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'He killed my ma, he killed my pa, he gets my vote'

When Charles Taylor was accused during a BBC interview of being a murderer, the warlord-turned-president of Liberia gave a revealing response. "Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time," he snapped.

As a Baptist lay preacher, Taylor's performance in The Hague showed that he is utterly convinced of his own righteousness.

Born in 1948, he first achieved prominence as an ally of Samuel Doe, the sergeant who seized Liberia's presidency in 1980. But Doe accused Taylor of stealing public funds and hounded him into exile in America.

Taylor wound up in prison in Massachusetts. Some accounts have it that he sawed through the bars of his cell and escaped, others that he was quietly released by the Americans. In any case, he returned to Africa in 1985 and formed a guerrilla army that invaded Liberia in 1989.

For the next seven years, this believer in numerology -- Taylor thinks that "seven" is his lucky number -- inflicted terror and bloodshed on his country. He openly recruited child soldiers, who called him "Pappy Taylor" and carried out atrocities of mind-numbing horror. This war claimed at least 200,000 lives in a country with less than three million people.

It ended with peace accords in 1996 and a presidential election the following year, which Taylor won using a novel campaign slogan: "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, he gets my vote".

As president, Taylor was accused of allying with the Revolutionary United Front guerrillas who were laying waste to neighbouring Sierra Leone. He was so venal that a rebel alliance dedicated to overthrowing him soon emerged. Taylor was toppled in 2003 and fled to Nigeria, where he lived until 2006, when he was handed over for trial. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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