Wit: During the AFRC junta time in Sierra Leone I was an artist in the Sierra Leonean army. I drew military emblems and wrote on military vehicles. I was at Juba workshop, Juba barracks in Freetown. I was living with my boss, E.B.S. Bangura, the commander of my unit of electrical and mechanical engineers. At the time the AFRC was driven from Freetown by ECOMOG, I saw people running, including Johnny Paul Koroma. I left with them. We went first to Tombo in the Western Urban Area, near Waterloo, on the Freetown Peninsula Road. It’s past Tokeh, on the way to York. The group who left were soldiers and their families–old people, children, men, soldiers and families. We were over 5,000. We had vehicles, but most carried property. We walked for some time, and used the vehicles for some time. We walked behind the vehicles part of the time. At Tombo, Johnny Paul said he had given some money to the boatsmen. Johnny Paul was in a vehicle going slowly. With Johnny Paul were Colonel Dumbuya alias “Savimbi”, Johnny Moore, my boss E.B.S. Bangura, Edward Collins, Gummo Jalloh, Pa Kosiah, Colonel Mansaray, Major Mensa. Pa Kosiah was an RUF member, a retired soldier. ECOMOG was chasing us from Freetown. Johnny Paul said we were only passing through. We crossed the river to Fogbo in boats. In my boat was Eldred Collins, Johnny Paul’s family, the wife of Johnny Paul’s chief of staff (Johnny Paul’s elder brother–S.F.Y. Koroma). S.F.Y. Koroma himself was not in my boat. After Fogbo, we stayed in Masiaka.
When we got to Masiaka, there were more people than the town could contain. All of the soldiers from Freetown were there, in disarray. Rebels were amongst us too. We did not spend the night there. They told us Issa Sesay, the second in command for the RUF, had sent a message to disarm the Guineans. We were there when the Guinean Alpha-Jets came. There were rebel commanders in Masiaka: Eldred Collins, Gummo Jalloh, Pa Kosiah. Civilians in Masiaka were confused. Some of our colleagues took food from them, entered their houses, took their properties, and some were taken away. Other civilians from Masiaka and surrounding villages were captured and given looted property to carry. The RUF and Juntas were doing this.
From Masiaka we walked all night to Makeni–all of us, including the captured civilians with the loads. In Makeni I saw rebel and soldier commanders: Johnny Paul Koroma, Issa Sesay, Johnny Moore, Eldred Collins, Gummo Jalloh, Sammi, Major Dumbua. We saw houses being set on fire and looted. Issa said nobody should burn houses in Makeni. RUF and the Juntas started shooting at people who were setting houses on fire. I asked Collins why when they went to Mende land they were burning houses, but in Makeni we were ordered not to burn houses. He said it was an order from Issa because it was his home-town. The burning stopped after they started shooting at people. The soldiers and rebels continued to take property; Issa did not stop that. Soldiers and rebels were capturing people: civilians, children, adults, women, men. The captured civilians were forced to carry loads of looted property: household goods, clothing, many things. Some women were made wives. Small children were taken for house chores.
We went to Kono District. We stopped at Mortema and fought there against Kamajors for the whole day. I was not fighting because I didn’t have a gun–I had just come from the workshop. After we drove the Kamajors and SLAs from Mortema, we went to Koidu Town. From leaving Freetown until we arrived in Koidu Town it had been about a week. Some of the Kamajors had been killed, some fled to Guinea, and others to Tongo. RUF and AFRC Juntas now occupied Kono. When I arrived in Koidu, I went with Eldred Collins, Gummo Jalloh, Isaac, Morris Kallon, Pa Kaibanja, and captured children went to Guinea Highway, close to the mosque. We lived there, over 200 yards from the center of Koidu Town. I did not know Isaac well, and first met him when we were there. He was a Liberian from what they were saying. I heard him speaking Liberian language. Liberians say a particular word, “mameh”, that’s distinctive. I stayed a week in Koidu. Issa Sesay and Superman (Dennis Mingo) were there. Mingo was a Liberian, an operations commander who led the attack on Koidu. He captured Koidu from Kamajors and the government. AFRC commanders were also there: Gullit, Alex Tamba Brima, Honorable Sammi, Johnny Paul, Pa Morlai. At Five-Five in Koidu, a place in the center of town where the mosque is, Issa was in a jeep, and took items from us. I saw him standing with a handset–a satellite phone. I am an electrial engineer and can identify it. It was an Ericcson satellite phone with a long antenna. He was in a Suzuki jeep with his bodyguards. He got out and took some of the things we had gathered. He was talking on the satellite phone and I could hear what he was saying. He was telling Mosquito that Kono was now under their control. He addressed Mosquito as “master”. That’s what they called Mosquito even when he went to Freetown. That’s how I knew he was speaking with Mosquito, Sam Bockarie. Food was difficult to come by. We had gathered foodstuffs scattered in the streets, and Issa took some from us. At the time in Koidu, we had taken someone’s house and lived there. I saw RUF and Juntas burn houses. I asked them why. They said they had been ordered to burn civilian houses by the high command. I even saw my colleague soldiers burning civilian houses. I went and met Eldred Collins and said I had heard that house burning had started again. He said this is “Operation No Living Thing”. He said it was an order from Mosquito–that we are burning houses so that if ECOMOG or government soldiers come, they cannot stay in Kono. He said we will take the zinc roofs and build other houses. Then the RUF and Juntas would completely control Kono. I saw them shooting civilians in Kono. I saw them capture civilians in Koidu Town and surrounding villages, looting property, capturing kids–boys and girls, they shot civilians who were unwilling to carry loads. In Koidu, they captured civilians and forcefully initiated them into the force. Many women and children were captured. Those who weren’t captured ran away toward Guinea as refugees. In Koidu, women were captured and made into wives. It was like serving yourself tea to drink. It was very common wherever we went–in Freetown, Masiaka, Kono, and all along the way there. I saw it myself. Operation No Living Thing went on every day and every night, burning houses all over Kono. They burned mud houses and even concrete houses. In Koidu Town, there were more houses burned down than I could count. There were more than 100 and I couldn’t count them anymore. I wanted to find a way to reach Kailahun because that was my mother land. The group was moving towards Kailahun anyway. RUF and AFRC fighters had broken into a bank in Koidu and taken money and diamonds. They wanted to use this to open a route to Kailahun. Eldred Collins handed us over to be security for this together with Staff Sargeant Saliu Kanneh, who was Julius Maada Bio’s bodyguard. I saw the money myself in big bags. I became frightened because I had taken a military oath. We had no respect. In the military I had taken some courses and learned how to fight a war. I saw that the money was looted and thought it would be a disgrace to my family.
From Koidu I went to Gandorhun with a convoy that included Johnny Paul Koroma, Morris Kallon, Pa Kusia, Gummo Jalloh, Antie Rose (Johnny Paul’s eldest brother’s wife), and the captured civilians, who carried the loads. I personally was with my aunt, Madam Jemba Ngobeh and Eldred Collins together with his family. When we got to Baoma, I saw Kanneh who had accompanied the money ahead of us. He was naked and said they had accused of him of stealing. I learned the money was to be taken to Liberia. Our colleagues told us anything beneficial would be taken to Charles Taylor. I did not see money given to Taylor, but I used to see things taken to Liberia.
I went with Eldred Collins, his family and others to Kailahun, along with Issa Sesay. The next morning Eldred Collins called me and took me to Issa at the roundabout in Kailahun. He gave me an AK-58 gun and said we should take arms and ammunition to Jokebu, the war front. I was supposed to use the AK-58 for offensive and defensive purposes. Jokebu is past Manowa, three miles from Gomubonbu, about nine miles northeast of Kailahun. We were carrying explosives, 7.62 NATO ammunition, 7.6 Chinese ammunition, accomodative charges–also called tank mines, and rocket propelled grenades. We used a vehicle that took us part of the way, then walked through Mende Burma and Mende Kalema with the material. We asked civilians to carry the loads on their heads. At Manowa, we took a ferry to Jokebu.
At Jokebu, we were lodged by Major Saddam, a member of the RUF and the commander at Jokebu.
Court has adjourned for the mid-morning break. The session will resume at 11:30. With the half-hour delay in video and audio to the media center, our live-blogging will continue at 12:00.