Prosecution Witness Abu Keita Connects Taylor to RUF Abuses

The Hague


January 23, 2008


The Prosecution continued its examination of linkage witness Abu Keita.  Keita appeared in the courtroom dressed in all white, placing him in stark contrast with the Court’s staff and their black robes.  Keita provided information on key members of Taylor’s inner circle, as well as information on RUF activities in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.  


The Prosecution was unable to provide precise spellings for many of the individuals Keita named during his testimony, and at one point Judge Sebutinde told the Prosecution to make its own determinations regarding which names it had to spell.  Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths chuckled and shook his head when the Prosecution faced difficulties spelling names.  Additional obstacles arose because Keita testified in Liberian English and used a interpreter throughout his examination.  Keita commonly referred to individuals as “he,” causing confusion for the Judges as to whom Keita was referring.


Taylor appeared interested in this witness and wore his headphones during large portions of the testimony.  Taylor took off his sunglasses to put on reading glasses to inspect photographs identified during Keita’s testimony.  In addition, Taylor appeared to read along with the court reporter’s transcription at numerous times.


Prosecution Continues its Examination of Abu Keita

Prosecutor Nick Koumjian continued his direct examination of linkage witness Abu Keita.  

Keita’s Involvement with the RUF


Abu Keita detailed the history of his involvement with the RUF.  He described how the SSU (Special Security Unit) and SSS (Special Security Service), Taylor’s forces, fought against Roosevelt Johnson, the leader of ULIMO-J, in 1998.  The SSU and SSS ordered Roosevelt Johnson arrested, and subsequently arrested Keita for having met with Johnson, who urged the reunification of ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J.  Keita was taken to Saw Beach Prison, where he was detained for one week without being charged.  Varmuyan Sherif, a former member of Taylor’s personal security force, took Keita from the jail to the house of Musa Cisse, Chief of Presidential Protocol, and indicated that Keita should cooperate.  Benjamin Yeaten, Director of the SSS, arrived at Cisse’s house and told Keita to cooperate.  Keita agreed.


Keita had subsequent meetings leading up to his departure to Sierra Leone as a member of the RUF:

  • One week after Keita’s meeting with Yeaten at Cisse’s house, Keita met with Joseph Marzah (aka “Zigzag”), Sampson, and Jungle (members of the Special Security and bodyguards for Yeaten), who accompanied Keita to Cisse’s house.  Keita then attended a meeting at Yeaten’s house with Yeaten, Sam Bockarie, Eddie Kanneh (Diamond Manager for the RUF), S.B. Rogers (War Council Leader of the RUF), Mr. Rashid (Adjutant of the RUF), Montgomery, and Sherif.  Yeaten asked Keita to join the RUF, to which he agreed.  Keita agreed to be commander of the “Scorpion Unit,” based in Buedu, Kailahun District, Sierra Leone.  Yeaten said Taylor gave him instructions to send Keita to Sierra Leone. 
  • Keita met General Ibrahim Bah (former fighter with NPFL) later that day to discuss how Bah could find a buyer for RUF diamonds and how Bah could obtain an FM radio station to use for RUF propaganda.  Bah, Kanneh, Bockarie, Yeaten, Rogers, Rashid, and Bah’s bodyguard were present at this meeting.  Keita saw Sam Bockarie show more than ten diamonds to Bah.  
  • Later that day, Keita met with Bockarie, Yeaten, Rogers, Kanneh, and Taylor at Taylor’s residence.  Taylor asked Bockarie to maintain the RUF.
  • Yeaten sent Keita to Sierra Leone.  Yeaten issued to Keita an AK-47, a pistol with eight rounds, 10 boxes of ammunition, a Yaesu radio, and three bodyguards with rifles.  

Keita testified that once he was in Buedu, Bockarie returned to Sierra Leone after a visit to Taylor.  Keita drove with Issa Sesay, an RUF commander, to meet Bockarie in Foya, Lofa County, Liberia.  Bockarie had two trucks, one of which was a truck allegedly given to Taylor by the Libyan government.  Bockarie brought 300 boxes of ammunition and 150 Sierra Leonean and Liberian fighters.  Bockarie said the men were coming from Camp Naama, and that the ammunition was from Monrovia.  


According to Keita, when Bockarie brought the 300 boxes of ammunition to Buedu, Bockarie met with the RUF and proposed a takeover of Kono and Makeni.  Bockarie said Kono was strategic because the RUF needed mines to generate funds.  After a parade in front of military commander Kaisoko’s office, Sesay instructed troops to take over Kono and Makeni.  Sesay said Taylor said to initiate this attack.  It was announced on Christmas Day of 1998 that the RUF took Koidu Town, Kono District.  Keita was in Segwema, Bunumbu, and other towns in Sierra Leone.  Bockarie instructed him that if he faced any resistance during this offensive to burn down houses.  Keita burned down seven houses in Bunumbu, as well as in other towns. 


Keita testified that Bockarie again traveled to Monrovia following the attacks on Kono and Makeni.  He returned with a Land Cruiser given to him by Taylor.  Bockarie told Keita that Taylor gave him the Land Cruiser.  Bockarie also said that Taylor told him to maintain control over RUF areas.   According to Keita, Bockarie passed that message to Sesay and Morris Kallon.


Keita stated that Bockarie gave him a letter of assignment confirming that Keita was commander of the “Scorpion Unit.”  According to Keita, Bockarie gave him an assignment paper and Yeaten later confirmed over radio that Keita received the letter.  Keita lost the letter when his mother’s house burned down.  Taylor allegedly signed the letter in blue pen. 


Supplies and Technology


At one point, Keita testified regarding construction of a three-mile airstrip in Buedu. Sesay said he expected supply planes to land on the airstrip, and Kaisoko was responsible for collecting civilians to work on the airstrip. 


Keita also testified about RUF use of Yaesu radios.  He noted there were seven radios in Buedu and that many commanders had radios assigned to them.  A chief radio operator, Zedman, monitored use of all the radio sets.  Every radio had a radio operator specially assigned by Zedman who sent messages.  Only Bockarie, Mingo, and Sesay spoke directly over the radios. Keita testified that transmissions from Buedu could reach Monrovia.  Bockarie and Sesay also had satellite phones, and Sesay said Taylor gave him the satellite phone.



RUF Activities Outside Sierra Leone


Keita described a number of operations outside of Sierra Leone:

  1. The first operation outside of Sierra Leone involved “Mosquito Spray,” a LURD commander who allegedly said he was in Liberia to spray the AFL and national police and remove Taylor from power.  In August 1999, Bockarie, under Yeaten’s instruction, contacted the RUF to move to Foya because Mosquito Spray had attacked.  Bockarie was in Foya and asked Sesay and Kallon to lead the attack against the LURD rebels.  The RUF, AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia), police, and ATU (Antiterrorist Unit) fought against the LURD rebels.  The commander of the operation was Sam Bockarie, based in Foya, who received orders from Yeaten, who reported to Taylor.  
  2. The next operation with the RUF outside Sierra Leone was an attack on Guinea.  Sesay said Taylor informed him that the RUF should gain ground in Guinea so that arms could be kept safely in Guinea during disarmament in Sierra Leone.  The RUF ultimately retreated due to a large number of casualties.
  3. The next operation included attacks against two Guinean refugee camps with Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees.  Mingo led the troops from Kono into Guinea.  The troops fought against the Guinean government.  
  4. The next operation outside of Sierra Leone was an attack against Gueckedou, Guinea.  It was a joint operation of the RUF, AFL, ATU and Liberian police.  Yeaten was the operation commander, Mingo was the field commander, and Keita was a commander.  Operation “No Taking Side” was planned and the order signed by Yeaten, Sesay, Barbue, and Mark Gwon.  The Prosecution showed an exhibit to Keita that was the signed operation order.  During the operation, Sesay and Yeaten traveled from Foya to Monrovia.  When they returned, they said they saw Taylor. 

During these operations, Yeaten supplied ammunition directly to the RUF.


Abuses Against Peacekeeping Forces


Keita spoke of two instances involving peacekeeping forces:

  1. The RUF seized 11 ECOMOG Nigerian peacekeepers after the capture of Kono.  They were kept in Buedu in “dungeons,” which Keita described as holes in the ground.  Yeaten and Bockarie met, and Yeaten told Bockarie that Taylor said they should release the peacekeepers to him in Liberia.  Yeaten again told Bockarie during a telephone call that Taylor had ordered the peacekeepers’ release. Keita drove with the peacekeepers to Foya, where he met Yeaten and Joe Tuah and handed over the peacekeepers. 
  2. There was another incident with peacekeepers when Sesay took over from Bockarie in 2000 during which the RUF arrested 500 Kenyans and Zambians.  Sesay returned from a trip to Liberia with Marzah and Jungle with a satellite phone allegedly issued by Taylor, as well as 50 boxes of ammunition.  Sesay stated that they had no option but to release the peacekeepers because Taylor had ordered their release to Liberia.   Keita took the peacekeepers to Yeaten and Tuah in Foya.

Diamonds and Mining


Keita noted four common areas in Kono District for diamond mining: (1) Number 11 Plant, where mining was largely conducted with machines; (2) Kaisombo, Koidu Town; (3) Opera, where individual miners worked; and (4) Sewafe River, where Keita supervised divers.  Kennedy, a Sierra Leonean, was Mining Chairman under Bockarie, and Peleto was Mining Chairman under Sesay.  Sierra Leonean civilians worked the mines and were not fed or allowed to keep the diamonds they found.  Keita said the workers were taken care of if they became sick.

Keita witnessed individuals punished for breaking RUF mining rules.  The first instance involved Keita’s bodyguard, who stole a diamond.  He was beaten with rubber and was hanged from a mango tree in Sesay’s compound until he confessed.  The second instance involved a 30-year-old man from Kono who was arrested by Kallon for stealing a diamond.  He was hanged from a mango tree and beaten to death with rubber.  

Small Boy Unit


Keita noted that the RUF used SBU’s (Small Boy Unit) comprised of boys between the ages of 10 and 15.  During his time with the RUF, Keita had two boys who went wherever he did.  Both Bockarie and Yeaten had boys as bodyguards.  SBU’s received training in the same place as adults and took part in combat with the RUF.  There were involved in all the operations in Sierra Leone but not in Guinea.  SBUs were involved in the operation against “Mosquito Spray” in Liberia.




Keita stated that he had never seen amputations take place when he was with the RUF, but he saw amputees who suffered from amputated fingers, hands, and legs.  


Combatant Deaths

  • “Rambo”.  Marzah killed Rambo.  Marzah told Keita that Bockarie complained to Yeaten, who subsequently instructed Marzah to kill Rambo.  
  • Colonel Foday.  Keita stated that Sesay and Bockarie shot Foday in the head and chest after he was dragged to Bockarie’s house upon orders from Bockarie, Kanneh, and Rogers.  Foday was killed for allegedly giving information to ECOMOG.
  • Dennis Mingo (aka ”Superman”).  According to Keita, Yeaten told Mingo that Taylor wanted to see him in Monrovia.  Roland Duo (aka “Peanut Butter”) later told Keita that Yeaten killed Mingo.  Duo said that according to Yeaten, Superman used to go to the American Embassy in Monrovia.  
  • Sam Bockarie.  Bockarie’s brother and sister stated to Keita that Yeaten killed Bockarie, his wife, his children, and his mother.  Bockarie’s brother said Yeaten killed Bockarie to destroy any evidence that could come before the Special Court.

Defense Begins Cross-Examination of Abu Keita

Defense Counsel Morris Anyah began the Defense team’s cross-examination of Keita.


Anyah focused on the multitude of forces Keita could have fought for, including the NPFL, INPFL (Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia), and LPC (Liberian Peace Council), but he chose to fight with LUDF.  Anyah also noted that both Alhaji Kromah, former leader of ULIMO-K, and Varmuyan Sherif are Mandingos.  Finally, Anyah began to challenge Keita’s statement on direct examination that he did not support any political candidate, including Kromah, during the 1997 elections.  This line of questioning will continue tomorrow.


The trial will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m.