February 11, 2008
Direct Examination of Suwandi Camara Continues
Prosecutor Alain Werner continued his examination of linkage witness Suwandi Camara today. Camara was dressed in brown pants, dark purple jacket, yellow shirt and no tie. He testified again in Mandingo. Again there were some problems with the interpretation, and from time to time the Court and the Defense asked the Witness to clarify his testimony.
Suwanda Camara testified to the following:
• In 1992 on two occasions female General 245 came to Cobra Base where Camara was stationed to collect recruits. The first time General 245 collected 2 companies to go to Daru to help the RUF soldiers. The second time she collected one company, also to go to Sierra Leone to help RUF soldiers.
• Camara was permanently stationed in the Cobra Base, but occasionally he was sent on a TDY (Temporary Duties in the Year).
• In early 1992 Camara was sent to Lofa County by order of General Mustapha Jallow to be Jallow’s assistant for three months. His assignment was to check the road leading from Gbarnga to Sierra Leone. RUF soldiers brought supplies (arms and ammunition) from Gbarnga to Sierra Leone. During this time Sam Bockarie and his soldiers visited this temporary base. When RUF soldiers would pass with supplies, his base would be informed by radio message from Gbarnga. Camara witnessed personally at least three of these transports, one transport in a double cabin pick up truck was accompanied by Foday Sankoh. The route of these transports was through Gbarnga, Zorzor, Belle Yella, Voinjama and then on to Sierra Leone.
• After three months Camara returned to the Cobra base where he stayed until he end of of 1993. By this time Morris Kallon had taken over command of the RUF from Pa Jean, who had died on a road. Under Kallon’s command 5,000 civilians came with the RUF, leaving their homes and villages in Lofa County. They had no choice: staying meant falling into the hands of ULIMO-K, who would have killed the civilians, accusing them of conniving with the RUF. 2,000 of these 5,000 civilians, men and women between the ages of 15 and 30, were recruited as members of the RUF.
Lofa Defense Force
• From the end of 1993 until 1994, Jallow was assigned by Taylor to go to Lofa County for operation LDF (Lofa Defense Force). ULIMO-K under Alhaji Kromah had been attacking and occupying Lofa County since 1992. Taylor was in peace talks with Kromah, so he could not attack ULIMO-K. However, he wanted Lofa County back under his command and therefore created the LDF, with which his name would not be associated. Taylor assigned Yakbawalo to be the political leader and spokesman of the LDF. Jallow was the military leader responsible for the operation and he put NPFL soldiers in the LDF. Kallon put “vanguards” (RUF soldiers from Sierra Leone who were in NPFL territory) in the LDF.
• One day on the BBC radio program Focus On Africa the ULIMO-K spokesman announced that Jallow had been ambushed and killed by ULIMO-K. This was not true. Since Jallow was Gambian, this was a Gambian concern. Camara met with Jackson, a Gambian and aide-de-camp of Taylor. Taylor was informed that Jallow was not dead and Taylor had this message transmitted by radio to all the RUF and NPFL bases, and afterwards the RUF soldiers gathered in Gbarnga as reinforcement to Jallow. These soldiers did not come by the highway, since this road was controlled by ULIMO-K. They used jungle paths from the forest in Lofa County to the river St. Paul and across the river into the forest in Bong County onwards to Gbarnga.
• The LDF began attacks in Lofa County. During this time Camara received his third temporary assignment from the SSS. Jallow trusted him and needed him again. This assignment took about 7-8 months. At the beginning of the assignment Camara’s rank was lieutenant colonel, and after four months he was promoted to colonel.
• Due to the presence of ULIMO-K in large parts of Lofa County, the supplies for the LDF could only be transported by bush roads. During his 7-8 months assignment he was with Jallow and the LDF kept being pushed out of Lofa County more into Bong County.
Taylor’s Involvement in the LDF
• Camara mentioned twice that the LDF was formed by Charles Taylor himself. The LDF consisted of both NPFL and RUF fighters. Taylor appointed Yakbawalo as the political leader of the LDF and Jallow as its military commander. Yakbawalo gave an interview to the BBC radio in 1993 while he was in Guinea, in which he presented himself as the LDF leader and said the Lofa people wanted freedom. He renounced the NPFL. Taylor denied any involvement with the LDF.
• Camara, however, explained that this was just a cover-up for the international community, enabling Taylor to secretly have an armed force at his disposal, while officially respecting the cease-fire which at the time had been agreed between the warring factions in Liberia. Publicly, Taylor ordered the LDF soldiers to surrender the frontline and hand themselves over to him. Secretly, he ordered them to retreat.
Arms and Ammunition Supplies from Gbarnga
• The LDF in Lofa County and the RUF in Sierra Leone received arms and ammunition supplies from the armory of the Executive Mansion at Gbarnga. Camara named Moses as the man in charge of the armory at Gbarnga and specified the weapons being used by the LDF. He named the following: AK47’s, RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades), GMG’s and LAR’s (Light Arm Rifles). At the end of 1992 the supply route to the LDF was cut off by ULIMO-K.
LDF retreats from Lofa County
• After months of fighting, ULIMO-K pushed the LDF out of Lofa County. While retreating with the LDF, Camara and his commander Mustapha Jallow reached the territory of an NPFL junior commander called Tamba, also known as Jungle. A conflict developed between Jallow and Jungle. Jungle feared that Jallow, who was senior in rank, would take over his command. Jallow was summoned to Gbarnga and was escorted there by RUF soldiers. Jungle and his troops stayed behind and fought ULIMO-K, but were eventually pushed out. Camara heard from Jungle’s ex-soldiers, who had left them to join Jallow in Gbarnga, that Jungle left for Sierra Leone and joined the RUF to fight with them. Jungle did not dare to go to Gbarnga, since he feared Charles Taylor would have him killed for opposing Jallow. Eventually, the LDF retreated from Lofa County to Gbarnga together with 5,000 civilians.”G2- soldiers” (NPFL soldiers responsible for screening the civilians) selected 2,000 healthy youths from among these civilians, which where brought by EMG (Executive Mansion Ground) soldiers to the Cobra II base, a second training camp, at Ganta for infantry training. They where there for approximately three weeks, until ULIMO-K reached Gbarnga.
Battle for Gbarnga
• Around September/October 1994, ULIMO-K had taken control of Gbarnga. They maintained control for 2-3 months. After the retreat from Lofa County, Camara stayed at Cobra base in Batala. At this time, Charles Taylor was in Ghana at a meeting with the leaders of the warring factions. An NPFL operation to recapture control of Gbarnga, known as Operation Envelope, succeeded in December 1994. Upon his return to Gbarnga, Charles Taylor had ordered the capturing and killing of six people who had high-ranking positions in his staff and who Taylor suspected of conspiring with ULIMO-K. Camara remembered the names of three of the six people that were killed: Cassius Jacobs (EMG Chief of Staff), Michael Seboe (Task Force Commander) and Junior Goe (Delta Force Commander). Also, Camara stated that “conniving with the enemy” was a standard explanation given for executions.
Camara Guards Executive Mansion Ground (EMG)
• Camara was summoned with the other Gambians by Charles Taylor to come to Gbarnga. They were appointed to security functions and were responsible for guarding the EMG. He served under Jallow, who was appointed Security Commander of the EMG and spent 3-4 months at the EMG, during which period he overheard several instances of communications between high ranking NPFL officers (including General Jackson and General Yeaten) and the RUF. Camara worked close to the communications room and related that there was regular contact with the RUF for updates. He explained that the NPFL considered the RUF to be “NPFL youngsters”, younger brothers.
• Camara testified about troops moving to Voinjama under command of General Mon Ami. At Belle Yella and Zorzor, they sabotaged ULIMO-K routes by placing landmines on the road. Camara described the access between Gbarnga and Belle Yella consisted of car roads and footpaths through the forest.
Strike Force Marine
• Upon being asked about the whereabouts of Morris Kallon in 1995, Camara testified that Kallon was at Cobra base and remained there with 3-4 of his bodyguards and Mustapha Jallow. The rest of the RUF soldiers who were at Cobra base, were ordered to join the Strike Force Marine (SFM). The SFM was a special unit under NPFL command. Charles Taylor deployed this unit for special operations. Nixon Gaye, the first SFM Chief of Staff, was killed on orders of Taylor on accusations by Yeaten of “conniving with the enemy”. He was replaced by (the Liberian, not the Gambian) Jack the Rebel in early 1993. The SFM was known for its violence and cruelty, including acts of cannibalism. Camara testified that “the majority of them had eaten human flesh”. The SFM’s motto, which could also be found on T-shirts worn by its members, was “maximum death and destruction, in a minimum time”. Camara learned this by conferring with SFM members whom he had met at Cobra base training camp. SFM members were sent there to receive advanced communications training. Camara testified that they would “take people to the bush and they would never come back”. They would kill indiscriminately, men, women, children. Wherever they went, their aim was to bring “maximum death and destruction”.
Treatment of Civilians
• Camara spoke with civilians: men, women and children. Some were maltreated. Women and girls claimed to have been raped by RUF and/or NPFL soldiers, but were not able to give him names. This happened in Sierra Leone, but Camara heard their stories in Liberia when the civilians came to seek refuge in Liberia. Camara has seen people with amputated limbs who claimed RUF soldiers had committed the amputations.
Return to Gambia
• At the end of 1995 the Gambian government negotiated for the return of Camara and other Gambians. In March 1996 Charles Taylor and others were in Monrovia to form an interim government. When Taylor went to Monrovia Camara and others went to Dr. Manneh in Ivory Coast and later to Senegal. The negotiations failed and the Gambians were arrested. He was released in December 2000 and returned to Gambia. At the end of 2002 he returned to Liberia where he met with Jallow who told him that the Gambian officers still had their ranks but no responsibilities.
At this moment, towards the end of his examination Camara casually mentioned that Jallow (LDF Commander and EMG Security Commander) is his nephew.
• Jallow told Camara that Ibrahim Bah was involved with Taylor in business involving diamonds. One time Bah brought diamonds to Taylor for which Taylor was to deliver goods. Taylor did not do this and sought to kill Bah. Bah fled to Burkina Faso.
Defense Counsel Terry Munyard began the cross-examination of Camara and initially challenged his testimony by saying that most of his evidence is what others told him rather than things he saw or heard himself. Camara answered that 75% of his evidence is what he saw or heard himself.
Munyard’s questions elicited that:
• Camara was born in 1964 and about 24 years old when he left Gambia to look for work in Libya. His goal was to live financially independent of his family.
• Investigators for the Prosecution came to Gambia to find him, and he did not seek them. He did not know how they had heard of him. He agreed to having received reimbursement for his travel costs, but said that he was never promised nor actually received benefits for testifying in this Court. The interviews were conducted in English by means of questions and answers. After every interview the investigators read him his written statement before signing it. Camara did not know if the interviews were taped.
• In Libya Camara’s father in law, who was also working there, introduced him to Alhagi Saikou Jaiteh who in turn introduced him to Kukoi Samba Sanyang, aka Dr. Manneh. He later joined SOFA when he was in Tripoli. Camara’s goal was later to overthrow the government of Gambia and it was not his intention at that moment to fight in Liberia. After joining SOFA he was able to go to Mahtaba, which is “for world revolutionaries only and not for regular workers”, as Munyard put it. Camara joined SOFA in July/August 1989, which was six months earlier than Camara said in an earlier statement to the Prosecution. Camara confirmed that he was not present in the attempted coup d’etat of Dr. Manneh in 1981.
At this point, Court adjourned at 4.30 p.m until tomorrow 9.30 a.m.