Liberia: Charles Taylor’s NPP Welcomes ‘Founding Mother’ Agnes Taylor; Months After War Crimes Charges Dropped in UK

The return of Madam Agnes Reeves-Taylor, who arrived last Friday on an SN Brussels Flight, is already being trumpeted by NPP party stalwarts as the return of the “Real Mother” of the party, currently embroiled in an internal wrangle within the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.

Monrovia – Seven months after her release from a UK prison, Agnes Reeves-Taylor, ex-wife of the jailed former Liberian president Charles Taylor, is back in Liberia.

Taylor was freed in December 2019 after an Old Bailey judge dismissed a series of torture charges against her, relating to offences allegedly committed during the Liberian  civil war in 1990.

Taylor, 55,  resided in Dagenham, East London and had been working as a senior lecturer for Coventry University. She was charged in 2017 but denied all wrongdoing. She was held in Bronzefield women’s prison.

Trumpeting ‘The Real Mother’ Return

The return of Madam Reeves, who arrived last Friday on an SN Brussels Flight, is already being trumpeted by NPP party stalwarts as the return of the “Real Mother” of the party, currently embroiled in an internal wrangle within the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.

Mr. George Mulbah, who was expelled from the party in 2014, posted on Facebook Saturday: “The National Patriotic Party welcome the founding mother of the party Mrs. Agnes Reeves -Taylor to Liberia. She was recently arrested  and charged for war crimes and crimes against humanity in a British Court. After two years of intensive legal battle the court handed down a non guilty verdict in her favor. She is a University  Professor in Great Britain.  Mrs. Agnes Taylor arrived in the country  on Friday  from London . Join me to welcome Agnes to Liberia.”

Charlene Taylor touted: “The real mother is back!!! #AgnesReevesTaylor, Ghankay Jr., What a might God we serve.”

During her trial ordeal in London, the court one count related to the alleged torture of a pastor’s wife by tying her up and her witnessing the shooting of her two children.

A further three of the eight torture charges related to “severe pain or suffering” allegedly inflicted on a 13-year-old boy. A conspiracy to torture charge related to allegations of rapes by National Patriotic Front of Liberia forces in a village.

She was also accused of committing the crimes while serving as a public official or acting in an official capacity.

Former President Taylor, who served as President of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, is currently serving a 50-year sentence in a British prison after being convicted in 2012 at an international tribunal in The Hague of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone. Up to 250,000 people are believed to have been killed during the conflict in west Africa, partially over “blood diamonds”, between 1989 and 2003.

Mr. Taylor appealed to the UN-backed tribunal to be allowed to serve his sentence in Africa. Taylor has been held in Frankland prison, near Durham.

Mrs. Reeves’ acquittal came as a blow to advocates for war crimes in Liberia. Charlie Loudon, an international legal adviser at the charity Redress, which intervened in the supreme court proceedings, was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “This is a difficult result, principally for the victims of the alleged crimes, who will be denied the chance to have the allegations tested at a trial. In terms of the broader legal consequences, the supreme court has made clear that members of other armed groups that exercise sufficient control, such as Isis and the Taliban, can be prosecuted for torture under UK law. And similar alleged crimes that have occurred more recently than this case, anytime since 1991, if proven could also be prosecuted as war crimes. The priority is that the UK continues to invest in prosecuting cases like this. The British public does not want suspected torturers and war criminals walking on its streets. And for many victims across the world, their only hope for justice is through a British court.”

At the end of her trial, the judge said Madam Taylor could not be charged with torture as a crime against humanity or a war crime because the alleged offences took place in 1990 – before the relevant sections of the International Criminal Court Act were introduced in 1991.

Agnes and Charles met when Taylor was head of the General Services Agency in the mid 1980s during the reign of former President Samuel Kanyon Doe. 

Doe appointed Mr. Taylor to the position of Director General of the General Services Agency (GSA), a position that left him in charge of purchasing for the Liberian government. He was sacked in May 1983 for embezzling an estimated $1,000,000 and sending the funds to another bank account.

Mr. Taylor fled to the United States but was arrested on May 21, 1984 on a warrant for extradition to face charges of embezzling $1 million of government funds while head of the GSA. 

Taylor Takes Flight

Mr. Taylor fought extradition with his lawyers arguing that his alleged acts of lawbreaking in Liberia were political rather than criminal in nature and that the extradition treaty between the two republics had lapsed. At the time, Assistant United States Attorney Richard G. Stearns argued that Liberia wished to charge Taylor with theft in office, rather than with political crimes. Stearns’ arguments were reinforced by Liberian Justice Minister Jenkins Scott, who flew to the United States to testify at the proceedings. Mr. Taylor was detained at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.

He and four other inmates escaped the prison on  September 15, 1985. 

In July 2009, Taylor claimed at his trial that US CIA agents had helped him escape from the maximum security prison in Boston in 1985. This was during his trial by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. The US Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed that Taylor first started working with US intelligence in the 1980s but refused to give details of his role or US actions, citing national security.

Agnes, a visible presence in Taylor’s NPFL left Liberia in 1992, before the end of the civil war. 

Prosecutors alleged during her trial that she was acting in a de facto official capacity on behalf of armed NPFL but in her defence case statement following her arrest in 2017, Ms Taylor said that at no time did she act in an official capacity for the NPFL and disputed that the NPFL was the de facto governmental authority in the relevant areas at the relevant times.

Ms Taylor applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2013, which was turned down in 2016 on the basis that there were concerns she may have committed a war crime.

It is unclear what role Madam Reeves-Taylor will play in the NPP, now that she has returned but it does appear that she is already being drawn into an ongoing saga within the party, with persons headed by expelled Chairman, James Biney, pushing for Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, the former First Lady to be ousted from the party.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that the “Real Mother” reference may be an indirect jab from former President Taylor, who is said to be unhappy that he is not getting the support he deserves and Jewel has been silent about his benefits, prompting the ongoing quest to have her the Vice President removed. 

VP Howard-Taylor was selected by President George Manneh Weah in the run-up to the 2017 Presidential elections and was crucial in delivering vote-rich Bong County for the ruling Coalition. The ticket was elected for six years and is up for reelection in 2023. Howard-Taylor’s term as NPP standard bearer expires in 2022.

The NPP, left for dead after the departure of former President Taylor, was rejuvenated following the 2017 elections with the number two slot on the coalition- and Howard-Taylor as Vice President. Now, ahead of the Midterm Senatorial elections, the party appears to be in danger of self-destructing amid lingering fights and entanglements over the party’s direction and specific seats within the coalition.