By Festus Poquie
Charles Taylor may be some 3,000 miles away from Liberia in the United Kingdom where he’s serving a 50-year jail sentence, his allies and associates are still playing a dominant role in the country’s politics 20 years after his exile, trial and imprisonment for war crimes.
When the former President and 1990 war lord was forced into exile in Calabar, Nigeria on 11 August 2003, several associates and key officials of his regime were deemed pariahs in the context of democratic governance on account of Taylor’s horrific role in the civil war that disregarded human rights and punctuated in carnage.
They did not go down with Charles Taylor and have been living contrary to expectation, playing leading role in the country’s governance system.
Besides overriding presence in the legislature, these Taylor-era officials and associates have their stamp on every elected government, post-civil wars and they are in driving position to determine who Liberia President becomes on October 10 this year.
The leading three political parties have placed their campaign management teams in the heads of prominent wartime personalities, public officials, allies and acquaintances of the warlords. This has become a trend since the peace settlement and political transition of 2003.
Ruling Coalition for Democratic Change
Founded by retied celebrated international football star George Weah in 2005, the Congress for Democratic Change linked up with Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party in 2017 and secured a remarkable victory in the general elections, replacing Johnson Sirleaf as the country’s second postwar President.
The CDC rise to power was unlikely and unfavorable to some local and international actors and rivals who held the perception that its marriage with Taylor leftover power structure would injure Liberia’s stability.
In contrast after nearly six years of its rule, the country under footballing president George Weah remains stable and peaceful with one of the performing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa recoding an average growth rate between 1% – 5% save concerns over official corruption.
Eugene Lenn Nagbe who worked in the Taylor’s administration is the man leading Weah’s campaign. Nagbe was Johnson Sirleaf’s Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism. The role he held until midway in Wean first term.
He was an assistant police commissioner from 1998 to 2000, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of Liberia from 2000 to 2003 and Minister of Post and Telecommunications [ from 2003 to 2006. ]Nagbe is currently the Commissioner General of the Liberia Maritime Authority on sabbatical.
Ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as leader of the Unity Party and Joseph Boakai as Vice President of Liberia opened doors to several wartime figures to serve in public, an accommodative political approach she saw fit to maintain peace.
Her two electoral victories (2005 and 2011) can largely be credited to Prince Yormie Johnson, a U.S.-trained soldier who served as aide-de-camp to General Thomas Quiwonkpa, the commander of Liberia’s army until both fled into exile in 1983 and participated in a failed coup against Gneral Samuel Doe in 1985.
Now Senator, Johnson started out as Taylor’s partner but split in early 1990 to form his own Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). He is currently mobilizing his support base in Northeaster Nimba County in favor of former Vice President Boakai.
In charge of the Unity Party campaign is Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, a two-term Senator and ex- fiancé of Cyril Allen, her benefactor during the Taylor-era. Chief Allen as he is known across Liberia was an influential member of Charles Taylor political and military empire and was Chairman of the National Patriotic Party.
Collaborating Political Party
Leader of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties Alexander Cummings prides himself as a non-establishment candidate with no civil war records but he’s swamped with permanent and wartime figures who have played leading and controversial roles in politics for decades.
His lead political thinkers include Lewis Brown, a leading member of Charles Taylor defunct rebel National Patriotic Front.
He held key positions during the Taylor/NPP regime including Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, Minister of State for Economic Affairs and National Security Advisor.
He served as the former Minister for Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism during the Sirleaf administration.
After serving as minister of Information Brown was appointed by President Sirleaf as Liberia’s permanent Ambassador at The United Nations and Liberia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Cuba in 2016. Brown is managing Cummings presidential bid.