Charles Taylor verdict: ‘He should taste the bitterness of the law’
People in Sierra Leone and Liberia say what the imminent verdict in the ex-president’s war crimes trial will mean
The start of the rainy season in Freetown doesn’t dampen the vibrancy of the city. Blue, pink and green houses line its narrow winding roads. Street sellers wrapped in brightly printed cloth swarm through the neverending traffic. People are trying to move on from the horrors of Sierra Leone’s civil war. Some can even forgive, but very few can forget, the death and devastation of one of the most brutal conflicts in Africa.
“I wasn’t a beggar before. Now I have come to be a beggar. Just to get food for my children, to send them to school,” says Kadiatu Fofana, who lives with a constant reminder of the atrocities committed in the war. She sits outside her concrete shack in a wheelchair, having lost both her legs after an attack by the notorious Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.
They came to her village in 1999. As she ran, they started hacking at her legs with machetes. Both legs had to be amputated in hospital.
Between 1991 and 2002, at least 50,000 people were killed across the country, thousands more were mutilated and 2 million displaced from their homes – close to half the population.
For many, there is one man they hold responsible – Charles Taylor, former president of neighbouring Liberia. The first African head of state to be tried in an international court, Taylor will on Thursday hear the verdict of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in his five-year trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Edward Conteh, another of Sierra Leone’s amputees who lost his left arm just below the elbow to an RUF axe, wants Taylor punished. “He should never be free to breathe the free air that we breathe again. He once told Sierra Leoneans that we are going to taste the bitterness of war, so Charles Taylor should taste the bitterness of the law.”
Pictured: Charles Taylor during his trial at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/AFP/Getty Images