Is asylum for saints or devils?
Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
So much has been said and written about Nigeria’s grant of asylum to the former president of Liberia Charles Taylor, who is now exiled in Nigeria; this writer previously contributed to the debate, twice in articles titled, “Political Solutions And Compromises As Alternative Strategy To Resolving African Crises” and also, “Asylum For Charles Taylor In Nigeria, American Arrogance”
Twice, I have argued that Mr. Taylor is not a saint, but that the peculiar circumstances of the ceaseless crises in Liberia, that warranted a bold and radical solution, different from all others, which had been tried unsuccessfully in that West African Country. Recently, It appeared that, some in America wanted to offer a bounty of about two million dollars for the “arrest” which should be read as, for the kidnap and abduction of Mr. Taylor, who is currently enjoying a properly and legitimately granted asylum, in Nigeria.Now, Mr. Taylor has been visited with more heat! The International Police Organization or Interpol has issued a warrant for his arrest, thereby giving more bite to the demand of the international court/tribunal, UN backed, sitting in Sierra Leone, through this so-called "Red Notice".
It must be recalled, that a plan agreed by African nations to resolve conflict in Liberia, and agreed to by the international community and diplomats who said his departure was vital to end years of violence, It is gladdens the heart to know that Nigeria has remain consistent and steadfast on Taylor as an asylee, because, according to the Nigerian government, "This is not an Interpol affair. The issue of Taylor is a political issue. President Obasanjo consulted very widely with the U.N. and other international agencies on the need to stop the bloodshed in Liberia before he took the decision on Taylor. "We remain committed to keeping Taylor here on his own volition," the president's spokeswoman said.
Two issues, has therefore been raised, and I must ask those opposed to Mr. Taylor’s asylum in Nigeria, some questions! What is the definition of asylum? Who qualifies for asylum? Who defines the integrity of asylum granted by Nigeria?
Additional issues, are, who are those behind the pressure being mounted on the Taylor issue? Why is there a double standard in the Taylor case, compared with others in similar cases, such as the former Ian Smith of the then Rhodesia? Pietha Botha of apartheid-era South Africa? How come De Klerk is not facing any trials?
Thousands of Zimbabweans, thousands of Angolans, thousands of South Africans, thousands of Namibians were killed in the liberation struggles, undertaken to free these African Countries of white discriminatory rules and brutalities, how come none of the white “leaders” are not being punished for their crimes against humanity? Because these white “leaders” were champions of oppression, degradation, dehumanization, segregation and death, that was visited on the majorities of the black African populations in Southern Africa.
There must be coherence and consistency, in this pursuit of justice or vendetta against Taylor and those who committed crimes against humanity! If Taylor? Why not De Klerk? If Taylor, why not Ariel Sharon for Sabra and Shatilla Refugees Camps? If Taylor, why not Pieta Botha for Soweto? Or for the brutal killing of Steve Biko? There are indeed, many others in the, apart from Taylor, who are clearly undeserving of asylum and or any form of peace and quiet, they are in Africa and everywhere else!
Where is our forgiveness and belief in God? How come "good" Christians are the ones vindictively pursuing Taylor for vengeance?
It is public knowledge, that the Jews worldwide have pursued, and continue to pursue, those who were engaged in the acts of oppression and death directed at the Jews before 1945 in Hitler’s Germany, anyone directly, indirectly or even remotely connected to the Holocaust, is caught and punished with death sentence, or prison terms etc, some these perpetrators, who became American citizens after the war in 1945 and have lived in the US for more than fifty years, are promptly stripped of their US citizenship and deported to Israel for trial, like the infamous Demjanjuk etc.
Are the Africans victims of death, destruction, brutalities and dehumanization, visited on them, in their homeland, by white minority regimes about to be told, that the plight and the predicaments that the Africans suffered, less than ten years ago, is more ancient than the plight of the Jews in 1945? The Jews are making the world pay attention, pay reparations, and atone for the Holocaust, how about the Africans? A life is a life, is a life! Or what are the parameters?
Mr. Taylor is no angel or saint, angels and saints do not seek asylums anyways! Hence the current Pope is not seeking asylum in Nigeria or anywhere else! Asylum granted by one country ought to be respected, as in this case, Nigeria, especially, given the attenuating circumstances, that was required for peace to take-hold and the peculiar circumstances that had existed in Liberia, the asylum to Taylor, ought be allowed to stand, without all these hindsight second-guessing and double-speaks.
The whole concept of offer and acceptance of asylum, will be subjected to some slippery slope effect, depending on what happens or transpires in the Taylor case, if and when asylums are granted, it were to become suddenly tenuous or questionable, because some persons exact pressures? Why will anyone else accept asylum offers, as a dispute resolution instrument, knowing that their asylum is subject to revocation, as soon as some powerful country or interest groups mount pressures on the asylum-granting country?
Asylum is like a parole or in this instance, a sort of plea-bargain or nolle prosequi, in these cases, just like asylum, it is usually not being argued that the offenses were never committed or that the offences were not egregious, but instead, it is a recognition, that an alternative resolution or solution must be reached, usually, for public interest or for the interest of the majority and in the Taylor case, it was to ease him out of power, in order to resolve the intractable Liberian crises, and therefore possibly end, the death and destruction, that went on, unabated for decades, in Liberia. It was a ticket out of deadlocked and stalemated peace-talks, as it then was; What has changed all that?
I would personally not invite Mr. Taylor to dinner or even offer him coffee, as he is not an epitome fairness or justice, but the issues of his asylum, which arose from his checkered past, must be resolved in the interest of peace and stability in Liberia, in fact, it must be resolved in his favor, just so, fairness and justice is not defined, by all, or by the world, that is currently beclouded by anger, in a new and selective way, because everyone, including me, and the entire world is very angry at Mr. Taylor, for his atrocious past.
Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and Information Technology Professional.