Profile: Who is Charles Taylor?

In a historic precedent, former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone.


The verdict was passed by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands.

Taylor was born in 1948 in Liberia and he started his political career as a student activist in university in the United States, heading the Union of Liberian Associations where he protested against then Liberian president William Tolbert.

He was convinced by Tolbert in 1980 to return to Liberia and serve in his government. Soon after Tolbert was murdered in a military coup led by army sergeant Samuel K. Doe, Taylor stayed on but was eventually ousted after accusations of embezzlement.

He then spent several years in exile back in the US and a stint in Libya where it is alleged that he received military training under Muammar Gaddafi.

In 1989, he launched his military rebellion for the presidency leading the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) who later became instrumental in causing a long-lasting and gruesome civil war leading to the death of nearly 300,000 lives.

Crossing the border in neighbouring Sierra Leone in 1991, Taylor financially aided the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) comprised of disgruntled Sierra Leonean fighters and Liberian nationals and the NPFL unleashing a civil war marked by notorious cases of limbs being slashed, disappearances, targeted rapes, child soldiers and arms smuggling.

Taylor, 64, was only elected to become Liberia’s president amongst corrupt conditions in 1997 and fled again in 2003 this time to Nigeria after an arrest warrant was issued by the International Criminal Court’s Sierra Leone tribunal.

Captured in early 2006, the war crimes trial in The Hague has been eventful, with the appearance of celebrities such as British supermodel Naomi Campbell and American actress Mia Farrow, who were linked to ‘conflict diamonds’ which Taylor allegdely traded for weapons to support the RUF rebels.

The ruling in The Hague is historic as this is the first time a head of state has been convicted since the Nuremberg trials in 1945. Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo is also facing trial at The Hague.

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