Former NPFL/RUF Radio Operator Testifies Concerning Coordination Between Forces of Taylor and Sankoh in 1990’s

The Hague

February 20, 2008

Examination of Witness Aruna Gbonda

The Prosecution continued the examination of Witness Aruna Gbonda. Gbonda testified about the treatment of civilians who were forced to work for the RUF. He said that civilians were captured forcefully to work and mine for the RUF and that they were beaten if they refused. Gbonda also spoke in Kailahun to women who had been taken forcefully as wives by Sam Bockarie (aka “Mosquito”) and his rebels and who came to the village looking for food. Prosecutor Alain Werner asked the witness about the killing of more than 50 people in Kailahun. Gbonda said that these people, including his brother, were shot during the ceasefire on Mosquito’s orders, because they supposedly joined the Kamajors. The witness added his brother did not and that these people did not have guns.

The Defense did not have any questions for Gbonda.

Examination of Former NPFL/RUF Radio Operator, Foday Lansana

Next, the Prosecution called Witness “TF1-275”, Foday Lansana (a Liberian), to testify in open session. Prosecutor Christopher Santora questioned him regarding his background and how he came to Monrovia as a radio operator for the NPFL. In that capacity, Lansana was present at a meeting of Charles Taylor with his Special Forces in Monrovia. He was also involved in radio messages between Charles Taylor and General Menquenagbeh, aka Dry Pepper at Foya and between Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh.


Lansana was born in Ganta town, Nimba County, Liberia and is a member of the Mano tribe. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Liberia until the war interrupted in 1989, when the NPFL entered Liberia at Yekepa from the Ivorian side. Lansana said that in the following weeks, Samuel Doe’s soldiers attacked Mano people and that was the reason he left Monrovia and went back to Ganta town and subsequently to Gbardin near the Liberian/Guinean border. When they ran out of salt and maggi cubes, he crossed the border into Guinea, to a refugee camp in Yekepa where he stayed for three months.

At the beginning of 1990, the NPFL, including Mano people Lansana knew, came from Liberia and told the refugees that Ganta was captured and that they should come with them to consolidate the town. Lansana joined the NPFL along with other refugees. He went with them to Ganta and on to Saclepia in Nimba County. There he was trained by the military police. Because he learned how to operate a radio at Saint Mary’s high school, Lansana was then sent to the radio room to be trained in communications for two months.

Charles Taylor at the Coca Cola factory base in Monrovia

After Samuel Doe was killed, Lansana was sent to the base at the Coca Cola factory in Monrovia. Lansana recounted a meeting that took place in the radio room the second day after his arrival, while he was doing his work as a radio operator. He was present when Charles Taylor was meeting with a group of more than 25 members of his Special Forces, including Domingo and Mustapha Jallow. Charles Taylor addressed them and said that it had come to his notice that alpha jets coming from a Sierra Leone airport base were killing people. At the end of the meeting Charles Taylor said that he would inform the world that Sierra Leone had been used as a base to kill his people.

Lansana testified that on the same day of this meeting, he heard an interview with Charles Taylor on the BBC Radio and heard about the war in Liberia. There was a serious panic at the factory because of attacks on the NPFL in Monrovia and the highway was cut off by Prince Johnson’s troops.

Radio station at Voya

Lansana remained with the NPFL and went for advanced communications training, before he went with permission on leave and visited his people at Ganta and subsequently his grandfather in Bomaru, Sierra Leone. In June/July 1991 NPFL/RUF fighters who were fighting side by side in Sierra Leone against the APC captured him. Lansana was sent to Foya, the RUF/NPFL Headquarters for Lofa County, Liberia, to continue his work as a radio operator. He was kept under supervision, because he was suspected to have absconded from the NPFL. The overall commander in Foya was General Menquenagbeh, aka Dry Pepper, who used the radio room to send messages.

Lansana saw trucks carrying reinforcement troops, arms and food into Sierra Leone and wounded soldiers returning. He recounted that in order to disguise that they were fighting in Sierra Leone, the troops referred to that country as “Kuwait”. This was, according to Lansana, because Sierra Leone was a very rich country. After two weeks at Foya, the Witness himself was sent to Sierra Leone along with reinforcement troops. He met with Foday Sankoh and installed a radio at Executive Mansion Ground, Sankoh’s headquarters in Sierra Leone. Lansana elaborated on this point later on. This radio enabled Sankoh to communicate, amongst others, with “Butterfly”, a codename for the radio station under the direct command of Charles Taylor.

Dry Pepper receives instructions from Ebony to evacuate

Dried Pepper reported by radio on a daily basis to “Ebony”, a codename for Charles Taylor, on the situation at the frontline. As radio operator at Buedu, Lansana knew the content of these situation reports and he recounted that these included information about frequent misunderstandings between the NPFL troops in Sierra Leone and the RUF vanguards. In May 1992, a response was sent by radio including an instruction with immediate effect that all NPFL battalion commanders, including Dry Pepper, should evacuate all NPFL fighting men from Sierra Leone back to Liberia. The witness clarified that the reason for this was that the confusion between NPFL commanders and RUF Vanguards (special forces trained by Sankoh) resulted in a power struggle and too much fighting amongst themselves. In several timeframes called Top 20, Top 40 and Top final, serious bloodshed took place.

The instruction to evacuate from Charles Taylor was sent by radio communication to Dry Pepper when Lansana operated the radio and sent it to the Generals. Subsequently, Dry Pepper spoke to Charles Taylor over the radio while other Generals were present. The Generals addressed their troops and the evacuation started.

Radio station for Foday Sankoh at Pendembu

The Witness was promoted to overall signal commander for the RUF. He left Sierra Leone at first but was asked to return with a radio set to be installed at Pendembu for Sankoh. Lansana enabled radio communication with Butterfly and Sankoh (code named “Toyota”) talked to Charles Taylor, telling him he was short on arms and ammunition and needed assistance. Taylor ordered Sankoh to travel to Gbarnga. Sankoh came back with radio operators whom Lansana trained. Perry Kamara [who previously testified for the Prosecution] was among those trained by the Witness.

In 1992/1993 Lansana stayed at Pendembu and trained RUF members on how to encode messages and erect radio stations on the battlefield. In 1992, Lansana operated the radio for a second communication between Charles Taylor and Sankoh, who had captured artillery at Bayama village for which he had no ammunition. Charles Taylor ordered Sankoh to come to Banga with the materials and exchange them for lighter arms. Sankoh left for Gbarnga and returned with arms and ammunition. Sankoh subsequently received reports from the frontline commanders about an operation in Koidu, a diamond rich mining region in Kanu district. In December 1992, Pendembu was attacked and Lansana went to Gbalahun and on to Taidu on the border of Sierra Leone and Liberia in January 1993.

Mohammed Tarawalli (in charge of military operation) resided at Taidu with RUF commando’s and Lansana was in charge of radio communications there. Tarawalli talked to Sankoh about his activities in Taidu and with Issa Sesay and Sam Bockarie on how to conduct operations. In April 1994, Lansana arrived in Kangari hills where he remained until 1997, working as signal commander.

 At this point, Presiding Judge Doherty adjourned the proceedings until tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m.