Ostriches and Automatic Weapons

The news that former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted by a tribunal at The Hague on Thursday, April 26, on 11 counts of planning, aiding, and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone is undoubtedly a victory for international law and hopefully some solace for his victims in two long-suffering African countries. But I also find myself thinking back to an afternoon 10 years ago, a memory featuring a crumbling mansion, a lawn filled with ostriches, and some of the most anxious men I’ve ever encountered.

In July 2002, I was working for the International Crisis Group, researching the ongoing conflict in Liberia. A colleague and I were aware we had been under close scrutiny from Taylor’s government as we conducted our research over the course of two weeks in the country; there was little that went on in the capital, Monrovia, without Taylor’s knowledge. Tensions were high as a rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, was gaining steam in the countryside and pushing toward the capital. Staying in the only lodging that served expats throughout the war, the Mamba Point Hotel, we were frankly relieved that our research was nearly completed, and we were ready to depart for neighboring Sierra Leone.

This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.