x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

In Sierra Leone, celebration and relief for Taylor's conviction

Thousands of people who survived Sierra Leone's brutal civil war a decade ago celebrated yesterday after learning that Charles Taylor was convicted at The Hague.

FREETOWN // Thousands of people who survived Sierra Leone's brutal civil war a decade ago celebrated yesterday after learning that Charles Taylor was convicted.

Officials had set up special viewing sites for people to watch the verdict live as it was read from the Netherlands. Jusu Jarka, who lost both of his arms during the fighting in 1999, was among those closely watching the verdict.

"I am happy that the truth has come out ... that Charles Taylor is fully and solely responsible for the crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone," he said.

Crowds who had gathered in the capital, Freetown, expressed relief when the conviction was announced. While the reaction was subdued, anger was on display on a series of posters. One read: "Shame on you Charles Taylor. Give us your diamonds before going to prison."

In Liberia, ethnic and regional allegiances also mean the former president Taylor maintains pockets of strong support.

"The international community should let him free and for him to return to Liberia, that would make us very happy," said Prince K Forkpa, 29, a money changer, at the ministry of education building in Monrovia.

The International Criminal Court, all of whose current cases are from Africa, has been accused of unfairly targeting people on the continent instead of looking at atrocities committed by leaders in the West.

"We really should be asking, why always focusing on Africa, is Africa really worse than Europe in terms of human rights? I don't thinks so," said Pilo Kamaragi, a sociology lecturer from Ituri in Democratic Republic of Congo. "George Bush destroyed Iraq, what has happened to him?"

But in Sierra Leone, Taylor's conviction was seen in simpler terms. "We are happy because he brought anarchy to us," said Foday Momoh Gulama, 50.

* Associated Press with additional reporting by Reuters