A senior member of opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) said the party cannot confirm nor deny an allegation made by Alan White, former chief of investigations for the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, that the party leader, George Weah, has had discussions with former President Charles Ghankay Taylor in Britain and that the jailed Taylor may be trying to interfere in the country’s 2017 electoral processes by perhaps having his former wife run on the opposition ticket, the Voice of America (VOA) has reported.
Taylor is serving a 50-year prison sentence in Britain after being convicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in that country’s decade civil war.
In an interview with VOA’s Peter Clottey, White alleged that part of the discussions that Mr. Weah supposedly had with Taylor were to ensure that there is “never a war crimes special court for Liberia.”
Opposition party will not confirm meeting took place
Wilson Tarpeh, chief strategist for the CDC, said the party hopes White will provide evidence to substantiate the allegations.
“We cannot confirm nor deny that such a discussion (with Taylor) may have taken place. I’m sure Mr. White will have his evidence to prove that. It still remains an allegation that we cannot confirm nor deny. What we can say is that the CDC has been in discussion with a number of opposition political parties to form an alliance or a coalition for the purpose of the ensuing 2017 election,” he told the VOA.
UN: Taylor is trying to interfere in election
Citing “allegations and the source information,” White told the VOA that, “there are allegations that Taylor has been in discussion with Mr. Weah, who has recently signed an agreement to join forces with Jewel Howard Taylor, Taylor’s former wife, to support seeking the presidency and the vice presidency.
Mr. Weah will be on top of the ticket…and part of those discussions is to ensure that there is never a war crimes special court for Liberia and Sierra Leone,” White said.
Tarpeh said the CDC did not sign any agreement per se with Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor.
He said his party and two other political parties – the National Patriotic Party (NNP) and the Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP) – signed an agreement earlier this month to work together for the 2017 election.
“According to an agreement signed, the CDC is supposed to produce the standard bearer and the standard bearer will have to pick his vice that will not come from the party. So, there is no agreement we are aware of that has been signed with Senator Jewel Howard Taylor as an individual,” Tarpeh said.
Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which looked into the causes of the country’s civil war, wants restorative and retributive justice for those who participated in the war.
For example, the commission recommended that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 49 other Liberians be subjected to public sanctions for their association with perpetrators of war crimes.
But since the publication of the TRC’s final report in 2008, there have been allegations of a lack of political will to implement the report.
In his interview with VOA, White said he knows of two people who have publicly been supportive of retributive and restorative justice – Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is running in the 2017 election to succeed President Sirleaf, and businessman Benoni Urey, also a candidate in the 2017 presidential election.
Tarpeh said White’s comments back up the CDC belief that White is spreading information that is not true. Tarpeh said his party has always been in favor of justice in Liberia.
He defended the CDC’s association with the NPP of former President Charles Taylor and the LPDP of former speaker of the House of Representatives Alex J. Tyler, who has been indicted for corruption.
“My answer to that is that we don’t see anything wrong with it. First the case of Mr. Taylor, who was charged with a crime for which he is serving his sentence term of 50 years. The institution he belongs to, which is the NPP does not necessarily mean it is involved in the criminal act. So you cannot ascribe evil or criminality in dealing with the party. Again, the same analogy of Mr. Alex Tyler who is a member of the LPDP and a former speaker, who has been accused of a crime. Under our laws, if you are accused you are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction,” Tarpeh said.