Bong County senatorial aspirant, Menipakei Dumoe, says he will mount pressure on the Government of Liberia (GOL) to see reason to ask the International Community for the release of Former President Charles G. Taylor.
The former Liberian president is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in Great Britain, after being found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and mutilation, in Sierra Leone.
Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview over the weekend in Monrovia, Dumoe stated that he’s going to do this by engaging the National Legislature through the committee on Foreign Affairs to derive a resolution on behalf of the Liberian people.
When asked whether the Legislature would give credence to his concern, all that he said is that he’s confident that his request will be granted considering that the circumstances that led to Taylor’s imprisonment are changing.
“A lot of people in Liberia still see Taylor’s imprisonment as unfair. The times are changing as people who actually committed crimes in Sierra Leone are being set free,” he explained.
“People like Laurent Gbagbo and two other individuals from Sierra Leone that committed crimes and were indicted and persecuted whose names I do not know now are being set free.”
One of the Sierra Leonean war crimes convicts Dumoe was referring to is Moinina Fofana, former leader of a Sierra Leonean militia accused of torturing and mutilating civilians during that country’s civil war. The Associated Press reported in March 2015 that Fofana, who was convicted in 2007, had been granted provisional release from the Mpanga Prison in Rwanda and was being allowed to serve out the remainder of his 15-year term in his community, according to the United Nations-backed special court that convicted him.
Charles Taylor’s lawyers have repeatedly said that their client’s incarceration is political. In September 2017, Dr. Mohammed Sheriff, then Liberia’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James (London), said he believed ex-President Taylor, who is serving time in a British jail, had “learned his lesson and should be freed.” Amb. Sheriff is the only government official in recent time who has weighed in on the matter.
“Then why is it that Charles Taylor who was convicted for aiding and abetting war crimes is still been kept in prison,” Dumoe asks.
“The government needs to protect Taylor’s rights. I am going to pressure the GOL by confronting the Legislature. If Taylor is not being treated fairly, the government should intervene. Our constitution makes it clear that it is the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of every citizen,” he said.
So far, there has been no word from the administration of President George M. Weah, calling for the release of his war-time predecessor. Calls and a text to Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe for this story, asking about the Government of Liberia’s position regarding a request for Mr. Taylor’s release, went unanswered.
Dumoe stated that to ensure lasting peace in the sub-region there is a need that Liberia and Sierra Leone join effort to engage the International Community to release the former president.
“History makes us know that some of our own citizens used Sierra Leone to facilitate wars in Liberia that destroyed the lives of people and infrastructures. If we were to say that Sierra Leone owed us reparation for facilitating the process this will lead to tension, but we have forgiven all of these. Therefore, to complete the process, they too need to forgive us. This is the only way that we can curtail future problems. This issue is about African solidarity to avoid disunity in the sub region,” he explained.
According to him, the release of former president Taylor is the only outstanding problem that hampers reconciliation in Liberia and the sub-region.
“The release of former president Charles Taylor has the way to reconcile Liberia and Sierra Leone because, since his conviction, Liberians are not happy. So I want Sierra Leone to join Liberia to get Taylor release,” he emphatically said.
When asked why most Liberians are silent about the issue of Taylor’s release, Dumoe said that many of the citizens lack the courage to speak out.
“People lack the courage to speak because of fear. We have to speak in the interest of our country if even it is going to lead us to jail,” he said.
He further said despite the impact of the COVID-19 on the life of ex-President Taylor in Britain, where he has called for a transfer to another country, the Liberian government is doing nothing to intervene.
Dumoe, who is a member of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) of the opposition block, has in recent times spoken about his advocacy for the release of Taylor in many places, especially in Bong where he is an aspirant for the Senatorial post, despite concerns by some citizens of Liberia about the establishment of the war and economic crimes court in Liberia to investigate those accused of having committed war crimes in the country.
He explained that though some Liberians are wanting the court to be established in the country to try the accused, it is not as serious for many Liberians.
Dumoe is also the acting chair of the Council of Patriots (COP), Liberia’s largest pressure group that advocates for the establishment of the war and economic crime court in Liberia. But when asked whether Dumoe’s quest was a contradiction of the COP’s position on war crimes and the nation’s quest for justice, Mo Ali, former secretary general of the COP, told the Daily Observer that Dumoe is speaking in his own capacity as a senatorial aspirant.
“Dumoe has said that he has his own platform as a senatorial aspirant so, whatever he says does not represent the view of the COP,” he said via mobile phone.
Taylor: Campaign Bait?
Menipakei Dumoe, whose name is being interpreted in the Kpelle dialect as ‘something about to happen’ and ‘they talked’, is a native born from lower Bong County. As a newcomer in the race, he is running his political campaign as an independent candidate on reconciliation, infrastructures, youth empowerment and agriculture. And, yes, because of a very close affinity many people of Bong County have to former President Charles Taylor, this issue features significantly in his campaign platform. Dumoe told the Daily Observer that the people of his county are divided because of the imprisonment of former President Taylor. He said when he is given the opportunity to become senator, he will ensure that Taylor is released, a rhetoric that pundits have described as presumptuous and which the aspirant is simply using as campaign bait to win the senatorial election.
Dumoe said that the people of Bong greatly love the former president and would like to have a leader (which Dumoe hopes to be) who can help to appeal to the International Community for his release.
“One of the key things if elected is advocating for the release of the former president which is a way of reconciliation,” he said.
Commenting on his agenda for infrastructures, Dumoe said that the Bong County capital is ideally located for the establishment of an inland port to enhance commercial activities and boost revenue collection for the government.
“If elected I will use my position as a lawmaker to craft a bill that will seek for the establishment of an inland port to improve the lives of the citizens,” he stated.
According to him, Bong County can contribute immensely to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through agriculture, if more investment is made by using the social development funds of the county as collateral to access finance from commercial banks in order to stimulate agricultural growth.
“There is a need that we prioritize agriculture in the county by using the social development fund coming every year from companies to support farmers which will provide more job opportunities for the youth,” he explained.
Civil Society actor disagrees
Meanwhile, a civil society actor in Bong County has condemned Dumoe’s concern for the release of former president Charles Taylor.
George Philip Mulbah of the Justice for Peace Commission and co-Chair of the National Civil Society Organization, says Dumoe’s concern is in error and there is a need that he re think his campaign message if he wants to get more votes from the people of his county.
“It is very unfortunate for Dumoe to use the Taylor issue as a way to attract votes. Does the government of Liberia have control over the imprisonment of our former president? This guy needs to redesign his strategy and not think that he can influence the Liberian government in any way possible.”
Mulbah said that Dumoe’s statement that he would pressure the government to request the release of Taylor, though he (Mulbah) does not actually see the context from whence speaks, is however not heathy for the peace of the country.
“During this midterm senatorial elections, it’s important that politicians be very careful with their utterances,” he disclosed, adding that Dumoe was once invited to attend a peace forum in the county in recent time but failed to show up.
“This is the guy who was invited to the peace forum in the county recently but failed to attend. He is not easily accessible in the county as there is no one found in his office to contact but he only moves around with journalists to make unpleasant statements,” he told this paper via mobile interview.
Korsee Keller and Robin Dopoe contributed to this story.