March 4, 2008
The Taylor trial started in closed session, but was open after the mid-morning break. Prosecution Witness TF1-337, RUF commander Mustapha Marvin Mansaray, 36, was sworn in. Charles Taylor, wearing glasses and dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and blue tie, sat quietly often taking notes. The witness, whose previous protective orders had been lifted, sniffled throughout the proceedings, sometimes having to stop to dab his eyes or nose with a handkerchief. He laid his folded eye glasses on the table in front of him, where he rested his hands for much of the testimony.
In Krio, Mansaray described his progression through the RUF ranks after being captured at the start of the war, in April 1991, as a civilian. He was trained as a fighter and after this training he joined the RUF until 2001, when he was disarmed. He described his rise from junior fighter, to the RUF’s mining commander in Ngaiya, in Kono district. Much of the first open session was spent outlining his guerrilla and commando training which he received at Gisiwolo Camp, and chronologically outlining the 19 assignments he was given during his 10 year tenure with the RUF.
After lunch, Mansaray explained the work and composition of the RUF’s joint security board investigation panel. This panel included members of the RUF’s internal defense unit, the intelligence office, military police and G5 (soldiers in charge of civilians) and operated effectively as a semi-court for the RUF. If any fighter or commander violated a law of the RUF, this panel would investigate, and submit a report with recommendations, including demotion, transferral to the front line, or placement in a guard room (jail equivalent). Between 1996 and disarmament, this Joint Security Board Investigation Panel would report to RUF chief security officer, Augustine Gbao. Any reports he would receive from this panel had to be passed to the RUF’s field commander, Sam Bockarie (who held this position between November 1996 to December 1999). Under the RUF guidelines, Bockarie was supposed to approve the recommendations made by this body, but according to Mansaray, he approved very few reports. This meant that the fighter, junior officer or commander who committed the crimes described in the report would be set free.
Mansaray described Boackarie as a man who was only interested in fighting the war. He had no interest in bringing soldiers to justice for crimes committed against civilians. He and his bodyguards, moreover, had committed crimes against civilians. In 1995 in Peyama, for example, when Mansaray was stationed there, Sam Bockarie ordered that 10 civilians who had been captured by RUF fighters while searching for food, were to be tied up and thrown in a deep water well. All the civilians died in that well. Another time, Bockarie told fighters to go in search of food. They brought 5 civilians back at gunpoint together with two cows. Sam Bockarie shot three of them. He then told RUF fighters to tie up the other two civilians and to dig a grave. The two civilians were buried alive.
The joint security board investigation panel held a meeting and wrote a report against Sam Bockarie for these murders. When Bockarie was told of the report, he arrested three of the RUF commanders, who were present during the killings, and threw them in jail. He also ordered that the man who physically delivered the report be flogged and thrown in jail also. Meanwhile, Bockarie threatened to kill the joint security board members.
This was not the only description of civilian murders during Mansaray’s testimony. He had earlier described the killing of civilians by soldiers at checkpoint in Bumpeh Perri back in 1991 if they refused to hand over their belongings to the RUF (food, clothing, money). His testimony canvassed unexplained killings by his commander in Bumpeh Perri, Dixon Wolo, who would send his Liberian bodyguards to take civilians to a particular bridge at the Masawei river and kill them. Mansaray knew of more than 100 civilians killed by Wolo and his guards. Wolo and his senior fighters and guards would also forcefully take women from their husbands at night and rape them. He estimated more than 200 women were raped in a three month period in 1991 by NPFL and RUF fighters.
Mansaray also described a meeting, near Tiene in Liberia, at which Charles Taylor was present in November 1991. Mansaray had told how the RUF fighters had crossed back into Liberia after being chased by Sierra Leonean soldiers. That evening, Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor arrived to address the fighters. Charles Taylor arrived in a grey car, introduced himself, and told the RUF that the NPFL fighters should not treat the RUF fighters badly, as they were all fighting for the same freedom. The RUF clapped for him. After Taylor left, the RUF leader Foday Sankoh said the RUF should not allow Liberians to kill or mistreat the RUF members. He said his friend, Charles Taylor, would help him to continue the war with arms and ammunition. Those weapons were being exchanged that night. Mansaray said he got back in one of three cars which were loaded with weapons, including anti aircraft guns.The cars drove Mansaray and others back towards the town of Tinne to search for the Sierra Leonean soldiers. He and others opened fire on the Momoh soldiers (Momoh soldiers were Sierra Leonean fighters in the time of the Momoh regime – they were fighting for the Sierra Leonean government). They captured Tiene that very day.
Mansaray continued describing his role throughout the war with the RUF, and included stories of forced civilian labor and forced sexual intercourse with women by RUF fighters. Before the end of the final session of the day, Mansaray started describing his duties in 1996, when he was assigned as the RUF commander in Buedu, Kailahun district. This included visiting designated areas where RUF fighters and civilians were trading palm oil, bush pepper, coffee, cocoa, and kola nuts with Guineans. This food produce was forcefully taken by the RUF from civilian farms. He described an order being issued by Sam Bockarie and Issa Sesay which labeled coffee, cocoa, and kola nuts as government property (by government, they meant the RUF government). Bockarie and Sesay said they would use the proceeds of the sale of these items to buy arms and ammunition.
Court was adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.