We petitioned Nigeria's Federal High Court last May to review the decision of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to grant refugee status to former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is a fugitive from war crimes charges brought by a United Nations-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone. We are two of Taylor's many victims.
Seven years ago, we were young Nigerian businessmen trading in electronic hardware and medical equipment on Africa's West coast. We procured our supplies in Nigeria and exported them to Liberia and Sierra Leone. In the summer of 1997, David was in Monrovia when Charles Taylor was inaugurated President of Liberia following an eight-year civil war. One year later, the UN and the Economic Community of West African States deployed soldiers as peacekeepers in neighboring Sierra Leone to guarantee a ceasefire in that country's near-decade-long conflict, instigated by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.
In the fall of 1998, we traveled separately on business trips to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. On previous visits, we had heard reports of atrocities committed by RUF rebels, including amputations, rapes, and mutilations of civilians in the countryside. But the presence of the international community reassured us that it was safe to do business in the country. Both our home government and friends in Sierra Leone agreed. We planned to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays in Freetown before returning to Nigeria early in 1999.
Then our plans went awry. Shortly before Christmas, rumors of an impending rebel assault began to filter into Sierra Leone's capital. First a trickle, then a deluge of internally displaced persons arrived. We tried to change our flights and return to Nigeria, but there were no flights available. On January 6, the rebels overran the home where we were staying in Freetown. We were among nine Nigerians staying there.