Court is back in session. Prosecutor Nick Koumjian continues his direct examination of prosecution witness Abu Keita:
Through a series of questions, Abu Keita continues to give evidence as follows:
Wit: In the government of Ruth Perry, I was Assistant Superintendent for Lofa County. My duty was to encourage refugees in Guinea to return to Lofa County for resettlement in their native villages. I was also to repair damaged bridges. I had a paper appointing me, which I’ve given to the prosecution. (Prosecution requests that the witness be shown the document, and he confirms that this was his letter of appointment from January 29, 1997, signed by Ruth Sando Perry.)
Judge Doherty says that parts of the second paragraph is very difficult to read, and asks the prosecution to read it into the record.
The witness continues his account:
Wit: There were election during the transitional government. I voted in them. I did not work for any candidate. The elections were in 1997. The candidates were Charles Taylor, Alhaji Kromah, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Togba-Nah Tipteh. Those are a few of the candidates I remember. I remember Taylor’s campaign. At his last rally, his slogan was “You killed my mother. You killed my father. I will vote for you.” Taylor won the elections.
All armed forces of Liberia (AFL) were recalled for army restructuring. As a past member of the AFL, I reported to the BTC Barracks, at Camp Suffering, where the restructuring was taking place. I was appointed as Major. I was assigned at BTC headquarters in Monrovia. Fighting broke out on Camp Johnson Road because Roosevelt Johnson was appointed to a position in Taylor’s government. When he came back from sick leave, he saw Joe Wally, a former bodyguard for Samuel Doe. Johnson was ordered arrested. The SSU, a special unit formed by Taylor that was responsible at the Mansion, fought. Chuckie Taylor, the son of Charles Taylor, was responsible for it. Momoh Gibba was there. And the SSS under Benjamin Yeaten fought. Roosevelt Johnson escaped arrest and went to the US embassy. One bodyguard for the SSU, called PYJ, arrested me and put me in detention. The SSU and SSS fought against Roosevelt Johnson to arrest him. When I was arrested, I was on the street around a cinema. I was not involved in the fighting but they said I had a meeting with Roosevelt Johnson. I did meet with him. Roosevelt Johnson called former ULIMO-J and former ULIMO-K to have a ceremony together because we’d fought against each other and killed each other. He said we should be one because the war was over. This was before the fighting. That’s why I was arrested, because they saw me there. I was taken to Saw Beach Prison, at the back of the BTC Barracks in Monrovia. I was kept there for one week, and I was not charged. I was just in detention. Later I was freed by one SSS director for operations, Varmuya Sherif. He came only with his bodyguards. He took me to Musa Cisse’s residence at Congo Town. Cisse said we’re both Mandingos. The war is over. He said if you don’t want to see Taylor’s government, you’re doing that for yourself. He said it’s better for me to cooperate with them. At Cisse’s house, Benjamin Yeaten, the SSS director, came. Yeaten said “Keita, Pa Musa has already spoken about you. You have to cooperate.” I said “I have no problem with that.” Papa Kuyateh and Pa Morrie, the brother of Musa Cisse, were also present. They spoke to me and said I’ve now become a free man. From there I was taken back to my house. At that time, Musa Cisse was the protocol officer of Charles Taylor. His operations name was Gangay (ph) Charo. Cisse is a Mandingo. At that time Benjamin Yeaten was SSS Director.
A week later, I saw Marzaher, Sampson and Jungle. Marzaher’s nickname was “Zigzag”. He was SS, special security, assigned to the mansion of Charles Taylor. They were close to the president. Sampson and Jungle were bodyguards to Benjamin Yeaten, who was in charge of Taylor’s close protection. They said we should go to Musa Cisse’s house. We drove there, and from there we taken to Yeaten’s residence behind Charles Taylor’s residence. There was a meeting there, where I saw Sam Bockarie of the RUF, Eddie Kanneh, the war council leader of the RUF called SB Rogers, and the Adjutant of the RUF who was Rashid, and Yeaten himself. Yeaten asked me to join the RUF in Sierra Leone. I said “no problem, sir. As long as that’s an instruction from you, I will go.” Montgomery and Varmunya Sherif were also there. Benjamin Yeaten was in charge of that meeting. He said he wanted a standby force to be in Sierra Leone, and that I would be the commander of that troop, to be based in Sierra Leone. He said the troop would be called the Scorpion Unit, and that I’d be the commander, to be based with Sam Bockarie in Sierra Leone. He did not give me any details of the operation plans. He said we should be based in Buedu, Kailahun District. Yeaten said the boss, Charles Taylor, had given him the instruction to send me to Sierra Leone. Eddie Kanneh is a Sierra Leonean who was with the Sierra Leone Army. At that time the AFRC had overthrown the government, and the RUF and SLA combined were the People’s Army. When ECOMOG pushed them, that was how I met him and Sam Bockerie at Yeaten’s house. At this meeting in Yeaten’s house, Eddie Kanneh said he would be the liaison officer between Sierra Leone and Liberia for the diamond business of the RUF. Dennis Mingo, called “Superman” was mentioned by Sam Bockarie. Bockarie said Mingo didn’t want to take instructions from him, and was giving him problems within the command. Yeaten said he would address that issue and talk with Mingo.
Bockarie had a black satellite phone in a handbag, as big as the computer screen in front of me, and it would fold out. Bockarie told me that Yeaten had given the phone to him.
After the meeting, we drove to the Boulevard Hotel in Monrovia, by Sinkor. We went upstairs, to the third floor, where we met General Ibrahim Bah. It was the first time I met Ibrahim Bah. Bah is a short, fat man. He had a Gambian accent. They called him a General and said he was a former fighter of the NPFL. The discussion was how best Bah could find a buyer for the RUF diamonds, and also that Bah should help get radio communication for the RUF – an FM radio station to use for propaganda. In the room were Bah, Kanneh, Bockarie, Yeaten, SB Roger, Rashid, and General Ibrahim’s bodyguard whom they called CR. And myself. That’s where I saw the first diamond with Sam Bockarie. I saw Bockarie show diamond to Ibrahim Bah. I did not see him give the diamond to Bah. There were more than ten diamonds.
After that meeting in the Boulevard Hotel, we went to the Kadija Hotel, where Bockarie was staying. I was there all through the day. I left them in the afternoon and returned to my house. At night, when Bockarie was returning to Sierra Leone, Benjamin Yeaten, Sam Bockarie, Yeaten, SB Rogers, Kanneh and I drove from the hotel to White Flower, where Charles Taylor was at his house. They opened the security gate, and stepped down on the left side, through a door. In the hallway of Taylor’s house, there was a red carpet and large cushioned chairs. Yeaten asked us to wait there. Taylor appeared in a brown suit and we all rose. I had never seen him before, because I knew it was him because it was his residence and I’d seen pictures of him. Then Taylor told us to sit down. Bockarie said “I’m on my way going, sir. I’ve come to pay my respects.” Taylor asked Bockarie to maintain and take care of the RUF. Bockarie said he’d do everything possible. Taylor said if there were any problems, Yeaten and Cisse should be immediately contacted. From there we walked out of the building and Bockarie left. We went to Benjamin Yeaten’s house, down the hill, because he lived behind Taylor’s house. Yeaten’s house was only separated by a street.
At Yeaten’s house, Bockarie’s bodyguards were there. He took the bodyguards and left. All of us drove to Red Light, where I got off the pick-up, where Marzahar, Jungle and Sampson were. I went to my house in Monrovia. I had family there. My mother was still alive, I had a wife and children. After I got to my house, I got called back again. Mazahar, Sampson and Jungle came in a green Land Cruiser pick-up, and said Yeaten said I should go to Sierra Leone. I said, “no problem”. I went and told my wife I was leaving for Sierra Leone. I was issued an AK-47 and a silent pistol with eight rounds. I was issued 10 boxes of ammunition to move to Sierra Leone. They were issued to me by Yeaten, at his house. Yeaten also gave me a Yesue radio and three bodyguards with rifles. A Yesue radio uses batteries and has an antennae that can be pushed up for communication. The radio broadcasts as far as whereever another Yesue radio was. A box of ammunition was a wooden box, with two long boxes like a sardine plate, containing ammunition. Each sardine plate held ammuntion packets. Each packet had 20 rounds. I don’t know how many packets were in each tin. The metal was about 14cm high, and a little longer than the computer screen. I didn’t know the bodyguards I was issued. There were Liberians who belonged to the former NPFL.
I was given an escort by Mazahar, Jungle, Sampson and a bodyguard of Cisse called Mike Lama, a Kpelle guy- also another bodyguard called Yellow Man. Mike Lama is a Liberian, a Kpelle with the police. We drove in one SS pick-up to Voinjama and met with the police commander of Lofa County, Colonel Toma. Toma informed us that Bockarie was coming to Voinjama, and Mazahar and Sampson should wait for him. We waited in Toma’s house until Bockarie came. Then Bockarie, SB Rogers, Eddie Kanneh, Rashid drove back to Monrovia. Bockarie said he was going to meet with Charles Taylor. I was given the car Bockarie had driven in, for me to drive to Sierra Leone. The ammunition was transferred into that vehicle. Toma gave us a police escort to meet the other commander in Foya, Col. Stanley. When I got to Foya, I met Issa Sesay in Foya. He complained he was waiting so long. I said the road was bad and that I wasn’t the driver, so he had to bear with us, because he knew the road was so bad.
I drove with Sesay to Buedu. We passed three checkpoints. When you leave Foya, there was a first checkpoint, then a second at Foya Tinga, then a last checkpoint at the border before you cross over to Dawa. At the border, there was security. The AFL, Liberian police and customs were on the Liberian side. The RUF was in charge on the Sierra Leonean side. The three bodyguards assigned to me until we entered Buedu. Sesay instructed the military commander, Kaisoko, to make an apartment available to me, close to him and Sam Bockarie. There is a junction in Buedu, and a road to Koindu, one to Kailahun, one to Dawa. From Buedu, it’s about 7 miles to the Liberian border. I saw construction in Buedu. Sesay took me to a site where they were building an airstrip. There was a cterpillar and manpower to dig the hill and level the ground. The length was about 3 miles. They said they expected supply planes there. While they were building, a jet bombarded the caterpillar at the airstrip. So we used to work in the evening on the airstrip. A caterpillar is a machine that has a bulldozer to push. The people working on the airstrip were civilians with the RUF. The MP commander, Kaisoko, was responsible to collect civilians to come to do the work. Nobody was paid. When I was with the RUF, they called me General Keita. In Buedu I normally ate with Issa Sesay. Mosquito’s wife, Hawa, also provided food for me.
It took a couple of weeks before Bockarie returned. Mazahar, Sampson and Jungle came first. They brought fuel, medicine, and ammunition to Sesay, then they went back. (Prosecution shows the witness and the court two photos, one color and one black-and-white: the color photo shows three individuals in front of a hut.) At left is Mazahar, the middle man is Jungle, and the one on the right is myself. The picture is in Kono, Sierra Leone.
Court is now adjourning for the mid-morning break. The session will resume at 11:30. Our account resumes at 12:00.