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24 June, 2003

President Charles Taylor of Liberia demanded on 12 June, 2003, that his indictment for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity by a Special Court in Sierra Leone be rescinded as a condition for peace in Liberia and the sub-region. The indictment was limited to crimes resulting from Taylor’s involvement with forces that committed atrocities during the 11-year long civil war (1991-2001) in Sierra Leone. The Special Court for Sierra Leone refused to drop the indictment, and the peace agreement will be signed in spite of Taylor’s protestations. Taylor has made threats to prolong the conflict. Since then he also made other desperate statements and appealed to Pan Africanism to bail him out.

Charles Taylor claimed that his indictment posed a threat to Africa’s leaders. He said that the indictment "…sets an unhealthy precedent. Tomorrow it could be Museveni, Kagame, Mugabe, Gbagbo," naming the presidents of Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Cote d'Ivoire who share human rights abuse records similar to Charles Taylor’s. All the four in fact have indictments and legal charges from other courts, tribunals, human rights organs, and the UN Security Council. In 1993 Museveni was named as the “un-indicted co-conspirator” in an illegal arms deal by a US court. The governments they run face international and AU sanctions that include arms embargoes and bans on diamond and timber exports on account of their support for insurgents in neighboring states, and for gross human rights violations.

Taylor’s naming of Yoweri Museveni, Paul Kagame, Robert Mugabe and Laurent Gbagbo is analytical, but his use of these individuals in his defense is irrational. The four individuals are miscreants of the first order, and hardly qualify as model humans, let alone as leaders in the conventional sense of the word. All are associated with the bloodiest violence in the African Union. They intimidate political opponents, manipulate media, and thrive on inciting base human passions to retain control over their states. However, there are distinctions between them. Whereas the crimes of Gbagbo and Museveni are widely known by Africans, those of Mugabe and Kagame remain shrouded in a mist of heroic misinformation.

Mugabe has sympathy around the world on account of the perception that he is anti-imperialist, and many see as inevitable his injudicious and violent expulsion of a manipulative and exploitative land owners/farmers cartel in Zimbabwe (who happen to be white settlers – if they were black, European governments would not be screaming for Mugabe’s blood). Additionally, Taylor may have been referring to the less known fact that Mugabe is also a war monger whose munitions factories have serviced wars that continue to claim lives in Africa and Asia.

Mugabe is responsible for the massacre of thousands of members of the Matabele community, and the plunder of timber from the Congo. Mugabe’s relationships with Ari Ben-Menashe (a controversial MOSSAD personality in Israel and the US), the late Tiny Rowland & Ian Smith (former leaders of the Rhodesia apartheid regime), and with Muammar Ghaddafi's weapons dispersal across Africa, make Mugabe a dangerous opportunist who uses violence for his own personal benefit.

Kagame is also compromised on account of his over dependence on military deployment and political repression. The darling of every guilt-ridden government that armed genocidal Interahamwe and Mpuzamugambi militias (South Africa and Egypt included), and now the favorite son of all those who stood by and did nothing to save millions of Rwandans who were hacked, raped, shot, burned and buried alive, Kagame’s meteoric fall from the moral high ground has been confounding. Kagame's policy to neutralize Interahamwe and ExFAR reorganization has been coupled with acts of genocide against the Congolese community and against the Hutu community.

Lately Paul Kagame and George Bush Jr., (who said he would not do anything to save Africans if another genocide erupted in Rwanda) have become inseparable and their sappy high-level diplomatic love affair is absurd. Kagame’s apologism for Bush’s incoherent Africa policy, as well as his failure to address the 1994 Rwanda Genocide in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the OAU/AU policy on the genocide, makes him a sellout in the minds of most thinking people, not just Pan Africanists. Kagame has signed a bilateral agreement that would presumably make Americans immune to prosecution by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In his first concession to Pan Africanism, during the Rwandan Genocide Memorial organized by Ibuka in 2001, Kagame acknowledged that the African Slave Trade was genocide, and stated incorrectly that it lasted 200 years. He has since become more astute at sounding coherent about Pan African issues, and his speeches have taken on an incisive analytical edge, but the impunity he gained in joining the disruptive anti-terror band wagon of George Bush Jr., has made him a champion of disorder in Africa. In Addis Ababa he voted with other African leaders on Mbeki's initiative to maintain a single African vote over the US invasion of Iraq, shortly after in Paris he excused himself from similar proceedings before the vote and claimed he wasn't consulted. His certitude on issues in Rwanda and The Congo is achieved by the same method. Kagame's past attempts to militarize, control and plunder eastern Congo fly in the face of Pan Africanism, and the price of the misguided policy has been catastrophic in terms of human life.

Yet Kagame’s fall from grace was almost predictable. He was hand-picked to lead the RPF (the army that brought him to power) by Museveni, following Museveni’s very bloody disagreement with leading founders and supporters of the RPF, some of whom he executed or assassinated. The RPF leaders from 1990 invasion of Rwanda and the capture of Kigali are now dead or in exile…leaders in the Tutsi community (the one that Kagame supposedly represents) are living in exile waiting for him to stop abusing reason in their name. Leading Ba’nya’Mulenge (Eastern Congolese Tutsi) are now fighting against Kagame, and he has fallen out with his mentor Museveni (who has armed Interahamwe and ethnic militias in the Congo).

Kagame may one day be indicted for the murder of Colonel Wilson Rutaisire, one of the founders of the RPF, and a leading Pan-Africanist. Rutaisire was the leading spokesperson of the RPF and editor of the RPFs newsletters during the struggle to end the genocidal regime of Habyarimana. Rutaisire, who set up and led ORINFOR, the main information organ of the Rwandan government, opposed Kagame’s actions in the Congo, along with several dozen leading RPF commanders, most of whom are now dead or in political detention.

The indictment of Taylor sets a positive precedent. He will eventually be brought to justice in a legally responsible manner, and then there will be an opportunity for Africans to address and engage the forces he represents in a constructive process, without having to exterminate people or turn entire communities into pariahs and subcitizens. In due course the other people whom Taylor has implicated, Museveni, Kagame, Gbagbo and Mugabe, will also have their day in court. They will have a better fate than their victims, but at least they will be stripped of the privileges and dignities that they have arrogated to themselves. History will remember them for what they really are, war criminals and looters.

The war methods used by Taylor, Museveni, Kagame, Gbagbo, and Mugabe, have unleashed passions and cruelty, the depth and extent of which is unprecedented in African history. Fighters on both sides used the most horrifying torture and gross acts of indecency and terrorism to achieve political control. In all these cases troops have hacked off peoples limbs, gang-raped women and girls, and forcibly recruited traumatized child soldiers, and armed opposing military factions. There have been acts of genocide and reports of public acts of cannibalism and sophisticated mutilation torture that kept victims alive as they were dismembered over the course of several days.

The number of casualties of the wars of plunder and revenge that these individuals have instigated across state frontiers, is estimated at over 10,000,000 (ten million) lives in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and Kurdistan, in the last 10 years. And of course there has been the wholesale plunder of the community resources, for personal gain. Museveni, Taylor, Mugabe and their families and friends, have become extremely wealthy from the proceeds of goods obtained illegally in war and inter-community violence.

The war crimes courts in Arusha and Freetown have been set up to try those bearing the greatest responsibility in the atrocities in Africa. So far the only head of state they have indicted is Charles Taylor. According to Nana Alex Asamoah, one of the leaders of Ghana’s National Democratic Congress, the arrest of Charles Taylor in Ghana was deferred on the advice of Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo, and that President Kufuor of Ghana (and Chair of ECOWAS) was personally reluctant to arrest Taylor.

The ambivalence and indecisiveness, or even complicity of other African presidents in, or towards, the activities of Taylor and other sociopath tyrants does not constitute pan Africanism…this is what Taylor would like us to think. The continuing impunity of people like Taylor has only caused African communities to sink into the depths of despair and rage, and has turned regular people into monsters that are willing to torture, burn, rape and terrorize their neighbors. He and others like him whose names he supplied, must be arrested and tried for crimes against Africa.