Press Releases

Cohen: US Had Understanding With Taylor To Take Power

St. Paul, Minnesota, June 12, 2008 (TRC): Former United States under secretary for African Affairs, Herman J. Cohen says the US had an understanding with defunct NPFL rebel leader Charles Taylor to take power following the evacuation of President Samuel K. Doe.

Cohen said due to the huge human sufferings in the Liberian capitol, Monrovia in 1990 the US initiated discussions with Doe through its Ambassador for the president to be evacuated.

The understanding, Ambassador Cohen said was that once Doe left the country, Taylor will move into the capitol and install his government.

Mr. Cohen, under secretary of state from 1989-1993 and earlier director of African Affairs from 1987-1989 was testifying Thursday at ongoing Public Hearings of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the "Role of the United States in the Liberian Conflict," at Hamlin University, St. Paul, Minnesota.

"Due to the immense human sufferings at that time we initiated discussions with Doe about leaving through our Ambassador in Monrovia. We would provide the transportation and the understanding with Taylor was that he will take power as soon as Doe departed.

After the plan was accepted by President Doe, Mr. Cohen said, he called President Gnyasingbe Enyeadema of Togo who agreed to provide asylum for the embattled president.

Cohen said following President Enyeadema's consent, he called Taylor on a satellite phone to open corridors for troops loyal to President Doe to allow then escape through the Liberian-Sierra Leonean frontier. But the plan, he said, was "messed up" when defunct INPFL leader Prince Johnson seized control of Bushrod Island and blocked the corridor.

Meanwhile, the aging US diplomat said when the U.S. was set to sent an aircraft to carry on the evacuation, he received a directive from Washington to seize all engagements to end the Liberian conflict. Ambassador Cohen clarified however that no further explanations were provided by Washington on the new policy.

At that point, he said responsibilities to intervene in the Liberian crisis were passed on to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

One and a half million of Liberia's citizens fled the country during the 27-year conflict, many of whom settled in the United States. The hearings here in Minnesota mark the first time in history that any truth commission has ever systematically sought to include its Diaspora citizens into the process of national healing.
Each day of the hearings, the commission will hear testimony from Liberians who fled to the United States, focusing on their experiences during the civil war, in flight, in refugee camps, and as they established new lives here.
The Advocates for Human Rights, based in Minneapolis, is assisting with coordination and implementation of the hearings.
The Advocates for Human Rights was founded in 1983 by a group of Minnesota lawyers who recognized the community's unique spirit of social justice as an opportunity to promote and protect human rights in the United States and around the world. The mission of The Advocates for Human Rights is to implement international human rights standards to promote civil society and
reinforce the rule of law.

The organization has produced more than 50 reports documenting human rights practices in more than 25 countries; educated over 10,000 students and community members on human rights issues; provided legal representation and assistance to over 3,000 disadvantaged individuals and families and works with partners overseas and in the United States to restore and protect human rights. The Advocates for Human Rights holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.

The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

Cclic This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This had been the official website of the Liberian TRC. The Commission ended operation
in 2010. This website is maintained by the Georgia Institute of Technology.