International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Prosecution Witness Testfies Concerning Taylor’s Presence in Libya in the Early 1990’s and Taylor’s Use of Small Boy Units

The Hague

February 8, 2008

The Prosecution continued its direct examination of Suwandi Camara, a Gambian who saw Taylor in Libya in the early 1990’s seeking weapons and support and later served in Taylor’s Special Security Service (“SSS”):

Conflict in Liberia

Prosecutor Alain Werner put to Camara the judicially recognised fact that between approximately 24 December 1989 and 17 August 1996 there was a conflict in Liberia. Camara confirmed that he heard about the conflict through the media and because his leader Dr. Manneh (or Kukoi Samba Sanyang) informed him. Dr. Manneh also told him that Charles Taylor had started the war.

Werner attempted to ask Camara if he knew the whereabouts of Taylor in December 1989, but Defense Counsel objected that this was a leading question and / or inviting Camara to speculate, as he could not possibly know himself where Taylor was at that time. Presiding Judge Doherty agreed and the objection was upheld.

Taylor’s Presence in Libya 

Camara confirmed that he had seen Taylor twice in Libya. He could not remember when the second time was but that it had been in Mahtaba. Dr. Manneh had introduced Taylor to Camara as the leader of the Liberians in Libya. Camara stated that Taylor was in Libya looking for support and weapons. Camara confirmed that he did not see Foday Sankoh again in Libya and that he never saw Taylor and Sankoh together.

Werner asked Camara if he knew the names of the Liberians who left Libya for Burkina Faso but he said he did not know the group very well. He later learned that one of them was called Isaac Musa, who was Vice President to Taylor. Camara stated that he could neither remember the names of those that left Libya with Sankoh.

Camara was able to remember the names of some of Dr. Manneh’s people: Jackson Jokuday Nyassi, Mustapha Jallow and Famara Colley. He did not know where in Burkina Faso they had gone as he had not gone with them. When he eventually arrived in Burkina Faso, he saw that each group had their own compound in the capital Ouagadougou which had been provided by the Burkina Faso government.

Camara explained that Burkina Faso was their base and that Gambians and Liberians would go to Liberia from Burkina Faso and come back again. Camara understood from Dr. Manneh that the Gambians and the Sierra Leoneans were helping Taylor with the Liberian war. Dr. Manneh told Camara that the Gambians should be helping Taylor as in return Taylor would help the Gambians who at that time were very powerless.

Camara travels to the Gambia

Camara confirmed that he left Libya in around April of 1991 to go to the Gambia. His mission was to mobilize support for Dr. Manneh from former soldiers of the Gambian army and to understand the security situation there. He accomplished his mission and returned to Burkina Faso with 5 soldiers who had retired from the Gambian army. The names of these men were Joseph Mendoza (in Liberian) / Dodou Sanyang (in Gambian), Michael Denba (in Liberian) / Wandi Colley (in Gambian), David Compare (in Liberian) / Dauda Nyassi (in Gambian), Sar Babalah (in Liberian) / Lamin Daboe (in Gambian), John Denba (in Liberian) / Goof Dampha (in Gambian).

When he got back to Burkina Faso the 16 original people who had gone from Libya to Burkina Faso had gone which came as a surprise to Camara. Dr. Manneh informed Camara that Taylor had been to Burkina Faso and had taken the 16 people back with him to Liberia. This had happened further to a meeting that had taken place between Dr. Manneh, Sankoh and Taylor. It had been agreed that they would help Taylor and when Taylor was successful in the war in Liberia he would then help them. Camara thought this was towards the end of 1991 but was not sure. The 5 men from Gambia were also present at this meeting.

Burkina Faso

Following his return to Burkina Faso, Camara testified that originally he had been going to carry out communications training at Camp Poh near the Ivory Coast border. However, Dr. Manneh told him that he (and the 5 men recruited in the Gambia) should go with Taylor for communications training in Liberia. The next morning after Dr. Manneh had said this, Dr. Manneh informed Camara that he should collect his belongings and be ready to go with Taylor. Camara, along with the 5 men, were then transported to Burkina Faso’s airport.

After they arrived at the airport, Taylor and his delegation arrived. Camara saw Dr. Manneh talking with Taylor and pointing out Camara and the 5 men. While this was going on, Camara could see some soldiers who were in Taylor’s delegation loading something onto a plane. He went to help them and saw that they were loading arms and ammunition. There were also some Burkina Faso soldiers present. Taylor, along with Camara and the other men then boarded the plane and flew to an airfield in Man in the Ivory Coast. Camara and the 5 men helped Taylor’s soldiers to unload the arms and ammunition and loaded them into a truck. The plane, along with the Burkina Faso soldiers that had accompanied it, then returned to Burkina Faso.

Camara in Liberia

Camara went with Taylor’s convoy to the border town Luguato via a place called Danane. From there they continued to Taylor’s headquarters in Gbarnga in central Liberia. General Jackson put Camara in a vehicle and took him to another compound. They were then called to have a meeting at General Domingo’s compound. At that meeting they were told that they would be working for Taylor in the Special Security Services (“SSS”). Members of SOFA were present at this meeting including the Gambians’ Chief of Staff, Abdulai Bah. General Jackson (one of Charles Taylor’s bodyguards), General Domingo, Ibrahim Bah and Lamin Campaore were also present. Camara explained that Ibrahim Bah was a member of SOFA and went back and forth to Sierra Leone. Camara testified that he knew Bah was working for Foday Sankoh and that he was one of the people who started the war in Sierra Leone. Lamin Campaore had also assisted in the Sierra Leone war. Ibrahim Bah and Lamin Campaore came from Sierra Leone to attend this meeting which was sometime in 1991. Bah was at that time Lieutenant Colonel in Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (“NPFL”). At that time Camara did not have a rank (or the 5 Gambian men) but 2 weeks after the meeting he was given the rank of Captain. Camara explained that General Jackson had given Camara’s name to General Benjamin Yeaten.

Camara testified that at this time, Taylor had put a non-elected government in place with his own ministers, protocols and senior army leaders. Camara said he could remember a woman called Lydia who was a senior protection officer and also someone named Cisse. Camara explained that the senior army leaders included General Jackson, Benjamin Yetim [Note: the witness specifically said it was spelt with an “M” and not a “N”] and his deputy General Montgomery, Abdulai Bah (who was a member of SOFA) and Isaac Musa and a man who went by the name of Ghankay Point. Camara explained that Ghankay was Charles Taylor’s right-hand man and that Taylor himself had given him that name. He was a member of Taylor’s special force who came with Taylor from Libya. Camara thought he was a General in Liberia but was not sure what his functions were. Camara explained that at that time he was an elderly man, 50-60 years old, so he would now be very old.

Charles Taylor’s Headquarters

Camara testified that Charles Taylor’s mansion was situated behind the administrative buildings in Gbarnga. When Camara was at Taylor’s mansion, he saw General Domingo and some Liberian Generals. He did not know their names at the time but came to know them later as Momoh Gibba, Cassius Jacobs, General Yetim [sic] and another man called Moses Blah who was a member of Charles Taylor’s Special Force. Camara saw other people that he did not know the names of.

Camara’s first assignment as Captain was to assist Mustapha Jallow with the security of two companies called ATCO and FATCO which were situated near a village called Zorzor in Lofa County, Liberia. Both these companies exported timber to Ghana and Camara thought the owner of Fatco was a German man called Gus. Taylor had assigned Jallow to this mission but the command came from SSS and at that time Camara was also under the SSS. Camara explained that at that time there it was very peaceful in Lofa County. The NPFL were also in Lofa County but they were under Jallow as he was from the special force (i.e. those who came with Taylor from Libya to Liberia) and had the highest rank in Lofa County. Camara did this assignment for about 2 weeks and was then recalled to Gbarnga for another assignment.

Cobra Base

Camara’s next assignment was at a place called Cobra Base. This was a base that had been initiated by Taylor so that fighters could undertake advanced commando training. Cobra Base was near a village called Gbatala, on the road from Gbarnga to Monrovia. Camara testified that he was appointed as a training instructor by the Gambian Chief of Staff Abdulai Bah following instructions from General Yetim [sic]. Camara first went to the base at the beginning of 1992.

The base commander was a Liberian called Major Joseph Kato and he was under the Executive National Guard (“ENG”) which was a military branch on its own. The Chief of Staff of the ENG was Cassius Jacobs and his office was in Taylor’s mansion in Gbarnga. He reported directly to Taylor. The Liberian instructors were under the ENG while the Gambian instructors were under the SSS.

Cobra Base was used to train soldiers about guns. Most of the soldiers were ex-fighters from the bush who were brought to the Base to have advanced commando training. The recruits came from different battalions like the EMG, SSS, Small Boy Unit (“SBU”), Strike Force Marine and Army Division. The SBU was made up of “small soldiers” i.e. young people not older than 16 years.

As an instructor at Cobra Base Camara carried out foot drills, closed combat and topography. The nationalities of the recruits were Liberian and Sierra Leonean and the language Camara used was English.

When the recruits came to Cobra Base, a list was produced for each battalion and when they left the base they were dispatched according to which battalion they had come from. Weekly records and updates were produced so that the instructors could ensure that the recruits were receiving the correct training. These records were provided to SSS Commander Yetim [sic] and another copy sent to the commander of the relevant recruit’s battalion. General Yetim [sic] was informed whenever someone was sent to the Base for training. The original copies of these records were kept in the base.

Small Boy Unit

Camara testified that during his time at Cobra Base he saw many 13 year olds being trained. He explained that in an average SBU Company there would be 230 – 240 soldiers and many of these companies were trained at the Base. Camara was aware of the Commander of the SBU who was called Supoon who he thought worked at Charles Taylor’s mansion and reported to Charles Taylor. Camara first saw Supoon when Camara arrived in Liberia in 1991. Camara thought that Supoon was about 15 at that time.

Camara explained that soldiers in the SBU could sometimes be as you as 9 or 10. Sometimes they were so small than when they handled guns like AK-47’s, the guns would touch the ground. They were trained like the other soldiers with the exception sometimes of the obstacle training which some of the children could not complete. Some members of the Women’s Army Company (“WAC”) were also excused from obstacle training. Camara explained that this company was made up of “matured girls”.

Camara confirmed that the majority of the SBU recruits were Liberians but that there were also a few children from Sierra Leone. Camara explained that the recruits were organised by company, platoons and sections and that every company was made up of 4 platoons with 4 sections in a platoon. Normally one battalion was trained at a time. Before the recruits finished their training and “passed out”, General Yetim [sic] would be informed who then informed Taylor. Taylor would then sometimes come to the base to visit the recruits and would often bring cows and food and rice for the recruits.  Taylor would attend the “passing out” parade and talk to the recruits and Camara saw Taylor many times at the Base. He also used to bring badges for the children to put on their uniforms. Camara explained that they used to dance and sing during the “passing out” ceremonies and that sometimes Taylor would join in.

Once the training was completed, the recruits were sent back to their units all over Liberia or Sierra Leone depending on where they had come from.

General “245”

Camara talked about a female general from the NPFL who visited the base twice at some time in 1992. Her battle name was “General 245” and Camara thought she reported to the army Chief of Staff, One Man One. She was assigned to Lofa County and the Sierra Leone border. After each visit she took a company of recruits with her to the border of Sierra Leone with some of the soldiers being told that they would go to Sierra Leone. Both the companies she took, were mixed with recruits from Liberia and Sierra Leone. Camara explained that some of the companies at the Cobra Base were mixed. Her second visit was about a month after her first.

The Court was then adjourned until Monday at 9.30 am.