25 September 2012

Liberia: U.S. Embassy Clears Jewel Taylor

The US Embassy in Monrovia yesterday said contrary to reports that Senator Jewel Howard Taylor has been denied a visa; the Embassy has issued a visa to the Senator to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations.In a Press release issued yesterday amidst media reports said that the Senator and Internal Minister Blamoh Nelson had been denied visas to accompany President Sirleaf to the US for the General Assembly.

"The U.S. Embassy in Liberia has issued a press statement with regard to recent media reports about the denial of a visa to Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor. The statement read: "Contrary to earlier reports of a visa denial, Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor was issued a visa today for travel to the UN General Assembly."

Although the Embassy release did not make mention of Internal Minister Nelson, credible sources said he was also affected.

The issue of visa denial became a major discussion yesterday when a local Talk Show broadcast that Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor and Internal Affairs Minister Blamo Nelson who were to form part of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York were denied United States Visa.

The report had it that the two government officials were denied United States Visa because they still have ongoing ties with former Liberian President, Charles G. Taylor who is incarcerated in The Hague for crime against humanity.

Minister Nelson served in the administration of former President Charles Taylor as Director of the Cabinet while Senator Jewel Howard Taylor was married to the former President, something which many believe could be reason for the denial of the United States Visa.

However, other Liberians expressed surprise on ground that Senator Taylor and other Liberians who had been on the United Nations Travel ban and Assets Freeze were relieved of the restriction recently by the United Nations (UN). Relative to Minister Nelson some argued that he had never been placed on the travel restriction and as such the denial of the United States Visa to him is indeed astonishing.

Internal Affairs Minister Blamo Nelson told the INQUIRER yesterday that his passport was returned with the understanding that the United States Embassy near Monrovia is currently awaiting clearance from the State Department.

Minister Nelson said as soon as the clearance comes he will be joining President Sirleaf who is expected to be in the United States for ten days. He however declined to give credence to reports in public circle that he was denied a United States Visa because of ongoing ties with former President Taylor something which he denied.

However, Minister Nelson said in the early 2000, the United States never wanted the officials of the Taylor administration to travel to that country and it appeared that the United States Department of State had not regularized or updated its data base.

Senator Taylor is the former wife of former President Charles G. Taylor and a current member of the former ruling party, the National Patriotic Party (NPP).

Unconfirmed reports say the two officials who were once former aids and associates of President Charles G. Taylor are on a standby awaiting a Clarence from the United States Department before the visa would be issued here in Monrovia.

Senator Taylor was to accompany President Sirleaf who left the country last Friday with a high-powered delegation for a 10-day visit to the US to participate in the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The former first lady of Liberia was placed on the UN Travel Ban eight years ago few months after her husband was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity, he committed while serving as President of Liberia.

But in June 2012, with the request of the Liberian government, the UN lifted the ban on Senator Taylor and sixteen other former associates of former President Charles Taylor. This was a relief for the lawmaker and an end to her nine years of isolation from the International Community.

The report also said that the data base at the Embassy shows that Senator Taylor is still on a Travel Ban though the UN has announced the lifting. Although the Senator could not be reached for comment, sources close to her expressed optimism that she was likely to leave this week.

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