The Howard- Charles Ties, what it meant for Weah’s win…
Former soccer star, George Weah may have emerged as Liberia’s president-elect but the real winner seems to be the Liberian ex-warlord, Charles Taylor.
Taylor is currently serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a prison in the British city of Durham. Many believe he was a key player in Weah’s victory. Having his wife, Howard-Taylor, as Weah’s running mate was all that was needed to keep Weah on the winning track. Though locked up in a UK prison, Charles Taylor’s influence in Liberia cannot be over-emphasized.
“If he was to come back today, I’d roll out the red carpet,” said Justin Luther Cassell, a 32-year-old man sitting outside the Pray for Peace Business Centre in Gbartala, central Liberia.
Gathered round on plastic chairs, drinking beer and discussing the forthcoming Liberian elections, the men here are clearly frustrated.
The former military base may be crumbling, with buildings almost completely engulfed by the jungle, but Taylor’s name is still as strong as ever in Bong County.
More than five years since the former president was sentenced for war crimes committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone, people in his heartland are still harking back to the old days.
Howard’s Political Strides
Liberian presidential candidate George Weah’s running mate Jewel Howard-Taylor began life in politics as the first lady to former warlord leader Charles Taylor, but has since established a formidable political reputation in her own right.
Howard-Taylor was a surprise pick for vice-president on the ticket of the footballer turned politician, as many expected her to run for the top job herself.
Her National Patriotic Party (NPP) was formed in 1997 by members of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) — Charles Taylor’s rebel fighters — to allow him to run for president in hopes of ending a civil war that began in 1989. She married Liberia’s most powerful warlord just before he was elected in 1997 by a population weary of conflict, and was granted a divorce in 2006, while Taylor was living in exile in Nigeria with another woman.
Her NPP party agreed to form a coalition with George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in 2017, on the condition Howard-Taylor could run as vice-president.
Howard may be divorced from Charles but she is still being seen as his political offshoot and that defines the huge support she enjoys from the ex-warlord’s loyalists in Liberia. Analysts think Weah’s victory became easier after he picked Howard as his running mate. This, they say, is not unconnected with Howard-Charles ties.
No matter what she does to distance herself, Howard-Taylor’s proximity to Taylor remains a talking point, and in a nation where the ex-president is still revered by many, her presence has seemed to have been an asset for Weah.