Charles Taylor trial 'a threat to Africa'

“We believe that the trial and subsequent conviction of Mr Taylor is a trap that has been set up for African leaders by Western leaders,” Sando Johnson, a Liberian senator, told AFP in Monrovia.

Taylor, 64, was found guilty by a special court in the Netherlands on 26 April of war crimes and crimes against humanity for supporting Sierra Leonean rebels in exchange for diamonds during their 10-year war.

A sentence is expected on 30 May.

The Liberian politician, regarded as the Taylor family’s spokesperson, argued that African leaders needed to close ranks and warned that those of them tempted to reach out to Western powers would be made to regret it.

Johnson then recounted a rambling parable told by Taylor when he agreed to resign as president in August 2003 before going into exile.

The parable centred on three cows – a black, a red and a white cow – who befriend a lion. Having eaten up all the antelopes around, the hungry lion tells the white and red cows that they will be spared if they let him eat the black one. He repeats his trick until the white cow is left alone and gets eaten up too.

“You must be careful. Today is Charles Taylor. The black cow is going. The red cow is waiting out there,” Taylor said in 2003.

The sentence

Johnson argued that history had vindicated Taylor’s prediction, citing the demise of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and the downfall of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, who is awaiting trial in The Hague.

“Who knows, now these three cows have gone maybe another three cows will come. Once African leaders are not firm… the black race is going to suffer because of subjecting ourselves to the whites for little or nothing,” he said.

Johnson also predicted that the sentence due to be handed out to Taylor at the end of the month would not be heavy.

“Mr Taylor is not going to be given a life or death sentence and if he is sentenced, it’s not going to be for long years,” he said, adding that Taylor’s camp was willing to offer redress to Sierra Leone’s war victims.

“If the people of Sierra Leone decide to demand for compensation from Liberia, I will be one of the leaders to stand up and ensure that Liberia pay that money to the Sierra Leoneans,” Johnson said.- AFP