#Firestone wanted #Liberia for its rubber. Taylor wanted Firestone to help his rise to power. At a pivotal meeting in Liberia’s jungles in July 1991, the company agreed to do business with the warlord.
In the first detailed examination of the relationship between Firestone and Taylor, an investigation by ProPublica and Frontline lays bare the role of a global corporation in a brutal African conflict.
Firestone served as a source of food, fuel, trucks and cash used by Taylor’s ragtag rebel army, according to interviews, internal corporate documents and declassified diplomatic cables.
The company signed a deal in 1992 to pay taxes to Taylor’s rebel government. Over the next year, the company doled out more than $2.3 million in cash, checks and food to Taylor, according to an accounting in court files. Between 1990 and 1993, the company invested $35.3 million in the plantation.
In return, Taylor’s forces provided security to the plantation that allowed Firestone to produce rubber and safeguard its assets. Taylor’s rebel government offered lower export taxes that gave the company a financial break on rubber shipments.
For Taylor, the relationship with Firestone was about more than money. It helped provide him with the political capital and recognition he needed as he sought to establish his credentials as Liberia’s future leader.
“We needed Firestone to give us international legitimacy,” said John Toussaint “J.T.” Richardson, a U.S.-trained architect who became one of Taylor’s top advisers. “We needed them for credibility.”