Liberia: Jailed President Charles Taylor’s Birthday Passes Unnoticed In Gbarnga
BONG COUNTY – Former Liberian president Charles Taylor on Saturday, January 28 celebrated his 75th birthday, but his natal day appeared to have gone unnoticed in Bong County, where he served as rebel leader in the 1990s.
Taylor’s admirers have always celebrated his birthday in Bong County since he was sentenced to a 50-year jail sentence in the United Kingdom for aiding and abetting rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war.
By Selma Lomax, [email protected]
However, many of these admirers this year refused to throw up a party as they did in the past, blaming it on the current economic hardship.
Jerry Forkpah, lex-fighter of Taylor’s former army the Anti Terrorist Unit, who has always made January 28 his personal holiday, said though the former Liberian president still holds a place in his heart, he was more concerned about his livelihood than celebrating a man he says won’t return to Liberia anytime soon.
“I celebrated Taylor’s birthday in the past because I had faith he would one day return, but it has been more than 15 years since he was jailed and there are no signs he will return,” he said.
“Feeding in Liberia today is not easy as food, which is a basic need, has become a difficult for the ordinary people like us. Prices of foodstuffs are now triple the prices they were before and they increase daily without control,” says Martin Kamara, 43, who spent all his youthful days in Gbarnga during Taylor revolution. “Our prayers are with.”
“You go to the market with a substantial amount of money, but you end up asking yourself what you bought because your shopping bag appears to be empty. This is after walking round the market to see where you can get fair prices,” Martha Gorlotor, a resident of Gbarnga, said.
The Kpelle people, who dominate Bong County and are the largest tribe in the country, suffered the most human rights violations of all of Liberia’s 16 tribes recorded in the TRC report. Almost 19,000 of them were killed, enslaved, raped and tortured—among other crimes.
Over 22,000 human rights violations were committed in Bong County as a whole, the second highest number of violations, behind Montserrado County. The TRC recommended more than a decade ago that Taylor face a war crimes court for Liberia over the crimes his group committed in the country.
Taylor’s forces committed 41 per cent of the crimes committed during the war and recorded by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the highest number of any faction.
Taylor had formed the National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government (NPRAG) in Bong’s capital Gbargna, after his Christmas Day invasion into Nimba from Ivory Coast in 1989.
Taylor envisaged a future Liberian capital be moved in Bong County from Monrovia, a call that resonated with people in the county. It was from there that Taylor launched attacks on rival warring factions in the southeastern, northern and western parts of the country.
Bong County is the stronghold of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) founded by Taylor. Jewel Howard Taylor, Taylor’s former wife and now vice president to President George Weah, won two successive terms as senator for the county in 2005 and 2014.
NPP and the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) entered into a political marriage to contest the 2017 presidential and legislative elections. The merger prompted the formation of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the George Weah and Howard-Taylor ticket became victorious.
The 2017 presidential results in Bong County show that the CDC amassed 61,520 votes, or 40 percent of the total votes cast in the county.