West Africa: Talk of Taylor’s Return Sparks Sharp Responses From U.S. Congressmen- October 20, 2011

Washington, DC — Two influential members of the U.S. Congress have warned that a return to Liberia by former president Charles Taylor would have far-reaching consequences and seriously undermine bilateral relations.
One suggested he would support cutting U.S. aid if Taylor was allowed back into political life in Liberia.

Republican Ed Royce from California, who chairs the House Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade Subcommittee, and Democrat Jesse Jackson, Jr. from Illinois – both long-time supporters of Liberia – reacted to comments by presidential contender Winston Tubman saying Taylor would be free to come home if he is acquitted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone where he is now facing war crimes charges.
Jackson’s reaction was similar. “The return of a war criminal, especially to a role in government,” Jackson said in a statement also released on Tuesday, “has the potential to completely reverse the progress Liberia has made to recover from civil war.

The stakes for Liberia are high. According to the State Department, the United States has contributed more than $1 billion in foreign assistance to Liberia since the end of the civil war in 2003 and another $1 billion to support the United Nations Mission in Liberia. For the fiscal year that ended on September 30, U.S. assistance to Liberia totaled nearly $230 million.

At least as important is the backing Liberia receives from the U.S. military through Africom – the Africa Command. This includes mentoring and training to rebuild Liberia’s national army, logistical support for the emergency response unit of the Liberia National Police and assistance with reactivation of Liberia’s Coast Guard.