Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ALERT! Charles Taylor is on the run

Liberian ex-dictator, war criminal and utter bastard Charles Taylor has done a runner from his Nigerian exile to avoid extradition to the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, says the Nigerian government. Taylor has been living in comfortable exile in Calabar, Nigeria since an unairworthy Boeing 727 belonging to Ali Kleilat rescued him from his overthrow in 2004. Last week, Liberia's new president Ellen Johnston-Sirleaf issued a request for his extradition.

According to the Nigerian government, he's levanted. 5 security officers have been arrested as a pathetic sop to world opinion. This is bad news. Taylor was responsible for destabilising the whole of West Africa, reintroducing slavery to work his diamond mines, recruiting 10 year old kids into his army, hacking people's limbs off as a form of revolutionary terror, and more.

I am insanely disappointed by this news and the obvious Nigerian army partisanship (they are widely thought to have been complicit in his rise to power) that let the bugger get away.

Press reports last week said that Taylor had been summoned to the Nigerian capital Abuja on board an aircraft registered 5N-FGO. This plane is a Dassault Falcon 900 business jet belonging to the Nigerian Government, with "Federal Republic of Nigeria" titles on the fuselage.
Excerpt from report by Anietie Akpan and Francis Obinor entitled "Taylor's relations, aides leave Calabar" published in Nigerian newspaper The Guardian web site on 24 March

Former Liberian President Mr Charles Taylor may have begun preparations for his proposed extradition home as about 20 of his relations and aides have left Calabar. Already, the federal government is putting finishing touches to the extradition, which may take place any moment from now. Also, high level consultations are currently on with Taylor, the Cross River State Governor Donald Duke, President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Liberian government and the international community.

As part of the preparations, some members of his family and associates on Tuesday [22 March] boarded an ADC airline with heavy luggage to an unknown destination en-route Lagos. One of Taylor's close aides, popularly known as Banana, was seen at the airport on Tuesday with his wife and some luggage checking out of Calabar. Same day, a presidential aircraft marked 5NFGO brought Taylor back from Abuja in the evening. He was accompanied by security men and was immediately driven off the airport to his Solomon Umohs Asylum residence at Diamond Hill.

The presidential aircraft did not leave the Margaret Ekpo International Airport until Wednesday evening with just two passengers suspected to be top government officials. The same Wednesday, the former ruler's Jaguar saloon car marked 81-CD-85 picked one unknown passenger at the airport and drove straight to his residence. The presence of the presidential aircraft at the Calabar airport for more than 24 hours without the president's or top federal government presence was unusual.

Sources disclosed that the former president has put in order all his cars in preparation for his departure. But it is still uncertain whether he will dispose of some of the cars. Security at his residence has, however, continued to be normal except for the addition of some personnel and the usual restriction of movements.

As usual, top government officials including Governor Donald Duke have remained mum over the Taylor issue directing all inquiries to Abuja. The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, had last week requested for his return and the federal government disclosed that it was consulting with African leaders on the matter. Taylor has been in Calabar on asylum since 2002.

Meanwhile, a group, the Campaign Against Impunity, yesterday in Lagos urged President Obasanjo to promptly comply with Johnson-Sirleaf's request for Taylor to face trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The group also hailed President Johnson-Sirleaf's move on Taylor.

Its members gathered to mark the 15th year of the devastating armed conflict in Sierra Leone, which began on March 23, 1991, when rebel groups launched a cross-border attack from Liberia on a small village in the Kailahun district. The director of the Centre for Democratic Empowerment in Liberia, Ezekiel Pajibo, said it was expedient for Nigeria to hand over Taylor for trial. "President Johnson-Sirleaf has taken a crucial stand against impunity in Africa by requesting Taylor's surrender," Pajibo said. Members of the group yesterday also met in Monrovia, Liberia, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, to press for Taylor's surrender to the special court. [Passage omitted].

Source: The Guardian web site, Lagos, in English 24 Mar 06

BBC Monitoring

The BBC report of his disappearance is here.

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