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Taylor guilty: Liberians have mixed emotions about verdict

Some Liberians voice outrage at the guilty verdict of former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the war crimes court; others, who lost family members, say it's justice.

By Clair MacDougallCorrespondent / April 27, 2012

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor looks down as he waits for the start of a hearing to deliver verdict in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, April 26, 2012.

Peter Dejong/AP

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Monrovia, Liberia

Liberians in the capital of Monrovia expressed sorrow and anger over Thursday's war crimes conviction of their former president Charles Taylor, who is still considered by many Liberians to be a hero. 

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The Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague found Mr. Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting crimes including murder, terrorism, rape, sexual slavery, and mutilations committed by rebel forces during Sierra Leone's civil war. The 11-year conflict, which ended in 2002, killed more than 50,000, and left many traumatized and maimed. 

While Sierra Leoneans are expressing relief, the verdict was not widely welcomed in next-door Liberia. Taylor was also a central figure in Liberia's own – even deadlier – civil war but the country has not pushed for war crimes prosecutions and remained defensive on the subject of Taylor. International human rights advocates say that the victory in the Hague needs to be followed up in places like Liberia where an atmosphere of impunity lingers. 

“Taylor's conviction shows that even those at the highest levels of power can be held to account for the worst crimes,” says Elise Keppler, senior counsel for the International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch. “Liberia has yet to initiate prosecutions for heinous crimes committed there, including under Taylor's presidency. Liberia should follow Sierra Leone's example so that Liberian victims can also see justice done.”

In downtown Monrovia men gathered at atai shops – the everyman’s political saloons where men meet to drink tea, eat cooked meat, and discuss politics – people sat, listening to their radios intently listening to the judgment.

Alfred Momo Kandakar Kromah, 40, a self-labeled political activist and ex-Taylor fighter stood outside a well-known atai shop: “The most God-fearing president is the Messiah Taylor. The Messiah Taylor will be in Liberia on the 30th of April,” he predicted, followed by the statement, “Ellen is Evil,” referring to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who had Taylor extradited from Nigeria to Liberia and then on to Sierra Leone where he had initially been held before he was transferred to the Hague.

In the Center for Excellence of Intellectual Ideas, an atai society, Secretary General Franklin Kasseh Wesseh, expressed his dismay when it started to become clear the verdict would be guilty.

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