The former president of Liberia was sentenced to 50 years in prison for supporting rebels in a campaign of terror that involved murder, rape, and the extensive use of child soldiers.
The prosecution of Charles Taylor for war crimes has been welcomed by both ex-combatants and their victims in the long-running war Taylor supported, says Jennifer Harold, World Vision’s national director for Sierra Leone.
This week, the former president of Liberia was sentenced to 50 years in prison, by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague, for supporting rebels in a campaign of terror that involved murder, rape, cutting off limbs, and the extensive use of child soldiers.
Jennifer says that the trial had raised concerns that it would provoke a backlash against ex-combatants by those who suffered at their hands, but so far this has not materialized.
She says many ex-combatants feel that they, too, were victims of the war through losing members of their own families, being forced to commit brutal acts against their will, having their children serve as soldiers, and becoming addicted to a drug cocktail of cocaine and gunpowder.
She says instead of provoking fresh violence, the reaction to Taylor’s conviction has been subdued. “People don’t want to think about it, because it’s too painful. They want to get on with their lives,” Jennifer says.
Nevertheless, she says the conviction of such a senior figure, even years after the atrocities, sends an important message in a region where wrongdoers often feel they can act with impunity.
“The fact that he was tried, found guilty, and will go to prison sends a message: It may not be today or tomorrow, but eventually your sins will find you out,” she says.
Although today people in Sierra Leone often exhibit a friendly and easy-going manner, Jennifer suspects many suffer from post-traumatic stress related to their war experiences, which can provoke sudden and irrational violent outbursts.
Such phenomena provide further incentive to continue World Vision’s efforts to help build a more prosperous and peaceful Sierra Leone, says Jennifer.
Sierra Leone’s civil war lasted from 1991 to 2002, displacing an estimated 2 million people and claiming at least 50,000 lives. The court found that Taylor used his position as president of a neighboring country to support Revolutionary United Front rebels to further acts of bloodshed and mayhem.
Pray for the people of Sierra Leone who continue to recover from the horrific events of the civil war, and pray that the sentencing of Charles Taylor will help them bring some closure to the dark chapter in this country’s history.
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