Entries in Liberia (5)


President of Liberia Suspends Son in Anti-Corruption Push

PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The first woman president in Africa, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, is making headlines on the continent this week for suspending her own son in a push to tackle systemic corruption in her country.

Charles Sirleaf, a central bank deputy governor, is among 46 government officials suspended for not disclosing their assets to an anti-corruption commission.  He is one of three of Johnson-Sirleaf’s sons appointed to government posts.

“Let it be known that the president is very serious, and she is now contemplating a series of punitive measures that will be ranging from withholding pay, suspension, and probably dismissals for those who do not cooperate,” presidential press secretary Jerolinmick Piah told Liberia’s Daily Observer.

In March, President Johnson-Sirleaf issued an executive order requiring all presidential appointees to declare their assets to Liberia’s Anti-Corruption Commission.  According to a statement released to the media Tuesday, Johnson-Sirleaf said the 46 officials she immediately suspended could be reinstated only after she has confirmation from the commission that they have complied.

Analysts say widespread corruption in Liberia is interfering with the West African country’s economic development, keeping people in poverty despite Liberia’s rich mineral resources.  Since she was elected president in 2005, Johnson-Sirleaf has repeatedly pledged to take on the deep-seated corruption.  In 2010 the U.S. government’s Country Report on Human Rights said corruption was prevalent in all levels of Liberian society, in public and private sectors.

Johnson-Sirleaf was elected to a second term late last year.   She was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring about and maintain peace in the country after a devastating 14-year civil war.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Charles Taylor Sentenced to 50 Years for Role in Sierra Leone Crimes

JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images(LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands) -- Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years behind bars on Wednesday for his role in the atrocities committed in neighboring Sierra Leone during the country's decade-long civil war.

Last month, the 64-year-old warlord was found guilty by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone on all 11 charges for "aiding and abetting" militant groups as they carried out crimes against the people of the African nation in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Those crimes included enlisting child soldiers, mass murder, the chopping off of limbs and sexual slavery.

In all, more than 50,000 died during the war.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Three Women Honored at Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Norway

Nigel Waldron/Getty Images(OSLO) -- Three women who risked their lives to fight for injustice in Liberia and Yemen received their Nobel Peace prize Saturday morning in Oslo.

The ceremony honored Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her compatriot Leymay Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.

The Nobel committee chairman said the three women represent the struggle for human rights and specifically the role of women in fighting for peace and equality.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Liberia: Opposition Would Welcome Warlord Charles Taylor Home

ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- The opposition party in Liberia, where elections were held Tuesday, said it would welcome back former warlord Charles Taylor if he is acquitted of war crimes in an international criminal court.

Winston Tubman, who is challenging Nobel prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the presidency, told the U.K.'s Independent newspaper that since Taylor is a Liberian citizen, he would be allowed to return to Liberia if Tubman wins the election.

Taylor, who was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, is being prosecuted on charges of war crimes, including using blood diamonds to buy weapons for rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone, where a civil war cost thousands of lives. His ex-wife, Jewel Howard Taylor, is a member of Tubman's political party.

Incumbent president Sirleaf won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize just last week, but local observers give Tubman and his running mate George Weah, a former international soccer star, a real chance at denying Sirleaf a clear victory in the first round of voting Tuesday, forcing a run off on Nov. 8.  Fourteen other candidates are also vying for the post, including Prince Johnson, infamous for presiding over the videotaped mutilation and execution of ex-Liberian dictator Samuel Doe while drinking a beer.

Taylor has been on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague since 2006.  A verdict has been expected in the case but has not yet been entered, leading to speculation in Liberia that it had been delayed because of the election.  Peter Andersen, a spokesman for the court, told ABC News that the timing of the verdict had "nothing to do" with the Liberian elections.

"It has more to do with the 50,000+ pages of trial transcripts and around 1,100 exhibits in this very complex case," he said.

Andersen said a verdict had been expected this month, but "since we have not received the promised one-month notice I suspect it will not be October."  Andersen declined to comment on the Independent's report that Tubman would allow Taylor to return.

Taylor, 63, stands accused of 11 counts of war crimes, including acting with or directing militant groups in Sierra Leone who used child soldiers and committed acts of murder, rape and sexual slavery, as well as using illegal "blood diamonds" to fund the Sierra Leone rebels.

In closing arguments in March, Taylor's defense attorney Courtenay Griffiths did not deny the atrocities took place, but argued that there was no proof directly linking Taylor to the crimes.

Griffiths argued instead that the trial was politically motivated, evidenced by the fact that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was not brought to trial, despite allegations he too supported some of the same rebel groups, because of British economic interests in Libya.

"This was a court, ostensibly and publicly, set up, we are told, to try those who bear the greatest responsibility," Griffiths told the court. "So why is Colonel Moammar Gadhafi not in the dock?"

Griffiths also said that the trial had gone relatively unnoticed until supermodel Naomi Campbell and Hollywood actress Mia Farrow became involved.

Campbell was subpoenaed by the international tribunal following an ABC News report about allegations that Taylor had given her uncut "blood diamonds" on a trip to South Africa.

In August 2010, Campbell took the stand and admitted she received diamonds from men she believed to be representatives from Taylor.

Farrow, who ate breakfast with Campbell the morning after she received the diamonds, testified a few days later to dispute Campbell's previous statement to ABC News that she did not receive any diamonds.  Farrow had told ABC News that Campbell told her during the 1997 trip that she had received a diamond.

After Campbell's testimony, uncut diamonds were ultimately recovered from Jeremy Ractliffe, an officer of Nelson Mandela's childrens' charity, who said that Campbell gave him the gems after receiving them in 1997.  Campbell said she intended the gems to be a donation.  Ractliffe said he had taken the gems from Campbell because he was afraid she would get into trouble if she tried to take them out of the country, and then did not turn them over to authorities because he did not want to harm the charity's reputation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Charles Taylor Defense: Why Is Gadhafi Not on Trial?

JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images(SIERRA LEONE) -- On Wednesday, the defense for Liberian warlord Charles Taylor called the former leader's war crimes trial politically motivated "neocolonialism," and asked why Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi isn't facing a similar court.

"This was a court, ostensibly and publicly, set up, we are told, to try those who bear the greatest responsibility," Taylor's lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths told the court in his closing arguments. "So why is Colonel Moammar Gadhafi not in the dock?"

Taylor, 63-year-old former President of Liberia, stands accused of acting with or directing African militant groups primarily in Sierra Leone who used child soldiers and committed acts of murder, rape, and sexual slavery, among other charges. The defense did not deny the atrocities took place, but Griffiths argued that there was no proof directly linking Taylor to the crimes.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told the court Wednesday that Gadhafi was not indicted because there is "less than a tenth of the evidence" connecting Gadhafi to the rebel groups compared to Taylor. Gadhafi is currently under investigation for crimes against humanity for the recent brutal repression of peaceful protesters in Libya.

"Well perhaps there is one thing we can agree on with the defense. We would agree that Charles Taylor is as likely to use terror against civilians as Moammar Gadhafi," Koumjian said. "Of course, a prosecutor has an obligation to only indict those that they can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

In his argument, Griffiths said there was nothing but circumstantial evidence linking his client to the 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity with which he is charged. Griffiths argued instead that the trial was politically motivated, evidenced by the fact that Gadhafi was not brought to trial, despite allegations he too supported some of the same rebel groups, because of British economic interests in Libya.

"It is to the shame of this prosecution that it has besmirched the lofty ideals of international criminal law by turning this case into a 21st century case of neocolonialism," Griffiths said.

Taylor was directly connected to Gadhafi in this case by a key witness in 2008, former Liberian President Moses Blah. Blah testified that he was among nearly 200 rebels who were recruited by Taylor and sent to Libya for training at a military base near Tripoli before Taylor gained control of Liberia.

There, the men received "full military training" from Libyans, Blah said, including instructions on how to assemble, disassemble, and fire an AK-47. Some were trained in the use of surface-to-air missiles. Taylor would often visit the group in Libya to inspect the men and give inspirational speeches, Blah said.

Gadhafi's support for Taylor was well-known at the time, according to a U.S. State Department cable posted on the website Wikileaks. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio