2:00 Witness describes reprisal killings of civilians following rebel withdrawal from Freetown

12:00 (12:30 with the delay in video and audio): Court is back in session following the mid-morning break.

Prosecutor Shyamala Alagendra continues her direct examination of witness Alimamy Bobson Sesay:

Pros: Did anything happen at the Kissy Mental Home?

Wit: Yes. After we withdrew towards the east, Gullit came and said that the people in Freetown had changed their song. Now the people are singing that our brothers have come to steal. He said now we should move and go as far as Ferry Junction. Wherever we saw people singing that song or setting fire to make light for security, those people are betrayers and we should kill them. If we meet any civilians setting fire anywhere we should kill them because they are trying to show our positions.

Pros: Did anything happen after you reached Kissy Mental Home and before Gullit gave this order, did something happen?

Wit: The only thing I can recall is that he informed us that this was what was happening then. We were to move towards Ferry Junction. He appointed another squad to go to Low Cost Housing to burn houses and amputate people. I was to go with another group to Ferry Junction and do the same.

Pros: What is Low Cost Housing?

Wit: Where they built government housing, but they called the entire section Low Cost Housing – it’s just after Kissy Mess Mess.

Pros: Why was Gullit saying that the people were betraying you?

Wit: We saw people dancing in the hills when ECOMOG troops came. They were singing “they are our brothers – they have come to steal”. They wanted ECOMOG to come, so we should go kill people and burn. Changa Bulanga and his squad should go to Low Cost Housing.

Pros: Which hills were you in?

Wit: Where the mental home is located. It’s a hilly place. You can see the streets in Kissy.

Pros: Where were the civilians who were welcoming ECOMOG troops?

Wit: We were in the hills overlooking and we saw them on the new road and the old road.

Pros: What happened after you saw them dancing?

Wit: Gullit said we should form an immediate fighting team to go towards Ferry Junction and the other one should go to Low Cost. We should burn houses and kill civilians because they were betrayers.

Pros: What was the composition of the fighting team?

Wit: One squad went to one area. My team had Bejehjeh, Rambo and others. We went to Ferry Junction. This fighting force that was in place during the withdrawal was divided.

Pros: The same fighting force that was together for the withdrawal from Freetown?

Wit: Yes. But Gullit divided it to send some to Low Cost and some to Ferry Junction.

Pros: What happened then?

Wit: I was with the force that went to Ferry Junction together with SLA Rambo (Red Goat) and Bejehjeh. We came toward Kissy Market and heard people singing. We shot all of the people. We went into their houses and killed them.

Judge Sebutinde: Was SLA Rambo called Red Goat?

Wit: Red Goat was his call sign.

[All three judges express confusion about the identities of SLA Rambo, Rambo Red Goat, and RUF Rambo.]

Pros: You’ve been talking about various “Rambos”. Can you clarify for the court?

Wit: Moses Kabia, the CSO to Johnny Paul was called Rambo. We had Rambo, who was RUF Rambo – he was with Superman. This Rambo was Idrissa Kamara, an SLA.

Pros: Which Rambo was Red Goat?

Wit: Idriss Kamara.

Judge Sebutinde: Is Idrissa Kamara – Leatherboot the same as Idrissa Kamara – Red Goat?

Wit: No. They are different. In Sierra Leone, a lot of people can have the same name.

Pros: Which Rambo was sent as a reinforcement to Freetown?

Wit: Idrissa Kamara, who came with Saj and RUF Rambo.

Pros: This is Red Goat?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Where was Idrissa Kamara called Leatherboot at this time?

Wit: In Koidu with Johnny Paul.

Pros; The other SLA Rambo, where was he?

Wit: Also with Johnny Paul. He never came for the invasion.

Pros: What happened?

Wit: When we left Crazy Yard, we advanced towards Kissy Market. The people were singing, so we attacked and killed them. We moved as far as Ferry Junction and we stopped in that area. We then burned while retreating. We came back to Crazy Yard and met Gullit.

Pros; How many people were killed?

Wit: I can’t recall. Eveyone was busy taking people outside their houses and killing them. We were shooting them. These were civilians in the Kissy Market area.

Pros: How were the people being killed.

Wit: Me, I shot them. I saw other people shooting too. Other people had machetes.

Pros: You were burning too?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: What were you burning?

Wit: Houses.

Pros: The houses that were being burnt – were they were empty?

Wit: Some were empty, but some had civilians in them and we burned them. You’d hear them screaming and they’d die.

Pros: How many fighters were in the group that went to this area?

Wit: We were more than 100.

Pros: Do you know what happened in Low Cost Housing?

Wit: No. I wasn’t there. When Changa Bulanga came he said he too had done his operation as ordered. Just as we came, he gave his report. He said he amputated arms and burned houses. We too reported we had completed our mission – Rambo, Med Bejehjeh and others.

Pros: Do you know if anything else happened to civilians in Low Cost?

Wit: He said they killed people, amputated them and burned houses.

Pros: Which Rambo?

Wit: Rambo Red Goat.

Pros: Who did they give their reports to?

Wit: Gullit.

Pros: When was this?

Wit: It was almost the third week of January 1999.

Pros: Did anything happen after this incident?

Wit: After this, we passed the night. At daybreak, Gullit said he had information that the people had kept ECOMOG forces in the mosque at that Shell area. He said they were lying to us that they were civilians and that the ECOMOG forces had just taken off their uniforms. So he ordered us to go there and kill them.

Pros: Did he say where he got the information?

Wit: I don’t know.

Pros: Who was ordered to kill them?

Wit: Gullit ordered Five-Five to kill those in the mosque. He said they were collaborators.

Pros: Were you part of the team that went to the mosque?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Who else?

Wit: Five-Five led the team, there was Med Bejehjeh, Rambo Red Goat, some SLAs. There were more than 100 of us.

Pros: Which groups were the 100 fighters from?

Wit: It was mixed: SLAs, Rambo Red Goat’s reinforcement, and STF too.

Pros: Any other groups?

Wit: Med Bejehjeh had some STF – the Liberians.

Pros: Who are the Liberians?

Wit: The former NPFL fighters who came to reinforce the troop at Col. Eddie Town.

Pros: What happened at the mosque?

Wit: We came to the mosque and saw a lot of people in there. We opened fire. Some attempted to run away. Most died in the mosque. Some escaped. There were civilians in the mosque – it was full. As Gullit had said, that they had hidden ECOMOG officers in their midst – so we didn’t search. We just fired.

Pros: How big is it?

Wit: A big mosque. It’s bigger than this place.

Pros: What happened?

Wit: We killed and withdrew.

Judge Sebutinde: It would help if we had numbers and genders of the people who died.

Wit: We met suckling mothers. People said they had gone there to seek refuge. There were many people. Some ran away, but we killed a lot of them.

Pros: What were their ages?

Wit: Adults, children, young boys and young girls. The mosque was full.

Pros; Did anyone in the mosque survive?

Wit: Some of them jumped over the fence, so they survived.

Pros: Those who died, what was their age group?

Wit: Children, adults, young and old women too.

Pros: Can you give us an estimate of the number of people who died?

Wit: They were more than 20 that I saw. I even learned later that my own relatives were there.

Pros: How did you learn that?

Wit: After the Lomé Peace Accord, my uncle told me he saw me. He said my two cousins had died. I said it was peace now and we shouldn’t talk about it. I said I was not there, but in my conscience I knew it was true.

Pros: Were you there at this mosque?

Wit: In that area, I was present at the mosque when the incident happened.

Pros: What happened then?

Wit: We withdrew and Five-Five explained to Gullit that we killed people at the mosque. We had heavy mortar bombardment from the Nigerian and Guinean troops around the highway. Whilst this was happening, Gullit called the commanders and said we should bulldoze – that we were being pressed from all angles. A mortar had killed some of our men who we freed from the prison – Steve Bio and Kunateh. Gullit said we should bring the nuns – about four of them. When we entered Freetown, we captured Bishop Ganda and Father Mario. The Bishop and Father Mario had escaped. Gullit said we should execute the nuns so they could not escape. They were executed.

Pros: When you say Foday Bulldoze, who are you referring to?

Wit: Foday Bamara.

Pros: How were the nuns with your group?

Wit: These nuns – it was when we withdrawing from Eastern Police – we captured them.

Pros: What nationality were they?

Wit: I can’t recall, but they were white people.

Pros: You spoke about Bishop Ganda escaping?

Wit: He and Father Mario escaped.

Pros: Where were you when the nuns were killed?

Wit: It was in our presence. Gullit said they should be executed, so Bulldoze shot them.

Pros: Did anything happen to the nuns after they were shot?

Wit: They died and we left their corpses there.

Pros: What happened then?

Wit: Gullit said the fighting force should move toward Iron Town, and we were bulldozing going toward that end. When ECOMOG were on New Road and Old Road, he said we should start attacking and advancing toward the jungle at Allen Town.

Pros; Who said this?

Wit: Alex Tamba Brima. He said we should move.

Pros: Did you reach Allen Town?

Wit: Yes. We met a target at Brewery – ECOMOG. We pushed them and based at Allen Town.

Pros: Did you go any other place before reaching there?

Wit: From Brewery we went on the old road to Calaba, then Allen Town.

Pros: Where were the nuns killed?

Wit: In the hills around Crazy Yard.

Pros: So where was the first place you went to when you left this area after the killing of the nuns?

Wit: We moved and bypassed and came to Kissy Mess Mess. We advanced to Approved School and Porty Market and came towards the Brewery on the Old Road towards Calaba Town.

Pros: Where is Porty Market?

Wit: It’s just after you leave Mess Mess.

Pros: Did anything happen on the way?

Wit: When we were moving, we were like wounded lions. We were burning along the way, taking civilians from their houses. Those not fit enough, we would execute them.

Pros: What were you burning?

Wit: Some of the houses.

Pros: Were the houses empty?

Wit: Some were empty. Some had people in them. The brigade was very long. We burned and captured civilians and executed civilians while we were withdrawing from that area.

Pros: Those houses with the people in them when you set them on fire, what happened to those people?

Wit: People were screaming, and they died.

Pros: What happened in Calaba Town?

Wit: We met a target at Brewery and were delayed there for a while.

Pros: As you were passing through Calaba Town, did anything happen there?

Wit: We were attacked, so we did not delay at all and moved straight to Allen Town and based there.

Pros: What do you mean?

Wit: We repelled the ECOMOG attack and the advance team moved. We made sure the brigade joined us.

Pros: Were there civilians in Calaba Town?

Wit: We saw them there, but we went to Allen Town.

Pros: What happened at Allen Town?

Wit: When we got there, Gullit said he would move with the “family members” to the jungle, so that we could reorganize and go back to attack ECOMOG. He told Hassan Papa Bangura to lead a group back to Calaba Town to kill civilians and make Freetown ungovernable. So he, Five-Five, [and others] went to the jungle. Myself, Bomb Blast, Med Bejehjeh, Rambo Red Goat and others went back to Calaba Town and burned and killed.

Pros: How many were in this team?

Wit: More than 200.

Pros: Which groups were these from?

Wit: SLAs, RUF, Med Bejehjeh and the Red Lions, STF, Rambo Red Goat.

Pros: Which groups?

Wit: In this, you had the RUF, SLAs, STF, the former NPFL Liberian fighters.

Pros: What happened in Calaba Town?

Wit: We burned down houses and killed civilians. We did not meet any ECOMOG forces there. Then we withdrew to Allen Town?

Pros: How were the civilians killed?

Wit: Most were hacked so we didn’t waste bullets. Some were shot.

Pros: How many civilians were killed?

Wit: I can’t say. All of us killed. I myself killed.

Pros: The houses that were burned, were they empty?

Wit: Some were empty and some had people in them. If they tried to escape the burning they were shot. We heard screaming and they died in there.

Pros: What happened when you returned?

Wit: When we got to Allen Town, Hassan Papa Bangura said they should go check where Gullit and the others were. The patrol team said they’d gone ahead. Hassan Papa Bangura said the troop should wait for instructions from Gullit. So we spent about two days in Allen Town. We went on food-finding missions in Allen Town and Brewery, and killed any civilians we met. We didn’t want them to go and tell ECOMOG about us.

Pros: Where were the civilians who had been captured?

Wit: The “family members” moved with Gullit in the brigade. They also had manpower with them.

Pros: The fighting force you were with that went to Calaba Town, do you recall the age group of these fighters?

Wit: We all had SBUs. Every commander had small boys, 8-10.

Pros: Did you have SBUs in your group at Calaba Town?

Wit: Yes. They were with us.

Pros: What did these SBUs do in Calaba Town?

Wit: They were very good at burning houses, and if we met civilians on the way, we asked them to amputate them.

Pros: When the fighting force went to Kissy Market, what was the age group of your force?

Wit: The commanders were there and we had the small small boys with us. Every commander had SBUs. They carried ammunition, machetes, or small weapons we gave to them – mostly AKs.

Pros: What did the small boys do with the AKs they were carrying?

Wit: Those boys were so smart during the combat fighting. Sometimes we asked them to kill civilians. They were very good at that.

Pros: What did the SBUs do at Kissy Market?

Wit: They were all with us. Anything they saw the commanders doing, they executed it also. They took part in burnings and killings.

Pros: You said you waited in Allen Town for instructions from Gullit. What happened after two days?

Wit: Gullit said reinforcements were coming. The ECOMOG people pressed, so we decided to take the bypass to the Grafton/Hastings jungle.

Pros: Before you left Allen Town, did anything happen?

Wit: We burned the houses.

Pros: Were there civilians there?

Wit: No.

Pros: What happened when you got into the jungle?

Wit: We started retreating towards Benguema. On our way, Gullit called and said if we had anything, we should disguise it because the RUF at Waterloo were taking valuables from the withdrawing troop. They said they never had anything, so we should share with them.

Pros: This RUF that were taking things, where were they coming from?

Wit: It was the reinforcement that was coming. It was Issa Sesay’s group and Superman was there. Gullit said they were based in Waterloo, while Gullit based at Benguema. We went straight there and nobody confronted us.

Pros: Did you meet anyone in Benguema?

Wit: Yes, we met Five-Five, Gullit, Tina Musa – Saj Musa’s wife.

Pros: Where was Bazzy?

Wit: When we got to Bengueama, Gullit said Bazzy had gone to occupy Hastings.

Pros: What happened in Benguema?

Wit: Five-Five had a book and he said anyone with dollars or pounds sterling or anything, they should be surrendered and it would be noted. These were looted from Freetown. People surrendered them to Gullit.

Pros: What happened after Five-Five said this?

Wit: I saw most of us who came surrendered them. But I did not go there. Others surrendered things to him and he was writing.

Pros: What happened then?

Wit: I went with Bomb Blast, and Gullit said Issa Sesay had come to Benguema to say they were eager to see Hassan Papa Bangura. Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon, RUF Rambo and others came back.

Pros: Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and RUF Rambo came to Benguema? Who did they come with?

Wit: With a fighting force – a mixed group of RUF and SLAs. They said they were supposed to meet with Gullit about another advance into Freetown. But during that meeting, Issa Sesay said he had an instruction from Mosquito that he was to arrest Superman and take him to him. The commanders said we should wait to arrest him until after the threat from ECOMOG was over. Then Issa Sesay should take Dennis Mingo to Kailahun. Issa Sesay and Hassan Papa Bangura shot in the air to motivate the troops to go back to Freetown.

Pros: How do you know about this?

Wit: I was there.

Pros: What happened after this?

Wit: After this meeting, they said that they should plan an operation to retake Freetown. At this time we were not going to use the Waterloo highway, but the Tombu area. It would distract the Nigerians attention. We should use the peninsula while they were concentrating on the highway.

Pros: Who was saying this?

Wit: Issa Sesay was talking to the commanders, including Gullit, Superman, Five-Five, Rambo, and some other commanders. All the commanders who went to Freetown were in the meeting.

Pros: What happened after this?

Wit: They said they should choose some men who should go ahead. I was chosen as a commander to go and base at MacDonald Village. I went there with a heavy manpower. They said Issa Sesay was going back for ammunition and when he returned we would attack.

Pros: Did he come?

Wit: He came with Superman, Rambo SLA (Red Goat), Rambo RUF, Morris Kallon, Hassan Papa Bangura, the STF, [and others].

[Protracted exchange between Judge Sebutinde, witness and prosecution about the three “Rambos”.]

Pros: Did Issa Sesay come back with ammunition?

Wit: Yes, [lists commanders who came with Issa Sesay]. They all came to reinforce me to take the advance toward Freetown.

Pros; How do you know Issa Sesay came back with ammunition?

Wit: The vehicle he came with had the ammunition he brought. He brought bombs for the SPG weapon [and other].

Pros: Do you know where he went to get the ammunition?

Wit: In the meeting he said he was going back. He did not specifically say where.

Pros: Did you come to know where he got the ammunition from?

Wit: What he said was that this was from Makeni that was brought to Makeni.

Pros: Who had brought ammunition to Makeni?

Wit: He said the team they came with from Kono – the group Issa was leading.

Pros: Did the operation to retake Freetown take place?

Wit: Yes. We had Superman, Bomb Blast and RUF Rambo – they used the bypass. Five-Five, Rambo Red Goat, Morris Kallon, Issa Sesay, Med Bejehjeh, and some other men used the main highway to capture Tombu.

Pros: What happened?

Wit: We waited for some time and did not see any attack going on, so Five-Five said we should go ahead to attack Tombu.

Pros: Going back, what did Issa Sesay do with the ammunition he brought?

Wit: When he came to MacDonald before the advance, they shared the ammunition.

Pros: To who?

Wit: This was a distribution amongst all the fighters to take part in that attack.

Pros: You said you waited in Tombu, but did not see an attack?

Wit: The bypass team was supposed to hit, but we did not hear them hitting. So Five-Five said we should attack. We encountered heavy resistance from the Nigerians and six of us were killed. We all retreated back to MacDonald. The bypass team also withdrew to MacDonald. Issa Sesay moved back to Waterloo. Bomb Blast and myself and others moved to Benguema Barracks.

Court is now adjourning for lunch. Proceedings will resume at 2:30 (3:00 with the delay in video and audio).