Court is back in session.
In response to a series of questions from prosecutor Nick Koumjian, prosecution witness Abu Keita continues his evidence:
Wit: Mazahar and Jungle belonged to the SSS. I never saw them in uniform. When they came to Sierra Leone, they were not in uniforms. Their boss in Liberia was Benjamin Yeaten. In Sierra Leone, they reported to Bockarie or Issa Sesay. During my time with the RUF, a couple of years, I often saw Mazahar and Jungle. Mazahar came to Sierra Leone to deal with problems. Mazahar, Sampson and Jungle – they only came to Sierra Leone when Benjamin Yeaten sent them. Jungle belonged to the Kissi tribe in Liberia. I don’t know what happened to him – they said he was killed. Jungle spoke Kissi. Sam Bockarie also spoke Kissi. Mazahar belonged to the Gio tribe. When they came to Sierra Leone, they came with medicine, fuel and ammunition.
After I went to Buedu, I next saw Sam Bockarie in Foya. Isssa Sesay said he’d received a radio call, that Bockarie was coming, and we were to go meet him in Foya. I drove with Issa. Bockarie was with two trucks, one pick-up with ammunition and manpower. The truck was a six-tire truck given by the Libyan government to Charles Taylor. The truck had a beige color. He brought 300 boxes of ammunition. That was the first time he said he had a huge quanitity. Bockarie said he was happy, so he shot in the air. 300 boxes is a lot of ammunition. The trucks went to Buedu. Bockarie came with Liberians and Sierra Leoneans – about 150 men. I was expecting these were the men Yeaten had told me about that I would command. But the men were later taken to Bunumbu, the training camp of the RUF. The training commanders at the Bunumbu camp were Monica Pearson and Col. Morris. One Liberian police driver in the convoy was called “Senegalese”. My wife was also in that convoy from Liberia and I was happy to see her. Sam Bockarie said the men were coming from Camp Nama, and that the ammunition was from Monrovia.
After I met Bockarie in Foya, we drove to Buedu. I talked to Sam Bockarie after he’d dispatched the men to the training camp. He told me the RUF had laws, that you weren’t entitled to a passport, foreign currency. If found with these things and you fail to report them to the authorities, they will deal with you, whosoever you were. You are not entitled to diamonds. He said the diamonds belonged to the RUF. He said you were entitled to keep up to 50,000 Leones, but above that, it did not belong to you. Bockarie said he’d traveled to Burkina Faso. Then he gave me a picture from the guesthouse there, and with one Guinean, Sheku Suwape Koroma. I gave that photo to the prosecution. (Prosecution asks that the witness and court be shown the photograph: it shows 6 people standing in a row.) Starting at the left, the people in the photo are: unknown, Eddie Kanneh, Sam Bockarie, SB Rogers of the RUF war council, unknown, and the last is Sheku Suwape Koroma. This is the picture Bockarie gave me. Sheku Suwape Koroma is a Guinean who was in Liberia with Benjamin Yeaten. I saw him in Monrovia with Benjamin Yeaten before I took up the assignment with the RUF. I saw him at Yeaten’s house. I later saw him in Buedu with Sam Bockarie.
In Buedu, Bockarie told me there would be no double-command in the RUF. Everyone should take command from him. Jungle, Mazahar and Sampson were there when he said this. They told me it wasn’t a big deal and I should cooperate. Bockarie gave me a letter of assignment. I wanted it in writing I would be commander of the Scorpions. Bockarie gave me the paper in front of house. I lost the paper during the last attack in Liberia when my mother’s house was burned down. Yeaten later confirmed with me over the Yesue radio whether I had received the letter. I was talking from Sam Bockarie’s house in Buedu when I spoke with Yeaten, who was in Monrovia. I said yes. He said to take care of it well because it was signed by Charles Taylor. It was signed in blue pen.
After Bockarie arrived, I stayed in Buedu. The command structure of the RUF was Bockarie as commander, then Sesay as second-in command, then Dennis Mingo and Morris Kallon, then Mike Lamin, then Isaac, then Lawrence Wohmandia. A man named Kennedy was the mining commander of the RUF. He would take diamonds to Bockarie. Kennedy was a Sierra Leonean. Isaac was a Liberian. Dennis Mingo (“Superman”) was also a Liberian – a Bandi by tribe. Monica Pearson, a training commander, was a Liberian – a Kpelle. RUF Rambo was one of the front-line commanders; he was a Liberian – a Mandingo. Matthew Barbue was a commander who was also Liberian; he was one of the front-line commanders.
At this time, Foday Sankoh was arrested by the Nigerians. At that time, Johnny Paul Koroma was in Kangama. From Buedu, that’s about 7 and a half miles away. Former officers of the SLA were working with the RUF at the time. One was Akim, Leatherboot, Eddie Kanneh, Honorable Adams, Honorable Suleh, Honorabe Lagad (ph). They were all front-line commanders working with the RUF. Colonel Hector was one of the SLAs. I don’t know where he was, but he was part of the RUF. We were all in Kono. Colonel Banya was a commander in Tongo Field. Tongo Field is a mining down at the back of Kenema. My bodyguards were changed. Bockarie gave me 3 of his bodyguards and took the three who had come with me. Bockarie took the Yesue radio I brought, which was given to me by Benjamin Yeaten.
When Bockarie brought the 300 boxes of ammunition to Buedu, the RUF was very happy. He had a meeting with RUF commanders and said this is the ammunition. We should take over Kono and Makeni and terrorize the highway because Kono was a strategic area for us to get arms so that the mining will continue. The meeting was at his house. From there they had a vanguard meeting behind closed doors in his bedroom. The vanguards are the ones who brought the war into Sierra Leone. They were the first people who had entered Sierra Leone with the RUF. Vanguards were Liberians and Sierra Leoneans. Akim and Leatherboot were AFRC, SLAs, but they all worked with the RUF. They were at the first meeting at Bockarie’s house. Bockarie said Kono was strategic because we needed to mine to generate funds for the RUF. I was not in the meeting of the vanguards. Then there was a muster parade on the soldier grounds in front Kaisoko’s house. The fighters were told to take Kono and Makeni. He said President Taylor said they must be vigilant. We launched an offensive against Kono and Makeni. It was announced on Chrismas Day, 1998 that Koidu Town was taken by the RUF. I don’t know how long that was since Bockarie had come with the ammunition. The operation started right away. Issa Sesay was dispatched after the meeting in Buedu. He was sent with Morris Kallon and Akim, the SLA, to Kono. I was sent through (witness lists a series of villages). Bockarie instructed us, if we encounter any resistance, we should burn down the villages. I took part in that. We burned 7 houses in Bunumbu, (witness lists three additional villages where several houses were burned down). The offensive was in Kono, Masingbi, Magburaka.
During this offensive, Bockarie travelled to Liberia. Bockarie called Mike Lamin to take charge in Buedu until his return. He called him on a Yesue radio. He didn’t ask Issa Sesay to take over because Sesay was already in Kono, heading toward Makeni. That’s why he called Mike Lamin to take charge. I escorted Bockarie to Foya. Joe Tuah came with a chopper that had a military color. He took Bockarie to Monrovia with a chopper, a helicopter. Bockarie did not stay in Monrovia too long. When he was coming, he communicated he was coming. Bockarie came with an ash-color Land Cruiser pick-up given to him by Charles Taylor. I met Bockarie at Foya. Bockarie said Taylor gave him the pick-up so he could move up and down faster; the pick-up was new. In the pick-up he brought jeans trousers, t-shirts, medicine and bandages.
The first time I saw Johnny Paul Koroma was in Kangama. We went there to use the Yesue radio. Bockarie and others went to Kangama to talk to Bazzy, 5-5 and Musa. Johnny Paul spoke with them. Eddie Kanneh told me the boss has already spoken with Bazzy, Gullit, Five-Five and Saj. They said they will cooperate and work together. The problem was between Saj and Dennis Mingo. They said Mingo never wanted to take orders from Saj.
The RUF had Yesue radio sets. In Buedu alone there were seven of them. Many commanders had radios assigned to them. (Witness lists commanders who were assigned radios.) A chief radio operator, Zedman, monitored use of all the radio sets. Short Bai Bureh had a radio. Matthew Barbue had a radio. Every radio had a radio operator. They coded the messages. The person sending the messsage would sign. All radios had radio operators assigned to them by Zedman. Only Bockarie, Mingo, and Sesay could speak themselves over the radio. From Buedu, the Yesue radios could reach Monrovia. I saw him use the radio room through his radio operator, a lady called Sebatu, an operator called Eboni, another called Memunatu, and an operator called Sita. I saw Bockarie use the satellite phone. I was present when he spoke with Benjamin Yeaten. Calls on the satellite phone were paid through top-up cards. Benjamin Yeaten sent scratch-off cards to Bockarie. Yeaten sent cards by the Yesue radio. They would scratch the cards and send the number through the radio. I also saw Issa Sesay with a satellite phone after Bockarie’s regime. Issa Sesay said that Charles Taylor gave it to him.
After fighting the operations in Kono and Makeni, there was an attack on Freetown. I was in Buedu at the time of the attack on Freetown. Bockarie was in Buedu. It was the time he came with the jean trousers and t-shirts. At 3:00 we listened to BBC Focus on Africa. One commander spoke from Freetown and said they were in control of State House. Bockarie was angry and called Sesay and Kallon. He asked why they should allow interviews with the BBC when he hadn’t called the BBC. Then he called the BBC and spoke with Robin White. He shot. Bockarie said we were at State House even though we were in Buedu. Bockarie was calling various commanders in Freetown over the Yesue in Freetown. Bockarie spoke with Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon. He also called Benjamin Yeaten and Joe Tuah at night over satellite phone. I heard him talking to them. After the call, Bockarie said he explained the operation, how the men were progressing. The fighting in Freetown started on January 6, 1999. It was on that day there was the call to the BBC from State House.
On the Yesue radio, all commanders use the same radio channels. The chief radio operator, Zedman, monitored all calls.
Defense objects that the prosecution has been leading the witness. Judge Doherty warns prosecutor Koumjian to avoid leading questions.
I heard Bockarie and Yeaten discussing progression of the operation. I didn’t hear any instructions from Yeaten.
During the Freetown invasion, I was in charge of bringing wounded soldiers to Buedu. I made civilians carry wounded men in hammocks to Buedu. I did not go to Freetown.
I saw Bockarie meet helicopters in Foya on other occasions. Joe Tuah would pick him up there and take him to Monrovia. It was during the Freetown invasion that he went to Monrovia and came back with that pick-up I told you about. When he came back, he brought back a message, that he should maintain the controlled areas of the RUF. Bockarie said the message came from President Taylor. Bockarie passed that message to Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon.
When I was with the RUF, I learned about RUF strategies to deal with attacks from jets. We should not cook or do laundry during the day. You were not entitled to keep a dog. When the jet discovers those things, they can operate. Zedman monitored ECOMOG radios from Lungi. Mamunatu and Sita monitored from Monrovia. If jets took off from the RIA airport in Monrovia sent by Victor Malu, the radio operator would give the code 448 for the jet and ring a bell and everybody would escape. Victor Malu was the ECOMOG force commander in Liberia. When we heard “448” over the radio, it means a jet is up.
I saw men arrive from Liberia in Sierra Leone after the Freetown and Kono invasions. There were another 150 men who came with Mazahar and Sampson. Those men were dispersed into another group of the RUF.
Pros: Did you ever see Ibrahim Bah in Sierra Leone?
Wit: Yes, I saw him in Kono with Eddie Kanneh and CR. That was during Issa Sesay’s administration, in 2000. CR was a bodyguard to General Ibrahim Bah. He was slim and tall. He’s Liberian. Bah and 4 Lebanese came to Kone with Kanneh, to see Issa Sesay and get the RUF diamonds. They only brought a car.
Bockarie left Sierra Leone after the Lome Peace Accord because he had an argument with Sankoh. Bockarie didn’t want to disarm. Sankoh ordered him arrested. But he crossed over to Liberia. When Bockarie went to Liberia, Sankoh himself was in charge of the RUF. Issa Sesay took Bockarie’s position. During the time Sesay took over, Sesay assigned me to a mining camp called Sandia, on the Sewafe River. After Sesay took over from Bockarie, he took a trip after the May 8 operation where we arrested the UN peacekeepers in 2000.
After the capture of Kono on Christmas Day, the RUF captured 11 ECOMOG Nigerian peacekeepers. General Issa captured them. They were kept in Buedu, in the dungeons. They were at the MP headquarters. We had dug a big hole and used ladders to put prisoners into the whole. We called it the dungeon. Bockarie was still in charge at the time. The 11 peacekeepers were later released into Liberia. Yeaten and Bockarie had a meeting first at Dawa. Yeaten told Bockarie that Taylor said they should release the peacekeepers to him in Liberia. Bockarie hesitatated and didn’t release them the same day. Bockarie went to Foya. We went to Buedu. Bockarie got a call from Yeaten and said there was an order from Taylor to release the peacekeepers. We drove with the peacekeepers to Foya, where we met Yeaten and Joe Tuah, where we handed over the peacekeepers.
When Bockarie was no longer in charge and Issa Sesay was in charge, in 2000, there was another incident with peacekeepers. Augustine Gbao said they’d arrested 3 SBUs in Makeni and forced them to go to the disarmament camp. Gbao said this was a violation of the Lome Accords. That’s when we decided to arrest the Kenyans and Zambians. We took about 500 of them – including the whole Zambian troop. Issa Sesay was the commander but Sankoh was in Freetown. We frontline commanders expected to release them, but the order didn’t come. Issa told us to take them to Number 11 Plant in Kono. The peacekeepers were there until the attack on Sankoh’s house in Freetown. It was May 2000. After that, Dennis Mingo and Gibril Massoquoi and a Sankoh bodyguard called Ray retreated from Freetown. We met with them at Gberi Junction. I drove them to Makeni. They said Sankoh sent the message that Issa Sesay should take charge of the RUF. The peacekeepers were still under RUF control. We saw Mazahar and Jungle come for Issa Sesay in Makeni. They drove to the border and crossed to Liberia. Issa came back with a satellite phone and said it had been issued to him by Charles Taylor. Sesay also came with 50 boxes of ammunition. He called a meeting in Makeni at the MP headquarters at the round-about. He spoke to all commanders and said “Charles Taylor says we should release the peacekeepers to him in Liberia.” We had no alternative. We took the peacekeepers and handed them to Yeaten and Joe Tuah in Foya.
Pros: I want to talk about diamond mining.
Wit: I saw Sam Bockarie with diamonds in Buedu. I saw Kennedy giving diamonds to Bockarie in Buedu. They were in a plastic, wrapped in papers. It was sealed up.
I saw mining operations in Kono District. One was at Number 11 Plant, where they did deep mining by machines – a caterpillar to push and a back-hoe. There was mining at Kaisombo, where we had a caterpillar to push people’s houses already built there. The place was a town, Koidu Town itself. They call the river Kaisombo. The houses were destroyed to make the mining easier for the workers. At Opera, individual miners worked – they dug into the black dirt. They filled 50 bags, 25 for the RUF. If no diamond came from those 25 bags, the others would have to be washed in the presence of Peleto. Peleto was the mining chairman to supervise all the mining sites. Kennedy was in charge during Bockarie’s time. Under Sesay, Peleto was in charge. Peleto reported to Issa Sesay. Kennedy had reported to Sam Bockarie. I was assigned to the mining area by the Sewafe River, where divers dug. I was there until I was taken to fight against UN peacekeepers in Makeni. I was assigned to the mining area when Issa became commander. I think I was there for a couple of months. My job at the site was to monitor the divers. Roughly 11 men did the diving. They went in shifts of three under the river. Each person did it for one hour. These people were civilian Sierra Leoneans. At the other mining sites, civilians also did the work. The civilians were not paid, but fed and taken care of if they were sick. Civilians were not allowed to keep diamonds they found. Where I was working, we used a machine. It had a tube and a face mask. Gravel was pumped from under the water into a box. When the box was filled with gravel, it was washed. The whole of Kono District were mining sites. Gaia was also a mining site. Diamonds that were discovered at these sites were taken to the mining commander, Peleto, who took them to Issa. Where I was, if diamonds were found, I took them directly to Issa.
Court is now adjourning for the lunch break. The session will resume at 2:30. Our account will continue at 3:00 (2:00 in Sierra Leone and Liberia).