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Taylor guilty: Liberians have mixed emotions about verdict

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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.

“I fail to imagine why anyone would want to see their president found guilty – it saddens me to know that there are people out there who are taking pleasure in this,” Mr. Wesseh said. “[He] should be living here happily and freely with us just as others, who perpetrated mayhem and other serious crimes, are living with us today on the basis of reconciliation, people are taking pleasure in seeing one individual being nailed, that is my sadness.”

This is a common sentiment expressed in Liberia, a country in which many of those who were deeply involved in Liberia’s own 14-year civil war now hold senior positions in government. Liberia’s civil war killed an estimated 250,000 people and left the nation's infrastructure in tatters and Liberians with traumatic memories of rape, torture, and humiliation at the hands of armed factions.

Charles Wreh, a 24-year-old seller of mobile phone scratch cards outside ministry of education building in downtown Monrovia, does not accept the dark picture painted of Taylor in the verdict.

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