February 19, 2008
After having concluded the testimony of Prosecution Witness TF1-150 in closed session, this afternoon Prosecution Witness TF1-330, Aruna Gbonda, was sworn in on the Quran. Gbonda was wearing jeans and a white sweatshirt with a cap. Gbona was born in 1952 in Talia in the Kailahun District in Sierra Leone. Before the war he was a rice farmer.
Gbona testified to the following:
Command structure RUF – civilians working in forced labour
• From 1996 until 2000, Gbonda was forced to work for the rebels. In 1996 the rebels did not wear uniforms. He knew they were from the RUF because they would write this word on walls.
• All groups of civilians working for the rebels had a G5 as their commander. A G5 was a soldier in charge of civilians. The first G5 of Gbonda was Morrie Feika who reported to Augustine Gbao. Prince Taylor was in command of all the junior and senior G5’s. Mosquito and Issa Sesay were the highest in command.
• In 1996 Gbonda became Deputy Chieftain Commander. Before the war Chieftain Commanders were called Paramount Chiefs. Prince Taylor, Sam Bockarie and Issa Sesay appointed the Chieftain Commanders. Gbonda’s duties of Deputy Chieftain Commander included receiving instructions from the Chieftain Commander, relaying these to civilians in his group, and then working together with these civilians to carry out the instructions. He was a Deputy Chieftain Commander from 1996 until the disarmament in 2000.
• When it was necessary for Gbonda to travel he received a pass from the rebels, as did other civilians while travelling. Without pass a civilian would be accused of spying and would be killed.
Forced labor involving farming, fishing, hunting and road working
• Gbonda did forced labor from 1996 until 2000 in his native village Talia and in/near Kailahun Town, both in the Kailahun District. The farming included cultivating rice, coffee, cocoa and palm oil. The harvest had to be handed over to the rebels who would sell it at a river nearby. Gbonda considered this procedure to be slavery: before the war he could cultivate the land at his own pace and the harvest would be for him and his family to eat and to sell. Gbonda knew of at least 6 farms where civilians had to work for the rebels.
• At 1.5 mile distance of his village Talia is the Keyah river. The women were forced to fish there and hand these over to the rebels. Hawa Gussu, a female G5, was in command of these women civilians.
• With other civilians Gbonda was forced to hunt game for the rebels. At one time a commander called Fatoma Aruna ordered Gbonda to bring game meat to Mosquito who was in Buedu at that time.
• In Kailahun town Gbonda and other civilians were forced to do weeding, cutting the grass on the roads so they would be easy accessible.
• Patrick Bangula was appointed by Issa Sesay and Sam Bockarie to look for diamonds in Yandohun. Bangula brought civilians together to do this mining in 1997/1998. Gbonda has not been there, but heard this from persons visiting Kailahun town, who had worked in mining there.
• Monia Lahai was the head of mining in a mining area between the villages Monfidor and Sahbahun. Lahai reported to Stanley Jusu, who in turn reported to Augustine Gbao. Gbonda has not been there, but heard this from persons visiting Kailahun town who had worked in mining there.
• Patrick Bangula was in charge of the mining in Giema. Gbonda was eyewitness to this mining by civilians: digging a pit, excavating gravel and washing this gravel.
Ages of rebel soldiers
• Gbonda testified that RUF rebels were as young as 8, 9 and 10 years old, children carrying guns. All the commanders (Issa Sesay, Sam Bockarie, Augustine Gbao) had these young soldiers with them.
Physical treatment of civilians
• Many civilians, including Gbonda himself, were beaten when they were reluctant to work or when they did not work hard enough. Gbonda mentioned one name of a man who beat him harshly: Tom Sandi. This was when Gbonda had to bring a group of 300 to Gbaiama clear a swamp. The place was difficult to reach, so he arrived with only 50 people, which was not enough according to this G5/commander. He was beaten on many other occasions.
• Before the war having a hernia was not common in Sierra Leone. During the war many civilians had to carry heavy loads (such as bags of rice) for the rebels. Due to this fact many Sierra Leoneans ended up with hernias. Gbonda was treated for this 2 years ago but many others have not had this treatment and still suffer from this ailment.
• During the war it was difficult to find food. From the crops the rebels claimed little was returned to the civilians doing the forced labour. For a time Gbonda and others were able to find yams in the bush, but this did not last long. Due to this lack of sufficient food and especially lack of food containing protein, many children suffered from oedema. Their legs and feet were swollen and many died. Five of Gbonda’s children died in the year 1996.
At 4.30 p.m. the Court adjourned until tomorrow at 9.30 a.m., when Aruna Gbonda will continue to be examined by the Prosecution.