Rebel forces fighting to take power in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002 used the country’s diamonds to purchase arms and ammunition from military officers in neighboring Guinea, a defense witness for Charles Taylor told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today in The Hague.
Isatu Kallon, a Sierra Leonean woman who helped Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader, Foday Sankoh, in recruiting fighters to invade Sierra Leone in 1991 has testified that she was involved in purchasing arms and ammunition from Guinean military officers for use by the RUF in Sierra Leone. The witness said that her contact in Guinea was a Guinean Army Captain who was based in the Guinean town of Gekedou. The Captain, the witness said, had requested an amount of 16,000 United States dollars for the supply of arms and ammunition contained in a list prepared by RUF rebels. The witness explained to the court that RUF commanders did not have the physical cash to make the required payment and so they gave her pieces of diamonds which she sold in order to obtain what was needed by the RUF. Defense lawyer for Mr. Taylor, Morris Anyah asked the witness to describe the diamonds that were given to her by the rebels and the price at which she sold them.
“They [diamonds] were packaged in a white paper, the papers were doubled, but the smaller pieces were in the majority, there was one large one that weighed seven carats,” Mrs. Kallon told the court.
“How many others were there apart from this one seven carat diamond?” Mr. Anyah asked.
“I did not count them, when I wanted to sell them, I sold them wholesale,” she replied, adding that the diamonds given to her could fit into her one hand.
Asked specifically about the price at which she sold the big seven carat diamond, the witness said that she “sold it for 15,500 United States dollars.”
Mr. Anyah also asked the witness whether she could remember “the type of things that were on the list.”
Mrs. Kallon told the court that “the one they said 20 boxes of AK, the other one, they said 15 G-3, then the other one was a sort of RPG bomb, that’s between 5-10 boxes.”
The witness said she later travelled with the Army Captain to the Guinean capital Conakry to obtain the arms and ammunition. The witness did not say whether she travelled back from Conakry with the arms and ammunition when the court adjourned for the day.
According to Mrs. Kallon, in her initial contact with the Guinean Army captain, which was prior to RUF rebels giving her the diamonds for the purchase of materials, she was able to obtain two cans of ammunition for use in an AK-47 rifle. She said that when she reported this to RUF commander Peter Vandy, the rebel commander informed her that on the other side of the Sierra Leonean border with Liberia, the RUF was transacting successful arms trade with United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) rebels, a rival faction to Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group.
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Taylor was the main source of support for RUF rebels during the conflict in Sierra Leone. It has been alleged that diamonds obtained by RUF rebels were taken to Mr. Taylor in Liberia who in turn supplied them with arms and ammunition. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations, saying in his testimony that there was sufficient evidence to point that RUF rebels were involved in diamond trades with ULIMO rebels as well as West African peacekeepers from Nigeria and Guinea. Today, the former president’s 18th witness, Mrs. Kallon, sought to establish that she was a key person involved in facilitating the arms trade for the RUF and that the said business was not transacted with Mr. Taylor.
Mrs. Kallon’s testimony continues Monday.