Why Arresting Charles Taylor is a Big Step for Africa 's Future

Michael H. Glantz
29 November 2006

Why Arresting Charles Taylor is a Big Step for Africa 's Future

The stories of corruption, mayhem and of murder have mounted up over the past few decades. Of course there have been great leaders (from my point of view) in Africa, many of those who ushered in African independence for their countries such as Nkrumah, Ben Bella, Keita, Azikwe, Senghor, Nyerere, and so on. But what about those responsible for widespread killing: they do not deserve to go unchallenged and unpunished nationally as well as internationally.

Charles Taylor (BBC News)

African leaders who have been responsible for murdering and maiming thousands of their citizens have had a free ride for decades. They have managed to stay in power for relatively long times, arranged to intimidate their countrymen, continued to rob their treasuries of public funds which are often destined for European and other banks. Remember Idi Amin of Uganda? How about Mengistu of Ethiopia? Bokassa of the Central African Republic? The former died in exile in Saudi Arabia. Mengistu found refuge and is alive and well in Zimbabwe. Bokassa died in France in exile. Several government leaders responsible for the genocide in Rwanda escaped to other places. The Sudan government is allowing for genocide to take place in West Darfur, as I write these words.

Sese Seku (Mobutu) of the Congo ( Zaire ) bled the treasury of his country, much as King Leopold did in the late 1800s, on the order of $8 billion US dollars.

By returning Charles Taylor to Sierra Leone to face his accusers, it is hoped that African leaders in the future may think twice about ravaging their country's treasuries. In other words, the Taylor case can set a precedent. Hopefully, current as well as future leaders will get the message that they can no longer get away with murdering opposition leaders, acting out genocidal behavior against other ethnic groups, turning food shortages into famines, or occupying neighboring territory for personal gain (as is the situation by Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda in their occupation and stealing resources from the eastern half of the Congo today).

Whatever the reasons may have been behind the Nigerian president's decision to send Taylor back to face those who accuse him of having carried out horrific acts of violence against his own people, that president must be applauded for hopefully having set this precedent. Let's hope that this turns out to be a turning point for African leaders, policing instead of ignoring the abhorrent actions toward their citizens of their fellow political leaders. In the past, the silence with regard to their criticism has been deafening!

--Michael H. Glantz
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