Taylor’s Love Triangle: Why Agnes, Not Jewel or Tupee Facing War Crimes Issues?


Monrovia – When the United Nations Security Council decided in 2000 that the government of Charles Taylor had been playing a major role in smuggling of diamonds from Sierra Leone, it put in place a travel ban on key officials and associates.

Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

Three women who had been closed to the former President made the cut: Jewel Howard Taylor, Tupee Enid Taylor and Agnes Taylor. It was the arrest of the latter last week that is causing debate in some quarters.

Taylor, the former President was convicted by an international court of providing weapons and aiding the war in Sierra Leone. He was  sentenced to 50 years in prison.

In an 11-year war that ended in 2002, Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels murdered, raped and mutilated their way across Liberia’s West African neighbour, helped by Taylor as he profited from a trade in so-called blood diamonds.

Three Wives Entangled

Three women who had been closed to the former President made the cut: Jewel Howard Taylor, Tupee Enid Taylor and Agnes Taylor. It was the arrest of the latter last week that is causing debate in some quarters.

Supporters of Dr. Agnes Taylor, listed on the travel ban as “former Liberian Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization, former Senior Member of the Liberian Government and ex-wife and associate of former Liberian President Charles Taylor with ongoing ties to him,” claimed that even though she sported a military outfit on the battlefield, she was not involved in any atrocities.

Jewel Howard Taylor, listed then as “spouse of former Liberian President Charles Taylor with ongoing ties to him, according to family sources, had been estranged from Mr. Taylor since her birth of a child, Philip at 18-years of age for the former President.

She left Liberia at age 21, for the US and returned at 33, in 1997.

Upon her return to Liberia, Taylor who holds a graduate degree in banking and two bachelor’s  in banking and economics, was appointed to a number of positions, including Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Liberia, President of the Agriculture Cooperative and Development Bank (ACDB) and Mortgage Financing Underwriter of the First Union National Bank.

Jewel, currently the senior Senator from Bong County, married to President Taylor in 1997 and became First Lady of Liberia during his presidency.

In 2005, Jewel was elected to the Liberian Senate.

Prior to her election, Jewel filed for divorce, citing her husband’s exile in Nigeria and the difficulty of visiting him due to a UN travel ban on her. 

The divorce was granted in 2006.

Victoria Comes Into Picture

Toward the end of his demise, Taylor met Victoria Addison, a Ghanaian-Tunisian who later became his traditional wife and is recognized today as his only wife.

Victoria has three children, the youngest, Charlie, was born in March 2010. In 2014, Victoria was denied a visa to visit her husband while he serves his sentence in the United Kingdom.

While many regarded Dr. Agnes Reeves-Taylor as the mother of the revolution, no one, not even those closed to Mr. Taylor recalls a wedding – or whether they were ever legally married.

Mr. Taylor’s first legal wife, according to family sources, was Tupee. In fact, it is believed that he was still legally married to Tupee when he met Agnes.

Book Puts Agnes in War Play

But Author Colin M. Waugh, in his book, Charles Taylor and Liberia: Ambition and Atrocity in Africa’s Lone Star State, writes that Taylor “reacquainted with Agnes Reeves with whom he had developed a romantic relationship in the USA since his separation from Tupee.

In 1986, Agnes and Charles were married in a civil ceremony in Accra after which she went to work on her husband’s behalf.”

Waugh, who interviewed Dr. Agnes Taylor for his book reveals that it was she who offered a detailed description of how the late Thomas Sankara was killed.

Waugh writes: “While in Accra, she made a significant contribution by securing an introduction to the ambassador of Burkina Faso, Mamouna Outttara, and thus opened channels to Blaise Compaore in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.”

Waugh writes that the connection proved crucial when, once again, a few months later, Taylor was detained by the Ghanaian police in connection with alleged subversive activities. Compaore, at the time, the right hand man of Burkina Faso’s President, Thomas Sankara, intervened personally to secure Taylor’s release.”

In 1987, according to Waugh, Taylor moved to Ouagadougou, where he established his base for the next two years. “This departure was a convenient development for the Jerry Rawlings government, which was increasingly on the decline.”

Continued Waugh: “Embarrassed by his presence. Taylor’s revolutionary rhetoric and energetic presence among Ghanaian radical groups had made the Ghanaian authorities increasingly uncomfortable at a time when the Ghanaian economy was on its knees and President Rawlings was trying to restore his country’s standing in the international community. 

While Liberia’s Samuel Doe hot on Taylor’s trail and the USA potential also about to request his handover at any moment, his departure from the country can as a welcome relief to Rawlings.

Other anti-Doe Liberian dissidents migrated to the Burkinabe and training of a rebel movement got underway.”

Waugh writes: On the day of the assassination, a group of Sankara’s own Presidential guards based in Poe, near the Ghanaian border, visited the President to try to persuade him to step aside and allow Campaore to take power.

According to Agnes Taylor’s account, during the ensuing argument, the President drew his gun and shooting broke out, during which Sankara was killed.

Thomas Sankara had not been interested in providing the Liberian dissidents with a base to overthrow Samuel Doe.

However, the pro-Campaore rebels had the backing of Felix Houphouet Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire, who also wanting Doe removed could have supported a plot to remove Sankara. And so it was logical that the NPFL might help Campaore engineer the overthrow.”

Agnes Interrogated by FBI

The author also suggests that Agnes was instrumental in helping her then boyfriend, escape from the prison in Boston.

Waugh writes that Agnes held on to Taylor’s original passport after US authorities seized his diplomatic passport at the time of his detention.

“The FBI interrogated Reeves in Boston right after the breakout, but by then the fugitive was out of the area. Some days later, Ann Payne came up from New York to see Reeves and collected Taylor’s passport for him, thus giving him legitimate documentation for his onward travel.”

According to Waugh, at the Special Court trial in The Hague, the prosecution also tiptoed around the subject of his breakout, not revisiting in detail what could have been an altogether sensitive subject for those most responsible for ensuring that Taylor’s apprehension and trial happened in the first place.

Mr. Taylor himself strongly suggested before the trial that he knew things that could be embarrassing for the USA.”

According to the book, Boima Fahnbulleh, who served as Foreign Minister under Samuel Doe, reportedly was told by Taylor that he had paid his fellow fugitives from Plymouth $50.000 to help get him out and across the border to Mexico.

Agnes Reeves thought that it was Tupee who was supposed to bring the money on the night of the breakout to pass the accomplices.

In response to the allegations that a bribe was paid to arrange for Taylor’s escape, the Special Court defendant again refuted the allegation: I did not pay any money; I did not know the guys who picked me up. I was not hiding afterwards.”

Whichever variant of the Plymouth breakout story is true, Waugh writes, “the embarrassment to the US authorities of the successful Taylor escape was not as great as the embarrassment of his continued presence.

As Sheriff Flynn said in March 2000: “They couldn’t ship him back to Liberia because he would have been shot the minute he was on the ground, creating a diplomatic problem.”

In the wake of Agnes’s arrest last week, Liberians both at home and abroad appear divided over the timing.

Some, supporting Dr. Agnes Taylor feel authorities in London should be going after bigger fish to fry. While some say the former first lady was no innocent bystander to her husband’s atrocities and should in fact pay for what she did.

Others are going a step further to ponder why former President Taylor’s other wives are not being brought to book.

TRC Certificate Clears Jewel

While Tupee was questioned, according to Waugh in the aftermath of Mr. Taylor’s escape, Jewel was by his side and was also on the UN travel ban.

But aides to the Senate, coming to her defense says she was cleared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission who gave her a certificate in April 2009, stating that they had no reason to mention her among those listed for committing atrocities against Liberians.

It reads:

This certificate is awarded to you in appreciation of your participation in the TRC Economic Crimes process as set forth in the Act of May 12, 2005 establishing the commission.

As required, each significant person must file with the TRC Economic Crimes Unit relevant documents/notarized disclosure(s) indicating their activities from the period January 1979 to October 2003.

Our investigation did not reveal your involvement in acts of economic crimes, as such, we hereby grant you the certificate for participating in the TRC Economic Inquiry Process.”

In July 2012, all three women were among a list of seventeen former Taylor associates removed from the UN travel bans and assets freeze ban.

Ironically, Tupee’s daughter, Camille Grace, Jewel’s son, Philip and daughter, Charlene, now running to become a representative were all born in the same here.

Tupee Enid, was previously listed on the travel bank listing as an “Ex-wife and associate of former Liberian President Charles Taylor with ongoing ties to him” and although she was questioned in relations to Mr. Taylor’s escape from prison, there has not been any complaint relating to atrocities.

Taylor: What’s in a Name

For Agnes, who’s next court date has been set for June 30, 2017, the charges appear to be linked to specific periods during the civil war.

It is alleged that between December 23, 1989, and January 1, 1991, she “intentionally inflicted severe pain or suffering on an individual in the performance or purported performance of her official duties” in the central Liberian city of Gbarnga.

Another count relates to the same period and the same allegation, but this time in Gborplay, on the border with Ivory Coast.

The fourth count claims that between the same period, Taylor “agreed with others” on a course of action that “would necessarily amount to or involve the commission of the offence of torture”.

Whichever way her war crimes ordeal ends, Dr. Agnes Taylor appears to have the odds stacked against her as war crimes prosecutors zero in on more evidence and seek witnesses who were around those areas at the time the alleged incidents occurred.