Charles Taylor supported the decision of West African states to remove the Sierra Leonean junta from power in 1998, but wanted any use of force for that purpose to be authorized by the United Nations Security Council, he told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today.
As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Committee of Five – a group designed to bring peace to Sierra Leone — that he had no option but to support the decision to oust the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) junta from power and restore the democratic government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, Taylor said.
“Liberia pledged its support for the ECOWAS decision to restore the government of President Kabbah to power,” Taylor told the judges. He said that if Liberia had the military man power, he would have contributed troops to remove the junta from power by force.
Taylor told the judges that he was troubled that Nigeria wanted to use force to remove the junta in Sierra Leone but since he was part of the Committee of Five, he had no option but to get along with what had been agreed.
“I am troubled but I am part of the process,” he said when he told judges about the decision to use force in Sierra Leone.
Taylor said that when the military intervention to remove the AFRC junta from power started in February 1998, his Liberian foreign minister, together with other West African foreign ministers, traveled to New York to address the UN Security Council on why the operation was necessary. He said that members of the Security Council, especially Britain, were opposed to the use of force in Sierra Leone without express authorization from the United Nations.
Taylor explained that his initial opposition to the use of force in Sierra Leone stemmed from the fact that any use of force without UN authorization would have had a spill-over effect on Liberia, which was just stepping out of its own conflict. He said that when tensions mounted in Sierra Leone, he closed the Sierra Leone-Liberia border so as to protect his own people.
Taylor told the judges that when he became president in 1997, he traveled to Guinea where he met with President Tejan Kabbah, who was in exile due to his overthrow by the AFRC. Taylor said his meeting with Kabbah was very cordial and there was no concern that he was supporting the AFRC.
“There was no hostility towards me by Kabbah,” he said.
Taylor denied all allegations that he was a terrorist, saying that it was a phrase developed by former United States President George Bush, but its use has now been stopped by President Obama. He said western countries were opposed to him because he wanted an African solution to an African problem.
“I resent being labeled a terrorist. Africa has to be free, Africa has to determine its own destiny,” he said.
The prosecution has alleged that Taylor supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and the AFRC junta in Sierra Leone and that by his actions or inactions, he is responsible for crimes such as murder, rape and the recruitment of children as soldiers in Sierra Leone. Taylor has denied all the allegations.
Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.