “Ghankay” Taylor was born 18 January 1948 in Arthington, Liberia. Although he was born as Charles Taylor he added the name ‘Ghankay’ to appeal to the indigenous Africans in Liberia. He studied at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1977. During his undergraduate years at Bentley, Taylor joined the Union of Liberian Associations (ULA). He rose through the ranks of the organization to become its national chairman. It was while he chaired the ULA that Taylor emerged as a political force. In 1979, then-Liberian President William Tolbert visited the United States. Taylor led a demonstration outside the Liberian mission in New York City to protest Tolbert’s policies. Rather than ignore the rally leader, the Liberian leader asked Taylor to debate him. Taylor out shined the president during the debate and declared that he would take over the Liberian mission in New York. But he had overreached. He was arrested and jailed. Instead of pressing charges, however, Tolbert invited Taylor to return to Liberia.

    After Samuel Doe mounted a successful Coup d’tat Taylor got a high post as head of the General Services Agency which controlled most of Liberia’s budgets. After Doe accused him of embezzling $1 million he fled to the United States. He was detained at Plymouth Country House of Corrections under a Liberian extradition warrant. How Charles Taylor escaped from the United States still remains a mystery. Some believe he was aided by the US government and specifically the CIA to help overthrow Samuel Doe who was no longer working in the interest of the West. It is believed that during the four years after he left the United States he may have gone to Libya to receive training from Muammar Qaddafi.

    Taylor returned to Liberia on Christmas Eve in 1989, at the head of a guerrilla force of 100 to 500 men called the National Patriotic Front of Liberia [NPFL]. The NPFL settled in Gbarnga, some 100 miles northeast of Monrovia. Taylor said he had returned to topple the government, reportedly declaring, “The best Doe is a dead Doe.” During the next seven months, Taylor’s forces gained ground and recruits, battling back an increasingly weakened government.NPFL forces entered Monrovia in July of 1990. During the battle for Monrovia, the NPFL split into two factions, one led by Taylor, and the other by Prince Johnson. By September, both divisions of the NPFL declared victory over Doe’s regime, but the Johnson-led group had secured and occupied the city of Monrovia. Doe was captured and executed by Johnson forces as he attempted to leave the country.

    A civil war between Taylor and Johnson forces followed. In 1995, a peace agreement was signed, eventually leading to the election of Taylor as president in July of 1997. Taylor garnered 75.3 percent of the vote, while his nearest competitor, Ellen Johnson of the Unity Party, received just 9.6 percent. Although elections were held in 1997 that helped to legitimize his Presidency there were reports of extreme voter intimidation tactics. The controversy surrounding Charles Taylor and Pat Robertson indicated that the Televangelist lobbied on behalf of Taylor with the Bush government and in return received gold mining contracts in Liberia.

    Charles Taylor was was a lay Baptist preacher. He was married three times and has several children.

    TIMELINE FROM 1989 – 2007

    1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia
    1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone
    1995: Peace deal signed
    1997: Elected president
    1999: Liberia’s Lurd rebels start insurrection to oust Taylor
    June 2003: Arrest warrant issued
    August 2003: Steps down, goes into exile in Nigeria
    March 2006: Arrested, sent to Sierra Leone
    June 2007: Trial opens in The Hague