The Oasis Reporters
January 6, 2018
Photo : VOA
When George Weah won the Liberian presidential election on December 26, 2017, his running mate Jewel Howard Taylor, became the most powerful woman in the country. The 54-year-old politician, former wife of ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor, had won her ticket to the vice-presidency. As jubilant crowds celebrated outside their campaign headquarters in Monrovia, Howard Taylor may have reflected on her first steps in politics exactly 20 years before, when she was the country’s first lady.
Howard Taylor divorced Charles Taylor in 2006, after he fled to exile in Nigeria. Despite her ex-husband’s reputation as a ruthless warlord, Howard Taylor went on to build her own political base in a central region north of Monrovia. In 2005, she was elected senator of the Bong county, the nation’s third most populous, for the National Patriotic Party (NPP). She then chaired the Senate Health and Social Welfare Committee on Gender, Women and Children. Howard Taylor is a devout Christian who is said to begin every morning with a prayer. In 2012, she tried to push through legislation that allows homosexuality to be punished with the death penalty.
She told VOA’s James Butty in 2012 that the “Taylor” name has its negatives and positives.
But Jewel Howard Taylor said she bears the name with honor and that people should judge her for her character and not on the basis of what her former husband might have done or did not do.
Taylor said the old prejudices that come with her former husband’s name will come to pass, especially as she continues to make what she called “a positive impact on the landscape of Liberia and the international community.”
The former first lady was once placed on the U.N. Travel Ban almost fifteen years ago after her husband was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity that he committed while serving as president of Liberia.
But she remains grateful to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the United Nations, and the U.S. government for the lifting of the sanctions.
“I prayed about it, asking that God will provide a new opportunity that will enable me to be able to work. And it’s not just working at home,” she said. “We are party of the global village. Everything is intertwined, and if you’re out of the system, even if you’re doing the best job at home, it still denies you a lot of opportunities to interact, to network, to get new ideas that can help your country. And so I’m privileged that God opened this special door”.
Vice president Jewel Taylor said, despite some prejudices associated with her former husband’s name as a convicted war criminal, she carries the name with honor.
“Of course, there are places where you go and people would look at you a little funny. It was as if I was a pariah,” she said. “But I am just happy to say that that name also carries a lot of positivity because I work for the people of my country and that enabled me to be a senator”, and now a Vice-President. So, some people might look at the negatives, but I’d like to look at the positive.
“As you know, the rules of engagement around the world say that people should be judged by the content of their own character. Somehow, there are some prejudices around the name, but I bear it with honor and I will continue to do that which I must to show that it’s not about the name. It’s actually about the individual,” Taylor said.
During the 2011 presidential election, Senator Taylor campaigned for George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) candidate Winston Tubman. But soon after the runoff election, Taylor declared her support for President Sirleaf.
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