By Omari Jackson
He sat there waiting for it. No, he had long known that it would come to this. And now Ghankay’s eyes lowered below his chest, unconcerned, as the verdict was read to a roomful of spectators.
“The court,” the judge said, “finds you guilty of aiding and abetting the tragedy in Sierra Leone.” That was the conclusion, and he felt insulted about it.
The judge went on: “In a few days time from now, you’ll be sentenced to serve your time, and may God’s kindness descent on your soul.”
Looking suddenly aged, Ghankay Taylor could not hide his emotions, but he would not give in to them.
“It will give them a chance to deride me,” was his thought.
So it happened that after six years of back and forth trial, the misfortunes of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor came to an end.
Ghankay bowed his head and what appeared like painful smile came across his face. Was he surprised at what had happened to him? Did he not inform the court, when the trial was in the second year, that he would not have justice? Now that the result of his being guilty had been pronounced, what was the difference he had expected?
Now they would throw him into the slammer, and maybe forget about him, leaving him to rot and die like the others.
Ghankay’s heartbeat increased as his mind centered on those unfortunate ones that had gone before him.
Saddam Hussein of Iraq, he read the report was hunted down and hang like a dog in his own country.
Muamar Gaddafi, who had then transformed his country to work against violent groups, was also brought down and his body dismembered in his home in Libya: both Hussein and Gaddafi’s children becoming victims in the course of their tragedies.
Then tears filled his eyes, for he was aware of the tragic end of his son, Chucky, who was also hunted down and now residing in a prison somewhere in the United States.
For 99 years, he heard when he was still being mortgaged to be packaged into prison, as they had done.
Though his chances of freedom he had known was long gone, he could not fail to laugh when he heard that his guilty verdict would serve as a strong message against such behavior in the future.
“What behavior?” he had asked in his own defense, at the prosecutor, “is there any of the witnesses who could tell if they saw me doing those falsehoods they claimed I was responsible?” Like a defense counsel, Ghankay had moved back and forth, his eyes directly at the judge.
The roomful of spectators remained silent.
His defense, seated at the far corner in the room, waited for a response. Ghankay told them he was a president of a sovereign nation.
“We declared independence when much of Africa was still under the yoke of colonialism,” he said, “and we spearheaded the formation of the OAU.”
The room was silent.
“After over one hundred years,” he said, walking back and forth, “our country was,” his voice broke; choked with emotion, “Liberia was like a village and my people were torn asunder by a despot,” that part was drowned by the judge’s banging gavel.
Referring to what he described as pack of lies, Ghankay said, “My downfall is the end of Africa’s right to choose or die.” Lifting his right hand, he mobbed his face with a white handkerchief, and resumed his summation of what he considered as the plot by evil men against him.
“Today,” he said in sadness, “I’m a doomed man of no consequence, and like the Christ I am being sacrificed for my people, but at the whim of my enemies.” Ghankay’s eyes were red in color, and not wanting to give the impression that the tragic consequence of his struggle to reclaim Liberia from the throes of a madman, is something he would regret, he swiftly turned around, and pointing at the judge, said, “This is the end.”
With dramatic effect, Ghankay folded his hands behind his back, and marched across to the defense table and with a remarkable dexterity, lifted and shuffled a number of papers.
Across from him, directly to the right of the prosecution’s table, sat relatives and friends who had traveled from Liberia and the United States to give him moral support.
He wanted to look them in the face and encourage them, but the time was different, as he was being prepared for his doom.
Ghankay remembered back in Africa, in particular in Liberia when it became necessary that he resigned his post as the legitimate president of Liberia where he proceeded into exile in Nigeria, he told his countrymen:
“I’m not leaving because I’m afraid to fight,” he said, “I’m leaving so that the killings will end, so that you will live.”
Those words presently came to his assistance, and began to haunt him.
“I’m being sacrificed,” Ghankay said, “I’m like a lamb for the slaughter.”
That day, more than six years ago, he had watched as many Liberians wept for him, and it was then that he realized how his people loved him.
Though he had indicated at the time: “One day,” he said, amid thunderous cheers, “I’ll be back,” that prophecy would not be fulfilled. In the end, Ghankay could not bring himself to believe that the world had been overshadowed by evil men, who had no delight for the plight of the suffering.
Presently, as the bailiff told him to go and not look back, he could feel perspiration forming on his forehead. There was so much a man could take. All he had done was leading a revolution to remove a despot, but now he was being sent to his doom for another’s crime.
“Where is justice,” he said, eyes lowered below his chest.
He did not deny his relations with Foday Sankoh and his marauding soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front, but that he aided and abetted their actions, was far from the truth.
As Ghankay walked to his doom, he could not imagine a world where individuals had no choices for their nations and people’s sake. He had fought a good fight, and whether his fight caused thousands to die, the world had indicated they did not care. He could be satisfied if he were being judged for his actions in his native Liberia, but now he knew the world did not care about those whose lives wasted on the Liberian theatre.
Remembering his parting words to the Americans the day he set out for his Nigerian asylum, Ghankay repeated it to himself: “They should call off their dogs,” now that he was being thrown in the slammer.
He knew he would soon be forgotten, and lost to oblivion. And that was the part, like a cancerous tumor, defeated his resolve to remain optimistic.