Monrovia – Months after the former chief of investigation for the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, Alan White, revealed that he had information from credible sources that former President Charles Taylor was interfering with the 2017 election in Liberia, Senator George Weah, whose Coalition for Democratic Change recently joined ranks with Taylor’s party, the National Patriotic Party has acknowledged speaking to the former President.
Mr. White told the Voice of America last November that Senator had been in touch with the former President.
“He’s been in discussion with Senator George Weah who recently signed an agreement to join forces with Jewel Taylor – Taylor’s former wife – to support seeking the presidency and the vice presidency. George will be at the top of the ticket”, Mr. White predicted.
Added Mr. White: “The allegations and sourced information that I’m receiving is that Charles Taylor, the former President – indicted and convicted war criminal for his actions in Sierra Leone and the leader of the RUF – is interfering with the elections.”
Mr. White alleged at the time that Senator Weah was engaged with former President Taylor with Charles Taylor on ensuring that there would never be a war crimes court established in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“There are also other allegations that when he [Taylor] left, there were millions of dollars that were buried and left behind so whoever gets elected and they seek to get his sentenced reduced and to get him back in Liberia will be worth that while,” White added.
On Tuesday, Senator George Manneh Weah(CDC, Montserrado County), the political leader of the Coalition for Democratic change (CDC) Tuesday confirmed having a telephone conversation with former President Charles Taylor who is serving jail terms in Europe for crimes he committed in Neighboring Sierra Leone.
Addressing a news conference in his office at the Capitol Building, the Montserrado County Senator, responding to a question about his alleged ties to the former President and whether he had spoken with him from his cell, explained that out of courtesy the former President, he did infact speak to him on a phone owned by one of Taylor’s relatives as result of a request made by Taylor.
Said Senator Weah: “I Spoke to Taylor recently during one of our Coalition meetings.
Someone who is closed to President Taylor was on the phone in our midst and informed me that Taylor had requested to speak with me and I agreed.
I picked up the phone and said Mr. President how you are? He was the President of the Republic of Liberia no matter what happens I must give him due courtesy and say hello.”
Senator Weah who has named Taylor’s ex-wife, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate, averred that he would do the same for any other former President.
“Even if Ellen Johnson Sirleaf leaves office today and asks to speak to me, the best I can do is to say, madam, how are you?
And that was the case with Charles Taylor to say hello how are you doing? And that is my full responsibility as a leader to respect ex-leaders, despite their situation.”
‘Jewel, Our Best Choice’
The CDC has come under serious criticism since joining ranks with two opposition political parties the National Patriotic Party (NPP) of jailed President Charles Taylor and the Liberia People Democratic party (LPDP) of former speaker Alex Tyler.
Tyler was removed as speaker by his colleagues over his involvement in the Sable Mining Global Witness report which accused him of accepting bribe in a bid to change the law in favor of the company.
The former speaker is facing charges of criminal indictment in Court.
Jewel, who now heads the NPP has taken a hit from Muslims over her support for the passage of a law advocating to change Liberia into a Christian state.
But Senator Weah on Tuesday, played down the criticisms, claiming that all individuals who belong to parties in the coalition are people with impeccable character.
“Jewel is our best choice; she is loved by the people and we are not going to tie her down because of her ties with Former President Taylor.
After the war, she was one of the luckiest women the President married and lived with.
If we are going to sit here and antagonize Taylor children and relatives because of what he did or afraid that befriending them could take away our credibility, what about people who killed and are being elected.”
Added Senator Weah: “What I think we need to do is move forward; the Liberian people will decide who they want; but Jewel is my best choice who is going to be my vice President.
She is a very eloquent, organize person, she is someone who understands the work of the executive branch of government from her past experience as former first lady.”
‘Not a Friend of Taylor’
Senator Weah further stated he chose the former first lady because he feels that it is important to have a woman on the party’s ticket.
“I am not a friend of Taylor; he was the President of the Republic of Liberia I respected. We didn’t and don’t have any personal friendship but as President every time we met I give him due courtesy because he did the same for me.”
The tone is a somersault for Weah who was forced into exile in 1996, after calling for UN troops to be sent to Liberia.
Mr. Taylor, according to Weah at the time, sent militia to burn down Weah's house in Monrovia and rape two of his cousins. Fearing for his life, Weah did not set foot in Liberia again from 2002 until its President went into exile.
Taylor was convicted on 11 charges including terrorism, rape, murder and the use of child soldiers by rebel groups in neighboring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war, in which some 50,000 people died.
The former Liberian leader was found to have supplied weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for so-called blood diamonds.
He is currently serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a British prison.
An Act of Parliament was passed to allow for Taylor to serve his sentence in the UK, at the cost of the British government, following his conviction.
Taylor was sentenced in 2012 and has been serving his sentence in the UK, having unsuccessfully challenged the decision to be detained there.