9:30 (10:00 with the delay in video and audio): Court is in session.
This is an unofficial transcription of the cross-examination.
Defense Counsel Morris Anyah continued his cross-examination of the witness Alimamy Bobson Sesay this morning. Mr Anyah began by recalling the details fof the abduction of ECOMOG and United Nations official in the western Sierra Leonean town of Magbeni.
Mr Anyah asks Sesay to recall how the abduction was planned.
Wit: I said Bazzy called a meeting and it was during that meeting that this was planned, where Papa (Hassan Papa Bangura (“Bomb Blast”)) would explain what would be done and then we would arrest the hostages.
Def: Yes, but it was Bomb Blast who told you what would happen and said that it was when he took off his hat that was the signal to arrest the hostages. Minor point, you told the prosecution that it was the removal of the glasses, not the hat.
Wit: Well, that might have been a mistake. Like I said, what I saw is what I said in the court.
Def: At this time, you and your fellow fighters were with the SLA? And when you say SLA you include Johnny Paul Koroma?
Wit: Yes…He was an SLA. According to Bazzy they said we were considering [whether he had been captured] very much because he had not communicated with us to we thought he was taken prisoner.
Def: Would it be fair to say that there were three reasons for which you decided to take these ECOMOG, United Nations officials and religious groups hostage? First, to secure the release of Johnny Paul Koroma [Mr Anyah asks a series of questions to confirm as to whether they thought he was taken prisoner and having communication with Johnny Paul Koroma].
Wit: Yes, my Lord.
Def: And that the lack of recognition of the AFRC (SLAs) at Lomé and in the peace agreement was a source of concern for you and the other fighters at Mcbenny when you took the hostages?
Judge Doherty: Please can you confirm that this is the second of the three reasons?
Def: Yes, I confirm that this is the second reason.
Def: [Repeats the question]
Wit: Yes, my lord
Def: After you spoke to Johnny Paul Koroma you also had in mind a position for him as Chairman for Consolidation of Peace in the peace process.
Wit: No. Once we got to Liberia, he indicated to us that there was a position like that in existence.
Def: One of the hopes or aspirations was that the AFRC would have a role to play in the new government?
Wit: Yes, my lord
Def: Then you were picked up and taken to Freetown and stayed at the [Sola?] hotel. Did you have to hide or sneak or was this all done in daylight?
Wit: Well, we left Magbeni at night and when we were moving we were escorted by ECOMOG to Freetown.
Def: At the [Sola] hotel, General Khobe came to visit you? [Confirms spelling] At the time a Nigerian general was chief of staff of the _______ army?
Def: Also Opande came to see you, overall force commander at the time in Sierra Leone? [Confirms spelling]
Def: All these people they all knew you were going to Liberia to meet President Charles Taylor?
Wit: Yes, my lord.
Def: His excellency Abdal Mustafa, [Kabbah’s] Protocol Officer, was waiting for you in Freetown when you arrived?
Wit: Yes, my lord.
Def: All of this was official, the government of Sierra Leone was involved?
Def: The UN was involved, they were waiting to meet you when you arrived in Sierra Leone?
Wit: Well, like I said, those were the only people, Khobe and Opande that met us, we did not see any other UN people at [Sula] hotel.
Def: UNAMSIL personnel welcomed you when you were at _________?
Wit: No, they weren’t there to receive us.
Def: But let me clarify what you said to the prosecution on November 7th 2003: [looks at documents submitted as evidence and gives a copy to the witness]…”In Mansumana (Liberia), we met a delegation including UNAMSIL officials…then we went to the [Sula] hotel and met Khobe and Opande”.Wit: Yes, my lord.
Def: The plane you took from Lungi to Roberts international was an official plane provided by whom?
Wit: Well, we met there just like I told you, we had nothing else to do with that. When we got there by helicopter we found it and entered the aircraft.
Def: You don’t know who provided the plane?
Wit: Yes, my lord, I don’t know.
Def: But none of you or your fellow fighters had to pay your airfare from Sierra Leone to Liberia?
Wit: Yes, my lord, we did not pay. We just saw the flight.
Def: Abdal Mustafa, president Kabbah’s Protocol Officer, flew with you on that flight?
Wit: Yes, my Lord.
Def: When you arrived at Roberts International Airport was Momoh Gibba waiting for you?
Wit: No. When we got there, two vehicles came to receive us.
Def: You testified yesterday that these vehicles had special licence plates “Guest 1” and “Guest 2”.
Wit: No, this is wrong, they were jeeps that were the President’s Protocol Officer’s and they drove us to the Boulevard hotel.
Def: The Sierra Leone ambassador at the time came to visit you and your fellow fighters?
Def: He knew what you were in Liberia for?
Wit: Well, he visited us there, yes.
Def: He knew that you were there to consult with Johnny Paul Koroma to possibly meet with the President of Liberia?
Wit: Well, I was not there to enter his mind, I only knew that he came there to visit us as Sierra Leoneans who came to lodge in the hotel. We never had anything to discuss with him only that if he wanted to talk to us he should go to Johnny Paul Koroma.
Def: [Repeats and confirms the facts above].
Wit: He came to welcome us and our fellow delegates at the Boulevard Hotel – he introduced himself to me as the ADC (aide de camp) Momoh Gibba and the ADC of the President. He moved us to the hotel and instructed us to stay there, he was there to receive us.
Def: When did the vehicles you mentioned yesterday come to pick you up?
Wit: That happened the next day, they came to pick us up.
Def: Did you have to pay for your stay at the Boulevard?
Wit: Like I said, Momoh Gibba said that we shouldn’t use money on anything there. He passed this order and gave us the rooms, for anything except alcohol, which we had to pay for ourselves.
Def: It was clear that these vehicles were official government vehicles?
Wit: Well, I saw “Guest 1” and “Guest 2” and I want to believe that they were official government vehicles.
Def: Were there any RUF members?
Def: I thought you said they were still there?
Wit: Yes, but they were not part of the delegation.
Def: Would you say that after Lomé and the failure to name the SLA, that they went their separate ways?
Wit: No. We did not. We only decided to launch the operation to ensure that we (the SLA) were recognised, but they were all still there [witness names SLA and RUF names, not all decipherable].
Def: You then had a meeting with Johnny Paul Koroma at a lodge in Monrovia. [Mr Anyah asks about the lodge, who gave it to Koroma].
Wit: Johnny Paul Koroma told us that it was president Taylor who gave him that residential facility and I saw his guard s and he pointed them out to us “look at the RUF going around”.
Def: It occurs to me that you have not mentioned before that you have seen RUF men with Johnny Paul Koroma. [indecipherable]
Def: Reads one of the witness’ witness statements to the Office of the Prosecutor from 2003: “We went to Roberts airfield and Mustafa was with us, and were received in two jeep cars and were taken to Boulevard hotel and received by the ambassador to Sierra Leone and then were taken to Johnny Paul Koroma’s residence and had a closed-door talk with him and he told us the situation he was in when in Kailahun, and how he and his wife were molested by the RUF. He was very insistent that the AFRC would come back, but when we were consulted we told Johnny Paul Koroma that the AFRC said they wanted the army to be reinstated because if it was only the government not everybody would be reinstated, but if it said the army then everybody would be reinstated.”
Def: In that meeting, Johnny Paul Koroma said that since he has no office and there was vacancy for the CPP office he was asking for this to be given to him so that he could also take part in the peace accords. In that statement, is there any reference here to SLA?
Wit: Well, I did not see a reference to that here, but that is what I said.
Def: Five years ago you were calling them AFRC.
Wit: Well, this was the name given to us. Those of us in it said AFRC SLA fighters and people called us SLA RUF fighters, it was part of the SLA.
Def: Is there any reference in this statement to Taylor’s guards around the house?
Wit: No, but I said that Johnny Paul Koroma showed us the RUF boys who were with him, so it was up to the investigators who put the statement together they didn’t put it in.
Def: Did you eventually meet Charles Taylor?
Wit: Yes it was about two days later when he chose amongst us some people who should go, Johnny Paul Koroma told us we should be prepared to go and meet with him. There were only five of us.
Def: Before you and the [eleven] left Freetown to go to Liberia to meet with Taylor you wanted some guarantees or assurances that you wouldn’t be arrested, right?
Wit: Well, I want you to repeat the question.
Def: The West Side Boys were under tremendous pressure after they took the hostages in July 1999, correct?
Wit: Well, I want you to describe to me the pressure under which we were.
Def: From the international community, yes?
Wit: It was the Sierra Leonean governments and the ECOMOG and UNAMSIL officials who said we should release them. The West Side Boys were under pressure from these bodies.
Def: You wanted assurances from the Liberian government that nothing would happen to you in Liberia.
Wit: Well, as long as the hostages were with us, nothing would happen, we wanted to see Johnny Paul Koroma, but as long as we had the hostages, nobody was going to arrest us.
Def: Did you have any concern about being arrested on arrival in Liberia?
Wit: The only concern we had was for Freetown in general because we were afraid that if we went to Freetown that they wanted to arrest us but that if they did, we would do away with the hostages, and that was our only fear.
Def: Back in Monrovia, when you went on a visit with President Taylor…when you made your way to meet him, he was accompanied by his Minister for Defense, right?
Def: Momoh Gibba was also present in the vicinity?
Def: And he met the five of you?
Wit: Yes and we said that we should be part of the peace accord ,the SLA.
Def: Yesterday you said he gave your group 15,000 USD. You described how he pulled it out of a portfolio. Was there anything illegal or criminal about that?
Wit: Well, he handed it over to Johnny Paul Koroma and he told him to give it to us so that we should feel free and buy things around and go shopping…
Def: [indecipherable] Did you take cola?
Wit: Yes, in Freetown.
Def: Sometimes do you take cola to elder statesmen in Freetown?
Wit: I don’t understand what kind of cola you are talking about.
Wit: Well in my own view the reason that Freetown is falling apart is that people who want their business to go through they take cola to the big man and then if you don’t have it your business does not go through, this is bad. I don’t come from that tradition. I don’t do that, if I invite you to my house and you expect me to give you money, I don’t do that.
Def: But are you familiar with this culture in West Africa when young people come to your house and you give them money and you say “pay your way, my son”.
Wit: No, I am not familiar with this.
Def: Would you say that Charles Taylor giving you this money was a symbol of good will?
Wit: No, he gave it to Johnny Paul Koroma and he said to use to buy logistics and clothing.
Def: What do you mean when you say logistics? You often use this to mean ammunitions, are you insinuating something sinister?
Wit: Well, all of it could be part of logistics.
Def: Are you suggesting that Charles Taylor was giving you money to buy arms at a meeting where you were discussing peace accords?
Wit: No, he said we should buy clothing and such.
Def: Would you say therefore that it was just a token of goodwill?
Wit: Well, he gave it to Johnny Paul Koroma saying to give it to his men to buy clothing, I did not know his intentions.
Def: Did you view this as a gesture of kindness and generosity on his part?
Wit: Well, that what up to him why we received it.
Def: I persist in my question – when somebody gives you money to buy clothing and other like items, do you view this, as a grown man, as a gesture of good will.
Wit: Well, to me it could have different meanings because for me if I give money to anybody that person must have done something for me, I would not give it for nothing. I do not know his intention though so it was up to him why he did it.
Def: The evidence is that you do not give people money as a matter of custom. Yes?
Wit: I am talking about my personal principles, I cannot speak for others. I cannot even give money to even my wife except if she says she wants to buy something like clothing or child’s schooling, but I cannot just give money like that.
Def: A few things have struck me in this meeting with Charles Taylor – you said that you talked about reintegrating the SLAs. You said Taylor spoke of “the movement” and his support of the January 6th invasion of Freetown. Do you recall saying this?
Def: Then you told us of the USD 15,000, yes?
Def: Let’s look at what you said in 2003 about this meeting. [Rereads the statement from 2003].
Wit: Yes, this was in response to a question they put to me – in fact there were times that I wanted to continue and explain more but the interviewers told me to stop and that they would ask me anything they needed to know later.
Def: At the time were you living in a house paid for by the special forces? On November 7th 2003?
Def: Charles Taylor had not yet been arrested, right?
Wit: Yes, he had not.
Def: And there is nothing in that statement about Charles Taylor supporting the January 6th invasion, right?
Wit: Right, but that was because they only wanted me to talk about a limited question and when I tried to explain further they did not want to hear it.
Def: But there is no mention of Taylor providing arms and ammunitions to the SLA, right?
Wit: Yes but it does mention that there was a meeting and if the interviewers let me explain I would have been able to say.
Def: No mention of Taylor get soldiers from Guinea, right?
Wit: Yes, but that is because the interviewer did not ask me or allow me to elaborate.
Def: You have met with the prosecution 31 times between 2003 and 2008. Do you remember when is the first time you mentioned receiving 15,000 USD from Taylor?
Wit: I cannot recall I am a human being not a machine and I was called many times to be interviewed and I am not a machine which can save something in its memory and I am liable to make mistakes – perhaps you can remind me because you have the documents before you.
Def: Mr Anyah asks “when you say that, you say “you are a mortal man”, do you know what this is? Can you tell us what this means? It is vernacular with which you will be familiar”.
[Short break as witness ask to go to the gents].
Anyah restarts, calling attention to witness interview statements:
“Johnny Paul Koroma communicated from the Kailahun after the adoption (abduction?) of the UNOMSIL soldiers that they should be released, but the West Side Boys refused saying that Johnny Paul Koroma was held at gunpoint asking this”. – and you see the sentence here “this was coordinated by both the Sierra Leonean government and the Liberian government”.
Def: You trip was an official matter between the two governments, yes?
Wit: Yes, they took us from Freetown and to Liberia and the government there received us in Liberia.
Def: Look at the next sentence – it reads “the SLAs at West Side had to get assurance from the Liberian government to confirm that nothing will happen to them that nothing will happen to them on arrival in Liberia” – this is what you told the prosecution back in May 2007, yes?
Def: What you mean by assurance is that you were concerned something would happen to you.
Wit: Well yes, it is in my statement, first we had a fear for Freetown and that’s why we were asking for assurance and they said nothing would happen to us. If they had concerns for us they would have sent us to Ghana, but it was because we were AFRC fighters that they took us to Liberia.
Def: Are you suggesting that Ghana had the chairmanship of ECOWAS at the time?
Wit: No, I am saying that if it was a peace mediator, they would have taken us to Ghana because they knew that there would be no RUF there. It’s because they knew they had a direct hand in the AFRC that they suggested Liberia. He was the direct person who had influence on the AFRC and the RUF that the meetings were held in Liberia. We had some fear for the RUF and expressed this but they said it was ok.
Def: We have already said that he was mediating this peace as part of a process coordinated by the Sierra Leone and Liberia governments. Yes? In May of 2000 when you speak with the office of the prosecutor, you start talking about Taylor providing logistics to the SLA and the AFRC.
Wit: Well, from the questions, it was at that time that they brought the questions. If they did not ask me a question I would not volunteer answers.
Def: Did you see that this was your 22nd interview with the office of the prosecutor and this is the first time you mention Taylor providing logistics.
Wit: Yes, but when the investigator was asking me before then he did not ask me about that, but before then he did not ask me to go further but on this occasion they asked me to elaborate so I did, this time. This time I told the prosecutor that I had no fear as I had before, when Taylor was the President, that if I said we went to Liberia I would fear for my life, now I do not fear for my life so I would tell the truth about everything.
Def: You are saying to this court, the first time you mention this meeting with Taylor is the 3rd time meeting with them on November 7th 2003. On that date, Taylor was no longer president of Liberia, right? He left office already. Except when you are telling me know, I can recall that he was the president before I started elaborating. Are you saying that the third time you met with them, Taylor was president and that it was made you afraid that you could not speak freely? Are you saying on this date that Taylor was President of Liberia?
Wit: Well, I cannot recall the date that he was or was no longer the President but when he still was the president I had fear for my life, when I went to Liberia I saw it myself I was afraid because most of our SLA brothers crossed to Liberia and he rescued them and I thought my life could be at risk and during the first interviews they did not ask me about those things but only later they asked me to elaborate and then I did.
Def: There were _____ meetings between the 3rd and 22nd.
Wit: Yes, but that was the time the question was brought to me and that is when I answered.
Def: Are you aware of the role played by Taylor and Liberia in the peace process?
Wit: Except if you want to explain to me so that I will know. I don’t know.
Def: Are you aware that RUF delegates came through Liberia, were picked up by a UN aircraft and flown to Lomé for the peace accords. Are you aware?
Wit: Well, we were on the West Side and we don’t know how they organised the delegation getting to Lomé.
Def: Are you aware that Taylor was on the committee of six of the [West African Economic Union]?
Def: Do you see any mention in the evidence I have reread to you of what you told us in court yesterday that Taylor took part in the January 6th invasion of Freetown?
Wit: No, I don’t see any reference here to that but in the meeting that was what he discussed with us, and that’s what I told the court.
Def: [Refers to a September 20th 2007 meeting between the witness and the Office of the Prosecutor – the 24th meeting with the Office of the Prosecutor] And then you added something to the paragraph I have just read to you. “Taylor said he provided logistics, ammunition, food, etc.” then you added “since they were driven by ECOMOG to Freetown even during the January 6th invasion up to ceasefire”.
Wit: Yes, when this question was brought to me regarding the meeting if I have any knowledge about Taylor, I told the investigator who interviewed me.
Def: Are you saying that in May when they asked you that it slipped your mind that Taylor had provided all of this logistics since you were driven from Freetown by ECOMOG during even the January 6th invasion up to ceasefire – did this escape your mind?
Wit: Well, it depended of the questions that they asked of me. If after some time they wanted to ask me some other questions, I would answer the question to them because they asked it of me, I couldn’t have volunteered answers.
Def: But you see even after you met with them May 8th, you still left out 15,000 USD – until you came to the Hague that you left out this detail that Taylor gave you 15,000 USD out of a wallet…
Wit: Except if the investigators had been omitting that, even during the FRC trials I mentioned that, I can recall.
Def: Are you aware that a few weeks after your delegation went to Liberia, Johnny Paul Koroma was still in Monrovia, Fode Sankoh flew from Lomé to Monrovia?
Wit: It was went we were in Freetown that we were told that Sankoh arrived in Monrovia.
Def: Are you aware that they Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma met with Taylor?
Wit: We were not there, we had left. It was only Lekhe who was there and met with them.
Def: You told us several times of listening to Focus on BBC, [Mr Anyah makes reference to a BBC show transcript from 1999] – see the caption “World: Africa, who are the kidnappers?” – do you see this? Asks witness to read the paragraph which talks about the kidnappers and “among the demands of the kidnappers is the release of Johnny Paul Koroma”…”the kidnappers say that they are from the AFRC, the movement led by Johnny Paul Koroma”… This is saying that when the AFRC took power in 1997 that the RUF offered its support, do you see this?
Def: If you go down a bit, where it says “fought together”, this is the transitional phrase, where it says that they retained distinct identities. Do you agree with this statement?
Wit: I disagree. The person who wrote this was not on the ground, I disagree.
Def: Well we are all entitled to disagree but you quoted the BBC and now we are quoting the BBC, we shall continue.
Wit: Well, maybe you are quoting but this was written by a journalist who was not on the ground and I was on the ground…
Def: [Mr Anyah refers to another paragraph in the same transcript] Here it says the January 6th invasion was an ARC matter, do you agree?
Wit: I disagree.
Court is adjourning for the mid-morning break. Proceedings will resume at 12:00 (12:30 with the delay in video and audio).