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Liberia’s Taylor, first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, guilty

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Liberia’s Taylor, first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, guilty; May 16 set for sentencing hearing.

Special to USAfricaonline.com

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The Hague:  A United Nations-backed court convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the first time a head of state has been found guilty by an international tribunal since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.

The first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, Taylor had been charged with 11 counts of murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery during intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, when more than 50,000 people were killed.

The warlord-turned-president was accused of directing Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in a campaign of terror to plunder Sierra Leone’s diamond mines for profit and to obtain weapons.

On Thursday, the court ruled that Taylor, 64, was criminally responsible for aiding and abetting the crimes, and found him guilty of providing weapons, food, medical supplies, fuel and equipment to forces in Sierra Leone which committed atrocities.

But it said he was not guilty of either ordering or planning the atrocities – a disappointment for the prosecution and a decision which could eventually result in a lighter sentence.

“The trial chamber, having already found the accused guilty of aiding and abetting, does not find the accused also instigated these crimes,” Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said.

Wearing a dark blue suit and maroon tie, Taylor looked calm and subdued as the presiding judge took more than two hours to read out the charges, evidence and final ruling.

The litany of gruesome crimes covered rapes and enslavement, beheadings and disembowellings, amputations and other mutilations carried out by child soldiers notorious for being high on drugs and dressed in fright wigs.

“A civilian was killed in full public view and then his body was disembowelled and his intestines stretched across the road to make a checkpoint. Women and children were raped in public, people were burned alive in their homes,” the judge said.

“The purpose of these atrocities was to instill terror in the civilian population.”

And in return for providing arms and ammunition for the conflict, the judge recounted how Taylor had received “blood diamonds”, as the stones from Sierra Leone’s conflict zones were known, including a 45-carat diamond and two 25-carat diamonds.

The trial attracted international attention, not just because of Taylor himself but because supermodel Naomi Campbell was called as a witness by the prosecution in an attempt to show that Taylor was knowingly trading weapons for diamonds.

The prosecution said Taylor had sent uncut diamonds to Campbell’s hotel room after a dinner given by Nelson Mandela, attended by both her and Taylor. She told the court she had no idea who had sent her the diamonds, which she called “dirty little pebbles”.

Human rights groups and victims welcomed the court’s decision, with some saying it would serve as a strong warning to other leaders responsible for atrocities in conflict zones.”Taylor’s conviction sends a powerful message that even those in the highest-level positions can be held to account for grave crimes,” Elise Keppler, senior counsel for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Not since Nuremberg has an international or hybrid war crimes court issued a judgment against a current or former head of state. This is a victory for Sierra Leonean victims, and all those seeking justice when the worst abuses are committed.”

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 16, with a decision expected later that month. Court sources said the judges had earlier been in disagreement over the verdict and were not speaking to each other at the end.

Carsten Stahn, professor of international criminal law at the University of Leiden, said the decision to convict unanimously was a surprise.

“There have been rumours of conflicts between the judges in the trial chamber, which is partly why it’s taken so long to reach a verdict,” he said.

 

El Hadji Malick Sow, who as alternate judge sat through the six years of the trial but was excluded from deliberations, sought to express a dissenting opinion at the end.

 

“The guilt of the accused from the evidence provided in this trial is not proved beyond reasonable doubt,” he said, remaining in the chamber after his colleagues had left and his microphone had been switched off.

Victims were in no doubt about the conviction. “I’m so happy that justice has been done,” said Alhaji Jusu Jarka, 46, who had both hands amputated during an attack on Freetown on Jan. 6, 1999.

Standing outside the special court in Freetown, he told Reuters he hoped Taylor would get “100 or more years” when sentenced.

Taylor has denied the charges, insisting he tried to bring peace to the region and arguing his trial was a politically motivated conspiracy by Western nations.

But the judge said that “the accused was publicly promoting peace, while privately providing arms to the RUF,” adding that “There was a constant flow . . . of diamonds from Sierra Leone to the accused, often in exchange for arms and ammunition.”

Liberian Senator Sando Johnson, a family spokesman, said: “We will not give up in this fight and we will not give up this struggle. We are going to stand by Mr. Taylor until death do us part.”

At the start of the hearing, Taylor seemed relaxed, waving at some people sitting in the public gallery, and separated from the windowless trial chamber by a thick pain of glass.

Later, as the presiding judge’s reading of the judgment appeared to swing against Taylor, the former president clasped his hands more tensely in front of him.

Taylor, a former Baptist who converted to the Jewish faith, is one of just a handful of former leaders who have appeared before the international courts.

The International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, is pursuing several investigations with mixed success.

Last year it arrested former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, who is charged with individual responsibility on counts of crimes against humanity — murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and other inhuman acts.

It issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the country’s late leader, but is caught in a battle with the Libyan authorities over where Saif, who was captured last year but remains in Libyan hands, should be tried.

 

Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic died in The Hague in 2006 before the war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia could reach its verdict.

The Taylor case was closely watched for its security implications, with a U.S. diplomat warning in the WikiLeaks cables that if Taylor was acquitted or given a light sentence, his return to Liberia could threaten “a fragile peace”.

Taylor’s trial was moved to The Hague in June 2006 due to fears that a trial in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown could kindle unrest in Sierra Leone or Liberia.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department welcomed the verdict. “Today’s judgment was an important step toward delivering justice and accountability for victims, restoring peace and stability in the country and the region, and completing the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s mandate to prosecute those persons who bear the greatest responsibility for the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone,” it said in statement. ref: Reuters

WHY I CELEBRATE THE LIFE AND WORKS OF NELSON MANDELA. By Chido Nwangwu  http://usafricaonline.com/2010/07/15/mandela-why-i-celebrate-his-life-works-by-chido-nwangwu/

• For racist Soccer actions, Liverpool’s player Suarez should be suspended.  By Chido Nwangwu. Follow us at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido and Twitter.com/Chido247

USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin.  By Chido Nwangwuhttp://usafricaonline.com/2011/01/30/chido-nwangwu-as-egypt-corrupter-in-chief-mubarak-slides-into-historys-dustbin-egyptians-not-waiting-for-obama-and-united-nations/

Obama’s Africa agenda, our business and democracy. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfricaonline.com and CLASS magazine and The Black Business Journal

Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and the Nigeria360 e-group. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/ : IF any of the Nigerian President’s 100 advisers has the polite courage for the extraordinary task of reminding His Excellency of his foremost, sworn, constitutional obligation to the national interest about security and safety of Nigerians and all who sojourn in Nigeria, please whisper clearly to Mr. President that I said, respectfully: Nigerians, at home and abroad, are still concerned and afraid for living in what I call Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. FULL text of commentary at USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/

Jonathan’s Boko Haram problem and firing of Ringim. By Chido Nwangwu
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Related insight: USAfrica’s October 17, 2001 special report/alert: Nigeria’s bin-Laden cheerleaders could ignite religious war, destabilize Africa. By USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwuhttp://usafricaonline.com/chido.binladennigeria.html

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http://www.groundreport.com/World/310-killed-by-Nigerias-talibans-in-Bauchi-Yobe-n-M/2904584

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www.usafricaonline.com/chido.ngrtalibans09.html

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AFRICA

World SOCCER SHOWDOWN: South Africa backs Morocco; U.S under pressure

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  • USAfricaonline.com  •  @Chido247  @USAfricalive

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity, and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best Fifa World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa,” said the SAFA president Jordaan.

Johannesburg – South Africa Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco that South Africa will give its unqualified support to secure another World Cup on the African continent in 2026.

Morocco is vying to stage the world’s biggest football prize against a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The Moroccan delegation comprises ex-Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf and former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

Jordaan said it would be great for Africa to have a second bite of the World Cup cherry, adding Morocco’s bid was Africa’s bid.

Jordaan assured Morocco that he would personally lobby for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the rest of the continent to rally behind the Moroccans.

In his remarks, Antoine Bell said Morocco had all the ingredients to host another spectacular World Cup.

“South Africa showed the way and I am confident Morocco will follow suit. The country has international standards, from the stadiums to top infrastructure. Morocco can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

By giving Morocco its support, South Africa’s voice would make all the difference on the continent, Bell said.

“When South Africa talks on the continent, the rest of the continent listens hence it is vital for South Africa to support Morocco. South Africa has the experience and Morocco will use this experience to win the 2016 bid,” added Bell. African News Agency

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Catholic priest Etienne killed by militia in DR Congo, after a wedding mass

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  •  @USAfricaLIVE

Goma – A Catholic priest was found shot dead hours after he said mass in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive North Kivu province, a member of the church told AFP.

“Father Etienne Sengiyumva was killed [on] Sunday by the Mai Mai Nyatura (militia) in Kyahemba where he had just celebrated a mass including a baptism and a wedding,” father Gonzague Nzabanita, head of the Goma diocese where the incident occurred, told AFP.

The Mai Mai Nyatura are an armed group operating in North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

Nzabanita said Sengiyumva, 38, had had lunch with local faithful before “we found him shot in the head”.

North and South Kivu provinces are in the grip of a wave of violence among militia groups, which often extort money from civilians or fight each other for control of mineral resources.

Last week unknown assailants kidnapped a Catholic priest in North Kivu, demanding $500 000 for his release.

Eastern DRC has been torn apart by more than 20 years of armed conflict, fuelled by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of the region’s mineral resources, and rivalry between regional powers.

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Nigeria’s LOOTERS LIST and Buhari’s selective corruption targets. By Majeed Dahiru

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PDP vs APC Looters List and Buhari’s selective corruption targets

By Majeed Dahiru

Special to USAfrica {Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @USAfricaLive

 

Timipriye Silva, a former governor and PDP chieftain, who became a founding member and financier of APC, had his corruption charges quashed by a federal high court and Buhari’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to appeal the N19.5 billion fraud case.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to Nigeria’s First and Second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, the PDP appointed former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from [Buhari’s Information Minister] Lai Mohammed’s list.

For a party that has been accused of destroying Nigeria by squandering accrued oil revenues estimated at over $500 billion in sixteen years, it is confounding that Lai’s list is not only exclusively comprised of PDP looters but also captures the last two years of PDP’s last lap in power and included just Goodluck Jonathan’s associates, who supported him against candidate Buhari, while also relating only to funds used in the last electioneering campaign of the PDP.

Whenever the obviously abysmal performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to be gaining sustained attention, and leading to murmuring within the rank and file of his supporters, a tale of humungous looting by opposition elements is usually spun and thrown into the public space to distract people away from the core issue of the failure of governance.

Like a fit of deja vu, the recently unveiled list of looters by Lai Mohammed, a fellow who comes across as more of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief propagandist than a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria in charge of information and culture, didn’t come as a surprise. The list is all too familiar as the unveiling was a summarised rehash of politically exposed individuals who are members of the opposition party, close associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan, particularly his appointees in government, who have been named and shamed several times in well-coordinated media trials.

First on Lai’s list is Uche Secondus, the chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Lai had this to say of Secondus: “On the 19th of February 2015, he took N200 million only from the office of the NSA”. An unidentified former financial secretary of the PDP was similarly accused of “taking” N600 million from the same office of the National Security Adviser. Lai Mohammed also re-revealed that frontline member of PDP and media mogul, who deployed his media power to promote Goodluck Jonathan by de-marketing the Buhari candidacy in the run up to 2015 presidential election, Raymond Dokpesi, is on trial for “taking” N2.1 billion from the office of the then NSA. Lai also reminded Nigerians that his shouting match and former spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh is on trial for “collecting” N1.4 billion from the same office of the NSA.

Lai Mohammed’s expanded follow up list included the usual suspects – former ministers, PDP state governors, service chiefs, presidential aides, associates and family members of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who were collectively accused of looting Nigeria of close to $2.1 billion through the office of the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.).

The choice of words like “took” and “collected” deployed by Lai to describe the manner in which those named received these monies was deliberate for the maximum effect of propaganda, portraying the accused persons as looters who broke into NSA vault and catered away boxes of cash at something akin to a gun point.

While the clamp down on PDP looters who supported Goodluck Jonathan and are still members of the former ruling party has been heavy handed, others who decamped from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the eve of the 2015 elections and supported candidate Buhari’s campaign with their share of loot have been forgiven. For example, former NSA, Sambo Dasuki is being treated as an apostate for his role in the disbursement of funds that were used to oil Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering effort. He has been kept in detention illegally and in defiance of several judicial rulings. Judging by the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption standard of an accusation being tantamount to guilt, in clear contempt of court proceedings by the resort to the naming and shaming suspects even before investigations and criminal prosecution are concluded and convictions obtained, it becomes curious that Lai’s list didn’t reveal any new name. Rather some names were either missing or omitted from what is a familiar list. This appears so because the bulk of PDP bigwigs who “destroyed” Nigeria in sixteen years of national rule are firmly in control of the APC, from its elected national executives to the National Assembly and appointed members of the federal executive council. The majority of APC-elected governors were also former members of the PDP. Even recently decamped PDP members to APC, such as Musiliu Obanikoro and Sulivan Chime, who have been prominently named and shamed in the recent past, were conspicuously missing from the released list of looters.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to the first and second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, a former PDP appointed managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from Lai’s list. Also missing on that list is Bola Shagaya.

Arguably one of Africa’s richest women, with a reputation for close business and political ties to all first families in the past two decades, Bola Shagaya was exceptionally close to the Goodluck Jonathan family. Often described as a bosom friend of former first lady Patience Jonathan, she has been accused, in numerous instances, allegedly, of acting as Patience Jonathan’s front for the laundering of illicit money estimated at over N13 billion, while engaging in other fraudulent activities involved in state capture. All that may be in the past now as she has found her way back to reckoning with the marriage of her son, Seun Bakare to Damilola, the daughter of Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo. Little wonder then, Bola Shagaya’s name is not on Lai’s looters list.

In a clear display of the arrogance of ignorance, the Buhari administration has narrowed its war on corruption to the hounding of members of the Jonathan administration, other individuals and organisations that were known to have worked against the emergence of the President [Buhari] in the 2015 presidential elections. This is clearly evident in the selective nature of the current anti-corruption effort.

The tone of generalisation of the PDP as the problem of Nigeria, as an indicator of corruption, should make all members of PDP (both former and present) and their collaborators in other parties guilty, hence qualifying them for naming and shaming, while being liable for criminal prosecution.

Therefore, Buhari’s list of looters is devoid of integrity, because his selective war on corruption is indicative of corruption in itself. All that is required of a former PDP looter is to get baptised into APC and profess Buhari as the saviour of Nigeria. This is precisely responsible for the failure and ineffectiveness of the war on corruption. Nothing has changed as the current APC looters continue to loot Nigeria, while the redeemed former PDP looters continue to enjoy their loot in hibernation under the abundant grace of the infallible Buhari.

• Dahiru is based in Abuja 

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