'BROTHER' CHARLES GOES TO JAIL
Erudite poet and professor of English JP Clark penned a beautiful poem which he titled “The Reason why” and this poetic acclamations immediately came to my consciousness on hearing that former Liberian Warlord Mr. Charles Ghankey Taylor has just been sentenced by the international criminal court (ICC) to half a century (50 years) behind the formidably fortified prison walls of the United Kingdom. Professor Clark’s poem goes thus; “My father took the tough line with the first set of children, who happened all to be boys, so they would grow to become the brothers he did not have in a big, divided house to which he was heir, just as his father fought him always in public to save him from the gates, belching fire around”.
Similarly, at the heat of the fratricidal war-fare in Liberia and the neighboring Republic of Sierra Leone, notable black Africans from all across the globe including political scholars and civil society leaders like Jesse Jackson, Professors Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, among several other distinguished African personalities pleaded profusely with the then war-time president of Liberia Mr. Charles Taylor to take comprehensive steps to end the needless bloody battle that was consuming the precious lives of hundreds of thousands of African lives, but he never heeded to these wise counsels but instead activated ferocious political mechanism to retain political power by all means and exported his brand of mass murder and “talent for disorder” to the neighboring Sierra Leone.
Regrettably, the version of war that took place in Sierra Leone was unprecedented in terms of the scale of brutality and physical maiming of several lives; forced amputation of limbs and coordinated annihilation of the civil populace by the armed rebels of the Revolutionary United Front [RUF] who were said to have enjoyed the backing of Charles Taylor who was also facing internal revolts.
With Taylor’s sentencing to a whooping 5o years in jail on May 30th 2012, can we say without a shadow of doubt that the chicken has come home to roost? Will other African dictators such as the tyrants in Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Kinshasha and Sudan learn a lesson or two from this tough existential experience of one of their former comrade -in –crime; former President Charles Taylor?
Another salient dimension of the sentencing by the international crimes court [ICC] in The Hague, Netherland, of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to begin his prison odyssey for the next fifty years is whether this is the much needed tonic for the civil populace in the Sub-Saharan Africa to emulate their compatriots from North Africa and stage popular mass actions targeted at actually and pragmatically transforming their political and economic fortunes that have in the last fifty years been systematically messed up by the ruling political elites in countries such as Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon among others?
In a special publication introduced in December 2011 by The Economist titled; “The World in 2012”, the writers predicted that in 2012, people of Sub-Saharan Africa may witness their unique brand of spring similar to the Arab spring that brought radical changes in places like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Morocco.
Writing under the captivating and catchy caption of “A Sub-Saharan Spring,?” The Economist had stated thus; “The successful uprisings of 2011 in North Africa were closely watched farther south on the continent. They have already spawned some local protest movements – as in Burkina Faso – and are inspiring talk of more. Authoritarian rulers in sub-Sahara Africa can expect a year of growing opposition and attempts to dethrone them. The dynamics are likely to be somewhat different from those on the Mediterranean shore, where protesters were richer and better informed”.
The authors of the well articulated piece further affirmed that; “As in north Africa, mobile communication and social media are popular on the rest of the continent, and not just in rich enclaves. More than 1m Nigerians have a BlackBerry. Africa as a whole has more mobile phones than America. This means that traditional impediments to political organization for opposition groups are weakening. And there is no shortage of things to protest about. Jobs are rare and food prices are rising. The cost of staples has grown by multiples thanks to high demand and a rise in the cost of fuel needed to produce and transport them. Africans have been beneficiaries of the resource boom too, earning fees from oil and minerals. But the benefits go primarily to the powerful.”
It is therefore not out of place to expect that the sentencing of one of Africa’s best known dictators for crimes against humanity may give further impetus to the millions of energetic, resourceful but increasingly economically impoverished Sub –Saharan African youths to probe into practical ways and means of erecting and enthroning a better society for themselves and future generations unborn.
Charles Taylor who I prefer to call ‘Brother’ Charles was sentenced by a panel of international Jurists led by Justice Richard Lussick.
According to a live broadcast of the reading of the Charles Taylor verdict at the international criminal Court covered by the British Broadcast Corporation, the international crimes court convicted him on all the eleven counts.
The judge said that the prosecution has proved on various counts that the RUF rebels were responsible for killings, rapes and mutilations committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone.
The judge noted that prior to the indictment period, the RUF leader Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor had met when they trained in Libya, but said the two worked independently of each other and added that the evidence shows that Charles Taylor advised on a RUF plan to recapture a diamond area in Sierra Leone in 1998 but there was no sufficient evidence to show he was aware of the conduct of the operation, named "No living thing".
Specifically, the charges against Charles Taylor are "Taylor was convicted on Count 1 for acts of terrorism (a war crime), on Count 2 for murder (a crime against humanity), on Count 3 for murder (a war crime), on Count 4 for rape (a crime against humanity), on Count 5 for sexual slavery (a crime against humanity), on Count 6 for outrages upon personal dignity (a war crime), on Count 7 for cruel treatment (a war crime), on Count 8 for inhumane acts, including mutilations and amputations, (a crime against humanity), on Count 9 for the recruitment, enlistment and use of child soldiers, on Count 10 for enslavement (a crime against humanity), and on Count 11 for pillage (a war crime)."
The Judge said that Charles Taylor committed some of the most heinous war crimes in human history and therefore should spend the next fifty years in Jail. He is expected to spend this Jail term in British maximum security prison.
Even as some persons have questioned the credibility of the international criminal court (ICC) following the failure of the global crimes panel to bring other non-African political leaders indicted for war crime to effective justice, for Africans, the sentencing of Charles Taylor is indeed symbolic in the collective quest to end the vicious circle of dictatorship and bloody autocratic regimes on the black continent.
In his book “civilian Dictators of Africa”, Shehu Sani noted that Africans need to end the vestiges of tyranny all across Africa if our black continent will ever hold any hope of becoming developed, peaceful and economically viable for Africans and other global citizens to live and do legitimate activities without fear or favour.
I believe that Africans deserve a peaceful continent so as to stop the ongoing illegal migration to parts of Europe, Israel and Arab nations whereby they are exposed to hazards of survival in unfriendly foreign lands.
On the unfortunate presence of political dictators in Africa, Mr.Shehu Sani wrote thus; “In much the same manner as the past leadership of its constituent polities, Africa today is still characterized by dictatorships (civilian or military), who have behaved despotically, governed poorly, initiated or exacerbated existing civil conflicts, murdered or eliminated opponents, decelerated per capita economic growth and have engendered and promoted corruption. And while there seems to be no end to the emergence of new dictators in Africa, there exists no strong institutional mechanism to prevent the emergence and the consolidation of dictatorship in governance in Africa”.
Written By Emmanuel Onwubiko