Amputees in Sierra Leone rejoice at Taylor sentencing

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Amputees still struggling to lead normal lives years after being mutilated by rebels in Sierra Leone hailed the decision at The Hague on Wednesday to sentence the man who backed those rebels, ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, to 50 years in prison.

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Amputees still struggling to lead normal lives years after being mutilated by rebels in Sierra Leone hailed the decision at The Hague on Wednesday to sentence the man who backed those rebels, ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, to 50 years in prison.

In a landmark ruling by the Special Court on Sierra Leone last month, Taylor became the first former head of state since the aftermath of World War II to be convicted. The 64-year-old Taylor was found guilty on 11 counts of aiding and abetting the Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone, who murdered and mutilated tens of thousands of people during this country’s 11-year brutal civil war which ended in 2002.

People maimed in the war gathered in the Sierra Leonean capital Wednesday to watch the proceedings of the Taylor trial via a live feed from The Hague, and rejoiced when judges in The Netherlands announced the 50-year sentence.

“That makes me the happiest person on earth,” said Alimami Kanu, whose right hand was hacked off by the RUF when he was 11 years old.

Siah Lebby, whose left leg was butchered by the rebels, said the tough sentence sends a strong signal. “After they have seen, they have seen what happened, all the people who want to do bad things again will be afraid.”

But even the toughest sentence cannot take away the deformities that people are now forced to live with, or their suffering. Over the weekend in the town of Makeni, three women whose arms were amputated by the rebels called for Taylor to be given no leniency. The town located 140 kilometres (90 miles) northeast of Freetown was once the base of the RUF rebel forces operating under Taylor.

“He has done bad things to us,” said 22-year-old amputee Sento Thoronka of Taylor, as she attempted to cut weeds this weekend using only her right arm. Her left arm was hacked off. “There is nothing someone can say to me that will ever make me forget what he did, because when I look at myself I look odd. I’ll never feel fine about that,” she said.

Taylor is an ex-warlord whose rebel forces invaded Liberia in 1989, marking the start of that country’s vicious civil war. He eventually ran and was elected president, before being forced out by another rebel group. In Liberia, which shares a border with Sierra Leone, the irony has always been that Taylor is being tried for crimes he aided and abetted, rather than the ones that he is accused of directly carrying out in his own country.

In the Liberian capital of Monrovia, Suzanah Vaye watched the proceedings and hailed the sentence. Her husband was killed during the last days of Taylor’s government in 2003. He was last seen in the hands of the ex-president’s security force.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that justice in one place is justice everywhere,” said Vaye. “Had Taylor not been so cruel to his own people here, he would not have taken it elsewhere. Today, I join Sierra Leoneans in saying this should be a lesson to people that God has his own way of bringing judgment … Let this be a lesson to leaders that no one is bigger than God.”

Still, Taylor also remains popular in Liberia among his former supporters, and among his extended family.

“The sentence is outrageous,” said Arthur Saye, Taylor’s brother-in-law, in Monrovia. “How can you give a man fifty years for only aiding and abetting.”

———

Associated Press writer Jonathan Paye-Layleh contributed to this report from Monrovia, Liberia.

Just Posted

Alberta premier unhappy with Suzuki honorary degree but defends academic freedom

EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley says she does not agree with the… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake wants to create year-round tourist season

Public open house and workshops held May 10-12

Historical bylaws show a different Lacombe

Staff combed through records to find hundreds of outdated bylaws still on the books

Gravel companies facing fee increase

Red Deer County considering raising levy charged to gravel companies for road repairs

Excessive dog poop on Blackfalds ball diamonds frustrates town

Melting snow in Blackfalds uncovered ball diamonds full of dog poop, frustrating… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer students get active, healthy

Healthy Active Schools Symposium takes place in schools

Poll: Advocate readers support Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Red Deer Advocate readers want the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion to be… Continue reading

Celebrate all women this Mother’s Day in Central Alberta

A breakfast fundraiser is scheduled May 12 in Lacombe

Photo: Poplar Ridge Grade 6 class learn about newspapers

Red Deer Advocate editor Crystal Rhyno visited the school on Wednesday

‘The Heat’ doc examines gender barriers for top female chefs

TORONTO — In making a documentary about top female chefs, Toronto filmmaker… Continue reading

Hank Azaria willing to stop voicing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’

NEW YORK — Hank Azaria is ready to stop voicing Kwik-E-Mart owner… Continue reading

US stocks mostly fall in wobbly trading as costs, rates rise

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks are wobbling and trading mostly lower Wednesday… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month