Nigeria/Liberia Taylor in, but not welcome: Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, arrived in Nigeria on 12 August to begin his life in exile. Pini Jason and Tom Mbakwe explain why the people of Nigeria opposed his presence in the country.

Author:Jason, Pini
Position:Around Africa
 
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In all his previous visits to Nigeria, Charles Taylor enjoyed the full protocol befitting a president. But when he arrived in Nigeria on 12 August to begin his life in exile: in scenic Calabar, no drums were rolled out for him.

He was escorted to Nigeria by Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, John Kufuor of Ghana and Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, yet Nigerians could not care. Their own president, Olusegun Obasanjo, proyoked the country's civil activists to anger when he offered asylum to the embattled Liberian president.

Many Nigerians are ordinarily proud of Nigeria's "Big Brother" role in brokering peace in the West African sub-region. For example, Nigeria, according to Obasanjo, has spent over US$12 billion on Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Even Obasanjo's critics applauded him when last July he barked orders from Lagos and subdued the mutineers in Sao Tome and initiated diplomatic moves that restored President Fredique de Menezez to power. But asylum for Charles Taylor proved controversial, even when many agreed that Nigeria should intervene to stem the carnage in Liberia.

"We are saying, Charles Taylor, now or in the future, will be a bad influence on Nigeria," said the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun. "The NBA condemns it. There is a limit to compassion which our leaders profess to show to every Dick, Tom and Harry."

Three things particularly riled the critics in Nigeria. It was wrongheaded, they argued, to allow Taylor into Nigeria after his indictment by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. They believed that asylum for Taylor was a defiance of the international community.

Some diplomats argued that since Taylor was indicted by the UN, Nigeria could not unilaterally offer him immunity. Others were unhappy that the United States which is notorious for defying the international community, and does not subscribe to the ICC nor recognise the jurisdiction of the international Court of Justice, encouraged Nigeria to take Taylor in even when Liberia was, and still is, the primary responsibility of the US.

But other political commentators argued that what the critics had all missed was the least-talked-about fact that Taylor's indictment was "politically motivated" or part of the "grand plan" to get him out as president of Liberia.

According to the indictment read to the press in Freetown on 4 June by David M. Crane, the American chief prosecutor for the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone: "Taylor...

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