Lead defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths continues his cross-examination of prosecution witness Varmuyan Sherif:
The map on which the witness drew the area of ULIMO control is still visible to the court.
Def: The area you controlled as ULIMO was all adjacent to Sierra Leone. ULIMO had total control of the Sierra Leonean-Liberian border. Do you agree?
Witness outlines three fronts of ULIMO control.
Defense also points to a document that states ULIMO had total control over Lofa county, and was engaged on two fronts – fighting the NPFL on one side and RUF on the other. The document states the RUF never had access to the NPFL at that time. Is that right?
Def: Why did you tell Brenda Hollis in July 2007 that the RUF never had free access to the NPFL at this time.
Wit: They didn’t have the same access they used to have. But NPFL had people in the deep forest coordinating them.
Def: Then why didn’t you say that in July 2007?
Wit: I remembered new details. My brain is not a computer.
Def: What did you mean the RUF never had free access?
Wit: I meant they didn’t have access by vehicle to Gbarnga.
Def: What does the line on the map you drew indicate?
Wit: This was the area of ULIMO control, but this is guerilla warfare. Even when you have control, others can get by. The NPFL had access to the forest to reach the RUF.
Def: I suggest that ULIMO was an effective buffer between the NPFL and the Sierra Leonean border. You were telling the prosecutor the truth in July 2007 when you said the RUF never had free access. I suggest you are not being frank with us today.
Wit: You can control an area. But this was not conventional war. The other faction can use a bush path to get to other areas and cause havoc. ULIMO never meant NPFL did not have access. This is deep forest.
Def: The area you drew on the map as the extent of ULIMO control – how long did ULIMO control this area, with whatever caveats.
Wit: ULIMO took total control in 1993. ULIMO split in 1994. So Bomi and Grand Cape Mount was now controlled by ULIMO-J. The rest was controlled by ULIMO-K.
Defense is now asking the witness to draw on the map the boundary between the areas controlled by ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J. Witness shows that Gbarpolu and Lofa were ULIMO-L areas and ULIMO-J was Grand Cape Mount.
Def: How long did the combined forces of ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K control the full area after the 1994 split?
Wit: They remained in control until 1996 when the NPFL and ULIMO-K merged.
Def: So between 1992-1996, ULIMO controlled that total area, either as a whole or as a split force?
Def: Would you agree that the main diamond mining areas are contained in the following areas: Lofa Bridge?
Def: The Lofa River is also in that area, and is also a diamond mining area?
Def: And the Mano River area bordering Sierra Leone?
Def: Lofa County generally?
Def: And Bomi Hills?
Def: So between 1992-1996, ULIMO had control of the main diamond-mining areas in Liberia, right?
Def: Were those areas being mined in those years?
Wit: No. We were fighting a war.
Def: So nobody was mining?
Wit: Maybe civilians did.
Def: Did ULIMO used forced labor for mining in that area?
Wit: I don’t know.
Def: Come on, you were a commander; was there forced labor?
Def: Many of the artisinal miners in Liberia and Sierra Leone are Mandingos, aren’t they?
Witness laughs. Wit: Yes.
Def: And ULIMO was made up largely of Mandigos, right?
Wit: Mandingos and Krahn, mostly.
Def: To what extent was ULIMO involved in mining the area from 1992-1996?
Wit: I don’t have knowledge of that.
Def: So ULIMO remained in occupation of the area marked on the map until elections in 1997?
Def: You were a batallion commander?
Def: You were appointed field commander at one stage?
Wit: Acting field commander, for just two months. The responsibilities were to coordinate the front lines and see to their needs.
Def: So a person in that position would have an overview of the movement of troops?
Def: So such an individual would not be carrying out his duty if he failed to investigate his enemy?
Def: From 1992-1997, you would have known about or been told about the leaders of the RUF?
Wit: I knew about the leaders of the RUF from Foya border when we fought RUF and NPFL.
Def: Were you aware of the main figures in the RUF from 1992-1997.
Wit: I didn’t have information from within RUF areas. When fighting in Sierra Leone, from Kenema and into Liberia, we heard stories from civilians about what the RUF had done to them.
Def: Although you were a batallion commander, you didn’t take steps to learn who were the batallion commanders you were facing?
Wit: I don’t understand the question.
Def: How many men did you command?
Wit: 400 men.
Def: For the welfare of your men, you would have wanted to learn the identity of RUF commanders you were facing, right?
Witness describes ULIMO troop movements from border and into Monrovia.
Defense accuses witness of deliberately refusing to answer. Prosecution objects. Judge Sebutinde asks defense to break question into smaller questions.
Def: You knew that groups of RUF might attack from Sierra Leone?
Wit: From all sides.
Def: Did you want to know who was in charge of the people attacking you?
Wit: I knew about Corporal Foday Sankoh. And some captured fighters and also civilians gave us information on the RUF.
Def: When did you first learn the name “Superman”?
Wit: When I took Sam Bockarie to Monrovia. Superman went with him. That’s when I learned about him.
Def: When you were a batallion commander in Lofa, you never heard the name Superman?
Def: When did you first hear of Bockarie?
Wit: When Foday Sankoh was arrested in Nigeria. When I was in Taylor’s regime.
Def: So you first heard his name in 1998?
Wit: No. When we were being attacked in Lofa. I knew the name in 1993-1994.
Def: So you had heard the name Bockarie when you were a batallion commander?
Wit: No. I was general supervisor to coordinate the front lines.
Def: So you already knew about him at the time you say you were sent to fetch him?
Wit: I only knew his name. I didn’t know what he looked like until I was sent to see him.
Def: This morning you told us in answer to the phrase “civilians don’t have blood” that all the warring factions adopted that attitude. Did that include ULIMO?
Def: ULIMO used child soldiers?
Wit: All warring factions used child soldiers, including ULIMO.
Def: On occasion, ULIMO mistreated civilians, right?
Wit: All warring factions mistreated civilians. All had individuals bad things. All factions were involved in ugly things.
Def: ULIMO also took women as sex slaves, didn’t they?
Wit: I did not say so.
Def: Yes or no?
Def: What were the ugly things ULIMO would do?
Wit: All warring factions were involved in “civilians don’t have blood”, in using child soldiers.
Def: Were ULIMO combatants involved in taking females as sex slaves?
Def: Did ULIMO have a particular practice of burying people alive.
Wit: Yes. All warring factions did all ugly things.
Def: Please describe the uniform of a senior ULIMO officer.
Wit: ULIMO did not have uniforms.
Def: Not even senior officers?
Wit: If you’re asking about 1, 2, 3 people, then I say “yes”, because each senior commander supplied their own from somewhere. 99% did not have uniforms.
Def: ULIMO split in 1994-1995?
Def: In 1995, during the course of the transitional government, you were given an appointment in the Executive Mansion?
Def: In 1996 there was the Abuja Peace Accord and in 1997 there were elections in Liberia that made Charles Taylor President?
Def: He invited you to word for the government?
Def: Given your admission this morning that you hated him and that you fought him, did this appointment surprise you?
Wit: No. I was one of the strongest commanders in 1996-1997. I had influence over remote territories. I thought he could use me.
Def: So he was seeking to reconcile differences in Liberia by recruiting people like you?
Wit: Yes, he started that.
Def: Given the experiences you had gone through fleeing NPFL, what was going through your mind, working for this man you hated?
Wit: I felt bad, but that did not mean I hated Mr. Taylor at that time.
Def: So you were able to put all of that behind you?
Def: In this period following your appointment as Assistant Director of Operations…
Defense asks witness to look at a document, interview notes with the prosecution from November 2006.
Def: You said within one week of Taylor’s election, Taylor sent Joseph Montgomery to invite witness to a meeting near the Nigerian embassy. Passage states that Taylor wanted witness in his government for reconciliation and because he was an important commander. Statement says Taylor consulted with witness about best way to gain trust of former ULIMO-K commanders in Lofa County, who were still control there. True?
Def: So ULIMO-K was still in control of Lofa after the election?
Wit: Leadership was dissolved, but fighters were still armed.
Defense reads statement: Witness urged Taylor to employ ULIMO-K commanders in his government. Taylor employed 20 ULIMO-K commanders in his government. That was your unit?
Wit: Yes, 15 went to SSS and five went to immigration.
Def: Then you were replaced in your old role?
Def: I want to ask about Feb 13, 1998. Do you recall that on that date the AFRC were kicked out of Freetown?
Wit: It was the beginning of 1998, I don’t know the particular date.
Def: Do you recall this happened with the assistance of the Liberian government?
Wit: I don’t know about that.
Def: You’ve said here that you were a confidante of Taylor, but you did not now about this?
Wit: If you say it was ECOMOG, I would say that those happened from Liberia.
Def: You agree that bombing raids were launched from Roberts Field International airport?
Wit: Yes. ECOMOG asked AFRC to leave and AFRC refused. ECOMOG used air raids to remove them. They used Roberts International.
Def: Did ECOMOG control Roberts International at that time?
Def: Could they stop flights from landing and leaving?
Wit: ECOMOG was there, but the government was also functioning. I don’t know about their movements at the airport.
Def: We know ECOMOG was in Liberia from 1990-2000. During those ten years, did ECOMOG have control of Roberts International and the Spriggs airport in Monrovia?
Wit: They operated separately from the government. We used to hear on the radio about Taylor saying ECOMOG should leave Liberia, which had a sovereign government. There was confrontation between ECOMOG and the government.
Def: Did ECOMOG deploy troops at those two airports for those ten years?
Wit: They had troops there, but not the same as before the election. The government ran the airport.
Def: Did ECOMOG have military forces at those two airports?
Wit: Yes, but they were no longer in charge of security.
Def: Were they at those two locations throughout the decade?
Def: I want to ask you about your role as Assistant Director in the SSS. You had responsibility to organize the presidential motorcade?
Def: Was there also a unit called the Close Protection Service.
Wit: CPS was my immediate deputy. He had instructions from me.
Def: Was his name Asimio Demy (ph)?
Wit: Yes. CPS was not operating on his own.
Def: The CPS officers would be the ones immediately next to the president?
Wit: No, there was the aide d’camp and the SS Director and (others).
Def: I think that’s wrong. I suggest that the CPS had complete control. I will be suggesting that you were never as close to Taylor as you claim to be. I suggest you are saying you were an insider when you are not. The CPS director had direct responsibility for the family. Your role was to take care of the motorcade and make sure it had petrol and not much more. I suggest that Asemio Demy (ph) had control.
Wit: Demy had instructions from me. I was in charge. (Witness describes the hierarchy.) The act that created the SSS will show that.
Def: It was after the bombing raid of Freetown that a helicopter arrived in Monrovia with AFRC on board. ECOMOG seized the helicopter and its occupants?
Def: These occupants were returned to Sierra Leone?
Wit: ECOMOG took them there.
Def: With the support of Taylor?
Wit: No. I was instructed by Taylor to receive the people. But ECOMOG didn’t let us approach them at the airport.
Def: ECOMOG could do that due to superior military might?
Def: Because ECOMOG had military control of Liberia?
Wit: Not all of Liberia. Just around Monrovia. ECOMOG had its base at James Springs airport.
Def: ECOMOG controlled James Spring Airfield, didn’t they.
Wit: They took control of the helicopter. It was not that they were in charge of James Sprins airport.
Def: ECOMOG had established roadblocks all over the country.
Wit: Only around Monrovia.
Def: What about ECOMOG roadblocks on the green route up to Kolahun from Monrovia?
Witness describes the area of ECOMOG control, including “15 gate”, very close to the city.
Def: Yesterday you said when you went to get Bockarie, you had no letter of introduction because you were worried about a document being intercepted by ECOMOG. Do you remember saying that?
Wit: Yes. They were at 15 Gate (and elsewhere). But once you got beyond there, there was no ECOMOG.
Def: But one needed to take precautions because of ECOMOG’s presence?
Wit: No, I was capable of carrying out the mission and that’s why Taylor sent me.
Def: That’s not the question. Did you not take documentation with you for fear of being caught with it by ECOMOG.
Wit: If we had been intercepted anywhere in Monrovia, such a document would have created a problem. I never had a document for my assignments.
Def: Was this because of ECOMOG?
Def: What kind of equipment did ECOMOG have?
Wit: I don’t know.
Def: You never had contact with them during those 10 years?
Wit: I had no dealings with them. I saw them. They had jet bombers, arms, vehicles, uniforms.
Def: Types of equipment that the Liberian military did not have?
Wit: Yes, they had some things that the Liberian government didn’t have. Also tanks.
Def: You said it was after the seizure of that helicopter that Taylor sent you to get Bockarie?
Def: After February 1998?
Wit: It was two days after the helicopter was seized. It was the beginning of 1998. I don’t know the actual dates.
Def: In 1998, LURD invaded Liberia. What date?
Wit: Yes, at the end of 1998/beginning of 1999.
Def: Who armed and supported LURD?
Wit: I don’t know. I was not a member of LURD. We got intelligence information that they came from Guinea.
Def: The same Guinea that had financed ULIMO?
Def: Who led them?
Wit: Names two leaders, says he heard them on the radio.
Def: They were well equipped?
Wit: I don’t know.
Def: They made major incursions into Liberia, and the government had a right to defend itself?
Def: And at that time, arms were in short supply?
Def: Compared to LURD, government forces in Liberia including the militias were not well equipped?
Wit: They were not well equipped.
Def: And one of the reasons is because many arms seized from former combatants had been burned?
Wit: The entire country was disarmed and the weapons were burned by ECOMOG. There were not enough arms and ammunition in the country.
Def: And the UN had imposed an arms embargo in 1993?
Def: So we have a country ill-equipped to defend itself from an invasion sponsored by another country?
Def: Going back to 1999-2000, you were removed from your post in the SSS, weren’t you?
Def: On January 6, 1999, shortly after the LURD invasion, there was the Freetown invasion. Correct?
Wit: I don’t know the exact date. In 2000 I was moved to Immigration and made Deputy Chief of Staff, Army Division.
Def: Why were you removed from you position as Assistant Director.
Wit: No reason was given, but perhaps they were suspicious after the LURD invasion.
Def: Why suspicious?
Wit: 75% of LURD were Krahn and Mandingo, same as Mandingo. Some people left Taylor’s government and joined LURD. So I think they thought I might leave too. Taylor gave me no reason.
Def: In 2003 you were appointed Deputy Chief of Staff, and your area of responsibiltiy was Bomi Hills?
Wit: No. (Witness describes a larger area of responsibility.)
Def: I want to put more propositions to you. Do you agree that upon his election, Taylor was eager to restore peace to Liberia?
Wit: Yes, I can agree.
Def: And that’s why people like you who were formerly hostile to him were willing to join his government?
Def: Because he wanted to create a unified Liberia and appease the warring factions?
Defense now wants to discuss disarming ULIMO and other warring factions.
Def: In 1997, some factions including ULIMO had not totally disarmed.
Wit: Yes, and NPFL too.
Def: There was distrust.
Wit: Oh yes.
Def: So Taylor adopted a policy of recruiting persons such as yourself?
Wit: He wanted to encourage us to give up our arms.
Defense is indicating another document, an old witness statement. Witness statement says that he proposed to Taylor looking for hidden weapons in Lofa among former ULIMO fighters. Do you agree?
Def: Wasn’t it Mr. Taylor’s idea to send you to Lofa County?
Wit: It was a good idea.
Def: Yours or his?
Wit: I proposed it to him. I was worried he would lose confidence in me if arms were discovered in Lofa and I hadn’t proposed this to him.
Defense reads from statement – a passage about the witness’s mission to Lofa, in which he discussed employment in the government f0r former ULIMO commanders in exchange for weapons being handed over. Describes 10 pick-up trucks of weapons, a howitzer, and other equipment. Statement says Taylor was impressed, and that many senior aides came to see the convoy. Leo Mento, Montgomery’s senior bodyguard took control. True?
Def: What is the location close to the German embassy where the weapons were taken – what do you mean there?
Wit: I don’t know. That’s where Taylor was living before he moved to White Flower.
Def: Yesterday you said they were taken to Taylor’s house near the German embassy. Why in the statement did you only say in this statement from November 2006 that the weapons were taken only to a location near the embassy. Why didn’t you say then that it was Mr. Taylor’s house.
Wit: Taylor’s house was very close to the German embassy.
Def: Did you take the arms to Taylor’s house?
Def: Why didn’t you say so then?
Wit: My head is not a computer. I can’t remember all the things all the time when I’m talking.
Def: Where you coached to give me that answer?
Def: Last week were you told to say that if a defense counsel presses you?
Def: Why didn’t you mention Mr. Taylor’s house in this paragraph?
Wit: When I said “near the German embassy” I was refering to Taylor’s house.
Defense reads more from the statement, a passage regarding another in this series of weapon shipments brought to a place near White Flower in Monrovia. Witness does not know what exactly happened with this weapons and ammunition, but knows they were brought to a place near White Flower in Monrovia. He heard that from his driver and bodyguard.
Def: Which place near White Flower?
Wit: Yeaten and Montomery’s houses lived adjacent to White Flower. It could be considered one compound. My house is also right near there.
Def: So it should have read that the weapons were taken to Montgomery’s house?
Wit: The second shipment went to Montgomery. The first went to Taylor’s house.
Defense reads further, a passage stating that the witness returned to Monrovia, and about a trip with Taylor to Togo for an ECOWAS meeting.
Def: Was money provided by Taylor to purchase arms from former ULIMO fighters?
Wit: He told me he gave some money to Sam Bockarie to bring some weapons to the Lofa area. He gave me money for personal use, but he never gave me money to buy arms from former ULIMO fighers. He gave me 350 bags of rice and said I should take them to Lofa and distribute. At another time he gave me money for former fighters, but it was not for arms.
Def: Was the disarmament process in Lofa County and other areas formerly controlled by ULIMO as a success?
Wit: It was a success.
Def: But that area of Lofa County remained unstable throughout Taylor’s presidency?
Wit: Yes, it was best to handle it by me going to bring back weapons.
Def: But despite those efforts, it was not stable?
Wit: It was not stable.
Def: In part because of its isolation, it was a difficult area to control?
Def: Did the RUF buy arms from ULIMO?
Def: And they bought arms from ULIMO between 1992-1997?
Wit: No, only after 1997.
Def: I suggest there was a thriving trade from 1992-1997.
Def: Some of the arms you brought back were distributed to police and soldiers because there was a shortage?
Def: But some of these arms were kept by ECOMOG and the United Nations?
Def: Now we’re moving from the general to the particular. Before that, do you agree to the following?
Def: You were never a guest at Taylor’s house.
Wit: Not true.
Def: Neither when he lived near the German embassy, nor when he moved to White Flower.
Wit: Not true. I didn’t need an invitation. I was in charge of his security day and night unless I was sick. It was every day.
Def: We suggest that this man is lying about that. Defense counsel Griffiths tells judges that this line of questioning will therefore take longer.
Judge Sebutinde adjourns the trial until tomorrow morning.