Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, has spread instability within his nation’s borders and helped foment a brutal civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. To fund the fighting, he has exploited his country’s natural resources. At first, it was diamonds — but as international scrutiny on the dirty diamond trade has increased, Taylor has been forced to turn to other resources, most recently timber. This spring, Taylor sold timber concessions inside Liberia’s Sapo National Park, which is home to thousands of unique plants and animals, to Hong Kong’s Oriental Timber Company to the tune of several million dollars. The deal represented the first time the park, one of West Africa’s main woodland reserves, was opened up for exploitation. Global Witness, a nonprofit organization that investigates connections between environmental and human rights abuses, found “direct links between Liberia’s timber industry and the network of illegal arms transfers, private militias and human rights abuses that threaten international peace and security in western Africa.”
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