International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

2:00 Taylor’s former vice president: governments of Libya, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast supported Taylor’s 1989 invasion of Liberia

12:00 (12:30 with the delay in video and audio): Court is back in session following the mid-morning break.

Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp continues the direct examination of former Liberian President Moses Blah:

Pros: You were talking about this bureau of property reacquisition. Who were the rightful owners?

Wit: The people who owned the property before Tolbert took power.

Pros: What was your job?

Wit: To make sure that these properties were given to their rightful owners

Pros: Did you succeed in your job?

Wit; Very well, but I had to quit because there was a fight with the government and they didn’t want me there any more. Some people were trying to claim properties that were not theirs.

Pros: Was there something you were doing wrong?

Wit: I don’t think so.

Pros; Were you accused?

Wit: No.

Pros: You mentioned Thomas Quiwonkpa. Did you have a relationship with him?

Wit: He was my first cousin.

Pros: Did you seek assistance from him after leaving that job?

Wit: I went to my village and rested and farmed on my father’s farm.

Pros: Let’s move to 1985. What happened that year?

Wit: There was big conflict between Doe and Quiwonkpa. If you spoke Gio or Mano at that time, you would be arrested. We fled to Côte d’Ivoire. Doe wanted to remove Quiwonkpa and our tribe didn’t like that.

Pros: Was Quiwonkpa accused of anything?

Wit; Yes. And he didn’t like the job he was given.

Pros; What happened to him?

Wit: He fled to his village and he was arrested and killed.

Pros; Who killed him?

Wit: Doe.

Pros: Why did you flee?

Wit: Because I was his cousin.

Pros; Who was doing the hunting?

Wit: Doe ordered that the Gio and Mano should be arrested and investigated to know their involvement with Quiwonkpa.

Pros: Who are the Mano tribe?

Wit: One of the two major tribes in Nimba.

Pros: Why were they searching for their tribes?

Wit: Because of Quiwonkpa.

Pros; What happened to those who did not escape.

Wit: Thousands of my tribesmen were killed or arrested, including my former wife.

Pros: Was there a special unit that was doing this?

Wit: Yes, SATU. They reported directly to the president.

Pros; Where did you go?

Wit: Côte d’Ivoire.

Pros: Who went with you?

Wit: We were many. General Varney, Gen. Prince Johnson, a whole lot of people.

Pros: What did you do there?

Wit: We were planning how to get back. We were particularly in Danane and Bouyen.

Pros: In what part of Côte d’Ivoire?

Wit: In the Gio tribe zone just across the border from Liberia.

Pros: You said you planned to do something. What were you planning?

Wit: To regroup and come back to Liberia to overthrow the government.

Pros: Did you seek any assistance?

Wit: A man came called Alfred Mehn, popularly called Godfather.

Pros: What assistance did he provide?

Wit: He came with word from Charles Taylor.

Pros: Did you know anything about him?

Wit: Not at that point.

Pros: Did Mehn tell you about Taylor?

Wit: Yes, he said he was detained in Ghana because he was going to overthrow the government of Liberia. But his wife was pressing in Burkina and we should go and meet her there.

Pros: Did Mehn say what assistance would be provided?

Wit: He said we should go to Burkina.

Pros; Did you go to Burkina Faso?

Wit: Yes. Initially we were about 22.

Pros; How did you get there?

Wit: A transport bus, and later from Abidjan by train.

Pros; Did you receive assistance to make that travel?

Wit: Yes, we received transport, food and then lodging in Ougadougou.

Pros: Who provided this assistance?

Wit: Mrs. Taylor, through Alfred Mehn.

Pros; How much?

Wit: The amount was not recorded, but we had enough to eat and a place to stay.

Pros: Where did you stay?

Wit: In a military camp. And military vehicles brought our food. We exercised there: running and long jump. We were keeping fit.

Pros; Who was the leader of Burkina Faso?

Wit: Thomas Sankara, but he was overthrown and Blaise Compoare took over the country briefly after we got there.

Pros: For how long did you remain in Burkina?

Wit: For about 6 months.

Pros: You told us that Mehn mentioned that Agnes Taylor would assist you in Burkina. Did you meet her?

Wit: Yes, on several occasions. The first meeting we had with her, she said that Mr. Taylor was detained by the government of Ghana for plotting to invade Liberia. She offered assistance for us to form a military group.

Pros: Did you numbers change in Burkina Faso?

Wit: No, not until later.

Pros: Did your group have a name at this point?

Wit: No.

Pros: Where did she arrange for you to go?

Wit: We moved to Tripoli, Libya. The 22 of us flew Aeroflot to Tripoli.

Pros: Where did you go?

Wit: We were taken directly to a military base, Tuajura Camp.

Pros: When did others join you?

Wit; We were in the camp for a month or two, then 47 men came to join our group.

Pros: Did your group grow beyond that?

Wit: Yes, we grew to 180.

Pros: How long did that take?

Wit: 2-3 months.

Pros: What did you do in the camp?

Wit: Military training, drills, assembly and disassembly of AK-47s, artillery pieces, military weapons, and ground-to-air missiles.

Pros: Who trained you?

Wit: We were trained by the Libyans. A man named Mohammed led the trainings. From time to time the trainers changed. It was not important to know their names.

Pros: Did Agnes Taylor come with you?

Wit: No.

Pros; Did you ever see Charles Taylor in Burkina Faso?

Wit: It was not until the 45 man group arrived that Taylor appeared. That was in the camp in Libya. It was the first time I saw Mr. Charles Taylor.

Pros: When did Taylor come in the sequence of additions?

Wit: He was very often there.

Pros; Did he come before your group reached 180 men?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: What did he do the first time he came?

Wit: He called a formation and introduced himself and said we were his organization, and that the organization was named the National Patriotic Front of Liberia.

Pros: Did he ever appoint anyone under him to supervise when he was not there?

Wit: Yes, one Cooper Miller and Augustine Wright was his deputy.

Pros: You said he came on several occasions. What did he do after the first time?

Wit: He inspected the training and left instructions. He said he had come to liberate the people of Liberia, especially in Nimba. That’s the kind of encouraging words he gave.

Pros: Where did he go when he wasn’t at the camp?

Wit: He said he was based in Burkina Faso at the time.

Pros: Did he say anything else?

Wit: No, and we didn’t ask. The NPFL was a military organization.

Pros: You mentioned Mr. Cooper Miller and Augustine Wright. Did they remain his deputies?

Wit: No, they got implicated in a coup to take over from Taylor. Once he didn’t return on time and these men decided to take over the organization. Cooper declared himself president and Wright his vice president. When Taylor returned, he decided to take these two men away. He said he was taking them to Burkina Faso until after the revolution. At that point, Isaac Musa was brought in as a commander in place of Miller and he appointed me as Adjutant in charge of training under Musa.

Pros: What happened to Miller and Wright?

Wit: He said he took them away to Burkina Faso. I learned later they had been

Pros: Who appointed you as Adjutant?

Wit: Mr. Taylor.

Pros: You mentioned security people on the ground who represented to Taylor?

Wit: He had his own network watching. I wouldn’t know. They were there among our group.

Pros: You said Taylor appointed you as Adjutant. What was the full title?

Wit: I was Adjutant General. Taylor appointed me and I was in charge of training.

Pros: What were your responsibilities?

Wit: I was responsible for people in training, seeing how good they were. I recorded these things.

Pros: What did you do with your evaluations?

Wit: I reported them to Taylor.

Pros: Would you describe your first conversation with Taylor about this, how did it go?

Wit: It went well. He appreciated the report.

Pros: Describe your relationship with him at this time.

Wit; It was good. He said I was doing well.

Pros: Did you discover family ties with Taylor?

Wit: His wife Tupe Taylor was my first cousin. I knew before the training but I did not tell him.

Judge Doherty: I thought the wife was called Agnes.

Pros: What number wife was Tupe Taylor?

Wit: His first wife. Later on Agnes came in.

Pros: How long were you in the camp in Libya?

Wit: About a year and a half.

Pros: Were there other nationalities?

Wit: Yes. Gambians had just finished their training and went to overthrow their government but were not successful and came back. We met Filipinos and a few Sierra Leoneans.

Pros: Who was the leader of the Gambians?

Wit: Dr. Manneh.

Pros: Did you ever see him in Libya?

Wit: I met him on one or two occasions in Mataba.

Pros: What was that?

Wit: An organization established by Gaddafi to assist any oppressed group to overthrow your government.

Pros: Where was the Mataba located?

Wit: In Tripoli town itself, not very far from the camp.

Pros; You said you talked to the Gambians about what they’d done in their country. What did they say?

Wit: That they’d trained where we were.

Pros: Who was the leader of the Sierra Leoneans?

Wit: Foday Sankoh.

Pros: How many Sierra Leoneans were in the camp?

Wit: Your Honors, I wish to urinate please.

[pause while witness is escorted from the courtroom, then brought back]

Pros: How many Sierra Leoneans were in the camp?

Wit: They were in a small group, about 10-15.

Pros: Did you have contact with Sankoh himself?

Wit: Yes, we would train together, meet and talk and joke.

Pros; What was your impression of him?

Wit: I didn’t take him seriously because he made tea for me.

Pros; What did he say about his government.

Wit; That he would overthrow it, starting with 15 men.

Pros: Was there ideology taught in the camp?

Wit: Yes, what we learned in the Mataba was about how to share the wealth of your government – about the distribution of wealth.

Pros: This Mataba, did you receive any books or lesson papers in that ideology?

Wit; The ideology was taught in Mataba itself. They had a school to learn the ideology. You learned about the Green Book. How governments are cheating other governments.

Pros: The physical training, were you able to complete it?

Wit: No, I got sick and was taken to hospital. The doctor found a heart problem and said I should do light work, not physical training.

Pros: Did you take medication?

Wti: Yes.

Pros: Who provided it?

Wit: The authorities of the camp.

Pros: Do you still have this condition?

Wit: Yes.

Pros; Did Taylor have any meetings with other nationalities at that camp?

Wit: Not to my knowledge at that point. The head of the Sierra Leone called him Chief.

Pros: Did any other nationalities call him chief?

Wit: Yes, but they were not close.

Pros: Where did the Liberians go after the training was completed?

Wti: The men were moved to Ougadougou.

Pros; All at the same time?

Wit: No, we were moved according to numbers – sometimes 20-50 men.

Pros: Who organized the transport?

Wit: The Libyans.

Pros: Did anyone in the Liberian group make decisions besides Taylor?

Wit: Nobody.

Pros; Did you go to Burkina Faso?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: At what sequence in the transport of the men did you go?

Wit: I was in the last group.

Pros: Did Taylor tell you what you were going to do in Burkina Faso?

Wit: We knew it was time to attack Liberia.

Pros: Did you take arms with you?

Wit: No.

Pros; Was there discussion of where arms would come from for the invasion?

Wit: Yes, we were told the Libyans would provide arms when the time came.

Pros: Where did you stay in Burkina Faso?

Wit: I lived in the town and the men lived in a military barracks in the military camp. It was a bigger camp than the first time we were there.

Pros: How long did the others stay in that camp?

Wit: For close to a year. The delay was getting too much. We had to relocate the men to Côte d’Ivoire.

Pros; Where in Côte d’Ivoire?

Wit: To those places we previously were because we speak the same dialect. We left the men there, waiting to penetrate Liberia. I waited back with special instructions. Taylor said I should go back to Libya and that the Libyans would give the weapons for me to transport.

Pros: Did you go back to Libya?

Wit: Not immediately. Libya delayed until Christmas Eve 1989. The Libyans came and said that my chief had gone ahead and invaded with shotguns and cutlasses, that it was very dangerous. That we should speak with Blaise Compoare and get weapons.

Pros: At the time they spoke to you about the attack by Taylor’s forces into Liberia, did you know anything about the attack?

Wit: No.

Pros: Were the Libyans happy or unhappy about this?

Wit: Unhappy. They were not informed.

Pros: Did they tell you why they hadn’t given you the go-ahead?

Wit: They said they were doing it tactically because the Americans had sanctions on them.

Pros: Did you talk to Taylor about your conversation with the Libyans?

Wit: Yes, when I returned to Ougadougou. He had left to get weapons that the Libyans were sending through Blaise Compoare. I had to follow him and I told him.

Pros: Did you ever tell Taylor that the Libyans were angry with him?

Wit: Yes. He wasn’t happy. He was disappointed.

Pros: Did you receive any other assignment from Taylor at this time?

Wit: When we were the deep into the war, I became inspector general of the NPFL>

Pros; In Burkina Faso, did he give you another assignment at that time?

Wit: No.

Pros: Where did you go from Burkina Faso?

Wit: To Abidjan. I was instructed by Taylor to go there for a consignment of arms and ammunition. It was already in position. The gendarmerie was in possession of it. I went to see the Defense Minister: Cone Coffi (ph) in the Houphoet-Boigny administration.

Pros: Did you discuss this consignment with the Ivorian defense minister?

Wit: Yes. He said they did not have money and they didn’t want the military trucks to transport the materials, so they had to find civilian trucks. He said if we had money to pay for the trucks, then it would be ready.

Pros: Did you receive the money for the trucks?

Wit: No, not at that point.

Pros: Did he say why the transport couldn’t go another way?

Wit: He said we had to hide it.

Pros: When you were in Côte d’Ivoire, did you receive news about the NPFL attack in Liberia?

Wit: No, I didn’t hear a word from them.

Pros; Did you go elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire?

Wit: Yes, I was called by him on one occasion. Prince Barkley was sent to find out what the delay was, and I explained that we needed money for the trucks. He went back to the border, and we were trying to transfer the weapons to Prince Johnson in our group who had broken away. When I got back to Gborpleh, I was arrested.

Pros: What was Gborpleh?

Wit; Our first camp.

Pros: Did anyone tell you why you were being asked to go to Gborpleh?

Wit: No, ________ I didn’t even know Prince Johnson had broken away. Taylor arrested me when I got to Gborpleh. There were security units and small boy units there.

Pros; What role did the small boy units play?

Wit: They were reasonable people. They gave me water. They were aggressive.

Pros; What was the responsibility of the Small Boys Units with you?

Wit; They arrested people and wanted to kill me. I regretted for being a member of the NPFL at that moment.

Pros: Is that the first time you’d seen Small Boys Units?

Wit: Yes. Everyone had a Small Boy Unit with them.

Pros; How old were they?

Wit: As young as 15, 14, 13, some were younger than that.

Pros: Did anyone tell you why small boys were used?

Wit: Because they were unreasonable and had no sense of direction. You could tell them anything and it would happen immediately.

Pros; How were they recruited?

Wit: Some came voluntarily, some were captured by NPFL forces.

Pros: Who actually physically arrested you?

Wit: It was done by Benjamin Yeaten personally. He said the chief would see me the next day?

Pros: Did you see the chief the next day?

Wit: No, not until he came back from Abidjan. But the defense minister told Taylor that the accusations against me weren’t true. So Taylor returned to Gborpleh immediately and brought me food. That morning he pulled me out of the cell and told the commanders to apologize to me. He said they had lied on me.

Pros: How long were you detained?

Wit: I was in detention for about 8-9 days, a week. I can’t say exactly.

Pros: How did you find out about this conversation between Taylor and the Ivorian defense minister?

Wit: Taylor told me upon his return.

Pros: During the time you were in detention, did you hear what you were being charged with?

Wit: Yes, that I was transferring NPFL equipment to Prince Johnson.

Pros: After Taylor ordered you freed, what did you do next?

Wit: I was asked to go back to Abidjan. The weapons were there. He asked me to bring them. I said no, I will not go there. There were other charges against me, that I had brought medicine that were buried in the ground. But I went on in the ground…

Pros; Had you buried medicine?

Wit: No.

Pros: Who alleged that you’d done that?

Wit: It was Benjamin who discovered that, according to him.

Pros: What did you do in Abidjan?

Wit: The minister said the money had been paid and everything was in the trucks. The trucks took the weapons into Liberia. They were AK-47s, AK-47 rounds, some BZT, some GMG, and most of it was rounds for RPG weapons together with the ammunition.

Pros: What were BZT?

Wit: Belt-fed machine guns.

Pros; Do you know where those weapons came from originally?

Wit: No.

Pros; Do you know where they were before Abidjan?

Wit: No.

Pros; You were accused of assisting Prince Johnson. Did you know what he was doing at the time of your arrest?

Wit: He had the Independent NPFL. He was saying that he was still with Taylor and recruiting people.

Pros: When you got to Liberia, did you find out what had happened in Liberia?

Wit: When I got to Gborpleh, the NPFL was advancing, doing very well. But we were fighting Prince Johnson too.

Pros: When the NPFL group first crossed into Liberia, who was the field commander?

Wit: Isaac Musa, but he got afraid when there was an exchange of fire. He ran back to Côte d’Ivoire. Prince Johnson took his place then. This was back in Burkina.

Pros; When the forces crossed into Liberia, was there a headquarters?

Wit: Yes, Gborpleh.

Pros: And before that?

Wit: Butuo, but it was not a real headquarters.

Pros: Did you determine whether Taylor had been present during the invasion of Liberia?

Wit: Yes, he crossed into Butuo, and went to Benjamin Yeaten’s home, Tiaplay. He went on foot himself.

Pros; Did Taylor remain in Liberia all the time in the early phases of the conflict?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Did he take any missions other than the mission you described to Abidjan to find out about the arms?

Wit: Yes, he would leave the country to get arms.

Pros; You described the movements of Johnson and Taylor forces. What were the sizes of these groups?

Wit: The NPFL were greater than Prince Johnson’s group, but as the fighting went on, they almost became 50-50.

Pros: By 1990 who controlled what?

Wit: Taylor controlled about 90% of the country, and Johnson about 5%. Johnson was not holding territory, but trying to take Monrovia.

Pros: Did the conflict between Johnson and Taylor continue through 1990?

Wit: Yes, and continued until Taylor was president.

Pros: Did you get another assignment from Taylor?

Wit: Yes, I became Inspector General of the NPFL in 1990.

Pros; What were your responsibilities?

Wit: I was responsible for men doing illegal acts: raping, looting, illegal killings.

Pros; What kind of punishments were there for these things?

Wit: Execution or going to jail.

Pros: Could you order anyone executed?

Wit: No, only Taylor had that authority.

Pros: Were any violators executed?

Wit: Yes, on some occasions – on 2-3 occasions.

Pros: Was there anyone executed for killing civilians?

Wit: Yes, when the brother of Taylor was killed in an ambush.

Pros: Did you investigate in that case?

Wit: No.

Pros: Was there any investigation that you did as inspector general?

Wit: Yes, I inspected a case of a fighter who killed a Lebanese shopkeeper and took money from him. He admitted he was guilty. I reported it to headquarters. Taylor ordered me to execute him.

Pros: Were orders written or oral?

Wit: It was usually signed in green ink. If you see green ink and see your name above, you have to be watchful. It’s an order from the commander of the NPFL.

Pros: Were you there for the execution?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: What role did you play in the execution?

Wit: I was watching.

Pros: Did you ever shoot anyone yourself?

Wit: No.

Pros: Were you present for other executions?

Wit: no.

1:30 (2:00 with the delay in video and audio): Judge Doherty: It’s time to break for lunch.

Proceedings will resume at 2:30 (3:00 with the delay in video and audio).