– Rodney D. Sieh,
Source: FrontPage Africa
Benoni Urey, the former Commissioner of the Bureau of Maritime Affairs is now the Mayor of Careysburg. Since his departure from the bureau, he has made the transition into a successful businessman and one of the brains behind Lone Star Communications. Edwin Snowe, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and still a member of parliament has put the dog days of the Charles Taylor years behind. His short marriage to one of Taylor’s daughter’s resulted in a child. Jewel Howard, Taylor’s former wife is these days working as a senior Senator for Bong County, the stronghold of Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia. Then there is Emmanuel Shaw, the former Taylor aide now back in Liberia after a long spell in Ghana.
What they all have in common these days is a unified quest to see their names off the United Nations Travel and Assets Freeze restrictions.
Strain ties with Taylor
That quest has over the years, since Taylor’s departure resulted into strain ties between some of them and Taylor. More recently the relations hit boiling point when Taylor’s relationship with his former Foreign Minister Lewis Brown was severed during a phone conversation in which Taylor sought to dictate which direction his National Patriotic Party would go.
Brown’s disagreement with Taylor is one of many, the former President has had to endure since his departure.
The country he left behind, the friends, loved ones, family and supporters appear to be moving on with their lives but still bothered by a cloud of restrictions hanging over their head from the United Nations.
One of those, Benoni Urey, has in fact come under direct criticisms from Taylor’s family amid accusations that Urey has turned the other way when Taylor’s family needed assistance.
Today, Urey is aware of the criticisms but insists that he is not obligated to Taylor or his family and has had no communications with Taylor since his departure from Liberia.
“Well Taylor gave me a break so that means I must support his family? Does it mean so? I got my money, Taylor got his money. I hope he does have some,” Urey told FrontPageAfrica in a 2009 interview.
Not that he has any bad ills toward Taylor but Urey says he finds himself in a damn-if-you-do, damn-if you don’t situation: “If I help Taylor family, I am in violation of United Nations sanctions, if I don’t, I am in violation of the ethics you want. You will say why I am successful and helping the man, but let me remind you of one thing. I didn’t come to Taylor poor or destitute. I came to run a rubber factory, and I was never a part of the NPFL. I came to do business in greater Liberia, to run a rubber factory, but I was a sympathizer of the NPFL and will never deny that unlike people going lying to the TRC, I don’t have nothing to hide and if I was to live my life again, I got no regrets but to probably do the same.”
At the end of the civil war, the Security Council of the United Nations felt it was necessary to constitute a list of assets freeze and travel restrictions on certain individuals with ties to Taylor.
Fourteen years of civil war had devastated the country’s infrastructures and caused the death of over three hundred thousand Liberians. But over the years, the Council has been selectively dropping names from the travel ban list as it deems necessary. The issue of removal was a key instrument for votes in the heat of the 2005 Presidential campaign. Multiple sources have confided to FrontPageAfrica that promises were made by some political players that they would advocate on behalf of those restricted from travel and whose assets have been frozen. More recently, Jewel Howard Taylor, wife of former President Charles Taylor lamented that a promise made by the current President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf regarding the turn over of her husband to International Court for trial was not fulfilled, a pledge Sirleaf adamantly denies in her recently-released memoir.
Issue hot election-year button
Ahead of another presidential and legislative elections, the issue is expected to once again pose a delicate dilemma and could possibility become a hot-bottom campaign issue.
Just last week, Charles Brumskine, the political leader of the opposition Liberty Party, playing to sympathizers of Taylor’s NPP supporters declared in a joint interview with FrontPageAfrica, Star Radio and Power TV that he would advocate for the removal of those on the list if he is elected president.
Said Brumskine: “I do not understand why the travel ban remains on Liberians. I don’t know if they are accused of committing any crime outside Liberia. I believe they’re accused, if they are, of doing things in Liberia. If anyone has been charged with anything, he should be accorded the due process of law so he can regain his life and move forward.”
Adopted March 12, 2004, Resolution 1532 of the Security Council imposed the travel restriction to prevent former President Taylor, his immediate family members, in particular Jewell Howard-Taylor who is now Senior Senator of Bong County and Charles Taylor, Jr. who is currently serving a 97-year jail sentence, senior officials of the former Taylor regime, or other close allies or associates. The intent, according to the Council, is to avoid what it said is the misappropriation of funds and property to interfere in the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia and the West African sub-region. Urey was recently appointed Mayor of Careysburg.
With the 2011 elections nearing, Brumskine is taking the government to tasks for not showing interest in ensuring that the travel-tied Liberians, most of who are serving in her government dominantly as legislators, are lifted off the ban. Said the Liberty Party leader: “If I was President, I would be pushing on behalf of my fellow citizens to ensure that they get the due process of law. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that one who has committed an offense should be allowed and go sky-free .Charge the person. Let the person be accorded the due process of law. If not, let him go”, the Liberty Party Political Leader stated.
Perhaps in a bid to resuscitate some life into strain NPP ties, the Sirleaf government has in recent times taken bold steps to name some of the prominent figures from the Taylor era to positions in the Unity Party government. Urey, as Mayor of Careysburg and Roland Duo as Special Project Coordinator assigned with the National Security Agency (NSA). Now this week, the President tapped John T. Richardson, the head of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia’s ill-fated Operation Octopus blamed for the deaths of five American Catholic nuns with the Catholic Church in Liberia as head of the National Housing Authority board.
Charge or remove, critics say
Critics of the ban say the UN in collaboration with the Liberian government must either charge those on the list with crimes and punish them once and for all if they are guilty, or take them off the list and let them live a normal live, free to travel and free to enjoy their wealth. In contrast, those in favor of the ban say many of those on the list deserve to be kept in check.
Acting under Chapter VII of the (UN) Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations in 2004, under Resolution 1532, Paragraph (1), authored and declared:
That to prevent former Liberian President Charles Taylor, his immediate family members, in particular Jewell Howard Taylor and Charles Taylor, Jr., and senior officials of the former Taylor regime, or other close allies or associates as designated by the Committee established by paragraph 21 of resolution 1521 of (2003) (hereinafter referred to as “the Committee”) from using misappropriated funds and property to interfere in the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia and the sub-region, all States in which there are, at the date of adoption of this resolution or at any time thereafter, funds, other financial assets and economic resources owned or controlled directly or indirectly by Mr. Charles Taylor, Jewell Howard Taylor, and Charles C. Taylor, Jr. and/or those other individuals designated by the Committee, including funds, other financial assets and economic resources held by entities owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by any of them or by any persons acting on their behalf or at their direction, as designated by the Committee, shall freeze without delay all such funds, other financial assets and economic resources, and shall ensure that neither these nor any other funds, other financial assets or economic resources are made available, by their nationals or by any persons within their territory, directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit of such persons”.
The personalities and former officials of the Taylor-led government whose funds, assets, and economic resources that the Republic of Liberia and other nations were empowered and mandated to immediately seize and freeze by orders of the United Nations under Resolution 1532, and as provided for, and contained under the UN Travel ban that sanctioned the no travel of the following persons are:
Mr. Charles G. Taylor, former President of the Republic of Liberia; Mrs. Jewell Howard-Taylor, former first lady of the Republic of Liberia; Mr. Charles Chuckie Taylor, Jr., the son of Mr. Charles G. Taylor; Cyril Allen; Charles R. Bright; Randolph Cooper; Jenkins Dunbar; Martin George; Myrtle Gibson; Reginald B. Goodridge; Jobe Baba; Grace Minor; Edwin M. Snowe, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current Representative, 5th District, Montserrado County; Agnes Reeves Taylor, listed as wartime wife of Taylor; Tupee Enid Taylor, also listed as a wartime (wife) of Taylor; Benoni Urey, Former Commissioner of Maritime Affairs of Liberia; Benjamin D. Yeaten; Former director of Special Security Service; Emmanuel Shaw; Victor Bout; Moussa M. Cisse; Richard Ammar Chichakli; Joseph Wong; Ali Klelat; Gus Kouwenhoven; Leonid Yukhimovch Minin; Valeriy Naydo; Sanjivan Ruprah, and Mohammed Ahmad Salame.
Over the years, the makeup of the list has changed. In February for example, three new faces were added on: Former Radio and Television personality Victoria REFELL- is now listed as an “associate” of Taylor with ongoing ties to him. ELDINE Talal, a Lebanese businessman was also added in February and listed as “Paymaster” of Taylor’s inner circle. NASSOUR – Aziz, an illicit diamond dealer who sold conflict diamonds and indirectly or directly supported the Taylor regime has also been added on. New arrivals have also been matched with high-profile departures including Grace Minor once viewed as a key associate of Taylor.
In Minor’s case, the former official notes that it was the UNSC which wrote the Liberian government to inquire whether or not the former Taylor aide was a threat – or not. “They (the Security Council) would do their own due diligence and write the government, seeking their input. It was through that vehicle that the government said that this person (Grace Minor) is no longer a threat to Liberia.” In the months leading to the commencement of the Taylor trial, speculations were abound that Minor had struck a deal to testify against Taylor – or even offered information against his current trial.
Almost a year after Minor’s removal, the threat issue appears to be in play. Recently, several reports suggested that those with alleged ties to Taylor were posing security risks to the current administration. Those reports were however squashed by Sirleaf as untrue. The whereabouts of Benjamin Yeaten, one of the most feared general of the Taylor era remains unknown. And the current government has persistently issued warrants for his arrest.
Urey says their current plight is tantamount to some of the political prison situation America is involved with at Guatanamo Bay. “What’s the difference? Take people, just incarcerate them for years without no due process it is the same thing here. Except you telling me working for your country is a crime, then I stand accused. But the only crime we committed was to work for our country. I give you an example, since I left the Bureau of Maritime Affairs, I have been audited four or more times by the European Union, the Government of Liberia, they sent one of their Auditors, Wolo, Wilson Tarpeh, VOSCON audited the Bureau while I was there.”
As those looking for reprieve from the U.N. fate lingers, diplomatic sources say, hope for removal for those on the ban lies in the government of Liberia which could make a strong case to the U.N. to remove the figures from the Taylor era looking to move on with their lives from the list.
Diplomatically, five permanent members of the council hold veto power and thus can derail sanctions efforts: China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The sanctions imposed by the council are intended to work toward a peaceful and stable end and exclude military force — the intention is to apply enough pressure to a state to force its hand without resorting to military means.
Responding to a great number of States and humanitarian organizations’ concerns at the possible adverse impact of sanctions on the most vulnerable segments of the population as well as concerns at the negative impact sanctions can have on the economy of third countries, the Security Council decisions have in recent time, have reflected a more refined approach to the design, application and implementation of mandatory sanctions. These refinements have included measures targeted at specific actors, as well as humanitarian exceptions embodied in Security Council resolutions. Targeted sanctions, for instance, can involve the freezing of assets and blocking the financial transactions of political elites or entities whose behavior triggered sanctions in the first place.”
For those on the list, their lives remain in limbo and a state of uncertainty even as they look to put their past ties to Taylor behind. I’ve been on this UN travel ban for three years or more without anyone telling me exactly what I had done except someone telling me that I “allegedly” sent money to Mr. Taylor and that I “allegedly” spoke to Mr. Taylor”, says Edwin Snowe.
Continued Snowe: “I was married to his daughter and if that’s the crime then I will have to live with it because that marriage brought forth a daughter that I love. As a matter of fact I have three kids – two boys and one girl. That’s my only daughter that I love so dearly. So if being in that family, marrying to a daughter of Mr. Taylor then, I don’t know. She’s free. She travels everywhere. Taylor’s daughter is free and the husband is here because she’s remarried, then it’s unfortunate.”
Snowe, in a recent interview with FrontPageAfrica says he hopes that the United Nations in its new direction for world peace and stability will see reason.; “I also believe that the will power of our government is lacking. Our government attacked vigorously the lifting of sanctions on natural resources. Today our government is bringing in weaponry for the police and other security apparatuses including the president’s security which is good for our president’s safety, but we were able to lobby, make representation to the United Nations to ensure that the embargo was partially lifted; we were able to lobby to ensure that the embargo on diamonds and timber was lifted; but yet there has been no public policy of our government to ensure justice for her citizens.”
For Taylor’s former wife, the sanctions that were placed on Liberia were placed for corrective reasons and not punitive. Thus, with peace now secure, it is time for the sanctions to be lifted. “For whatever reasons the diamond sanction were placed were for corrective reasons. They said comply with the Kimberly Process and once there is a process to identify where your diamond come from, if something happens we’ll know where it’s coming from; we’ve complied, they’ve erased that.”
While many of those languishing on the ban remain adamant that their government continues to play a rather passive role on their behalf, the current administration insists that the Liberian government really has no say. Although officials readily admit that the government does not have any vehicle to prosecute. Thus, in the absence of a law to prosecute, observers say those languishing on the U.N Travel and assets freeze are in a very delicate position being treated like global citizens in their own home. Without a trial, critics say, the figures under restrictions continue to cry foul and hope for an end to their economic and political quagmire.
For the former first lady, the only hope for them lies in the government. “There are two ways one can get off the list. Either government makes a representation on behalf of its people as it did for the timber and the diamond sanctions or individually you go and you try. Some of us have tried to do that individually and you get no reply and they don’t tell you what you need to do. So it’s a complicated process. I’m hoping that our government can become more proactive as it was on the issue of relieving sanctions on materials and release the human capital so that all of us can be a part of rebuilding this beautiful nation.”