Charles Taylor was the president of Liberia from August of 1997 until August of 2003, when he stepped down amid accusations of war crimes. The son of an Americo-Liberian and a Gola tribe member, Taylor was educated in the United States and earned a degree in economics in 1977 from Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts. As national chairman for the Union of Liberian Associations (ULA), Taylor was a vocal opponent of Liberia's president William Tolbert in the late 1970s, but returned to Liberia in 1980 at Tolbert's request. A few months later Tolbert was murdered in a coup by Samuel K. Doe, and Taylor got a position in Doe's administration directing government purchasing. In May of 1983 Taylor was removed from his post and accused of embezzling nearly a million dollars. He fled to the U.S., where he was arrested in May of 1984 and detained while awaiting extradition. In September of 1985 Taylor escaped from jail and made his way back to Africa, where he spent the next four years building an armed force. In December of 1989 Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) returned to Liberia and joined forces with Prince Johnson to overthrow Doe. Johnson and Taylor had an uneasy alliance, however, and after Johnson took control of Monrovia in 1990 and executed Doe, a civil war ensued.
A peace agreement was reached in 1995-96, and Taylor was elected president in 1997 by a wide margin. During his presidency he battled rebellion from within and criticism from without for his domestic policies and his role in backing violent rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. In June of 2003 a United Nations tribunal indicted Taylor on 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in July U.S. president George W. Bush publicly called for Taylor to resign the presidency. Taylor resigned 11 August 2003 and left Vice President Moses Blah in charge, as Liberia prepared for new elections. Nigeria provided Taylor asylum and refused international calls for his arrest and trial. Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo agreed in 2006 to return Taylor to Liberia. Taylor tried to leave Nigeria, but on 29 March 2006 he was caught trying to cross the border into Cameroon. A few days later, before a war crimes court in Sierra Leone, Taylor was charged with 11 counts of crimes against humanity including murder, enslavement, rape, and the recruitment of child soldiers. His trial, organized by the United Nations and held in The Hague, The Netherlands, began 4 June 2007 and ran for almost six years. Finally, in April of 2012, Charles Taylor was found guilty on all 11 counts. In May of 2012 he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Charles Taylor married the former Jewel Howard in 1997. They had one son, and were divorced in 2006… Charles Taylor is, of course, no relation to Charles “Chuck” Taylor, who created the Converse tennis shoe of that name.
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