Liberia’s hopes for lasting peace are enhanced if its former Liberian president Charles Taylor, indicted by a United Nations-backed court on war crimes charges, remains away from the country during its early phases of rebuilding, Nigeria’s President and current African Union (AU) Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo told the General Assembly today.
In an address to the General Debate of the General Assembly’s 60th session, Mr. Obasanjo said Mr. Taylor’s return from exile in Nigeria to face trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone could do more harm than good in the short-term.
The peace process in Liberia “is at its most critical phase,” he said, with the first elections since the West African country’s long-running civil war ended in 2003 scheduled for next month.
While the AU is optimistic that the elections will lead to a successful transition of power, Mr. Obasanjo stressed that “the diversion of attention through propaganda on issues unrelated to the conduct of the forthcoming presidential elections should be avoided and resisted.”
The Special Court and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour have called for Mr. Taylor to be handed over by Nigeria to the court in the interests of justice.
But Mr. Obasanjo said Mr. Taylor was encouraged to step down as president in 2003 and leave his country “to avoid bloodbath… [and] in the interest of Liberia, West Africa, Africa and world peace and security.”
Therefore “the cause of peace in Liberia” will be best served if Mr. Taylor is kept away during the transitional and early nation-building phases.