Cheers, relief in S. Leone as Taylor found guilty
Sierra Leoneans cheered or quietly let the news sink in on Thursday as ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting a terror campaign by rebels during their country’s 11-year civil war.
Victims, leaders and civil society representatives packed the headquarters of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a modern building in the lush, hilly capital, to watch on monitors as the verdict unfolded in a courtroom in the Dutch capital thousands of miles away.
Al Hadji Jusu Jarka, former chairman of the amputees association, watched the nearly two-hour judgement stony-faced, using his prosthetic arms to clasp a handkerchief to wipe his face in the heat.
“I am happy … I feel justice has been done,” he said, after calmly listening to judge Richard Lussick announce Taylor was guilty of arming the rebels who in 1999 hacked off first his left, then his right arm as he was pinned to a mango tree.
“We as victims expect that Taylor will be given 100 years or more in prison,” he added. Sentencing will take place on May 30.
While victims quietly filed out of the courtroom, another hall packed with victims and tribal chiefs from around the country erupted into cheers as they turned to congratulate each other.
“People were so happy,” said PC Kaimpumu, paramount chief for the southern Bonthe district, adding that he was “perfectly pleased.”
The verdict served as a warning to the country that “you can’t just commit crimes without impunity.”
Mohammed Bah, 35, who was forced to become a combatant at aged 24 and also later had his left arm amputated during the war, said he “feels great” over the decision.
However others felt Taylor’s conviction did nothing to change the hardships they had been through.
“You can try Taylor, jail him, but what about us the victims? What will now happen to us?” asked Ken Sesay, who lost his left leg. “Why aren’t we being helped.”