Page last updated at 19:39 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Sirleaf 'sorry' she backed Taylor

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said she had been fooled by Charles Taylor

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has apologised at a truth and reconciliation commission over her backing for ex-rebel Charles Taylor.

She said she had initially supported the rebel chief's war effort and even raised funds for him, but denied ever having been a member of his group.

She said she had been fooled about the real intentions of Mr Taylor.

He led rebels who toppled President Samuel Doe in a 14-year civil war that left the West African nation shattered.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf was imprisoned in the 1980s for criticising the military regime of President Doe and then backed Charles Taylor's rebellion before falling out with him and being charged with treason after he became president.


She took an oath on Thursday in the capital Monrovia from truth commission chairman Jerome Verdier and then sat before the flag of Liberia.

The 70-year-old Liberian leader faced the seven-member commission as she narrated her own involvement in the Liberian crisis that began on the eve of Christmas in 1989.

"If there is anything that I need to apologise for to this nation is to apologise for being fooled by Mr Taylor in giving any kind of support to him," she said.

"I feel it in my conscience. I feel it every day," she said, regretting her support to Mr Taylor.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor (file image)
Charles Taylor now faces war crimes charges in The Hague

The Liberian leader said she had paid him a visit in May 1990 at his base in the north-eastern Liberian town of Gborplay, on the border with Ivory Coast.

"I will admit to you that I was one of those who did agree that the rebellion was necessary," she told the commission. "But I was never a member of the NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia)."

In a separate case, Mr Taylor became the first African ex-head of state to face an international war crimes court last year.

He is accused of responsibility for the actions of Revolutionary United Front rebels during the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone, which included unlawful killings, sexual slavery, use of child soldiers and looting.

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Radio Netherlands Liberian president apologises for backing Charles Taylor - 24 hrs ago Johnson appears before TRC - 29 hrs ago Liberia: Sirleaf Testifies to Truth Commission - 34 hrs ago
Reuters Liberia president says once backed warlord Taylor - 45 hrs ago
Washington Post Liberia's president apologizes to nation - 45 hrs ago

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