Coalition For Democratic Change Echoes Fulfillment of Charles Taylor Return
Gbarnga, Bong County – Before his departure for exile in Calabar, Nigeria, now imprisoned former President Charles Taylor promised his supporters that he would return to Liberia, if God permits.
Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]
“Let me borrow from our former President that God’s willing, I will be back and Senator Taylor represents former Liberian President Charles Taylor on the ticket.”
“God’s willing, I will be back,” Mr. Taylor said before taking off.
With the former Liberian leader now behind bars in Great Britain, that dream is fading and appears impossible, but his loyalists in Bong County are keeping the dream is still alive with the election of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) during the pending Presidential and legislative elections in Liberia.
Already, key loyalists to former President Taylor including Chief Cyril Allen, Kuku Dennis and others are parading the helm of the CDC with the hope of returning to state power.
In Taylor’s stronghold, Bong County, which served as the headquarters of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), some of Taylor’s loyalists are using his return to woo votes.
Running mate to CDC’s standard bearer and Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor used an audio recording containing the purported voice of Taylor as a campaign tool during the 2014 senatorial election.
In the audio, Taylor was purportedly heard calling on the people of Bong County to vote his former wife.
The recording: “I am Charles Ghankay Taylor, your former President speaking to you from The Hague. If you still love me, please vote for my former wife Jewel Howard-Taylor because when she is re-elected, she would ensure I am released from prison.”
The recording was released to the station less than two hours to the end of campaigning in 2014, which put the opponents in a difficult position to rebuke the recording because of the timing.
The purported “Charles Taylor’s” recording went viral in Bong and appeared to be a turning point in the election. It appeared to have heightened the odds against Howard-Taylor’s closest rival at the time, former Cuttington University President Henrique Tokpa.
In some districts in the county where they had opted to vote against Howard-Taylor there was a change of mind. In Gbartala, where Taylor created the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), former soldiers declared holiday because, according to them, they heard Taylor’s voice for the first time since 2005.
And it helped Jewel to get large number of votes during that election.
Reports have it that former President Taylor on his birthday this year in January, phoned in from his prison cell, urging a group of supporters and sympathizers who had gathered to celebrate his birthday to “return to base”.
“I am appealing to all of my friends to return to their base, the base? The NPP. The NPP grew out of the NPFL. Return to your base – and everything will be alright,” Taylor told his supporters.
In November 2016, the chief investigator for the special court of Sierra Leone, Dr. Alan White revealed that former President Taylor had been holding discussions with Senator Weah.
The discussion, among other things, according to Dr. White led to the formation of the Coalition and putting Jewel on the Coalition’s ticket.
Though Senator Weah’s supporters vehemently refuted the report, in March this year, he admitted talking to former President Taylor, but said the brief conversation was only out of courtesy.
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.”
Embodiment of Taylor
An official of the CDC in Bong County has now publicly declared that Howard-Taylor is an embodiment of the former Liberian leader.
The candidate for CDC in district three, Josiah Marvin Cole, spoke at the party’s launch in Gbarnga Tuesday.
He branded Howard-Taylor as an embodiment of former President Taylor on the CDC ticket.
Cole said: “Let me borrow from our former President that God’s willing, I will be back and Senator Taylor represents former Liberian President Charles Taylor on the ticket.”
Cole’s statement comes amid rumors in Bong County being propagating by supporters of the CDC that a Weah-Jewel presidency would ensure that Taylor returns to Liberia.
The rumors have left citizens buzzing about whether it is possible for Taylor, who was sentenced to 50 years in prison, to return to Liberia.
Paul Kerkula, a resident of Sugar Hill Community in Gbarnga rebuffed the rumors and termed it as yet campaign propaganda by the CDC.
“I don’t believe what CDC is saying is the reality. We love Taylor but we don’t believe he can return until he serves his sentence,” he said.
Tormue Queminee, a member of the Unity Party termed the constant use of former President’s Taylor’s name at political rally as criminal.
“I am constrained to respond to Senator Taylor’s persistent use of former President Taylor name to rally support of the Bong County.
“In 2014 she used a purported recording of former President Taylor asking the people of Bong County to vote her as senator,” he said.
“An act many persons including me viewed as criminal and unacceptable especially using the name of a man she has divorced.”
“Again she has started lying to our people that under a CDC led government; Charles Taylor will be freed and brought to Liberia.”
“In the first place former President Taylor isn’t in jail because of crimes committed in Liberia. So it beats my imagination for Senator Taylor to keep misleading our people.”
While it looks highly impossible for any individual elected President to ensure the release of Mr. Taylor from prison, in a society of large number of uneducated voters, such statement is a big campaign tool.
Although a good campaign tool but on the international stage, powerful nations that have been fighting to break up with the Taylor cartel would be freighted about the rebirth of Mr. Taylor.
To destabilize the Taylor cartel, several associates of the former President were placed on sanctions and travel ban.
In recent years such restrictions have been lifted on some of Taylor’s loyalists but powerful nations might still be watching to see if there is a possibility of Taylor having influence in the politics of Liberia.
The association of the name of Mr. Taylor with the CDC could be positive locally in a county like Bong but on the international stage; political pundits say it is big minus for the CDC.