The Supermodel’s Revenge

Charles Taylor’s trial at the International Criminal Court is verging on the trivial.

Screenshot from video of Naomi Campbell on the witness stand at the ICC.

For a brief moment this past August, the world worked itself into a frenzy over Naomi Campbell’s “hostile” turn on the witness stand at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Finally, it seemed, we had the perfect ammunition to level at the supermodel that everyone (apparently) loves to hate. Sure, we had all snickered at the stories of her various tantrums and cellphone-throwing fits of rage. Minor league stuff, really. But to go so far as to accept dirty looking pebbles blood diamonds from a dictator? The audacity! To remind you. Just watch.

To recap: She met Charles Taylor at a dinner party thrown by Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. Sometime during the evening, Charles Taylor, the former Liberian President and warlord, had uncut diamonds delivered to her. As The New York Times reported last week, “… she did not keep the stones and handed them on, she said, to a friend who at that time was a trustee of the charitable Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.” A Fund staffer confirmed this.  Then, “… [i]n a setback for the prosecutors at the trial on Thursday, Ms. Campbell said she did not know who had sent her the uncut stones, which she said had been delivered to her room late that night. Besides, she said, she would not have guessed they were diamonds until someone else had pointed this out,” according to The New York Times.

Of course, while we were all busy pontificating, Naomi was having the last laugh. She is, after all, a supermodel.

Lest you’ve forgotten, simply pick up a copy of this month’s Interview Magazine, in which—from a yacht off the Italian coast—Naomi regales Tony Shafrazi with stories about her friends in very high places (do you get to dine with the First Lady of France and call Nelson Mandela your honorary grandfather?); her 25-year career in the fashion industry (at 16, she flew to New York! On the Concorde! Wearing Alaïa!); her new life in Russia (“It’s like New York in the ’80s!”); her relationship with the “African world” (She went to Tanzania in 1992. She was “moved.” The rest is history.); and her love for her (Black) people (“I’m not going to work against my people. They’ve suffered enough.”).

And then of course, there is the photo shoot. No comment.

About her turn as a witness for the prosecution? “This wasn’t about me. This was not my trial. This was his trial.” She means Charles Taylor. And she’s right. Whatever you may think of her, that she became the center of attention during what turned into a surreal media circus helped no one, least of all the people of Sierra Leone, who are owed justice. On this, I agree with G. Pascal Zachary, when he writes that “Africa needs a history lesson that Naomi Campbell can’t provide.”

The prosecutors with a United Nations war-crimes tribunal want to show that Taylor directly dealt in illicit diamonds, using them to lubricate his dictatorship and float his lifestyle. That the court must rely on such flimsy evidence as the Campbell affair suggests that Taylor’s trial is verging on the trivial. The major questions about his role ought to include an examination of the U.S. government’s role of installing him in power and, perhaps, helping him remain in power long after he vacated the peculiar “reservation” that his C.I.A. liaisons envisioned for him.

By the way, Noami says: “It’s like New York in the ’80s!” Funny. That’s not how I would characterize what Russia felt like when I lived there. But that’s another post for another day.

Further Reading

Stop selling out

Ugandan activist and politician Dr. Stella Nyanzi challenges a new generation of women to take up the struggle for political freedoms and revolution.

Soft targets

What was behind the assassinations in the 1980s of two key anti-apartheid figures: Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme, and senior ANC official, Dulcie September?