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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 August, 2003, 04:19 GMT 05:19 UK
Nigerian neighbours welcome Taylor
Dan Isaacs
By Dan Isaacs
BBC Nigeria correspondent in Calabar

The exiled Liberian leader Charles Taylor now lives a secluded life in the southern Nigerian town of Calabar.

Not known as a man who shuns press attention, he is keeping a low profile and the affluent district where he and his entourage have been provided with new homes is heavily protected by armed police units.

Charles Taylor
How long Charles Taylor keeps quiet remains to be seen
Mr Taylor and his family didn't choose this town, nor did the people of Calabar choose for him to come here.

But this is a peaceful, accommodating place and by and large, the locals are unperturbed by the unexpected arrival not only of an exiled president, but also his large entourage of relations and security personnel.

The only sign of their new neighbours is the occasional jeep with tinted windows, sliding almost unnoticed through the town.

"I think it's a good thing he's here," a local traditional ruler, the Etubom Bassi of Calabar, told me.

"Mr Taylor is most welcome as an African brother. It is part of the proud history of the town that it has over the centuries been a place of refuge for exiled kings and even freed slaves from as far away as Liberia itself."

Built on rolling hills at the mouth of the Cross River, the port of Calabar is a breath of fresh air and so different from the sprawling traffic-choked cities of much of southern Nigeria.

Anyone for tennis?

Some here see new business opportunities as a result of the new arrivals.

They bring money to this place, one trader tells me: "His people change American dollars, buy televisions and radios and we hope much more in time."

Perhaps Mr Taylor himself, it is also suggested to me, may make a contribution to the civic amenities of the town, perhaps even join the local tennis club, a well-known social centre for the town's business and political elite.

But all this does not mean that the new exiles will be left entirely in peace. Local journalists are always looking for a good story and are already sniffing around the high-security cordon surrounding the wealthy suburb where Mr Taylor has been found a new and extremely grand home.

For now though, Mr Taylor has frustrated the news hounds by his silence.

But it will be most interesting to see how long a man who once craved media attention and power can keep his thoughts to himself on the affairs as they unfold in his native Liberia.




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