Daily Trust | 11/11/09 |
Nigeria’s President at the time Chief Olusegun Obasanjo told him lies and encouraged him to go on a mysterious journey that led to his arrest as he approached this country’s border with Chad, former Liberian President Charles Taylor said at The Hague yesterday.
Taylor told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that Obasanjo had earlier assured him he could leave the country freely. “He lied to the world when he said I was escaping, and he knew nothing about it,” Taylor said. “Why he lied? I don’t know, but as a brother and a friend, I think he ought to speak and tell the truth about it.”
The ex-warlord’s journey to The Hague began in 2006 when Obasanjo announced that Liberia’s new government was free to take their former president into custody, despite assurances of his personal safety given to Taylor when African leaders persuaded him to quit the Liberian presidency in 2003 in order to end a vicious civil war.
Soon after the announcement was made, Taylor suddenly disappeared from his exile abode at Calabar while Obasanjo was on his way to Washington to meet then US president George W Bush. The next day, the Nigerian government announced that Taylor was arrested near the Chad border while trying to escape. The government said he was in disguise and also that sacks of money were found on him.
Taylor said he hopes he would live to look Chief Obasanjo in the face one day and ask him to tell the truth about what happened. Charles Taylor also claimed yesterday that there was a plot involving the UK and the US that led to his indictment. He is accused of backing rebels, who committed widespread atrocities throughout the 1990s in Liberia’s neighbour Sierra Leone. He was living in exile in Nigeria in 2006 when US pressure to put him on trial for alleged war crimes increased.
Taylor had been given asylum in Nigeria as part of a deal to end Liberia’s civil war, though human rights groups accused him of breaking the terms of the deal by continuing to interfere in Liberian politics.
Yesterday was the final day of his testimony in The Hague. Taylor claimed he was a victim of an intelligence plot involving the British and US governments that supplied weapons to the region in an attempt to topple him – as part of a plan by Washington to gain control of West African oil reserves. The US position was that “we cannot have anyone in Liberia that we don’t think is going to dance to our tune”, he said.
He also said he was a peace broker and repeated denials that he had supplied arms to Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for blood diamonds.
The prosecution, which will now cross-examine Taylor, says it will challenge the accuracy, truthfulness and completeness of his testimony.
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