Prosecutors today told former Liberian president Charles Taylor that he waged a civil war in Liberia not because he wanted to free the Liberian people but because he was desperate to capture political power. Mr. Taylor dismissed this claim.
In his direct-examination, Mr. Taylor had testified before that court that the controversial elections of 1985 in which the then Liberian president, Samuel Doe, had cheated his political rival Jackson Doe of victory had been a major contributor to the conflict in the country. Mr. Taylor said that his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group had aimed to oust Master Sergeant Doe and get Jackson Doe to power. In his cross-examination today, lead prosecutor, aiming to impeach Mr. Taylor’s credibility as a witness suggested that Mr. Taylor had just used Jackson Doe’s name as a public relations stunt and that his aim was to capture power himself. The former Liberian president disagreed.
In putting her points to Mr. Taylor today, Ms. Hollis asserted that the NPFL’s “right and bounded duty to rid the people of Liberia of the despotism by whatever means at your disposal wasn’t really a true statement.” Instead, the group’s aim was to capture political power.
“You wanted to rid Liberia of Master Sergeant Doe because you wanted to be in power in Liberia,” Mr. Hollis put to Mr. Taylor.
“You can draw your own conclusion but I disagree,” Mr. Taylor responded.
“And Mr. Taylor had you, after Master Sergeant Doe’s death in 1991 made Jackson F Doe president, then your years of civil war wouldn’t have occurred, would they?” Ms. Hollis enquired further.
“I don’t know the basis of your conclusion, maybe from some expertise, but I disagree with your conclusion or your assumptions, or your speculations, I cannot comment on speculations. We have serious disagreements with that,” Mr. Taylor responded.
The former president insisted that as a Liberian citizen, it was his duty to rid Liberia of Master Sergeant Doe, who by all indications had become a despot in the country. He, however, insisted that “we were not an army for Jackson Doe. We did not fight the revolution for Jackson Doe.”
Ms. Hollis suggested to Mr. Taylor that using Jackson Doe’s name as part of the reasons for fighting the war was a mere “public relations campaign.”
In his response, Mr. Taylor said that “it is part of a public relations campaign but it is more than just that.”
Asked whether this was a propaganda effort to win over the favors of Western powers like the United States, Mr. Taylor said that “that I totally reject. Did I want to win over the United States? Yes, but was I beholding to any foreign power? No.”
Ms. Hollis pointed out that Mr. Taylor received support from foreign powers such as Libya and Burkina Faso in pursuit of his war. While agreeing that he received support from these countries, Mr. Taylor insisted that “we were not beholding to them.”
Prosecutors have been seeking to impeach Mr. Taylor’s credibility as a witness testifying in his own defense. In his cross-examination, prosecutors have not only questioned Mr. Taylor about events occurring in Sierra Leone, for which he stands charged before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, but they have sought to question him about his activities in Liberia in order to establish that the actions of rebel forces in Sierra Leone were consistent with those of the NPFL in Liberia. Prosecutors have also sought to establish that Mr. Taylor was not truthful on many issues that he discussed during his direct-examination. One of the issues covered today was to establish that Mr. Taylor was not truthful about his reasons for waging a war in Liberia. It will be for the judges to determine whether Mr. Taylor has been credible as a witness or not.
Also in court today, lead prosecutor Ms. Hollis informed the court that she will need about 7-8 more days to conclude the cross-examination of Mr. Taylor.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues on Monday.