Presenting a convincing case on Liberia’s Charles Taylor and his ally Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore’s complicity in fueling West Africa’s misery, US UN Ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, laments that he hopes Africans do not evoke the “neocolonialist” weapon in reaction to the World’s findings on the despicable nature of some of their leaders, criminals plunging their people in hell for diamonds and personal wealth.
“We should have been saying these things a year ago,” he said. “We need to move past perceptions based on race. This is not about race. This is very difficult for the Africans, because it means there has to be a candid admission that some of the African leadership has failed its people,” The New York Times quoted Holbrooke.
The American Ambassador to the UN continued, “The Governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso, including through the actions of their presidents, are fueling the war in Sierra Leone and profiting from the arms-for-diamonds trade.
I recognize full well that this kind of candor and this kind of explicit statement is not always welcome at the United Nations and does cause controversy. And I know that both delegations will ask for the right-of-reply in order to say that we are perpetrating an injustice on their countries. Perhaps some of the countries of Africa will criticize us for breaking the taboo of naming specific names and specific people by title who are involved in this dreadful event. But I think, Mr. Chairman, that in this regard our government and our country feels that candor is required, and here we support the kind of stand that Ambassador Fowler of Canada took in regard to UNITA sanctions in Angola. Ambassador Fowler named names and some countries, such as Bulgaria, took a subsequent hard look at their export regimes and showed a commitment to fix the problems. Other countries, including Burkina Faso, have raised the specter of linguistic-based conspiracies and other forms of denial. But I believe, Mr. Chairman, that the evidence is much too strong to be denied.
The United States intends to support measures against both Burkina Faso and Liberia unless they cease their support for the war in Sierra Leone. It’s certainly true that some members of the Council may seek to dilute these measures or even consider vetoing such steps, but we urge them to reconsider”.
What a shame! What an indictment! Which rational, thinking Africans, victims of misrule now forced to live with mass murderers and thieves as presidents, would question this genuine assessment of the Continent’s political leadership? Yes, many Africans, victimized by centuries of racism, are understandably quick to jump on the race card when reacting to claims by whites. But this is one instance when men like Holbrooke stand on the moral high grounds unchallenged to help Africans redeem themselves from bandits and serial killers.
On the other hand, Mr. Taylor has made an offer to clear his “good” name in court. He told Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering that even a “condemned man deserves his day in court”. This means that Taylor is willing to appear before the UN tribunal to answer charges against him. This opportunity should not elude the UN and the Liberian President. After all, trying Sankoh without trying his creators is a grave travesty of justice. And those who evoke the sovereignty card (since Taylor is a sovereign leader) to exclude the man from trial must think of Saddam Hussein, Milosovic, Panama’s jailed leader Noriega, Chile’s Pinochet and many other leaders who have faced justice for crimes beyond their territorial confines.
In any case, contrary to Holbrooke’s fears of using the race card in defense of criminals like Taylor and pal Compaore, respectable Africans regret that it took so long for more humane and conscientious American voices to begin sounding. Had such trumpets began humming years ago, perhaps West Africa would have been saved from its current horrors and many children in Sierra Leone and Liberia would have lived. But no! The World was forced to listen to the other American voices, voices of Taylor’s buddies and allies in the Black Congressional Caucus and the religious, Civil Rights Establishment of men like the Rev. Jesse Jackson who, knowingly, painted a false picture of what was evolving in that part of the forgotten World. To the minds of these people, personal ties supercede probity and demands for justice. It didn’t matter to them that West Africa was being transformed into a criminal enclave in which neo-Nazis and drug barons have replaced entrepreneurs. They saw Taylor as a modern “Continental leader” who listened to Mozart and played tennis, therefore acquiring the badly needed trappings of “civilization” to qualify him for American support. What mattered to these tainted voices of doom was that their friend was in charge of this criminal empire fanning the flames of catastrophe for helpless millions.