Fleeing Taylor Captured at Cameroon Border

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Former Liberian leader Charles Taylor has been captured trying to enter Cameroon. He had been living in exile in Nigeria, then disappeared Monday after Nigerian authorities agreed to turn him over to a United Nations war crimes tribunal.

ED GORDON, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS AND NOTES. I'm Ed Gordon.

One of Africa's most notorious warlords, former Liberian rebel leader Charles Taylor has been captured trying to enter Cameroon. Taylor has been missing since Monday after Nigerian authorities agreed to turn him over to a war crimes tribunal. The former president had been living in exile in Nigeria since 2003.

NPR's Farai Chideya spoke with NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton for some background.

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

Ofeibea, does Taylor still have loyalists in Liberia who threaten to undermine the country?


Very many Taylor supporters still there. And generally, the last time I was in Liberia, a lot of Liberians said, well, look, Taylor is a Liberian. If he wants to come back, let him come home. We'll forgive him, but he shouldn't meddle in politics, and he shouldn't start another war. But there have been lots of threats by pro-Taylor people saying that if he is handed over to the U.N.-backed special court in Sierra Leone to face war crimes charges, there will be trouble--and that's a great fear for the leaders in this region. Because in the past, Charles Taylor's antics in Liberia and in the region, have destabilized West Africa and no one wants to see a repeat of that.

The wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone were hugely brutal. You had young boys drugged until they were able to kill adults, family members, children in cold blood split women's bellies; raped young girls; cut off lips, arms, ears, feet, legs of civilians, including children. West Africa was deeply shocked by the legacy of Charles Taylor.

CHIDEYA: War crimes and genocide trials often take a slow and winding path. In Rwanda. We saw the death of Slobodan Milosevic in jail in the Hague while awaiting completion of his trial. Do people on the continent of Africa have an expectation that he will face a speedy justice?

QUIST-ARCTON: I think speedy justice is out of the question. But a lot of people, not only in Africa, but in Africa say: enough of impunity. We are fed up with these dictators, military leaders, rebel leaders, warlords--whatever name you want to give them--coming here, ruling us, wrecking our lives, destroying our countries. But a lot of African leaders do not want to set a precedent, those either in power or those now out of power because they feel what about us.

When our record under the spotlight, will we be surrendered to international criminal courts even in the Hague; or Arusha, Tanzania for Rwanda; or in Sierra Leone, Freetown, for the war in Sierra Leone; and they're frightened of that. But the people are saying: enough. These people have harmed Africa, have harmed us, have ruined our continent. They must face the music.

CHIDEYA: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Nigeria. Thank you so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.

GORDON: That was NPR's Farai Chideya.

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