Ansu Konneh: Let us leave that voice in the past

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The Independent Online

All over the Liberian capital yesterday, people were straining to hear a voice they had not heard in more than three years. They ignored the black clouds threatening a deluge and congregated on Monrovia's street corners around communal radios; they asked taxi drivers to retune the station. Then came that calm tone, the familiar stresses on certain words. Charles Taylor was a world away in a European courtroom, but he was still speaking as if he were the president of my country.

His testimony is a milestone for justice in Africa, proof that even leaders have to justify their actions, that there is no impunity. But reactions in Liberia were mixed when it came to seeing their former leader on the stand. Yes the country suffered terribly between Mr Taylor launching his Christmas Eve rebellion in 1989 and going into exile 14 years later, but many people want to move on with their lives and stop looking back to the dark days. There is little appetite to see him prosecuted for the crimes he committed at home once the Sierra Leone trial is over, even though Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended it.

In the three years since Mr Taylor made his brief stopover here after being arrested in Nigeria and before being transferred into the custody of the Sierra Leone court, Liberia has made slow but perceptible progress. Houses have been reconstructed, roads have been improved. Street lighting and many public buildings now run off mains electricity, although most homes still rely on generators.

But challenges remain. The enterprising youngsters printing off reports of the Taylor trial from the internet and selling them for a few cents need proper long-term jobs if this new fragile stability is to take root. It is they who should be the focus, not the voice of an old man seeping out of the radio.

The writer is a Liberian journalist who is based in Monrovia