Articles by Pamela Adegbesan and Kenneth Roth regarding the Charles Taylor asylum in Nigeria appeared in The Guardian Opinion Page on August 15, 2005. These articles were bereft of the essence of asylum, as currently enjoyed by Mr. Taylor in Nigeria and worse, they left too many questions unanswered.
Such questions for instance must include these: Is Nigeria entitled to grant asylum status to anyone? Must such a person be the Pope or an Angel? And what makes President Charles Taylor a war criminal, if President George W. Bush himself is not a war criminal? What is the objective standard of measuring responsibility of war-waging commanders-in-chief, notwithstanding national population size or wealth of nations that foist war atrocities, brutalities and horrors, whether in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan or Iraq?
Both writers also happily ignored the diplomatic implications for President Obasanjo (and Nigeria) who granted the protective shield of asylum to the former President of Liberia, in the name of Nigeria, a point amply conceded by Ms. Adegbesan. To the effect that the asylum was granted by Nigeria’s president only after extensive consultations were made, these were necessary and proper, given the circumstances, to wit, crises ridden Liberia with nexus to the crises in Sierra Leone, and by extrapolation, the entire West African region.
Charles Taylor’s removal and departure from Liberia was a sorely needed impetus for ending decades of war, a needed respite for West Africa in search of peace and development. Charles Taylor’s surgical removal from Liberia was at the behest of Nigeria, leaders of other African countries and sundry interested parties with full knowledge of the negotiation’s specifics.
What is being sought by Ms. Adegbesan, Mr. Roth and their so-called Coalition, for the “Campaign Against Impunity” is clearly unprecedented and unknown in the annals of diplomacy, law and even common sense!
President Obasanjo properly granted asylum to Mr. Taylor, as he took into consideration the exigent circumstances at the time, severally, in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and the entire West African sub-region. Now, all of a sudden, some local elements with a perpetual axe to grind with President Obasanjo have excelled in mixing local political resentments towards him with their foreign cohorts, in demanding that President Obasanjo summarily abandon all time honored diplomatic finesse, conventions, treaties and known protocols, and just handover Charles Taylor?
It is quite amazing! How do Ms. Adegbesan and Mr. Roth make such arguments with a straight face? What and where are the legal or diplomatic precedents for seeking and demanding that a country (Nigeria) after properly granting political asylum in compliance with her local laws and constitution, and after adequate and extensive consultations with all concerned were made, such a country, would volte face and turnover the asylum beneficiary to certain death? Just because NGOs and some others with agendas contrary to Nigeria’s national interests choose to malign, blackmail and threaten Nigeria?
Are these demands being made of Nigeria because it is Nigeria this time? I strongly believe it unthinkable that anyone would have been making these demands of another country, say the United States! The United States routinely grants asylum statuses to persons worse than Charles Taylor in many ways! Imagine anyone demanding that the US deliver an asylum beneficiary to another country for judicial proceedings! This makes me want to ask, what exactly is the purpose of asylums? Who is entitled to asylum and why? And by who sets the parameters for politically independent countries?
President Bush and President Taylor are both warmongers! They both subscribe to the Clauswitzian theory or mantra, to the effect that war is the pursuit of public policy by other means, violent means, one might add.
War is an inherently violent activity! Whether it is in Iraq, Vietnam, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Gettysburg, the Potomac or in Biafra! War is not friendly! War must therefore be avoided at all costs! But that is not what we have learnt from President George W. Bush in the preceding four years of heading America’s affairs.
The world has come to learn of the use of cluster bombs, bunker busting bombs, nuclear and atomic bombs, agent orange, napalm bombs, shock and awe, etc, all not from Charles Taylor and Liberia, but from George Bush’s America, in which resides, Dr. Rice, the Secretary of State, who preaches the use of force as instrument of policy, with retorts like what is the use of having a strong military if you are not willing to use it?
Here lies a mother lode of contradictions! America is currently waging wars against real and imagined enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, where thousands of uncountable civilians have been killed and continue to get killed, in what America euphemistically calls collateral damage, in other to sanitize the horrors and death being visited on civilian populations in Afghanistan and Iraq! For America and the rest of the world, this is justified as a cost of conducting the business of war? Who counts dead Iraqi civilians?
All of these, despite the fact that the false premise for the invasion, occupation and needless war by the Americans in Iraq, a war that was fraudulently concocted by President Bush! Why then, in God’s holy name, is President Bush not wanted for crimes against humanity and war crimes etc? Where is the so-called, much vouched “international community”?
Why is it, that the organs of the United Nations that slept when Mr. Bush invaded and occupied Iraq in complete disregard for the UN itself, and in complete disregard for international law, rules of sovereignty, territory integrity, as it invaded and occupied Iraq, now provides for the speedy trial of Charles Taylor who is two of a kind with George Bush?
Why is the much touted “international community” only efficacious and potent when Charles Taylor and other issues African are concerned? Where has the profound power of reward and punishment repost in the “international community” been as Mr. Bush assaulted the UN, invaded and colonized a sovereign Iraq under false pretexts? Or in the raging genocide in Darfur Sudan, or its cousin-in-horrors-genocide in Rwanda 10 years ago? Where is the all-knowing, all-powerful “international community” when Israel built its apartheid walls against Palestinians, killed, maimed and brutalized them in high numbers, as Israel also added daily humiliations of the Arabs as a bargain/sweetener?
Those demanding that President Obasanjo surrenders Charles Taylor to a UN court should similarly demand the indictment of George Bush to a UN court for trial for the death and horrors occurring in Iraq, even as I write this! As whatever befits Mr. Taylor, also fits Mr. Bush perfectly, for his warmongering efforts!
The issues of Charles Taylor’s asylum has of course assumed a proportionally bigger picture. This is now about whether Nigeria’s political and legal systems are respected by Nigerians and others outside our borders. Who decides our national dignity, integrity, national and international respect and Nigeria’s pride of place in the global scheme of things?
And why the double standards in ascertaining or determining who is a war criminal? Charles Taylor was a commander-in-chief, just as George Bush is a commander-in-chief, both commanding war efforts, where things do go terribly wrong, and have in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and conversely, in Abu Gharib Prisons in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. And neither Charles Taylor nor George Bush personally participated in those foot-soldier atrocities, except that Mr. Bush, like Mr. Taylor, war mongers both, set asinine war policies, based on self-preservations of the Machivellian genre, and both, had no public good in their calculations! Then, if Charles Taylor be adjudged a war criminal, so should George Bush! Or is it one set of rules, for th
e Africans? And special rules for others?
Some questions remain to be asked, such as; what exactly are yardsticks or parameters for granting asylum statuses and who is so entitled? Must Nigeria be intimidated into handing over Charles Taylor and then Nigeria loses diplomatic and international credibility, now and for ever? Neither President Obasanjo nor Nigeria should yield to any of these blackmails, threats and intimidations over Charles Taylor. He is now de-individualized, as this debate has assumed a higher magnitude in implications, more than a mere single asylum seeker called Taylor. What is Nigeria’s word worth? All our weight!
Nigeria’s honor, integrity and credibility are now at stake!