What You’re Not Being Told About Liberia and Charles Taylor

Aug 17th, 2010

Del Walters Says it’s about More than Diamonds

Charles Taylor at trial {Sierra Eye}
Charles Taylor at trial {Sierra Eye}


Look for the question. What question? In the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, I am waiting for someone to ask the question that thousands of Liberians have been waiting to be asked. How did Taylor wind up in Liberia to terrorize the country in the first place?

To understand my background on this matter, I produced a documentary entitled “Apocalypse Africa: Made in America” that chronicled Liberia and its bloody civil war that left thousands dead and millions displaced. Much has been written about the blood diamonds that were used to fuel the war and the child soldiers high on cassava leaves who fought it. Children, 10, 11 and 12 were turned into ruthless killing machines by men like Charles Taylor and others like him across the African continent. My film, and others, contend that it doesn’t add up.

Here what doesn’t make sense. Most of those who led the revolts in Africa were either buffoons or least likely to succeed anywhere, let alone become President of an African country. Before it all began Charles Taylor was in prison, but this wasn’t just any ordinary jail. Charles Taylor was in prison in the U.S., specifically Massachusetts, in 1985.

To understand Charles Taylor’s rise to power you have to understand the CIA’s role in Africa. Much has been written about the subject from former CIA Station Chiefs to foot soldiers on the ground. In “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” author John Perkins speaks firsthand about how his work as a consultant was just a front to force developing governments, many of them in Africa, to accept huge foreign debt. Once that was accomplished, Perkins wrote, the other guys moved in. He was referring to the CIA.

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In my film, Roger Morris, the former head of the African Division during the Nixon years, told me the U.S. was responsible for most of the coups that took place in Africa right up to and including the first years of the last decade. Morris is white, Harvard educated and more than familiar with America’s dirty hands in Africa and around the globe. So is former TransAfrica head Randall Robinson. Like Morris, Robinson blamed the U.S. for much of the destabilization we still see on the African continent.

US freed Taylor to overthrow Doe, Liberia’s TRC hears; US also uses Taylor to depose Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara

After returning to Africa Taylor, who is currently on trial for war crimes before the United Nations-backed Special Court of Sierra Leone in The Hague, went to Burkina Faso to get training for his rebels but was roped in to overthrow then-president Thomas Sankara in 1987, Johnson said.

“When we got there [Burkina Faso] we were told that we were going to be arrested if we did not comply to remove Thomas Sankara from office because he was not in favour of our plan. We were asked to join a special group of Burkinabe soldiers to overthrow Sankara. That was how Thomas Sankara was removed,” Johnson said.

Sankara, who ruled Burkina Faso from 1983 until his assassination during the coup in 1987, was replaced by Burkina Faso’s current President Blaise Compaore, who was reportedly involved in arming Taylor during the 1990s. — AFP [Mail Guardian]

Enter Charles Taylor.

Samuel Doe was the U.S. backed Liberian president before Taylor fell from grace. Keep in mind, he fell from grace after receiving $500 million in U.S. aid from the Reagan administration even though he had less than an eighth grade education. Reagan was so unfamiliar with Doe that during a visit, he referred to him as “President Moe.” No one pointed out that the man Reagan invited to the White House executed the former heads of state on the shores of the Atlantic, including three men who attended Howard University just up the road from the White House. Is Perkins’ story starting to sound familiar? Small wonder Doe failed. That opened the door for Charles Taylor – and what a door it was.


Somehow Charles Taylor and three others managed to escape from a prison in New England and evade capture, only to surface in Africa. Last time I checked black men don’t usually escape from any jail and avoid capture for long. That deserves a reality show. Can someone explain how Charles Taylor could have been that much smarter than the average convict? Then, he not only managed to avoid capture, he got out of the country — you know, passport, airport security, another set of airport security, car, driver, etc. Talk about your Jack Bauer of 24 fame.

Charles Taylor wound up in Africa where he believes he successfully did the CIA’s dirty work. Don’t take my word for it, take his. In his own words Taylor said his prison cell at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts was unlocked by a prison guard before his 1985 escape. He said he was “escorted” by the same guard to the minimum security area. From there, he told the court he climbed out of a window by tying a sheet to the window where a car and driver awaited.

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Taylor escaped days before his friend Thomas Quiwonkpa tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Samuel Doe in November of 1985. He told those trying him, that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was working with, and arming, Quiwonkpa to overthrow the Doe government in the months leading up to the coup attempt. To cut to the chase, Doe was overthrown and Taylor became Liberia’s President. The rest is the history we already know. Liberia’s streets became killing fields and the streets of Monrovia, the city named after an American president, flowed red.

All the media has reported is that Taylor gave blood diamonds to a model. Seems someone is missing the boat.

Don’t get me wrong, Taylor deserves to hang for what he did to Liberia. The problem is, the trail of killing extends far beyond Liberia’s borders. It goes back to 1985 and Taylor’s daring prison escape in the U.S., one that doesn’t hold up in the light of day. To believe that Charles Taylor acted alone is to believe that a black man could escape from Prison in Massachusetts, wind up in Africa, engineer a coup, arm an army, and become president and no one from the U.S. came looking for him.

If that seems unlikely just ask Manuel Noriega. Who?

How quickly we forget.


Taylor supported the 12 April 1980 coup led by Samuel Kanyon Doe, which saw the murder of Tolbert and seizure of power by Doe. Taylor was appointed to a high position in Doe’s government in the General Services Agency of Liberia, a position that left him in charge of purchasing for the Liberian government. However, he was sacked in May 1983 for embezzling almost $1,000,000 and sending the funds to an American bank account.

Taylor fled to the United States but was arrested on 24 May 1984 by two US Deputy Marshals in Somerville, Massachusetts on a warrant for extradition to face charges of embezzling $922,000 of government funds intended for machinery parts. Citing a fear of assassination by Liberian agents, Taylor sought to fight extradition from the safety of jail with the help of his attorney, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. He was detained in a House of Corrections in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

On 15 September 1985, Taylor and four other inmates allegedly escaped from the Plymouth facility, a maximum security prison, by sawing through a bar covering a window in an unused laundry room. After dropping 12 feet to the ground by means of a knotted sheet, the five inmates climbed a fence. Shortly thereafter, Taylor and two other escapees were met at nearby Jordan Hospital by Taylor’s wife, Enid, and Taylor’s sister-in-law, Lucia Holmes Toweh. A getaway car was driven to Staten Island, where Taylor then disappeared. All four of Taylor’s fellow escapees, as well as Enif and Toweh, were later apprehended. In 2008, Prince Johnson, a Liberian senator and former associate of Taylor, claimed before the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on 27 August 2008 that the United States released Taylor from jail in 1985 to engineer the overthrow of the Doe regime. This charge was later repeated by Taylor himself during his testimony at his trial in The Hague. [Wikipedia] [Mail Guardian]