Lansana Testifies Concerning Communications Between Taylor and Sankoh; Movement of Arms from Liberia to Sierra Leone

The Hague

February 21, 2008

Prosecutor Christopher Santora continued the examination in chief of former NPFL/RUF radio operator Foday Lansana today.  The examination began by focusing on the operational procedures for radio communications, with the witness providing technical explanations of how radio communication was conducted and how codes were developed and used.  The afternoon turned to more fact-based issues, covering movements and establishing the operational relationship between various commanders and the witness.  The Prosecution flipped back and forth among time periods which sometimes made the chronology of events difficult to follow. 

Throughout his testimony, Lansana remained very calm, spoke clearly, and methodically provided answers. The judges repeatedly chided the Prosecution for asking the witness leading questions.

Lansana’s role as radio operator

Lansana continued to monitor communications even after his mandate had changed after Trawalli took over from Sankoh as acting leader of the RUF during Sankoh’s visit to the Ivory Coast to take part in the peace talks. As an operator he had access to codes used by commanders to agree upon a frequency through which to conduct commander to commander radio communications.  He was also aware of changes to codes and of temporary codes established for short-term, high sensitivity operations.  Such changes of codes were only carried on upon the recommendations of signal commanders, by the acting leader.  Some secret matters were handled between commanders in other languages, such as in Mende, with which non-Mende would be unfamiliar.

The Abidjan peace talks

Before Sankoh left for Ivory Coast, he appointed Tarawalli as acting leader and general commander of the RUF.  Among the communications of which Lansana was aware at the time were radio calls from Foday Sankoh to Tarawalli to convince the latter that the peace talks were the only way to save the RUF from being completely cut off.  Sankoh had apparently been convinced by “his brother,” Charles Taylor, that the talks would be a good opportunity to expand the RUF’s connections between Liberia and Sierra Leone. 

When Sankoh was arrested in Nigeria, on his way to Libya, Martin Moiname, a radio operator, would visit Sankoh and transmit information from him to Liberia.  Sankoh had already given orders to most commanders to obey the instructions of Tarawalli.  In fact, Moinama would contact Sankoh by telephone from Nigeria, and then telephone Liberia, which would pass any message on to Sierra Leone.  This was the procedure for passing on any messages to Charles Taylor.  The message to obey Tarawalli was passed through this channel, as was the message to Bockarie that Sankoh agreed that the RUF should join the AFRC junta in Freetown.  In fact, after the AFRC coup overthrowing the NPRC in 1997, Moinama confirmed that he and another RUF member would be responsible for conducting all messages received, onto Sam Bockarie through HF radio.  When the RUF worked alongside the AFRC after the coup, the codes did not change, the two groups simply applied their own code simultaneously.

During the time of the AFRC junta, Lansana was based at the Teko barracks and in Freetown under the command of Morris Ka, who was in charge of mining in that area while Dennis Mingo continued fighting.

War materiel

Moinama, and two other members of the RUF used to convey materiels from Liberia to Sierra Leone for Sam Bockarie, prior to which they would confirm delivery by radio communication.  On one occasion, Issa Sesay was sent to Monrovia to collect weapons in exchange for diamonds, but returned claiming to have lost the diamonds, and so without weapons.  Much disarray ensued within the RUF about this circumstance, and Dennis Mingo (aka “Superman”), an RUF commander, was sent to Buedu for a meeting to clarify the situation, returning with arms and ammunition.  It was later discovered that Superman’s long stay was related to operation “Fitti-Fatta”, to eliminate Saj Musa, an RUF commander who had wanted to separate from the RUF and the AFRC, and to plan an attack and capture of Koidu to get sufficient arms and ammunition.  There was also a commander who was very good friends with an ECOMOG commander in Monrovia, from whom the RUF thought they could get arms.

Lansana was very close to Superman, and was under his command at the time his life was threatened by Rambo, a front-line fighter in the RUF, which Lansana discovered by information he received from another radio operator, Alice Payne.  Superman confronted Sam Bockarie and Rambo, and defended Lansana, saying he would “go all out” for Lansana if necessary.

ECOMOG intervention

At the time the ECOMOG were advancing from Makeni quickly towards Bumpe, the RUF ordered that commanders, including Superman, be loaded in a Land Rover truck and go towards Bumpe.  The truck was blasted and Superman was hit.  There were severe casualties on both sides (RUF and ECOMOG), including in Koidu, where Dennis Mingo had to evacuate wounded soldiers from the area.

At this stage, communications between commanders occurred on a daily basis, with commanders of a sector communicating between themselves, then relating their communication to Dennis Mingo, who then transferred this information to Sam Bockarie.

Lansana went to Tefiya at the orders of Dennis Mingo, where he stayed for four months from September 1998, after staying in Kono district from January 1998, where Lansana reported that there were constant complaints of the killing of civilians if they did not obey the orders of the commander responsible for mining in the district.

The Prosecutor concluded by asking where the witness was located at the time of the death of former Nigerian President Sani Abacha, to which the witness replied that he was in Sierra Leone when he heard the information on the BBC news.

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