St. Paul, Minnesota, June 12, 2008 – Former United States under secretary for African Affairs, Herman J. Cohen says the US had an understanding with defunct NPFL rebel leader Charles Taylor to take power following the evacuation of President Samuel K. Doe.
Cohen said, “Due to the immense human sufferings at that time we initiated discussions with Doe about leaving through our Ambassador in Monrovia. We would provide the transportation and the understanding with Taylor was that he [would] take power as soon as Doe departed.”
Mr. Cohen, under secretary of state from 1989-1993 and, earlier, director of African Affairs from 1987-1989, was testifying Thursday at ongoing Public Hearings of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on the “Role of the United States in the Liberian Conflict,” at Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota.
After the plan was accepted by President Doe, Mr. Cohen continued, he called President Gnyasingbe Enyeadema of Togo, who agreed to provide asylum for the embattled Liberian president.
Following President Enyeadema’s consent, Cohen called Taylor on a satellite phone to open corridors for troops loyal to President Doe to allow them to escape through the Liberian-Sierra Leonean frontier. But the plan, he said, was “messed up” when former Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) leader Prince Johnson seized control of Bushrod Island and blocked the corridor.
Meanwhile, the veteran US diplomat said, when the U.S. was set to send an aircraft to carry out the evacuation, he received a directive from Washington to seize all engagements to end the Liberian conflict. Ambassador Cohen clarified, however, that no further explanations were provided by his superiors in Washington on the change in policy.
At that point, he said responsibilities to intervene in the Liberian crisis were passed on to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).