March 11, 2008
Prosecution witness TF1-532 Isaac Mongor (aka “Colonel Isaac”) testified for a second day today under questioning from Prosecutor Nick Koumjian. Yesterday, Mongor, a Sierra Leonean who grew up in Liberia, testified that he had been abducted by the NPFL at the start of the Liberian civil war. He said he fought with the NPFL and became a part of Charles Taylor’s Executive Mansion guard before being sent by Taylor to assist in training and fighting with the RUF in Sierra Leone. Mongor resumed his mostly chronological account today in 1997-1998, when he was in Freetown as a member of the AFRC/RUF following the May 1997 coup in Sierra Leone. In the course of his testimony, he made a number of allegations about Taylor’s involvement in the Sierra Leonean conflict.
Mongor began by recounting an alleged meeting in Freetown at which he said that General Ibrahim Bah brought a message from Taylor for the AFRC and the RUF, according to which the two organizations should work together. Bah delivered the message to RUF commanders and then was taken to see the leader of the AFRC government, Johnny Paul Koroma. Mongor testified that the AFRC and RUF both accepted the order, and that they cooperated well together, without problems. Further, he testified that from that point onwards, Koroma maintained direct radio communication with Taylor, and that the AFRC paid for weapons deliveries from Liberia with diamonds mined in Kono. He said that Koroma told them in advance that a weapons delivery they received at Magburaka had been arranged by Taylor.
Mongor stated that he fled in February 1998 with the rest of the AFRC/RUF when ECOMOG, the Kamajors and soldiers loyal to the exiled government of President Kabbah took over Freetown. He said that RUF leader Sam Bockarie (“Mosquito”) ordered him to see Koroma in a village near Makeni. Koroma wanted to go to visit Taylor in Liberia, and Mongor and other commanders escorted Koroma to Koidu and on to Buedu, in Kailahun. Mongor testified that before Koroma left, he said he had consulted with Taylor and they had decided to restructure the rebel forces. Bockarie was promoted to Defense Chief of Staff, each AFRC commander was assigned a deputy from the RUF, and vice versa. Mongor testified that Bockarie ordered him to Kono to secure the diamond mines, and that when he complained to Bockarie about a shortage of ammunition, Bockarie reassured him that Jungle – a member of the Liberian SS Unit and the liaison officer between the RUF and NPFL – was going to Liberia to bring ammunition from Taylor. When Jungle returned, allegedly from his trip to see Taylor, he brought ammunition that Bockarie then sent to Mongor and others in the field.
Mongor recounted a second alleged delivery of arms and ammunition from Taylor, distributed to commanders ahead of a failed operation called “Fitti-Fatta” designed to capture Koidu and kill anyone they could. He testified to another operation called “Operation Spare No Soul”, led by RUF commander Morris Kallon, to take the town of Njaima Nimikoro. After that operation there was a change in command; Superman and Saj Musa were sent to the north and Mongor briefly became commander of Kono District. Mongor described RUF infighting in the north and Bockarie’s efforts to have his rival, Dennis Mingo (“Superman”), killed. When Mongor complained to Bockarie about the infighting and pleaded for an end to it, he was tipped off that Bockarie had invited him to Buedu in order to kill him.
But in November 1998 Mongor went to Buedu anyway, with his armed bodyguards. Mongor and Bockarie reconciled, and the next day other commanders arrived. They composed a joint letter to Taylor asking for ammunition, which was in short supply, and Jungle took the letter to Taylor. Mongor testified that three days later, Bockarie announced having received a message from Taylor that he should go to Monrovia. He ordered Issa Sesay to come to Buedu to take command in his absence, and Mongor to Pendembu, to take Sesay’s position. While Mongor was in Buedu, he went to see Johnny Paul Koroma in the nearby village of Kangama. Koroma had a radio set and operators and told Mongor that he was in contact with Taylor.
After three days in Buedu, Mongor went to Pendembu for three weeks, until being summoned back to Buedu upon Bockarie’s return. Mongor testified that Bockarie showed him a large store of ammunition, medicine and food that he said Taylor had provided him with for a major offensive. Bockarie also said that Taylor had made a connection for him with Blaise Compaoré, the president of Burkina Faso, who could provide arms and ammunition. Bockarie said he and SYB Rogers had flown to meet with Compaoré, and Bockarie showed him photos from the trip.
Mongor testified that Bockarie also showed him the very large delivery of supplies from Liberia and said he had paid for it by leaving diamonds with Taylor. Bockarie told him he and Taylor had planned an operation to capture Kono, Makeni, and advance to Freetown. Mongor’s role in the plan was to attack Joru and then advance to Zimmi in the southeast, where he was to be reinforced with NPFL fighters. The ultimate purpose of the operation was to seize power in Freetown and free Foday Sankoh and other rebels from prison there.
Mongor testified that Bockarie had told him that part of the plan hatched by Taylor was to save ammunition by making the operation more fearsome than all of their other operations before. The Prosecution underscored with the witness that Bockarie and Taylor had discussed this particular aspect.
Mongor went on to say that the morning after he and Bockarie had spoken, other top RUF/AFRC commanders came to Buedu. Everyone agreed to the operation and, according to Mongor, Bockarie divided the ammunition from Taylor among the commanders. Mongor and his forces took Joru, but while waiting to be resupplied, ECOMOG dislodged them. He then took a defensive position and followed events in the rest of the country over the communications and commercial radio.
Based on his monitoring of the radio, Mongor testified that the other commanders were successful in taking their targets. Saj Musa was killed while nearing Freetown and Alex Tamba Brima (“Gullit”) took command of his unit. Rather than wait for reinforcements, Gullit and his fighters advanced and entered Freetown on January 6, 1999. Mongor stated he heard frequent radio communications between Gullit and Bockarie. Gullit said they were coming under pressure, and Bockarie ordered his men to burn and destroy Freetown before withdrawing.
In drawing an additional link to Liberia, Mongor testified that throughout this period, AFRC/RUF commanders were alerted to attacks by ECOMOG jets and ground forces through radio signals. He stated that these signals were highly valuable in allowing forces at the front to prepare for attacks and minimize casualties. He stated that the alerts came from the AFRC/RUF headquarters in Buedu as well as from Liberia, and he named three Liberian radio operators there.
Beyond detailing alleged links between the RUF/AFRC in Sierra Leone and Charles Taylor, the witness testified to crimes committed in Sierra Leone. Speaking of Kono in 1998, Mongor described RUF units called G5’s, which were responsible for controlling civilians and providing forced labor to commanders. He said that commanders forced women to become their “wives”, to have sex and work for them, and that he himself had done so.
Mongor’s direct examination by the Prosecution will continue tomorrow at 9.30 a.m.